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Warrior Nun Review: The ultimate sin

The warrior nuns are all that stand between good and evil. But who's on which side?

Alba Baptista as Ava Silva in Warrior Nun on Netflix
(Image: © Netflix)

Our Verdict

The manga-borne series struggles to get going — and then abruptly shuts things down once it's finally up to speed.

For

  • ⚔️Who doesn't love Ninja Warrior Nuns?
  • ⚔️Beautiful Spanish landscape.
  • ⚔️Lots of characters to develop.

Against

  • ☨Characters aren't really developed.
  • ☨The ending is going to infuriate you.
  • ☨The first half of the series is a long slog.

Warrior Nun reminds us that there are a few basic principles of human existence that probably shouldn't be violated. The law of gravity, for one. Taco Tuesday, for another. Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

And you never — ever — do what Warrior Nun on Netflix did at the end of its first season. 

We're going to have to deal with spoilers here. No way around it. If you're intending on watching the Netflix series and don't want to ruin the experience and make what already is a bit of a slow burn even more lethargic, avoid the end of this review.

If you want to know more about what sort of demons and dogma are in store, however, read on.

Warrior Nun — the background

Warrior Nun likely is one of two things for you: A manga from the mid-1990s from Ben Dunn, or a movie that seemingly randomly shot to the top of the Netflix Top 10. If it's of the former variety for you, the context is already there.

And if you're going into Warrior Nun blind like I did, you're probably already halfway there, too. The name itself is not subtle. Warrior Nun is about — wait for it — warrior nuns. Basically (and this is borderline heresy to say this way) think Catholic paramilitary ninjas. Trained in the way of combat, and trained in the way of Christ. (Mostly.)

It's the female version of the Knights Templar, and there's a lot of unrealized potential here for a strong fantasy series.

There has to be a leader, of course. The nuns themselves are led by a "Halo bearer," who at the opening of the series is Sister Shannon (Melina Matthews). The Halo is a sort of ornate gold ring about 8 inches in diameter that has been implanted somehow in her back, giving her all kinds of powers. Supernatural? Mythical? Biblical? We don't know just yet. And normally it also has strong healing powers. But Sister Shannon was hit by a blast containing something called Divinium — which, as cheesy as the name may be, works perfectly here, and definitely isn't any worse than "unobtanium" or "vibranium." Divinium affects the Halo and its ability to heal.

Sister Shannon is mortally wounded, and something is after her, trying to retrieve the Halo from her spine. A Halo in the hands of Hell is not a good thing, so the caretaker nun uses large metal tongs to remove the Halo from Shannon, who now most certainly will die without its healing powers. What to do?

Stick it in the body of a 19-year-old woman whose corpse was recently brought in. This is a controversial decision — but one that still needs to be made pretty quickly, because Hell demon things are coming — for a few reasons. One is that Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea) expected to be the next Halo bearer, just as her family members were before her. She's trained her whole life to carry the Halo and lead the Warrior Nuns. The other reason putting the Halo in this young dead woman is problematic has to do with the manner in which she died. Nobody comes out and says it for a while, but it's believed that she killed herself — a mortal sin unto itself in Catholicism. 

But the Halo has to go somewhere. So into the body it goes.

We learn the young woman — who is a dead ringer for Elliot Page but instead is played by a nearly accentless-Portuguese Alba Baptista — is named Ava. She had been under the care of the convent since she was a young girl, when she and her parents were in a horrific car accident. The parents were killed; Ava was left a quadriplegic.

But suddenly she has the Halo, and can walk. And, ya know, is once again alive. She quickly discovers this thing in her back has all kinds of weird powers — like the ability to phase through walls and throw off great surges of energy. Resurrected and upright, she's ready to go experience life.

The nuns, meanwhile, want their Halo back.

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Being a Warrior Nun is a lonely job.

Being a Warrior Nun is a lonely job. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Olivia Delcán as Sister Camila, Lorena Andrea as Sister Lilith, Kristina Tonteri-young as Sister Beatrice in Warrior Nun on Netflix.

Olivia Delcán as Sister Camila, Lorena Andrea as Sister Lilith, Kristina Tonteri-young as Sister Beatrice in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Warrior Nun

Alba Baptista as Ava in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Warrior Nun

Alba Baptista as Ava and Tristan Ulloa as Father Vincent in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Warrior Nun

The Order of the Cruciform Sword is non more black. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Warrior Nun

Vincent, Ava and Beatrice in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Warrior Nun

Not quite the nuns you expect to see in the Vatican. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Warrior Nun

Sister Beatrice gets medieval on evil. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

Warrior Nun — the power of Netflix compels you

There's a lot going on in Warrior Nun. It can be a little confusing at first to tell some of the women apart when they're in their ninja/nun garb, and the similar non-distinct European accents aren't helping matters any. Sister Mary (Toya Turner) stands out — being Black and American and far more badass, being not as bothered by rules and decorum as the others, to say nothing of the language. She also prefers sawed-off shotguns instead of more manual weapons, earning her the nickname Shotgun Mary. 

Father Vincent also stands out. This is the patriarchy, after all. He leads the Warrior Nuns, but in a supporting role that makes you think more of, say, Jim Phelps in Mission:Impossible. And rounding out the Church side of things is Cardinal Duretti (the always-excellent though-always-shorter-than-I-expect Joaquin de Almedia). Duretti is almost certainly up to something. He's got his own agenda and his eye on the papacy. He's also got a ring made of Divinium, and the nuns think he's actually behind Sister Shannon's death.

