The Walking Dead has been taking viewers on the franchise’s first French tour with Big Ass Kicker Daryl Dixon. Norman Reedus is hopefully avoiding bed bugs (surely, you’ve heard what’s going on over there), and whaddya know, his character has joined forces with, as he calls them, “killer nuns.”
Ah yes, nuns who will — if it comes down to it — defend themselves through deadly force. Never seen that before in a horror franchise, right? I’m being ornery, but The Walking Dead chose the perfect venue to go there with the sisters of the Union Of Hope resistance. They are, obviously, much more advanced in their ability to survive than Father Gabriel when Rick Grimes stumbled upon him. To be fair, Gabriel eventually got it together, but Daryl Dixon picks up with the nuns already in fighting form. Isabelle (Clémence Poésy) is particularly industrious, and she also takes us into the earliest hours of the apocalypse in Paris. She’s not a prim and proper nun, and Daryl might be enjoying that revelation a little too much.
So, let’s be silly, too, and consider recent TV and movie nuns and rank them for sheer fun. Also, this entire list is an exercise in recency bias because badass nuns have been rising again in the streaming era. You can’t get away from them. Here are five prominent nuns ranked from least to most badass, but I wouldn’t want to run into any of them in a darkened hallway.
5. Valak From The Nun
Powers: A formidable demon and supposedly the Great President Of Hell. Can scare the pants off you by standing there and doing nothing. Can possess a human. Yells very loudly.
Execution: The issue with Valak, unfortunately, is that the chosen form of a Marilyn Manson-looking sister was what spooked audiences most. That unholy scene in The Conjuring 2 where Valak lures Lorraine Warren down a hallway and transforms from a shadow into a portrait was full of the right kind of tension. The expected jump scare never arrived, so the tension continued to build to shambolic heights with no resolution. Yet that promisingly scary beginning for Valak fell to pieces by the end of the movie because Lorraine easily defeated the demon simply by the power of saying its name. That was somehow enough to condemn this demon back to Hell.
Then The Nun movies happened, and although the first movie grossed $366 million worldwide, you can’t talk to anyone who’s seen The Nun 2 without hearing complaints about jump scares, which takes Valak into comedy territory and away from what made this demon so sinister in the first place. Valak could have been a badass contender, but The Conjuring universe dropped that demonic ball.
4. Sister Night From HBO’s Watchmen
Powers: Being a cop, obviously. She’s adept at martial arts and can run fairly fast, although not fast enough to catch the slippery Lube Man. Maybe she can walk on water now? We never received a clear answer there.
Execution: I struggled with where to place Angela Abar, a.k.a. “Sister Night.” On one hand, she is a whirling dervish in a fight, and much of her arc is shadowed in generational trauma that evokes powerful messaging. Yet on the other hand, I also have to consider that much of Sister Night’s “power” has been handed to her by the state. The show’s decision to take on both racism and police brutality was a daredevil turn that not everyone felt worked out for the best. Perhaps that’s because Damon Lindelof raised questions rather than hinting at answers, and not everyone was a fan of his approach.
In the end, I decided that it’s best not to overthink here. Angela can be inferred to have inherited some badassery from her grandfather, who was the original Hooded Justice. However, there’s the reality that the Earth-bound “heroes” of Watchmen are merely people in costumes, and in Angela’s case as with the other policemen in this show, they wear costumes to conceal their identities. Angela, who wasn’t in the Watchmen graphic novel, likely chose to wear a “nun-like” costume (with rosary-like beads hanging from her waist) because she was brought up by nuns. And yes, she is more badass than you or I, but I do have to dock points for how she failed to capture Lube Man.
3. Simone From Mrs. Davis
Powers: She is fearless and can fight. She also inexplicably survived a crossbow shot to a vital organ (from her own mother) during childhood. She’s in tight with Jesus, who does have powers to bend time and reality and make some mean falafel and all that.
Execution: Yes, we’ve got another Damon Lindelof nun, although Tara Hernandez must receive all due credit in the writing department. This terrific show grappled with some of the bigger questions that confound mankind in 2023, which is also why it hits too close to home to be a mainstream winner. This, after all, is probably not the most fantastic time for a free-wheeling parable about an algorithm to hit with the masses. And if you squint hard, there are parallels between this show and two recent box-office smash hits — Barbie and Oppenheimer — perhaps a subject for another day.
