Warrior Nun Deserves Another Season

Thanks to the long gap between seasons and a total lack of promotion from Netflix, there’s been a bit of a pall hanging over the second season of Warrior Nun. There’s this perception that it’s a dead show walking, not helped by Netflix’s long history of cutting down its own shows in their prime.

The logo for Warrior Nun season two.Fans — and even some members of the cast — have been running a guerilla campaign to try and keep the show alive by spreading the word and streaming it as much as possible.

It’s a shame there’s this feeling of needing to fight for the show, because it puts a bit of a damper on a truly excellent season of television.

I’ve said in the past that I think the mark of true greatness is not a lack of any flaws, but when the strengths shine so bright as to drown out the flaws. Season two of Warrior Nun fits that description to a T.

Objectively, I can find many faults with this season. Most notably, it often feels rushed. I get the impression the writers wanted more than eight episodes, but this was all Netflix was willing to give them. Or perhaps it’s an over-correction to the criticism of season one’s slow-burn (a criticism I disagree with). Either way, a lot of things move too quickly. Most notably one character changes loyalties so often and so quickly that their arc ceased to make any sense at all.

There’s one side-plot that has the opposite problem — it feels too drawn out, especially given the outcome has pretty much been a foregone conclusion since last season. The resolution is very satisfying when it comes, though.

No one does slow motion walking toward the camera like this show.You also need to suspend your disbelief extra hard for a lot of things this season. The sci-fi elements are extremely implausible this time around, even by the standards of a show about “undercover tactical nuns.”

But you know what? I don’t really care about any of that. This season was just too damn enjoyable for any of that to get me down.

When I watched the original season the first time, I came away feeling that Ava and Beatrice were carrying the show. Not that I disliked the other characters, but they didn’t feel that memorable compared to Ava and Bea. When I rewatched season one, I found the supporting cast members a lot more compelling than I remembered, and in season two, Warrior Nun has established itself as a show where the entire ensemble is more than carrying their weight.

Sister Camilla is at least as lovable as before, if not more so. Jillian also puts on a strong performance, and there’s some new faces that hold their own admirably.

But the real breakout star this season is Mother Superion. She is a character I very much did not want to like because of how abusive she was to Ava when first introduced, but despite my best efforts, she won me over. She has a lot more screentime this time around, and across her various scenes, she gets to show pretty much the full range of human emotion, from righteous anger to sorrow and even some humorous scenes. And she kills it every time. Major respect to Sylvia De Fanti for an incredible performance.

Kristina Tonteri-Young as Sister Beatrice in Warrior Nun season two.All that’s not to say that Ava and Beatrice aren’t still great, because they absolutely are, both individually and in terms of their dynamic together. Their friendship gets a bit turbulent this season, and they often find themselves in conflict, but there’s always the sense that they maintain respect and affection for one another throughout. Characters who can handle conflict in a healthy way are depressingly rare in popular fiction, and it’s so refreshing to see it here.

While there are parts that feel rushed, as I’ve already noted, the fast pace of the season can also be quite exhilarating.

I initially gave Warrior Nun a try purely because I found out it was the work of Simon Barry, the mind behind Continuum, a strong contender for my favourite TV series of all time. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to say that Warrior Nun has yet reached Continuum’s quality level, but this season did give me the same brain-blasted, pleasantly overwhelmed feeling that Continuum’s later seasons did. So much happens so fast it feels almost supernatural that they’re able to fit so story in a relatively short run-time. It displays an incredible economy of story-telling that most writers can only aspire to.

Oh, yes, and this season also happens to feature some of the most inventive and beautifully shot action scenes I’ve had the pleasure to witness.

The second season ends on a pretty satisfying note, so if the series is to end here, it won’t be so jarring or heart-breaking as some shows that are left unfinished. But I still hope it does continue. There’s plenty of potential for more story in this universe, and it just plain deserves it. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s moving, and while it’s subtle, there’s a maturity to the characters and their relationships that most popular media lacks.

What’s New: Warrior Nun, Theros, Agents of Mayhem, and More

I find myself with a number of topics I wish to discuss — many of which I’d have devoted full posts to back in the day — but I am once again knee deep in my latest project for Dungeon in a Box, and I just don’t have the spoons, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to get the Coles Notes version.

Kinzie "Safeword" Kensington in Agents of Mayhem.Firstly, the last of the birthday presents I bought for myself have arrived. Among other things, I bought myself a bunch of D&D rulebooks, including the newest entry, Mythic Odysseys of Theros.

I was interested in Theros because of the Greek mythology inspiration, but it’s turned out to be far more compelling than I expected, even for reasons beyond the mythological angle. It’s a fascinating setting with tonnes of cool ideas and fresh takes on all kinds of standard fantasy concepts. The fluid line between thought and reality in Theros, in particular, is really exciting. I need more RPG writing projects like I need a bullet in the head, but I’m more than a little tempted to write an adventure or two in Theros — I already like it much better than Forgotten Realms in many ways.

Meanwhile, I’ve watched through season one of Netflix’s new series, Warrior Nun. Between the goofy name and the less than inspiring trailer, I probably never would have bothered with this show, save for the fact it’s brought to us by Simon Barry. Simon Barry also created Continuum, which is one of the best TV series I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch, so anything he’s attached has got to be worth a try.