There's a lot going on in Warrior Nun, and it takes a while to get to the meat of the show.

The Warrior Nuns and their ilk make up the Order of the Cruciform Sword. And if that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because you're a fan of Indiana Jones

While the church folk are looking for Ava, our newly bipedal heroine has found herself in the company of squatters. They move from unoccupied Spanish beachfront mansion to unoccupied Spanish beachfront mansion, basically just having a good time until they get caught.

Ava very much falls for the not-so-subtly-initialed J.C. (Emilio Sakraya), the informal leader of the group and go-to-guy for drugs at raves.

Meanwhile, there's also somewhat-eccentric scientist Jillian Salvius (Thekla Reuten, you must watch her attempt to take out George Clooney in The American), whose work on some sort of quantum portal realm thing long has rankled the likes of Cardinal Duretti and the Church, due in no small part to her also needing Divinium to make her toys work. But it's all in the name of helping her son, who was never meant to be but requires whatever the hell all this is so that he may live.

Like I said, there's a lot going on here at once.

We could spend more time talking about how all this beach party bingo helps Ava discover who she wants to be deep down inside — and that's somewhat true — but it's also a big waste of time. J.C. and the Gang (their new album drops Friday), having served as the method by which Ava is introduced to Jillian Salvius, are a throwaway group the back half of the season, when Sister/Shotgun Mary takes Ava under her barrels and starts to show her why they fight.

It's been a long slog to get to this part. Plus Mary and Lilith are going at it (in the beat-the-crap-out-of-each-other sense) trying to get to Ava first. Duretti is scheming something in the background, Vincent seems mostly benign — though he has secrets!

The series to this point has been watchable. It's not great, and you see the budgetary limitations in the special effects. They're good, but not great. Alba Baptista fits the role extremely well, and her youth and exuberance comes through as Ava excitedly tries out life for the first time. Each episode moves along quickly enough, but the larger storyline drags for the first six or seven episodes. But by that point, you're committed. Better to plow on and see what happens.

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THEKLA REUTEN as JILLIAN SALVIUS

Thekla Reuten as scientist Jillian Salvius in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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JOAQUIM DE ALMEIDA as Cardinal Duretti

Joaquim de Ameilda as Cardinal Duretti in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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THEKLA REUTEN as JILLIAN SALVIUS

Thekla Reuten as scientist Jillian Salvius in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Emilio Sakraya as JC and Alba Baptista as Ava in Warrior Nun

Emilio Sakraya as J.C. and Alba Baptista as Ava in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

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Emilio Sakraya as JC and Alba Baptista as Ava in Warrior Nun

Emilio Sakraya as J.C. and Alba Baptista as Ava in Warrior Nun on Netflix. (Image credit: Netflix)

The Warrior Nun in pictures

Warrior Nun and the sin of the teaser

The final couple episodes FINALLY get things moving. Duretti has been elected Pope. (Those few scenes are as good as anything HBO did with Jude Law and John Malkovich.) The nuns are on a mission to get into the Tomb of Adriel, which conveniently is buried beneath the Vatican. (Remember how Ava can phase through walls? There's an inordinate amount of time spent on her training to do so to the extent this mission will require.) Vincent is finally useful. Sister Mary finally has a place to direct her anger. And Lilith — having been killed by a demon just as she was about to attack Ava to take the Halo she believes was rightfully hers — is back from the dead. 

Ava makes it into the tomb. Whether she can get out is another matter, but what she really didn't expect was to actually meet Adriel, who's just been chilling there for a few thousand years. But he's also been able to reach out to the world in bits and pieces, peddling influence here and there. Ultimately, though, he's just like everyone else. He wants his Halo back. Turns out it was he who formed the Order of the Cruciform Sword by giving it to Sister Areala thousands of years ago, but now it's time to use the Halo to open the Quantum Portal of Hell thing. Meanwhile Jillian's young son has leapt through the portal that Mom built — where it goes I have no idea, but it was powered up by Adriel and Ava in the tomb, somehow. 

But now it's time for the Warrior Nuns and Adriel to do battle. Shotgun Mary is the first to advance, she's swarmed by possessed civilians, Ava and the rest charge and — 

And now we have to wait for Season 2. That's it. The credits rolled.

Toya Turner as Shotgun Mary and Alba Baptista as Ava Silva in Warrior Nun on Netflix.

Toya Turner as Shotgun Mary and Alba Baptista as Ava Silva in Warrior Nun on Netflix.  (Image credit: Netflix)

The good new is there basically must be a Season 2, because there's absolutely no way that the rest of that battle scene wasn't written and shot. But I can't think of any other time when the climax of a series was cut short like that. It's not just a cliffhanger. It's not like the end of The Sopranos, when everything just went black. It's not like finding the bunker and the numbers on Lost. It's the equivalent of getting three steps into any of the major battles in Game of Thrones and saying "Nah, we'll make you wait a while."

Only Warrior Nun is not Game of Thrones. It's not The Sopranos. It's one of many B- series on Netflix (maybe C- if I'm not feeling generous) that feels like it was struggling to fill the 10 episodes that were ordered. Like it should have been half as long or twice as fast.

The end picked up quite nicely — and there's a major twist with Father Vincent that was barely foreshadowed and not at all explored once it came to fruition. But there's no way you walk out of the 8 hours or so spent on this series and don't come away disappointed and frustrated. That's a hard thing to take when Netflix is asking subscribers to take a chance on original content.

Am I going to come back, though? Definitely — if only out of spite for how Warrior Nun left things.