Breaking the Norm: “Warrior Nun” and Queer Representation (REVIEW)

There’s a certain feeling you get when you’re watching a show with two actors who have so much chemistry throughout – of seeing the show slowly, finally catch up to that chemistry and put those two characters together (whether or not that was the plan all along). It’s common practice for straight couples on television, but far less so when it comes to queer relationships. In fact, the queer audience is long accustomed to potential relationships getting ignored simply because they would be between two characters of the same sex. 

But sometimes a show comes along and listens to the fans clamoring for a ship and the chemistry between actors regardless of gender. And the latest example of this wish fulfillment is Netflix’s Warrior Nun. The show tells the story of a 19-year-old woman, Ava Silva (Alba Batista), who wakes up in a morgue with a new lease on life and a divine artifact embedded in her back. She discovers she is now part of the ancient Order of the Cruciform Sword, tasked with fighting demons on Earth. So of course powerful forces representing both Heaven and Hell want to find and control Ava.

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Alba Baptista as Ava Silva & Kristina Tonteri-Young as Sister Beatrice in Warrior Nun (COURTESY: Netflix)

In principle, Warrior Nun shouldn’t have been that different from most science fiction shows – but this one has Ava and Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young). Beatrice acts as Ava’s mentor throughout Warrior Nun Season 1, someone close in age to her who teaches her how to use her powers and the artifact while becoming her friend throughout the first season.

While Ava had a love interest in Season 1, Warrior Nun wasn’t about romance. Ava and Beatrice’s was a relationship that fans gravitated towards; while it was clear that Beatrice was a queer character, the show gave us minimal indication that we should expect any romance (#Avatrice) between those two. It was clear that Alba Batista and Kristina Toteri-Young had chemistry, but, by and large, Warrior Nun fans expected to see them get together in their hopes and dreams. Like usual.

And then Warrior Nun Season 2 arrived.

After a two-year wait, the show came back and did what we only dreamed it would do. Warrior Nun Season 2 picks up a month after the end of Season 1, throughout which the longed-for romance known as Avatrice all came from Beatrice’s side; while the new episodes focus on the fight against big bad Adriel (William Miller), the beating heart of everything remains the relationship between Ava and Beatrice – and Ava’s growing reciprocal feelings.

Warrior Nun Season 2 also invests in this relationship instead of pulling away from it. No more are we reduced to Beatrice’s one-sided yearning. This time around, the show leans into the pair’s chemistry and buids Ava’s yearning for Beatrice.

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Alba Baptista as Ava Silva & Kristina Tonteri-Young as Sister Beatrice in Warrior Nun (COURTESY: Netflix)

I felt something special while watching the new season. If most of Warrior Nun‘s debut only hints at Beatrice’s sexuality by her own comments about herself and her family, Warrior Nun Season 2 never lets us doubt for a second that she feels something for Ava. From the the very first new episode, Warrior Nun makes it clear that this relationship isn’t one-sided – and, really, it never was. And even more impressive (or essential) is that the show showcases both women and their love for each other. They get jealous of others entering their lives; they go to each other with everything. Warrior Nun might center around Ava, but Beatrice is just as important – because of her importance to Ava.

Watching television as a queer person can be challenging. This is especially true when you gravitate toward two characters with chemistry but who haven’t been established as queer. You start to believe that while something might happen, it probably won’t. Warrior Nun breaks away from that convention. Rather than just giving Ava another male love interest, the show invested in what it had already built. We can question whether or not that was the plan from the start, but, ultimately, the writers’ and showrunners’ initial intentions matter less than what the show is doing now. Warrior Nun listened to its fans and to the chemistry of its leads and gave us what isn’t yet the norm, but what might serve as an example for future shows.

Rating: 8.5/10

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