Warrior Nun season 1, episode 1 recap – “Psalm 46:5”

July 2, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Recaps
3.5

Summary

“Psalm 46:5” confidently introduces a world of magic, demons, and religion, as an orphan is inadvertently imbued with angelic powers.

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3.5

Summary

“Psalm 46:5” confidently introduces a world of magic, demons, and religion, as an orphan is inadvertently imbued with angelic powers.

This recap of Warrior Nun season 1, episode 1, “Psalm 46:5”, contains spoilers.

Check out our spoiler-free season review.

Check out the episode archive.


Under the tiled floor of an ornate church in Andalusia, Spain, Ava Silva is dead. It’s in this candlelit sepulcher that Warrior Nun episode 1 begins, and it makes its intentions clear immediately. There’s a nun in the title and one in this opening scene, debating with a monk about whether Ava, whose cause of death is left conveniently blank, is worthy of forgiveness. Opening shots take in glittering gold altars; the episode’s title, like all of them, is chapter and verse — “Psalm 46:5”. This is a story in which religion, its iconography and ideology, is at a premium.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then that the next character we meet is called Mary. She’s one of several heavily-armed, black-clad Sisters who enter the crypt trailed by gunfire and carrying their wounded leader, Sister Shannon, whose body has been pierced by luminescent shrapnel that is currently plugging the runoff from her shredded organs. Shannon isn’t going to make it. There’s a protocol for that, which involves messily removing a glowing halo from her back; Mary tearfully holds her while the extraction is completed. Sister Shannon’s final words are not to trust anyone. The surgeon, holding the halo aloft, asks Shannon if she’s the next “Bearer”. No, that would be Lilith, one of her companions, who is promptly crushed by debris when armed men burst into the crypt. In the ensuing scuffle, one of them tries to pick up the red-hot artifact, which melts straight through his fingers. The surgeon, in desperation, and with a “Forgive me, child,” plugs the halo into the back of Ava Silva.

As she returns to life, Ava experiences a flurry of flashbacks to the stern nun from earlier looming over her in what looks like an orphanage. With a gasp, she’s alive. Her limbs contort themselves into workable positions. Above and behind the nearest armed man, the same one whose fingers were lopped off by the holy halo, a spectral red something hovers. When she smacks him he bursts into ash, and the specter dissipates. Ava, lost, wanders into the flickering light of the crypt’s tunnels.

Warrior Nun episode 1 certainly presents an opening. Ava narrates over a Billie Eilish song, wondering if perhaps she’s dead and this is Hell, or she’s going crazy, still strapped to her bed in the orphanage where her legs don’t work. She dreamily roams the streets and, within five minutes, is approached by a group of young men. We think we know where this is going, but we don’t, since right at the point when the harassment should begin, Ava spews all over them, is hit by a car, violently flung through a building, and finds herself inside a clothing store where her flesh knits itself back together before her eyes. Not only is she back from the dead and no longer paralyzed, but she also has superpowers.

In the wreckage of the church, meanwhile, Shotgun Mary, Sister Beatrice, and rookie Camila are pressed for an after-action report by the newly-arrived Father Vincent. It seems they were set up; once they got to the target location, they were greeted by a private army and an explosion of Divinium, the glowing blue substance that fatally wedged itself within Sister Shannon. Vincent tasks Mary with recovering the remaining fragments of the material before anyone else gets their hands on it. They’re interrupted by the monk from earlier, who leads them to the empty mortuary slab that once held Ava. He explains how the halo was put inside her for safe-keeping, an action Father Vincent justifies by explaining how being housed in human tissue makes the artifact difficult to locate. But its power to bring someone back from the dead is news to him. When he asks the monk about Ava, he’s shown a file: “Perhaps not entirely random,” he mutters, one assumes for the audience’s benefit more than anyone else’s.

“Psalm 46:5” returns to Ava as she herself returns to the orphanage, to her now-empty bed there, and to her roommate, a young boy named Diego, whom she confides in about her newfound superpowers. He doesn’t have any upbeat explanations or advice. Ava mentions that Catholics aren’t keen on resurrection, “unless they can control the narrative,” so it’s best she makes herself scarce. It’s just as well, really, since Father Vincent arrives shortly afterward under the guise of official Vatican business, hoping to scare up some background on Ava, her friends, and places she used to frequent. The attending Sister explains she was a quadriplegic. She never left the building; she had no friends. Vincent questions the standards of care at the orphanage while gently interrogating Diego, who seems a smart kid.

Ava follows Diego’s advice to enjoy her new gifts for as long as they last. She sprints down the beach and runs the grains of sand through her fingers. Her voiceover promises him she’ll make the most of this. But as she wanders the streets, she spots that tell-tale red smoke again, leading her somewhere. She dips into a bar, where she dances like a maniac, chins a drink, and accidentally floors a bouncer — just a normal night out where I’m from, but a new experience for her, and one that she’s evidently entertained by.

At the orphanage, the Sister explains Ava’s backstory to Father Vincent and, of course, the audience. She was taken to the orphanage as a child after a car accident that killed her mother and left her paralyzed. They were on holiday. Since her mother was Catholic and she didn’t know her father, Ava was placed in the care of the orphanage, where she was “difficult”, “ungrateful”. When Father Vincent asks how she died, we cut away to Ava, who is trying to shock her system by diving into a cold pool, having forgotten that her newfound holy powers don’t include swimming. She’s saved from drowning by JC, whom her narration describes as a “cute boy”.

JC feeds Ava, and while she’s pigging out, his friends Zori, Chanel, and Randall arrive. They’re a bit suspicious of this mysterious young woman who talks with her mouth full and claims people are looking for her. The matter of who owns the luxurious house seems a bit of a sore spot.

Speaking of houses, though not necessarily luxurious ones, Shotgun Mary reports to Vincent at a church-based headquarters where her sisters are training. He tasks her with finding Ava since her powers, unchecked and within someone undeserving, are a threat to everyone. Call me cynical, but I don’t trust Father Vincent.

But Ava doesn’t seem like much of a threat as she awkwardly asks JC to help her figure out some stuff since she has so little life experience. JC and his friends run a grift where they occupy otherwise unoccupied luxury houses as a kind of anti-establishment statement, which Ava is on board with since she hates institutions, the consolidation of power, and the abuse of those without any. Within one scene, they’re at a rave in an old prison, which is par for the course, really. Ava’s stunned and excited by the debauchery on offer and instantly asks JC for a pill.

As Ava parties the night away, Shotgun Mary has a hazy flashback to her time training under Sister Shannon, who cagily insists that she loves all the sisters. Mary’s pulled from her reverie by a song from Camila as Ava, high as a kite, is lured away from the dancefloor by that eerie red smoke once again. Father Vincent regales an out-of-his-depth bartender with talk of demons, as we see one stomp its cloven hooves along the stone of the crypt where Sister Shannon’s corpse is being tended to by the monk. In a splash of blood, the monk dies, and the demon roars in frustration when it discovers that the halo is missing. As Ava leaves the party, we see the artifact begin to glow beneath her sequinned dress.


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