The following contains spoilers for Warrior Nun.
It’s been two years since the first season of Netflix’s Warrior Nun premiered and a lot has changed in the streaming landscape since then. A plethora of promising programs from The Midnight Club to First Kill have come and gone on the platform after just a single season, and it’s harder than ever for a show to break through the noise and find an audience. (Particularly when the streamer seems all too eager to cut promotional budgets.)
Given these recent trends, no one is likely that shocked by the announcement that Netflix has chosen to end the series following its recently released second season, but it’s also hard to argue that Warrior Nun deserved better, particularly since its sophomore outing was even stronger than its first. A delightful, female-led fantasy action adventure, Warrior Nun Season 2 not only pays off emotional beats hinted at during its first run of episodes, but it also deftly corrects several of season 1’s most glaring issues, resulting in a more poignant, moving story that loses none of its inherent sense of fun.
The series’ first season introduced us to the mysterious Order of the Cruciform Sword (OCS for short), a conclave of women with a divinely inspired mission to fight demons and protect humanity from darkness. Its cast includes Ava (Alba Baptista), the titular Warrior Nun, a formerly paralyzed orphan who was literally resurrected when an artifact known as the Halo was inserted into her back and gave her superpowers. The diverse group of sister nuns that fight alongside her run the gamut from those who have taken religious vows and believe in the hierarchical order of the Catholic Church to those who balk at the restrictive, often patriarchal structure the Church attempts to impose and some don’t necessarily believe in any sort of God at all. (Or, at least, not necessarily the version the Church approves of.)
A natural heir to the cultural space once occupied by shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warrior Nun features a cadre of butt-kicking young women standing up to threats both supernatural and demonic, discovering who they are and who they want to become along the way. (All while dropping suitably quippy one-liners.) There are occasionally cheesy special effects, powerful McGuffins that can help or harm our heroines, and exciting high-stakes action sequences set to banging pop tracks. Through stories of women, queer people, and people of color, the show offers multiple remarkably nuanced depictions of what it means to be a person of faith, embracing empowerment, agency, and self-determination in doing so. Warrior Nun is also careful to ground its most lore-heavy and/or religious elements in specific character arcs and relationships, helping to humanize even the most esoteric or seemingly ridiculous of subplots.
In fact, it is the bond between Ava and Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young), a martial arts expert who turns to OCS after being essentially rejected by her parents for being queer—though that latter bit is never explicitly stated out loud in season 1—-that ultimately serves as the emotional heart of the show. Through their connection with one another, Ava slowly learns to embrace the idea of caring for something (or someone) more than herself, and Beatrice discovers she doesn’t have to constantly deny or repress key parts of herself to find grace or love. In a welcome—and much-needed—evolution from its first season, Warrior Nun season 2 also fully leans into the “Avatrice” romance without reservation, committing to their relationship as something more than yet another unfortunate small-screen example of a queer love that dare not speak its name. (Looking at you, Supergirl, Legacies, Supernatural, etc.)
Where season 1 was strangely loath to give whatever was going on between these two women a name, or even openly acknowledge that Beatrice was an explicitly queer character, season 2 doubles down on the importance of their bond, building its entire arc around essentially making the subtext between these two women text. The show deftly subverts many of the established tropes we so often see in queer stories like this and eschews the narrative tricks meant to purposefully obfuscate what two characters are to one another or leave their relationship ambiguous. Instead, Warrior Nun recontextualizes them as key elements of both the couple’s journey and season 2’s larger story.
Ava and Beatrice spend the bulk of the season dancing around (sometimes literally!) and attempting to categorize their feelings for one another. They frequently declare themselves “best friends” and “sisters” and profess their deep devotion to one another. A grown Michael’s (Jack Mullarkey) return places another unasked-for man in the middle of their dynamic. There are plenty of weighted “almost” moments that feel an awful lot like the near-confessions from season 1 that never lead anywhere. But the difference is, this time, the series pays all these things off in creative and satisfying ways—turning previously staid tropes meant to keep two women from being together into necessary moments of character development and natural steps on their road to recognizing and embracing their feelings for one another.
And whether the season’s episodes are primarily dealing with questions of science or theology, they almost always come back to the dynamic between the two women in some way. Beatrice’s gradual acceptance of her feelings for Ava is tangled up with her own struggle with self-hatred and her hyperactive sense of duty, but they are what ultimately give her the strength to fight through multiple life-threatening situations to get to the woman she loves. It is through caring for Beatrice that Ava ultimately realizes her final act of self-sacrifice is necessary in order to protect her—and the rest of the world she has come to deeply care for. Their love for one another is the lens through which we view the cost of the OCS’s battle with the interdimensional evil being called Adriel (William Miller), and their ultimate sacrifice of one another in the name of saving the world is heartbreaking in its both execution and inevitability. (Though at least Ava gets to say the L word before being portaled through to the quasi-heavenly realm known as The Other Side.)
It’s apparent long before the season’s post-credits scene that Ava’s “death” is not meant to be permanent and that she will somehow find a way back to the side of the woman she’s only just confessed her love to. The season concludes with an episode named for Jeremiah 29:13—“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”—which sounds like nothing so much as both promise and prophecy for two women who have long defied the odds to be together in the first place. And though we’ll now never get the chance to see the reunion between the pair that a Season 3 would surely have brought us, it’s comforting to know that some truths defy cancelation.