GORE IN THE STORE
WARRIOR NUN **
Starring Alba Baptista, Toya Turner, Kristina Tonteri-Young.
Fantasy, US, certificate 15.
Streaming now on Netflix.
The premise of super powered teenage girls facing down the threat of evil now seems to be a mainstay in popular fiction. The obvious touchstone is Buffy Summers, who somehow managed to juggle slaying various vampires and demons while attending high school. Now Netflix, in adapting an obscure 90's comic book, brings us WARRIOR NUN; the tale of a teenage girl with her issues tasked with the destruction of various demons.
This ten-part series wastes no time in getting straight to the action. Dealing with the immediate aftermath of a botched mission, we see an order of gun toting nuns fighting off a mysterious band of assassins aided by a demonic entity. When the Cruciform, a powerful halo is removed from the body of the nun's leader, Sister Shannon, and hidden within the corpse of Ava, a recently deceased cripple. The power of the Cruciform is soon revealed when Ava is resurrected without the quadriplegic condition that saw her constantly bed bound. While enjoying her new found lease of life, she gradually comes to realise that she is at the centre of a religious war against Hell, as well as various conspiracies and power struggles within the Vatican and a quantum physicist interested in Divinium. This mysterious particle powers the Cruciform itself.
The first five episodes set up and race through various plot lines and characters. It somehow manages to tread a fine line between ridiculousness and strait-laced fantasy while avoiding an air of camp. WARRIOR NUN is the streaming equivalent of a young adult fantasy novel; mixing genre elements with the soapy aspects of teen romance, having fun and facing up to responsibility. Those looking for an exercise in theology will soon find themselves short-changed. It's exploration of religion goes no further than its surface-level gloss of black-garbed nuns standing in candlelit halls debating and fighting about who the true bearer of the Cruciform should be.
It is in the second half where things suddenly slow down and drag. The dreaded curse of Netflix bloat strikes again. One of its most significant flaws is an utterly unnecessary voiceover from Ava that adds nothing to the proceedings aside from describing what is on screen at that particular moment. This, along with its licensed soundtrack of breathy, slowed down pop will no doubt date it within a year or two along with its abundance of shots of characters moodily walking down corridors in slow-motion. The issue of women being used by men is raised towards the end but never really tackled. Instead, we are treated to repetitive training scenes and an action-packed climax that unsatisfactory ends in a cliffhanger in place of a complete storyline that would make sure of its audience coming back for more.
The cast, however, commit to their roles and the shows premise with the exact right amount of tongue placed in cheek. As Ava, Alba Baptista makes for an appealing heroine eventually growing into her titular role. Having the most fun and therefore the most fun to watch is Toya Turner as Shotgun Mary, a fire power toting nun who carries the greatest sense of purpose in the series due to her close ties to Sister Shannon. Also impressive is Lorena Andrea as Sister Lilith, a tough nun jealous of Ava's possession of the Cruciform. She actually goes through a more interesting character arc than Ava does, promising some new character conflict in the future.
Despite its pacing issues, WARRIOR NUN is enjoyable enough. With the places being put into place involving its characters and the eventual showdown between good and evil taking centre stage by the conclusion this could be a case of a series finding its feet with its debut before embarking on a more confident and successful second season.