“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.” – Psalm 46:5
So goes the words from “Psalm 46:5” the pilot episode title of Netflix’s newest original series Warrior Nun. For the most part, this succinctly sums up what’s happening at the outset of the show and sets the tone for what to expect from the platform’s next dive into the superhero world.
Warrior Nun, the show, was created by Simon Barry who’s had his hand in the sci-fi/ fantasy television game a bit already. He helmed the Canadian program Continuum, while also working on Syfy’s Van Helsing and Ghost Wars. His latest is based on the comic book series Warrior Nun Areala, which ran in publication from the mid-90’s until about 2002.
The Warrior Nuns, a name I’m giving them because the pilot only loosely defines who they are, are a group of heavily armed, and heavily cloaked ladies of the cloth minus the habits on their heads. We don’t learn much about them except they pack automatic weapons and some other stuff you can’t find in your standard military array.
To start, we’re introduced to Ava (relative newcomer Alba Baptista), a young girl who’s major problem in life is, well, that’s she’s dead. Laid out in a church basement in Spain, overseen by a dour nun and a skeptical priest, we learn that the young (19) Ava is no longer with us and, according to the nun, that might have been the best for her.
But this church quickly becomes the focal point of a battle between a group of warrior nuns and some unknown group of attackers. The nuns’ leader is on her last breaths, having taken unholy damage in a fight which is still raging in the background. We learn she’s the “keeper” and the group’s last move is to remove a glowing ring from her back, an ultra-powerful, well, something (you’ll learn) before the bad guys can get their hands on it. Want to take a wild guess where this thing ends up? I’ll give you one. Nice, you got it. It’s Ava.
In a final move before the deathstroke, a sister is able to place the circle in Ava’s back thereby keeping it safe. But this transfer has the unintended consequence of, for lack of a better word, resurrecting Ava. And away Warrior Nun goes.
Sure, it seems like a bunch is spoiled in this description, but it’s essentially the opening scene and sets the stage for the world Warrior Nun wants to land us in. Because for all the question marks (and there are quite a few) this world is remarkably simple. There is holy good and unholy evil locked in an ongoing battle and Ava is about to enter the center of the fray.
Short of this opening scene, much of the rest of Warrior Nun‘s first episode is stage-setting. Ava is coming to grips with the “reality” that she is back from the dead and is significantly more physically gifted (this is a massive understatement) than when she was originally alive. Her confusion plays out in wandering the streets of a city in Spain, trying to make sense of her new reality, wondering if she’s actually just dreaming and meeting some folks who’ll likely become something of her friend group as the show progresses. Sure, she’s aware her new lease on life includes some cool shit, but she doesn’t take much time leaning into all of it, just yet.
And then there’s the other piece. Specifically, who are the warrior nuns and who are they fighting? On this front, we learn remarkably little. There are clearly major powers at play and secret societies living outside the rules of our normal world. But getting those answers is a slow burn with information meted out by Warrior Nun only in dribs and drabs.
That’s all fine, shows need not tell the whole story in the first few lines. The bigger question isn’t so much whether we’ll learn all of the mysteries but rather whether they are worth learning at all. I couldn’t help but feel this throughout the first episode.
Sure, Warrior Nun is interesting as a concept and, for the most part, Barry and company executed on the action sequences as well as Ava’s stumbling walk through her new life. But I didn’t find myself jones-ing for the bigger arc.
I suspect I can guess most of what Warrior Nun‘s secrets entail without watching any more. There are two forces fighting for the fate of existence, an unsuspecting girl is thrust into it by way of her newfound ring of power, not all the “good” ladies can be trusted in this battle and some civilian friends of Ava are about to get a rude awakening.
There may be more to the story, I hope there is. But from the first episode, I couldn’t help but think that we’ve seen this origin story/ secret world play out numerous times in numerous forms before. Whereas Netflix’s I Am Not Okay With This took the same beats and turned them on their head for a remarkably creative and sharp look at an old concept, Warrior Nun tends to stick to the old playbook.
As for long-term viability, I’m not sure Warrior Nun picked the right lane. A younger viewer might quickly grow impatient with the lack of action or answers in the first hour. Older viewers might see the show as simply too juvenile. Warrior Nun could be in a tough spot.
And as for that line from Psalms, specifically about God helping Ava at the break of day? That might be the most interesting part of Warrior Nun and where the show could break some traditional elements. Because Ava has her own issues, doesn’t seem all that interested in going full superpower, and kind of likes to get her party on, there could be plenty of conflict over whether she’s the person to lead a group into the battle. This part could be worth our time for sure.
Overall, Warrior Nun is watchable, interesting, and has decent enough production value for a television show on Netflix. But it might not have enough of any of those things to warrant sticking with it over the long term, especially if Warrior Nun continues on its paint-by-numbers origin story path after episode 1.