Warrior Nun’s Cancellation Marks a New Low in Netflix’s Commitment to Killing Good Shows
And another terrible blow for sapphic representation.Photo Courtesy of Netflix TV Features Warrior Nun
Well, it happened again. Netflix has canceled Warrior Nun after two seasons, in spite of its record-breaking audience score and constant online buzz. This marks just the latest casualty in Netflix’s pattern of canceling shows with a minority focus, specifically series starring sapphic couples. During a year that has been extremely difficult for queer audience members, this cancellation feels like the final nail in the streamer’s progressive reputation, adding another headstone to its graveyard of axed queer shows.
In November, Warrior Nun’s second season premiered on Netflix to little fanfare. It debuted to very few reviews (my own being one of only two reviews to show up on Rotten Tomatoes with the embargo lift on its release day) and virtually no promotion from the streamer, which was even confirmed by showrunner Simon Barry, who later tweeted that “$0 [was] spent on promotion” from Netflix. Being sandwiched between the releases of two blockbuster hits, Manifest and Wednesday, just weeks before and after the series’ premiere made keeping Warrior Nun within the Top 10 difficult, leaving its peak at #5. Despite its viewership being less than groundbreaking, the series’ three-week hold within the Top 10 was impressive considering both the promotional circumstances and the competition it was facing.
While many of Netflix’s deceased series have had dedicated fanbases in the past, Warrior Nun’s legion of queer fans feels unique. When they noticed the lack of promotion from the series, they took to Twitter and TikTok to start spreading the word about the series themselves. The fans were so loud, in fact, that they convinced Buzzfeed A*Pop (the company’s Asian-focused editorial account) to interview Warrior Nun star Kristina Tonteri-Young for long and short form content on their channel, and have been sharing any article written about the show like it was their job. Still, the task of convincing others to watch this series has not been an easy one, and that is due simply to Netflix’s track record, and the lingering wounds that are still open from one cancellation after another this year.
When the second season dropped, many fans found themselves faced with pushback from potential viewers, many of them insisting that they would watch the series after it was already renewed. Though, as any TV viewer will know, people have to watch a series in in the first place for it to be renewed, so Netflix’s negative impact on Warrior Nun’s reception was two-fold: spending no money on the promotion of the series will limit its reach to a more general population, and Netflix’s own track record of cancelling queer series stunts its growth within queer spaces as well. YouTuber Ashley Ippolito, known as “ur internet mom ash” on the platform, even tweeted in response to the many requests to react to the series on her channel by saying: “i can’t watch and get attached just to have it ripped away from me and get cancelled I CANT GO THROUGH IT AGAIN,” which mirrored the attitude of many queer viewers.
With a fanbase that dedicated and loud, it’s no surprise that “#SaveWarriorNun” began trending almost immediately after the announcement, but unfortunately the chances of the series getting picked up by another network or streamer are very slim. Even though a network like SYFY or a streamer like Prime Video would be great potential homes for the series, Netflix’s contracts reportedly limit how and when a show can air elsewhere. After One Day at a Time was canceled, it was revealed that Netflix contracts stipulate that a show cannot air on any other streamer for two to three years after it is canceled by Netflix. This waittime is a death sentence for any show wanting to pick up and move somewhere else, as the memory of Warrior Nun will have faded by the time it’s eligible to be saved. However, while the details of Warrior Nun’s contract and stipulations are unknown, One Day at a Time was able to be saved by a traditional network merely a few months after the cancellation, with Deadline reporting that the series had less restrictions on the broadcast front specifically. Though it’s unlikely that Warrior Nun has a similar stipulation, as Netflix has probably locked its shows down even more in the time since ODAAT was canceled, it seems like the only shred of hope left for an audience clamoring to overcome the series’ cliffhanger ending.
Said cliffhanger, which featured Ava sent to the Other Side to heal from her fatal wounds and an impending “Holy War” teased by Lilith, was another Netflix requirement, one that has been seen across numerous Netflix Originals that are often left unfulfilled after cancellation. Barry told Variety that Season 1’s cliffhanger, which was even more frustrating than Season 2’s, was encouraged by Netflix: “They were like ‘Hey, what if you cut this a little short?’” Season 2’s finale does offer a little more closure, or at least a hint at what was to come, with the post-credit scene featured in the final episode, but that was almost cut as well on Netflix’s insistence, as Barry told AngeChats on YouTube.
