If you were to ask me what kind of series was currently lacking from TV screens, I would easily have answered with a supernatural thriller in the vein of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
It seems like Netflix were already ten steps ahead of me however as last week saw the debut of Simon Barry’s new series Warrior Nun. But before we get down to it here’s an ICYMI look at the series’ trailer:
Still with me? Okay let’s continue…
Alba Baptista, looking like a cross between Emilia Clarke and Alicia Vikander, plays Ava. A former quadriplegic who wakes up in a morgue to find that she now has magical powers and is being hunted by something demonic.
Warrior Nun is based on the manga-styled, comic book series Warrior Nun Areala by Ben Dunn and published by Antarctic Press. From the outset its a no-holds-barred exploration of what it is to be young in the 21st century alongside having magical powers.
Warrior Nun does have a lot to thank Buffy the Vampire Slayer for. However there are plenty of other shows between Buffy’s exit in 2003 and today. For a start, Warrior Nun has certainly added an edge of contemporary teen drama to its quiver.
The hedonistic lifestyle of Ava’s friends – played by Emilio Sakraya, Dimitri Abold, May Simón Lifschitz and Charlotte Vega – feels like something from an episode of Skins or Sex Education. It grounds the series in something familiar, similarly to how Buffy used a lexicon of pop culture references to appeal to a late-90’s youth.
Opposing that are undertones of horror and the techno-paranormal which feel in keeping with contemporary Netflix cousins like Stranger Things.
We are currently at the half-way mark in the ten episode first season and Warrior Nun is beginning to pick up the pace.
The opening episode is a slow burner which has to set up a complex lore. There are historical elements at play as we learn about the history of the nuns. There’s the classic, eons old war of good vs. evil which needs updating for a modern audience. Then, of course, we need to introduce our characters.
Where Warrior Nun is lacking in its first half is in the action. There are sporadic, well choreographed, fight sequences but nothing too heavily sustained. Instead the series focusses more on world building and character development.
Ava is a compelling lead and Alba seems more than capable at handling her emotional complexities. Unlike Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy, Ava’s backstory is more of a mystery for the series to unravel. She’s not the chosen one which anyone expected and that surprise only adds to the series central mystery.
The chemistry between cast members is certainly a huge draw for the series. Romantic lead Sakraya plays off Baptista well making their scenes feel emotionally earnest even when running from security guards.
Likewise there is a formal, stoic sense of familiarity and respect amongst the group of nuns. These are no potential slayers a la Buffy season 7, they’re a well oiled, well trained group of warriors and that translates well to the screen.
There’s a central mystery bubbling under the surface which feels like it’s chugging along well as the season continues. A villain, Tehkla Reuten’s Killian Salvius, also feels as though she is coming to the fore without any sense of hasty urgency.
There’s no palpable race to the finish line and so it feels like story beats have time to breathe. At times Warrior Nun does feel a little too slow but overall the pacing feels measured for a reason.
Heading in to the back-half of the season I’m looking for the action to ramp up and plenty more supernatural elements to come in to play.
From creator Simon Barry (Continuum), Warrior Nun stars Alba Baptista, Tristán Ulloa, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Lorena Andrea, Toya Turner and Thekla Reuten. Also starring are Sylvia De Fanti, Emilio Sakraya, Olivia Delcán, Joaquim De Almeida, May Simón Lifschitz, Dimitri Abold and Charlotte Vega.