Thursday, August 06, 2020

Warrior Nun (Netflix)

Deep in the inner recesses of the Roman Catholic Church is the Order of the Cruciform Sword, guardians of an an angel’s halo, wielded by the Warrior Nun. Since the Crusades the halo bearer has lead fellow sister warriors in a war against demons. 

The halo gets passed from warrior to warrior through the centuries until lately it ended up with a civilian that no convent, much less a secret paramilitary one, would want.

Accepting the Call

Inspired from the comics created by Ben Dunn the Netflix series can feel slow especially if you keep expecting super powers every single episode. Exposition made it worse as certain characters were explaining the story along.  

The first issue is just a problem of false expectation. To some growing into the superhero life is a training scene or episode, to others the minor villain is the training; sometimes it can both. Here the halo bearer is given the widest latitude in the storytelling to grow. 

There were training as well as minor enemy scenes, but what took time was acceptance – Ava, a resurrected girl and halo bearer has to accept her new being.

Ava (Alba Baptista) naturally will want to live – feel the breeze, swim at the beach, dance, meet a boy, and have drugs and sex – so the thought of nuns in a convent all day, much less demon killing nuns, was out of the question. 

She was allowed to scratch that itch. Experiences including the bad ones help us in making the choices in life after all.

As for the exposition, my hope is that it is a first season sickness. Dialogues can suddenly feel long because someone is explaining. But once the story was sufficiently set up the nuns began to focus on the present and smoothly transition into battle.

Humor and action is not what comes to your mind when thinking of nuns - that is the story's appeal. 

Action was always there because the OCS was always on point despite waiting for a leader. And the halo bearer will always have a mouth despite facing women and men of the cloth. Thus I always found it worthwhile to keep watching.

With an inspiration that was straight from the bible the story began to pick up in a wilderness episode that then lead to a dialogue with the devil so to speak. Once this point has been crossed Ava started to be on mission. 

The devil or let’s just say the villain is nuanced; it isn’t outright black and white, thus not preachy. It is also not according to doctrine – that I could understand – notwithstanding all the references to the Roman Catholic Church, which is why I didn’t see the twist coming.

What I Hated and the Story seems to hate it too

If ever I hated anything in the story it is that nuns remain subservient to the patriarchy. You would think in a world where they would do most of the fighting in a war, that there would be equality. 

The series looks like it will try to confront that, for example Ava has called out the unfairness of a cake topper being a dude which is to say that were no statues for those who did the fighting and dying.

Also there are doctrinal issues that Mary (not sure) and especially Beatrice would be on the wrong side of. Unfortunately if the series does want to make a stand I wouldn’t know until next season.

Not a Sister out of place

Warrior Nun has perfect casting even granted that some were short on the delivery. Everyone feels like they are where they should be. There is not a sister out of place let’s just say. Outside of the sisters we can start that 'delivery' question.

Sister Mary (Toya Turner) is the loose gun American, literally carrying two shotguns. Also known as Shotgun Mary, she’s the brute force muscle often placed in team stories, willing to stray when she needs to help the mission.

Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young) is the nun to watch notwithstanding the superhuman halo bearer. She is the rock solid, calm, knowledgeable, finesse character. Beatrice is more devout to the institution than Mary. She also has the best costume that is a great mix of nun and ninja.

If you loved Coleen Wing in the Netflix Iron Fist series then you would love Sister Beatrice who I think is better written. Beatrice has a back story that would be interesting to tackle if backed up by an outsider turned Warrior Nun. 

The scorned teacher’s pet is Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea) who had trained all her life for the honor of the halo but did not get it in the end. For some reason I was hoping she’d be an annoying blond bimbo but that would be more for an American high school atmosphere. 

Lilith brings an old world vibe as she’s supposed to be from a family that has been a loyal supporter of the OCS. What she’s left with after being denied the halo looks like a necessary and interesting thread to be uncovered in season 2.

The youngest of the group is Sister Camila (Olivia Delcán) and with her age comes the knowledge of technology and innocence which she will play off her battle scarred teammates. She is actually quite sweet.

Ava, the halo bearer with superpowers is the newest to the Order. She has this funny internal monologue and an equally wise ass mouth akin to Spider-man. Ava’s value to the team and to the story is that she is the outsider, bringing new ideas and challenging those that need be challenged.

What is a nun story without the grumpy old lady? And with that our lineup of sisters is closed by Mother Superion and Sister Frances played superbly to a tee by Sylvia de Fanti and Frances Tomelty respectively. 

Both grumpy, and despite one of them looking one dimensional, both are nuanced. Both senior nuns are a product of years of pain to which they have reacted differently.

Team Action

In the spotlight is without a doubt Sister Beatrice but even with a weapon as blunt as a shotgun, Mary’s action scenes still had style. 

What I liked the most on this point is that the action is equally attractive when they are a team. You can feel team when they search hallways, fight a villain, or retreat; the choreography is never let go. That may be important in the future because as I understand it the only eyes the group has supernaturally is Ava, so the stunt department already looking great will still need to pick up its game. 

That Ending

What else made the series feel slow is that ending, it makes you think the front end should have been faster. Does a season really have to be cut at the crescendo? 

All things considered, including the aforementioned ‘bad deliveries’, Warrior Nun looks like a world worth exploring. I am deciding now if I’ll try the comics in the meantime or not if only to keep any kind of suspense. 

A little before I posted this I saw a story update on Kristina Tonteri-Young's Instagram account that says shooting on The Swan has resumed. I don't know how related that is to her next story which is a picture from the Warrior Nun shoot. So somewhere in Europe I presume production companies have started some shoots.

That's good news I guess. But as much as I want Warrior Nun season 2 before a Second Coming (who knows what else can go wrong in 2020), safety first.

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