Netflix’s inability to commit to the shows that it releases, while actively attempting to sabotage them, is the opposite of what television is supposed to be. It’s incredibly upsetting and depressing that the platform that once seemed like the future of the industry has all but destroyed what makes television special in the first place, and the unending grind of one and two-season shows that remain unfinished and unsupported never seems to end. Smaller, non-priority series continue to get lost in the shuffle: greenlit by Netflix for shorter and shorter seasons, never given the proper support, and then canceled before most people even know they exist. This pattern continues to happen, affecting Netflix’s minority offerings first and foremost. From female-focused shows like GLOW, to queer and Black-led series like First Kill and Half Bad, Netflix picks and chooses when it wants to champion representation—but oftentimes the stories of sapphic women and women of color find themselves on the receiving end of Netflix’s cruel axe more than any other group.
More than any other cancellation this year, Warrior Nun’s hurts the most, especially considering the quality of the series and the importance of the story it was able to tell. Within its second season, Warrior Nun tackled numerous topics ranging from the morality of the Catholic church to the power of the influencer, all culminating in a smart and compelling overarching story about life, grief, love, and the collective power of women. Additionally, Warrior Nun’s striking and poignant portrayal of the relationship between Ava and Beatrice feels like a gift, one that fans can continue to treasure—even if it is tarnished by the cancellation. Unlike peer First Kill, which debuted to a rotten 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, Warrior Nun’s second season was incredibly well received, still sitting at a 100% critics score and a 99% audience rating on almost 8000 reviews (as mentioned earlier, a record-setting high for a Netflix series).
With its admirable stats and loud support from numerous celebrities on Twitter (even Jersey Shore’s Snooki jumped on the bandwagon, and is now also expressing her anger over the cancellation), it seemed that Warrior Nun might be the first to break this curse hanging over sapphic shows, and mark a change of heart for the streamer. Though, of course, that was not the case, and Warrior Nun’s cancellation is proof that even the best of sapphic offerings still are not good enough to be deemed worthy by this bloated and cynical late-stage era of Peak TV. When the industry begins to take a downward turn, the first things to go are the shows that take risks or simply dare to tell stories about characters who are not straight and white men. As the cancellation sinks in, a number of Warrior Nun’s fans are asking themselves “What more could we have done?” highlighting how queer fans are left to shoulder the promotion of their favorite shows themselves, attempting to meet Netflix’s unsustainable and impossible renewal standards on their own, and nearly always being met with disappointment from their efforts to simply continue to be seen on screen.
While Warrior Nun is not the first sapphic show to be killed at the hands of Netflix’s unsympathetic upload cycle and will most certainly not be the last, many fans are finding themselves exhausted and frustrated with the streamer. After the news was announced on Tuesday, many fans took to Twitter to post screenshots of their cancellation confirmations, ensuring Netflix knows the reason for the loss of business. Warrior Nun might be many queer fans’ last straw, which does not bode well for the future of queer representation on screen, but who could blame them after all this heartache?
More than anything, Warrior Nun meant a lot to a lot of people, including myself. Instead of being mindless Netflix sludge meant to appeal to all corners of the platform’s subscriber base, Warrior Nun had something to say, and held a beating heart within those overarching messages and themes. It’s incredibly disheartening to see a series that was clearly both made and consumed with so much love be tossed aside at the whims of impatient and shortsighted algorithms and business models, and it’s saddening to think we will likely never see our favorite kickass nuns-with-guns ever again. Of course, it would be incredible for the series to follow in Ava’s footsteps and rise from the dead, and Barry has already taken to Twitter to confirm his intent to attempt to shop the show, so maybe its fate to live on as an unfinished Netflix catalog-dweller is not quite sealed yet.
After the horrendous year queer representation has had on screen, queer viewers are tired. I’m tired. Tired of seeing series canceled before they are ever given a chance, tired of seeing series literally deleted from existence, tired of seeing just how disposable and unimportant these stories become when the bottom line begins to suffer. Much like Beatrice in the post-credit scene of Warrior Nun’s now series finale, queer audience members will simply have to continue on in spite of the heartache, searching and hoping for change within the industry and the world to allow for a better future in this life or the next.
Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert
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