Renegade Nell Review

REVIEW: Renegade Nell

Coming to Disney+ on Friday 29th March, Renegade Nell is a new fantasy adventure series from writer and executive producer Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Gentleman Jack). It’s got highwaymen, dark magic and a little bit of superpower action thrown in for good measure. And it’s a lot of fun too.

As is usually the way with a show like this, episode one gets off to a flying start and manages to pack a real punch. The year is 1705 and Nell Jackson (Louisa Harland, Derry Girls) is minding her own business, heading home on horseback through the forests of England, when she stumbles across a robbery in progress. Notorious highwayman Isambard Tulley and his gang have stopped a travelling carriage and are currently relieving its occupants of their valuables. Tulley threatens and attempts to rob Nell too, but she is confident and cocky in her response, certainly not prepared to shy away from any injustice. When Tulley turns aggressive we see a spark of light entering Nell, which triggers a powerful change within her, instantly giving her some cool superpowered fighting moves and even a little bit of spidey sense to help her dodge bullets. Once the bad guys are taken care of, the mysterious light leaves her body and she’s back to normal again.

Renegade Nell Review

Arriving in Tottenham, Nell heads to the local pub which we learn is run by her father Sam with help from her two younger sisters Roxy and George. Everyone is surprised but delighted to see Nell (just don’t call her Nelly), as she’s been away from home for so many years that her youngest sister George barely remembers her. They were all led to believe that Nell had been killed in battle along with her husband.

Nell settles back into family life, helping out behind the bar of the busy local, but it’s not long before she’s squaring up to yet another bully in the form of Thomas Wilmot (Jake Dunn), spoilt brat and son of Lord Blancheford (Pip Torrens). Thomas likes to get drunk with his friends and terrorise the villagers who are all too afraid to stand up to him due to the position of power his father holds. But not Nell.

Renegade Nell Review

However, the spark of light that helped Nell out earlier doesn’t immediately return, not until her life is in danger. After saving her skin once more, we learn a little more about the little sprite whose name is Billy Blind (a squeaky-voiced Nick Mohammed). He’s not entirely certain of his purpose but he knows that he can only help Nell to protect herself, not to start a fight. Only she can see him and when he’s not a speck of light giving Nell special abilities, he’s big enough to sit on Nell’s shoulder and chat. He can even grow to the size of a giant!

Renegade Nell Review

Unfortunately, after facing up to Thomas Wilmot, Nell manages to attract the attention of some rather unpleasant people and finds herself framed for murder, with no choice but to go on the run with her sisters. Even more unfortunate is the fact that some of those unpleasant people are either masters or apprentices of the dark arts, able to track and conjure up all manner of supernatural obstacles for Nell.

Nell teams up with local aristocrat Charles Devereux (Frank Dillane) and employee/slave of the Blanchefords, Rasselas (Enyi Okoronkwo). They must try and clear Nell’s name and defeat the evil that currently stands in her way. Along the way, Nell begins to realise that fate has put her on the wrong side of the law for a reason.

Renegade Nell Review

Renegade Nell really did grab me with its opening episode, for several reasons. Nell is a loveable rogue with a big heart, brilliantly played by Louisa Harland and I loved the way she interacts with others. I also found it funny how she could simply wear a different outfit or even a moustache and have everyone thinking she’s a man. Secondly, the action is very well-choreographed, hugely enjoyable and certainly plentiful in episode one. Thirdly, the villains that are introduced. Aside from Thomas Wilmot, who I’ve already mentioned, his mysterious sister Sofia (Alice Kremelberg) plays a big part in the story, as does the Earl of Poynton (Adrian Lester), who later becomes involved in a plot against the Queen of England. There’s definitely a lot of exciting promise in the first two episodes. 

Now, I know it can’t all be action and fighting bad guys but there are several side plots throughout the remaining episodes that aren’t always so interesting and I found they detracted somewhat from the overall experience. A kidnapping story involving a group of strollers, confronting the local press for their constant printing of lies about Nell and her family and the aforementioned plot against Queen Anne. Meanwhile, there are other ideas and plots teased which do not get explored. Maybe in season two.

Where to Watch

Renegade Nell | March 29, 2024 (United Kingdom)


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