Louisa Harland looking straight at the camera as Nell Jackson in an official poster for Renegade Nell.

One of the U.K.’s Best TV Writers Just Launched a Swashbuckling Fantasy Series on Disney+

If you’re on the lookout for a witty, fast-paced, swashbuckling fantasy series, look no further than Renegade Nell.

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The series, a period piece set in 18th century England, stars Derry Girls’ very own Louisa Harland and follows Nell Jackson, a young woman who is falsely accused of murdering the town landlord. Nell is subsequently forced to go on the run with her sisters, disguising herself as a highwayman to support her family and one of their only allies, Rasselas (Enyi Okoronkwo).

Nell’s hiding a secret, though—each time she gets into trouble, she’s granted temporary powers by a sprite called Billy Bind, who is played with quirky sincerity by Ted Lasso’s Nick Mohammed. These powers allow Nell to boldly defeat and humiliate anyone who stands in her way. The resulting action sequences are fun, dynamic, and dramatic, and only add to the show’s enjoyability.

All in all, Renegade Nell is a real success—and when you look at the woman behind it all, it’s no surprise why. Sally Wainwright, who created and wrote award-winning British hits such as Last Tango in Halifax, Scott & Bailey, Gentleman Jack, and Happy Valley, ventured out of her recent crime and drama comfort zone to explore everything that history and fantasy have to offer. The result is Renegade Nell, a show that is aimed at a younger audience than Wainwright’s usual projects but which still boasts her trademark witty and poignant dialogue, shadowy plots, and fascinating characters.

One of Nell’s greatest enemies, the landlord’s son, Thomas Blancheford (Jake Dunn), is as recklessly and gleefully violent—though perhaps not as perversely evil—as Happy Valley’s Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton). Nell’s swagger and presence—and Harland deserves all the praise for this, as her performance is genuinely effortless—is reminiscent of Suranne Jones’ inherent confidence as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack, too. Wainwright’s affinity for writing crime dramas shines through in Renegade Nell, as well, and her talent for crafting compelling, complicated, and surprising female characters makes this show all the more enjoyable. Lady Sofia Wilmot (Alice Kremelberg) is a particularly devious highlight.

Does it reach the narrative heights of Happy Valley, Wainwright’s previous series? Perhaps not, but I’d argue that they aren’t truly comparable, either. Renegade Nell isn’t a show that takes itself too seriously. It’s meant to be fun, and it is genuinely fun, even if some of the plot’s puzzle pieces don’t always fit together perfectly. And when you’ve got a cast of characters this talented and charismatic, it’s easy to overlook some of the show’s more minor flaws.

If, like us, you’re still peeved about Disney’s cancelation of Willow, Renegade Nell might just be able to fill up that hole in your heart. Let’s just hope that Disney+ renews this show for a second season before it’s too late.

All eight episodes of Renegade Nell are streaming now on Disney+.

(featured image: Disney+)


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Author
El Kuiper
El (she/her) is The Mary Sue's U.K. editor and has been working as a freelance entertainment journalist for over two years, ever since she completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including British TV (she's seen every episode of Midsomer Murders ever made) and franchises like Marvel and Pokémon. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.