Netflix's latest comic book adaptation, Warrior Nun, is one that even in its very premise hits you with many things that are, well, "a lot" and asks you to hold on for what seems like one wild ride. The series, an adaptation of the graphic novels by Ben Dunn, follows a young woman who is resurrected, only to discover that a divine artifact has been embedded in her back, thus giving her superpowers and making her part of a group of Warrior Nuns tasked with ridding the world of demons. It sounds bonkers. It is bonkers, but the series is also a fun, energetic, and frequently stunning ride that manages to combine the crazy action with rich philosophical commentary into something that is unlike anything you've ever seen, in the best possible way.
In the series, Ava, played earnestly and brilliantly by Alba Baptista, is a young woman who, after a terrible crash, is left paralyzed in a Spanish orphanage. While Ava dies under mysterious circumstances, fate has other plans for her as, following the equally as mysterious death of the previous Warrior Nun, Ava wakes up with an angel's halo embedded in her back, thus thwarting the ascension of Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea), who was to be next in the Warrior Nun role.
It's a crazy setup, but it's also a really fresh take on the classic hero's journey with this unexpected and unprepared person being (in this case somewhat unwillingly) called to greatness and then has to take on that call. Ava's journey is one that comes with the examination of what it means to be the champion for something that has gravely wronged you. As we learn, Ava is a victim of the very Church she's now charged with being the champion for, having been abused severely in her first life. When given a new lease on life and, indeed, no longer shackled by her injury, thanks to her superpowers, Ava finds herself torn between the joy that is life and the heaviness and complexity of her duty.
While the story itself gives viewers quite a bit to chew on -- and there are some moments in the first half of the series that are a little uneven and therefore a bit more difficult to process -- Warrior Nun is a show that is elevated to a true experience by its cast. Baptista's Ava is a complex character and never a victim. She's cheerful and sweet but also absolutely unfiltered and coarse, as well -- in a word, she's human, and delightfully so. You'll get some serious Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes, but Baptista's Ava is, in some ways, far richer and far deeper than Buffy. Another standout is Toya Turner's Shotgun Mary, who is just as great and badass in her own right.
Despite these strengths, the show does falter a bit. Its weakness, other than the aforementioned uneven first half, is an over-reliance on Ava's inner monologue. There's also a bit of a feeling like the season is too long -- the series would have done much better as an eight-episode season rather than 10. Still, there's a lot of action to even things out, so even with the season being a bit too much, it's still wildly entertaining.
Warrior Nun is a truly wild journey that manages to ask some tough questions while equally embracing its silliness, its action, and the absolute absurdity of it all. The show may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it has a lot to offer and is one hell of a fun ride.
Rating: 3 out of 5