Mrs. Davis was simply too “oddball” to reach those audience numbers, but it did give us Sister Simone, who ended up being one of the most dauntless and bravest humans on Earth, if not the bravest. She can be laid back enough to get boozy with a nun portrayed by Margo Martindale but never lets go of her own fierce determination to take out the AI by destroying the Holy Grail, even possibly at the expense of her own life. The whole exploding-head phenomenon did not even deter her, nor did the “Buffalo Wild Wings” twist that showed exactly how dangerous and humanity-altering that AI can be when it manages to run amuck.
Simone, however, ends up being a riveting paradox, a woman who literally marries Christ yet accepts his adultery even though she’s clearly not happy about it. On the other hand, she also does not operate upon blind faith, nor does she subscribe to society’s vision of how a nun should behave. Simone does not need rescuing, and the show leaves open a very interesting question: have she and Cowboy Wiley actually been rendered immortal by their shared liver? It’s a question that we’ll probably never know the answer to, and for that missing information, Simone takes a hit.
2. Ava From Warrior Nun
Powers: Ava has been implanted with a powerful glowing Halo, which ideally helps her (and her fellow kickass nuns) to fight demons and settle the score between Heaven and Hell. She’s not the strongest fighter, but she is the chosen Warrior Nun.
Execution: The Halo’s powers expand upon facets of the bearer’s character, which is one reason why, once embedded, Ava was able to free herself from her human trappings and seize upon super strength and, on some level, invulnerability and ability to move through matter unabated. Unfortunately, the Halo’s power has been waning for some reasons that are not totally clear, but it’s fair to assume that Adriel is siphoning some energy, and the combination is affecting Ava’s power to sustain her powers.
Ava’s route to nun-dom was also not a typical one. She had been paralyzed in a car accident and committed suicide, and suddenly, she woke up with those Halo powers on the road to being the Warrior Nun. She also doesn’t trust the church or wish to embrace its tenets, let alone take Catholic nun vows and consider herself married to Jesus. So I suppose she is a quasi-nun, but the story takes a non-linear route to a coming-of-age story that makes Ava not only endearing but also more of a rebel than the church would prefer. However, she does have plenty of backup, especially ultra-badass Beatrice.
Additionally, Warrior Nun fans are such an enthused legion that, even though Netflix canceled this series after two seasons, a rabid campaign led to the news that a trilogy of films will be on the way. Where that will happen, no one is saying yet, but Ava and her crew will fight again.
1. Isabelle From The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon
Powers: Her powers are very earth-bound: fighting like hell, protecting Laurent, and giving Daryl a hard time for not speaking French. And in response to Daryl’s “killer nuns” quip, Isabelle insists that the Union Of Hope convent is merely capable of defending themselves. She’s not kidding.
Execution: Look, if it wasn’t for Isabelle, Daryl Dixon might no longer be alive and would be another walker stalking through France. And perhaps even more importantly, if it wasn’t for Isabelle, Daryl would have never done the unthinkable and taken a bath. That was a brave feat in and of itself.
Again, I’m arguably guilty of recency bias with this top ranking, but Isabelle happens to be one of the more compelling characters to enter into The Walking Dead universe in some time. She’s not cartoonish like many of the entrances we’ve seen on the current season of Fear The Walking Dead. She’s more layered than new Dead City characters, and Isabelle might be making “good choices” nowadays, but how she reacted to the first moments of the apocalypse set the stage for her survival instincts to kick into high gear. She quickly swept away the life of being a hardcore partier/thief and ditched Quinn when his instincts felt both inhumane and “off.”
It wasn’t long before she watched her sister turn during childbirth amid the “miracle” birth of Laurent, and Isabelle had a new purpose shocked into her. She’s devoted although not devout in her faith, and these nuns aren’t exactly sticklers for the whole “being married to God” thing. She would also be a “fun” nun to hang out with under better circumstances. That’s why I hope that Isabelle will be around for the long haul and not simply for one mission with Daryl to deliver Laurent to “the Nest.” Daryl obviously won’t make it back to The Commonwealth this year (Norman Reedus is currently shooting Season 2 in France), so hopefully, Isabelle will be back alongside his crossbow, too.
‘The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon’ airs Sunday nights on AMC.