Ah, yes, it is that time again. Time to add another Dutiful Princess to our ever-growing list here at the Fandomentals. This time, the hit Netflix show Warrior Nun yields one of the most impressive examples of the trope so far in the form of Sister Beatrice, played by Kristina Tonteri-Young.
Warrior Nun features a cast of sister warriors who fight demons, led by the Warrior Nun herself, who bears the halo of an angel on her back. Yes, it’s exactly as bonkers as it sounds, and it is amazing. If you’re looking for some fun characters getting into some crazy action, look no further.
As a quick refresher, the Dutiful Princess is a character (of any gender) who wields some sort of power, inherited or unasked for. This causes a deep sense of duty within them and the need to be taken seriously. They tend to be bad at communicating feelings and carry internalized guilt.
Sister Beatrice ticks all these boxes and then some. We start learning about her as a person in the pilot, after the current Warrior Nun, Shannon, dies in front of the team after succumbing to her wounds. Beatrice starts going over the mission and what went wrong in an almost robotic manner. Shotgun Mary (Toya Turner), another member of the team reprimands her impersonal demeanor, “like it’s just another incident to report.”
“I loved her too, I just… need something to focus on.”– Beatrice, to Shotgun Mary
This is our official introduction to Beatrice. She is all business, all the time. Her duty to her vows and to God comes before anything. She values responsibility and discipline. She keeps herself together, always.
She is by no means the most serious member of the team. Both Shotgun Mary and Lilith, the would-be heir of the halo, are on-mission, no-nonsense. The difference lies in the impressive control Beatrice exercises over her own emotions.
As the show progresses, we start to learn more about her past. She is the daughter of a wealthy family, who shipped her off to boarding school because she was not “falling in line”, in her own words. She is prodigious in many things as far as we can tell, speaks several languages, is an expert martial artist, and seems to be a rather good rule-follower.
Her background and personality would make an interesting enough combination for the trope, but on top of that, there are her vows. She went through the process of becoming a nun and ultimately, she chose this life for herself. She willingly acquired more duties. But why?
Her family’s rejection comes to the forefront, and the question of why she was such a “nuisance” to them, given all she has going for her, especially suited to a life of privilege. The answer comes later in the season, in a heartfelt scene she shares with the new halo-bearer, Ava (Alba Baptista). She is an interesting foil for Beatrice. She is the first to peek over the walls she’s meticulously built, and ultimately phases through it at top speed, but I’ll leave Ava for last.
Before Ava, Shannon’s death sparks a series of events that have all the sisters reeling, because it opens up questions they never thought to ask about the order, and the Church itself.
Beatrice has a strong sense of duty, which she performs with stoicism. She is able to spew off a detailed report while standing feet away from the body of a friend, and physically incapacitated several guards before stealing an object from a private company all because she was ordered to.
This dutifulness can also lead her to do questionable things, like drugging and kidnapping a woman. While she shows the most empathy for Ava’s situation out of all the sisters, she is still insensitive to her. She reprimands her for being selfish, despite knowing what Ava went through (you know, being paralyzed and then dead and all). She believes the purpose of the Order to be greater than personal desires or woes.
The above might lead one to think of Beatrice as someone who follows the Church blindly. However, in a pivotal scene halfway through the season, Beatrice shares a moment with Cardinal Duretti (Joaquim de Almeida). He is looking to gain control of the Order of the Cruciform Sword, to which they all belong, and tests the waters with Beatrice
Cardinal Duretti: “I would like to know that I can count on you to remain faithful to the will of the Church.”
Beatrice: “You may always count on me to remain faithful. To God.”
Beatrice would “betray” the Church if she felt it went against God. It is not about blind obedience for her, and she can clearly see the cracks in the institution she is a part of.
Of course, it is one thing to feel this way, and another to disobey the Church, which proves harder than it seems. Duretti does not like her response to his prodding, sensing a threat, and he dictates she be relocated to a different order. Beatrice, though reluctantly, accepts it initially. Even though she knows Duretti is suspicious, even when revelations from Shannon’s death creep to the surface, despite her sisters’ misgivings, she packs her bag and heads to the bus stop. She does not get in.
This is a turning point. She has defied the “the will of the Church” now and sided with Mary and Ava (plus certified cinnamon roll Sister Camila). Though it’s not terribly evident, I will posit that this brings her off-kilter, even if she still hides her emotions well at first.
She has renounced a duty she had sought out, so quickly locates and acquires a new one: Ava. Beatrice needs a purpose, you see. She takes it upon herself to train Ava in preparation for their rogue mission in the Vatican, and the mantle of primary protector falls on her shoulders as a result. This is all unspoken. It could have easily been Mary or Vincent who volunteered, or even Lilith (Lorena Andrea), who had an active participation in the first go-round of Ava’s training, unlike Beatrice. She becomes the de-facto leader of the mission, as well.
Expertise and knowledge give Beatrice the authority to take on this new role. As a Dutiful Princess who has lost her official duties, Beatrice’s need to find a new one is pathological.
To Beatrice’s bad (or maybe good?) luck, Ava, the resident Glorious Dumbass and certified baby (by me), isn’t about to just take Beatrice’s guidance without shaking her up a little. As they begin to interact more, the layers start to come off.
With the layers coming off, her deep internalized guilt starts to show, too. It is fair to assume Beatrice feels guilt over the disobedience of her orders, even though she knows it is the right thing – at least this is my interpretation – but the guilt goes a bit deeper than that.
Ava and Beatrice read the diary of Sister Melanie, a Warrior Nun from the forties who reveals in her entry that she was put in Nazi concentration camps for being a lesbian, and Beatrice becomes very emotional, accidentally letting Ava see through her.
It upsets her and she snaps, but quickly apologizes, and reveals that she herself is queer – how she specifically identifies is not confirmed in the show. And here, she lets Ava and us see what lies at the very core of her Dutiful Princess identity, and who she is.
“My whole life, people have tried to make me into something I’m not, to make me normal, or at least, acceptable. I became skilled at so many things just so I would still have value, despite my flaws… or what I’d been taught was a flaw. Of course, I tried to fit in, but when you’re punished just for being different, you begin to hate what you are. And what you love, what should make you happy, only brings you pain.”Sister Beatrice, to Ava
It is more than revealing. It is heartbreaking, and it sheds more light on her statement that she joined the Church “to save my immortal soul.” The deepest seeded guilt she feels is about who she is and what she loves. She found a way to officialize society’s and her own self-repression, found a cause worth fighting for. Ultimately, that wouldn’t ease her guilt, because the very fact that she represses these feelings would of course bring on more layers of guilt.
Beatrice gained all this knowledge and expertise so that she could be valued, and put it to use in a cause she deemed worthy, in a space she believed would help cleanse her of what so many told her was a sin. But, as she reveals, she also found a family along the way. Ultimately it was her duties to that family that won out. Her willingness to straight-up blow up the Vatican to save Ava is proof of that.
Beatrice still has a lot to work through. Internalized guilt and repression as intense as hers doesn’t just go away after a few puns and a beautifully timed f-bomb. Still, she is leaps ahead of where she was when she began her journey. I, for one, can’t wait to see what season 2 of Warrior Nun has in store for our Dutiful Princess.
Have strong thoughts about this piece you need to share? Or maybe there’s something else on your mind you’re wanting to talk about with fellow Fandomentals? Head on over to our Community server to join in the conversation!
Images courtesy of Netflix.