Sometimes you see such an on the nose, schlocky title that you just have to watch it and hope it isn’t another Iron Fist
This is true for Netflix’s most recent comic book adaptation, Warrior Nun. Based on the series by Ben Dunn called Warrior Nun Areala, this show follows Ava. Ava, a quadrapalegic orphan who dies under suspicious circumstances is resurrected when the church her body is being held in is attacked by a secret sect of warrior nuns fighting their own unknown threat and their sacred relic, the Halo, is stored in Ava’s body to keep it safe but instead resurrects her. This gives her a new chance at life if she can manage to outwit and outlast the church, a tech company out for the sacred relics for thier own need, and young love.
There were many thoughts I had about the season as it went along, but by the time it reached the penultimate episode my only thought was of how this show felt like a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel adapted to its absolute fullest. That is not meant in any disparaging way, but more all of its tropes, writing, ideas, and acting (in so far as how imagine YA characters to act or be portrayed) feels like it’s right out of the Buffy spin-off continuation novels that came out.
Those books aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. They kind of get the point of Buffy, but feel like all the ideas they bring are the first time those ideas have been done. This show does very much the same thing. All of its ideas are not original. Being unoriginal isn’t bad, but the show acts like all of its ideas are brand new and needs all of that time to really develop them when it does not.
The biggest example of this is its portrayal of the Catholic Church as an evil entity that uses fear to keep people coming to them, and is also what we think the main villain’s end goal is until a couple twists I won’t spoil here, but does kind of allow them to dance around the religious aspect of it all. The reason this idea kind of works is because most of the characters we spend time with are deep figures in the church. They trust it with their life, literally, so they don’t want to see that the thing they love is bad (probably didn’t read Harry Potter and haven’t been on Twitter recently). Even Ava, the character who hates the church more than anyone in the show, does not hate the church because it’s a den of child molesters who are literally shifted around instead of excommunicated, but because she was forced to live in an orphanage with terrible sisters taking care of her. None of this is bad in the show “academically” (if that word applies here), but is not as fresh as the show wants it to be. That makes it drag more in ways not intended, and goes for more than just that one plot line. Most of them are like that.
However, there are more reasons to like something other than just a story’s ideas. There are characters, sets, designs, and acting to get behind as well, and for the most part the show succeeds in that.
Ava feels like a fully realized YA protagonist. Every time you read about a snarky female warrior chick in novels this is the girl to end them all, and it comes from a natural place. Her being raised a quadrapalegic for most of her life, only having her wits is a strong reason to be like that. It also works once she is able to go out and see the world because it gives her more of a reason to be an eyes in character because all of it is new to her. However her constant flighty attitude, which is addressed, does get tedious after a while. And as if to prove how YA the show is, her big hang up that is holding her back from using her powers is solved pretty immediately with a conversation or two. Nothing major. Just really quick and simple.
The rest of her warrior sister are hit or miss. The main issue is how long it takes for the season to get a stable cast. The two standouts are Mary, the daughter of a wrongfully imprisoned woman who has a real edge to her, and Lilith, the one who was supposed to be next in line for the Halo. They get the most to do and are the most sympathetic. There are two more that join the group, but other than one being a newbie and the other being a lesbian they do not stand out other than using weapons and bombs good.
Outside of the main five girls is Father Vincent, the most anime live action character ever. He is a priest who had a shady past, and tattoo sleeves. He should be cooler, but doesn’t get enough great lines. The Mother Superion, trainer of the nuns, is fine as well. She is most interesting once you find out her deal, but before that she is a pretty generic cynical trainer type. Finally there is a Cardinal seeking ascendancy to the Pope, and a tech billionaire with a former Vatican archavist working on a portal to the other side. They are also fine. Again, not original and work in the context of the show, but don’t stand out.
One group of characters that leave the show are a group of teenage grifters Ava first meets. This includes her love interest JC. Around halfway through the show she stops being with them for reasons that make sense. However they are never mentioned again which is odd. Also the love interest is literally called JC and nothing is done with that in the religious context of the show. I’m glad we don’t cut back to them just lounging around or having an unconnected arc, but it’s weird they just stop being mentioned.
What’s not weird is how beautiful the show looks. It is all set, and I assume shot, in Spain and Italy, and it all looks amazing. It helps that many sets are giant Catholic Churches, all of which look amazing because they need to be. But the towns, cities, and landscapes all have a great deal of life to them and enjoyed being in that world so much. It’s just all so much natural beauty that it’s nice to take it all in.
The digital effects, mystical swords, and monsters on the other hand feel very TV. They aren’t bad by any means, just very standard. The big monster that is pursing Ava though you the show looks no better than anything I saw on a CW hero show. And is about as original looking. Meanwhile the special weapons all look cartoonish and the glowing effects look cheesy and not in the way they intended.
The biggest problem the show has in the end though is it’s pacing. Because of the aforementioned use of time spent on unoriginal ideas it takes awhile to get going. Thankfully every episode feels pretty self contained in interesting ways, until the final two episodes, which helps. But when it takes till the last episode for Ava to get her warrior outfit and look cool something feels amiss. That could have happened earlier.
With everything said and done oddly enough my big takeaway after reaching the conclusion is that the show is bold. It fancies itself Angel. Angel the TV show by Joss Whedon (I have a whole post on it brewing, but man… just man… hurts my feelings) has an infamous cliffhanger ending where the characters go to war and that’s it. It’s bold and also not planned. They believed they were getting another season but had to end it that way, and it is unique. This show wants to do that for season one, and on a network (is Netflix a network? It acts like one, but is a service, anyway) that is stingy with extra seasons. It ends on a cliffhanger with almost nothing resolved. It just has lots of reveals given and questions raised. It is bold considering it may not get more. It makes me almost respect it more, but also, if it doesn’t get a second season it means no reason to ever go back to this pretty good story.
I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!
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