It’s not Continuum, but I did enjoy Warrior Nun.

Here’s the thing: In most ways, this could be considered a pretty mediocre show. The plots are serviceable, but not remarkable, as are most of the characters. The series is almost entirely carried by the strength of its lead character, Ava, and the actress who plays her, Alba Baptista.

The incredible Alba Baptista as Ava in Netflix's Warrior Nun.Ava is delightful. The “ordinary person thrust into the role of hero” concept is a very common trope, but rarely is it executed effectively. It’s very hard to make a character both heroic and convincing as a normal, relatable person, but Ava nails that balance. From her dorky sense of humour to the palpable sense of joy she has at discovering what is to her a whole new world, she is incredibly relatable and overwhelmingly lovable, even when she’s thrown into the most outlandish of situations.

The are some other positives to Warrior Nun — most notably the character of Sister Beatrice, who is the only cast member who can share a screen with Ava and not be totally eclipsed — but let’s not mince words: Ava is what makes this show worth watching. I haven’t loved any fictional character this much in a long time.

Also on the subject of Netflix, I watched the Charlize Theron film The Old Guard recently. It was okay; a pretty by the numbers action flick, but it works. Don’t expect anything more than a popcorn flick, and you won’t be disappointed.

Speaking of disappointment, though, I also tried Netflix’s Snowpiercer series. I’d heard some friends raving about it, so I decided to give it a try, and… man, it does not live up to the hype.

Snowpiercer is a cartoonishly unsubtle parody of grimdark, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian tropes. It’s so over the top it’s impossible to take it seriously.

A shot from Netflix's Snowpiercer series.I realized I have the same problem with Snowpiercer I do with Star Trek: Discovery. They’re both really dumb shows that think they’re really smart. Being dumb on its own isn’t a dealbreaker; it’s the lack of self-awareness that ruins it. Lucifer is also a very dumb show, but Lucifer knows it’s dumb. It’s all presented with a wink and a nod; everyone is in on the joke.

With Snowpiercer (and to a slightly lesser extent Discovery), there is no self-awareness of how absolutely cartoonish and absurd the series is. It’s all presented with such deadly seriousness. With a few tweaks, it could work as a dark comedy, Tarantino style, but instead it’s a joyless, bleak slog.

On the gaming front, I’ve been working my way through a backlog newly bolstered by the last Steam sale. I recently finished an action RPG called Shadows: Awakening. It was decent, but could have been better. The setting and characters were interesting, but the plot never quite clicked the way it seems like it should have.

Gameplay-wise, it’s main gimmick is its unusual character-swapping mechanic. Essentially, it’s a party-based game, but you can only have one member of the party on the field at the time, so you’re constantly switching between them.

It’s a cool idea, and overall I liked it, but it could have been even better. I would have liked to have seen each character feel more complete and be a viable fighter on their own, making the choice of when to swap more about the tactical needs of the moment. As it is, the limited toolkit and long cooldowns of each character made it feel like the optimal way to play was often to simply cycle through all your characters, spamming all their abilities on cooldown.

Princess Evia delving Kogog'Aak in Shadows: AwakeningI’ve now moved on to open world shooter Agents of Mayhem. The reviews were lukewarm, so my expectations weren’t terribly high, but I’ve found it extremely addictive. It’s pure junk food gaming — thin plot, dumb jokes, mindless action, and an endless firehose of loot and rewards — but damn it, it works. It’s fun. It can be a bit repetitive, to be sure, but I don’t think it’s exceptionally bad offender on that front relative to similar games, and the moment to moment gameplay is so enjoyable it doesn’t really matter.

I didn’t realize it going it, but Agents of Mayhem actually has largely the same character-swapping mechanic as Shadows: Awakening, though I feel it works a bit better in this case.

I’m mostly playing Kinzie “Safeword” Kensington, a hacker focused on debuffing and mind-controlling enemies (apparently a carry-over from the Saints Row franchise, which I’ve never played). She’s full of personality, and her mind control ultimate is hilarious. I’m mainly backing her up with Braddock, a tanky ex-marine with a versatile toolkit, and Oni, a Yakuza assassin with an aura that debuffs nearby enemies.

I like the gameplay and aesthetics of Rama (a DoT-heavy archer) and Lazarus (an even more DoT-heavy nanite-wielder), but they’re both too squishy, and I like Daisy’s aesthetics, but she’s a bit of a one-trick pony mechanically, so they don’t see as much play. The other characters don’t really interest me much, though I will grant Hollywood’s ultimate is pretty fun.

As for what’s next after Agents of Mayhem, I still have plenty of other options in my backlog, but I’m also considering springing for Horizon Zero Dawn when it launches on Steam next month. What I saw of the gameplay during the brief time Moiren streamed it didn’t entirely blow me away, but the setting and aesthetic seems so unique I think I still want to check it out.

Combat in Agents of Mayhem.Finally, as I’m writing this I’ve just finished off the final season of Alice Isn’t Dead, the mystery/thriller podcast from the creators of Welcome to Night Vale. The ending felt a bit too sudden and a bit too simple, but overall I think the final season was probably the best. The way they shook up the formula really added new life to the show, I think.