Monday, August 3, 2020

“Warrior Nun”: Complete Mess That Wastes Its Potential [Review]

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Derrick Murrayhttp://www.jackofallnerdsshow.com
Derrick Murray is a Los Angeles based stand up comedian, writer, and co-host for The Jack of All Nerds Show.

If you turned on Netflix this weekend it would’ve been near impossible not to see “Warrior Nun” as a suggestion. When Netflix promotes, they promote to the EXTREME, flooding every queue with a trailer whether “Warrior Nun” is relevant or not. Trending at number 2 over 4th of July weekend, Netflix really wanted you to watch this show. The premise seemed simple enough, and the concept of nuns with guns was enough to peak my interest, so I took the bait.

Unfortunately for “Warrior Nun,” it never quite capitalizes on its fun premise, trading out the potentially exciting ride for tired and poorly executed tropes. “Warrior Nun” fails to execute on its unique premise, leaving viewers with a dull shell of what it could be. There’s a good show in here somewhere. It’s just buried deep underneath a terrible one.

Based on the manga-style comic book “Warrior Nun Areala” by Ben Dunn, “Warrior Nun” follows Ava Silva, 19 year old girl who is brought back from dead after a halo is hidden her corpse to hide it from demons. Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) is given a second chance and superpowers, and discovers she has now been chosen to lead an ancient group of (you guessed it) Warrior nuns charged with fighting evil. Ava must decide how she wants to live her second chance at life, and must decide quickly as the secrets of the church and the order begin coming to the surface. With the help of her fellow warrior sisters, they must come together to uncover an evil plot and save the world.

Netflix

At its most basic, “Warrior Nun” should be hard to get wrong. Young nuns train to fight evil, the catholic church has some dark secrets, and our hero Ava must learn how to be who she was chosen to be. Shoot some guns, punch a demon, crack a joke, rinse and repeat. However, “Warrior Nun” abandons these ideas pretty quickly, opting instead to double down on every YA Novel and Chosen One trope it can think of. For a show about nuns with guns and a superpowered hero, there’s actually very little of both. The show seems to want be part “John Wick” with its world building, part “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” with its heroes, and part “Supernatural” with its otherworldly beings. What we’re left with is a muddled mess that doesn’t do any one of the aforementioned shows justice.

Netflix

It’s hard to pinpoint who to blame for “Warrior Nun” going so wrong when it could’ve been so easy to get right. There are multiple storytelling faux pas that are so glaring even a writing 101 student could identify its bad storytelling. Maybe it lies with showrunner Simon Barry, who is so unfocused from episode to episode it is difficult to grasp what he wants the show to be. It’s as if he wrote down every possible plot thread in hopes of crossing out the weak ones, but decided that all of them were strong and crammed them into 10 episodes. “Warrior Nun” has a higher plot thread count than most bed sheets, making the show exhausting and dull rather than fun and interesting. The show is downright messy, and this lack of direction makes the cliffhanger ending more frustrating than satisfying.

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Maybe the blame lies with the writers. “Warrior Nun” has 7 different writers for 10 episodes, and almost none of them have more than two episodes to their name. It’s not uncommon to have multiple writers for a series, but “Warrior Nun” demonstrates the need for writing continuity. Because of how many plot threads the showrunner brings, each episode feels disconnected from the last. It feels as if each writer wrote their own “Warrior Nun” show, and Simon Barry spliced them together to create something completely different from any of their intentions.

WARRIOR NUN (L to R) ALBA BAPTISTA as AVA, EMILIO SAKRAYA as JC in EPISODE 5 of WARRIOR NUN. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix/NETFLIX © 2020

The protagonist Ava is a prime example of this. Aside from the first episode where she’s trying to wrap her head around this strange and new life she’s been given, she quickly becomes nothing more than a plot device to serve whatever story the writer at the time is telling. After the pilot, we spend 3 full episodes with Ava becoming a love sick teenage puppy, with nothing but her inner monologue to remind us she’s a chosen warrior who doesn’t want to be. Suddenly, a new writer steps in, makes her love interest disappear entirely, and starts off on a buddy cop adventure with Ava and Shotgun Mary (Toya Turner) in the countryside. This story ends after two episodes, then Ava becomes a science experiment for an episode, then something else, all to just end up back with her sister warriors to train as the hero she should be. None of these experiences change Ava, as she’s exactly the same person she was at the start of the season. The only difference is she’s ready to be a warrior now, but even that doesn’t hold for long, as her motives and willingness change for moment to moment depending on which character she’s interacting with.

Netflix

This lack of continuity makes it difficult to care about any of the characters we meet. They all become archetypes and plot devices, which doesn’t pair well with the extremely heavy handed dialogue and monologues everyone has. Motivations change on a dime, and the show desperately wants you to be emotionally invested in characters you barely know. This is unfortunate because the actors are all great. Ava’s American accent notwithstanding (another weird choice since Baptista is Portuguese and the show takes place exclusively in Europe) the whole cast does the best with what they are given. When they are given a chance to tap into what the show could be, all of them shine. Even as unlikeable as a written character as Ava is, Baptista is still charming and makes the best effort to bring something better to her character. Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young) is another actress who rises above her poorly written character. She brings emotional weight when there is none (or unearned) and cements herself as one of the more interesting sister warriors despite not being written that way.

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Netflix

For all its faults (and there are many I didn’t address) “Warrior Nun” is absolutely beautiful to look at. The cinematography and set pieces truly capture the magic of the Spanish countryside. The show was filmed on location, and the camera work highlights the magnificent visuals to be had in every shot. While the special effects are a bit lackluster, the show is smart enough to not lean too heavy on them and use them sparingly. The fight choreography is done well here too, although using this sparingly is a mistake. It is clear that they have the teams and stunt coordinators to create solid hand to hand combat sequences, so using them minimally is again attributed to the show missing its mark.

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Warrior Nun” ultimately fails to execute on its promise, giving viewers small doses of what should be the most interesting and large doses of unoriginal, seen it all before tropes. The show loses steam very quickly because of the stories it chooses to tell, leaving viewers to ask how it all went wrong instead of discuss what it got right. Unlike the shows it strives to be, “Warrior Nun” takes itself too seriously, missing the very nature of what made shows like “Buffy” and “Supernatural” so successful. “Warrior Nun” should be a fresh, fun, mystical action show worthy of spending your Sunday in bed plowing through episodes. Instead, it is an unimpressive, tired, mystical coming of age story that leaves you feeling like you’ve seen it all before. And you have, just done much, much better.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Season one is streaming on Netflix now.

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