Luna Nera follows witches of a 16th century Italian town and their struggle to stay alive

The Italian Netflix original, Luna Nera, presents a compelling narrative of fate and witches, but gets bogged down with cliches and lack of genre commitment.

Samantha Murray, Arts Reporter


Feeling like taking a trip to 16th Century Italy to meet some feminist witches and wealthy witch hunters while listening to modern English music? Welcome to the mismatched Italian Netflix original, Luna Nera.

Luna Nera follows Ade, a young midwife working beside her grandma. One day, Ade suddenly warns of the death of an Italian aristocrat’s baby during labor. When her warning comes true, not only does Ade realize she has magic, but so do others.

Ade’s grandma takes the blame for the suspected magical death of the child, allowing Ade to live freely, albeit at the mercy of the townspeople. This leads to her being ostracized and slowly starved by the people until she gets the help of her season-long love interest, Pietro.

Ade’s grandma eventually gets burned to death for being a witch, but her sacrifice does not last long as Ade is immediately accused of being the real witch and must go into hiding along with her little brother in an incredibly small hidden city inhabited by witches.

This is where Luna Nera finds both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. In this hidden city of witches, the show is allowed to spend time on the parallel stories of Ade and Pietro and their mutual struggle of accepting their circumstances. But, it also occasionally decides to only be a teen drama full of clichés and terrible editing.

While I love a good teen drama, the reason those types of shows work is their utter commitment to melodrama and larger focus on romance. Luna Nera can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a teen drama or a more serious depiction of women’s struggles while confronting ideas of fate.

Are Ade and Pietro a Romeo and Juliet type that explore larger themes through their love, or are they Andy and Erin from The Office with the initial cute infatuation, but dumb circumstances and personality changes that lead to their eventual downfall? The show does not know.

The last episode is the best example of this conundrum. For the first half of the episode, the show is a dance-filled love story interrupted by a simple escape plot Ade and her friends should be focusing on. The second half  has a good climax, plot twist, and concludes Ade and Pietro’s season one character arcs while setting them up for future seasons.

While not every piece of the puzzle or character was used to their fullest potential, Ade and Pietro managed to be written well. While the two maybe did not provide the most intriguing of romances, they did display an interesting view of fate and characters that worked surprisingly well within standard storytelling conventions.

Whatever problems it may have, Luna Nera did get me excited for another season, and it does tell a fairly compelling story. But the true test of this show will be in what is to come.

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