After waking up in a morgue, an orphaned teen discovers she now possesses superpowers as the chosen Halo-Bearer for a secret sect of demon-hunting nuns.
Religious fanaticism is a dangerous element that has devastated nations and destroyed lives, and thematically perfect for a show about a secret order of military nuns fighting to protect the world from demonic influence. Warrior Nun was a sleeper hit when it first appeared on Netflix in 2020, following the adventures of the recently resurrected Ava, kept alive by an ancient holy artefact, and her journey to find her place in the world. Initially, I didn't expect much from the show except for some fun action choreography. Still, the show ended up being better than it had any right to be, filled with religious intrigue and lively characters that keep you hooked on this otherwise blasphemous story.
Unfortunately, it took a while to get to the second season due to Covid-19 delays, and some of the hype was lost over that long wait. This was evident by Netflix's complete lack of marketing around the show - a feature that's becoming all too familiar with the streaming giant. This, however, is never an indication of the quality of the show, and while the first season was more nuanced, Warrior Nun's second season still brings imaginative fight sequences, slow-burn character development and religious politics as a new faith takes hold of the world's beliefs.
We catch up with Ava a few months after she unknowingly released the demon Adrial and had to flee to protect the Halo - the powerful artefact that gives her superpowers. Since then, the fake angel has started a religious cult that's quickly gaining traction across the world, frustrating Ava as she hides out in Switzerland with Sister Beatrice. When her secret is revealed, they reunite with some of their other sisters in an attempt to thwart Adrial's plans and save the world from his charlatan tricks. In the meantime, Dr Salvius is still trying to stabilise the portal so she may go in after her son.
The biggest hole in season two, however, is the absence of Shotgun Mary, the gun-ho sister that helped make the series what it was. After the cliffhanger from season one, I expected her to have survived and make a return, but her fate was quickly sealed in the first episode, and the show moved on pretty fast. Her witty attitude was severely missed, and it feels like the writers underestimated how much her candour balanced out the other sisters' strictness and fun.
Luckily, Alba Baptista kept the show rolling as Ava and remains one of the most relatable characters, balancing having fun with her serious duties as the Warrior Nun. While I didn't notice the chemistry with Sister Beatrice, played by Kristina Tonteri-Young, earlier in the show, here it enjoys a natural progression with a satisfying pay-off, and the two actors did a brilliant job at building the tension between themselves. While everyone speaks English in the show, most of the cast are European, hailing from Portugal, Spain, New Zealand, UK and Netherlands, and it's clear there's a softer and subtler touch to their performances than Hollywood stars, who can come across as brash and overtly American. The show would have been too obnoxious with this kind of cast.
I do wonder, though, if the show would have a bigger audience if it didn't lean so heavily into the young adult arena, which was less overt in the first season. The action choreography was brilliant, bolstered by quick camerawork and editing, and the Catholic church's reaction to Adrial's growing influence was a fascinating thread, especially focusing on why people within the church might turn to this newfound religion on a deeper, spiritual level. "Imagine a god you can text" was a particularly poignant line and just one example of the many memorable writing moments. The supernatural elements were more of a sideshow to the politics and elevated the plot up to a point - before it devolved a bit too much into young adult drama.
While not better than the first, Warrior Nun continues to bring new ideas to the religious fantasy genre, merging science with belief and sincere debate around what constitutes faith. There's more going on in this series than just the flashiness of ninja nuns, and it's a pity Netflix doesn't see value in that.
Cast: Alba Baptista, Toya Turner, Thekla Reuten, Sylvia De Fanti, Lorena Andrea, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Tristán Ulloa
Our rating: 3.5/5 Stars
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: