Renegade Nell Review

Renegade Nell
England, 1705. Wrongly framed for murder, outlaw Nell Jackson (Louisa Harland) finds herself on the run with her sisters, turning to pillage and plunder to survive. With mysterious sprite Billy Blind (Nick Mohammed) by her side, Nell finds herself embroiled in a feud with a magical foe (Adrian Lester).

by Nicola Austin |
Published on

Streaming on: Disney+

Episodes viewed: 8 out of 8

Hot on the heels of fast-and-loose-with-the-truth historical fiction like The Completely Made-Up Adventures Of Dick Turpin and Mary & George comes Renegade Nell: a delightful eight-episode Disney+ period-comedy-come-swashbuckling-fantasy from BAFTA-award-winning writer/executive producer Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Gentleman Jack) and director Ben Taylor (Sex Education). With a dandy dose of magic, comedy and adventure, this is a refreshingly unique take on the period romp — with a very different direction for Wainwright.

Renegade Nell

This is an ambitious show, weaving elements of intriguing politicking, thrilling highway action and hints of folklore and fairy-tale magic. Our lead here is Nell Jackson (Louisa Harland): criminal, outlaw, hero, who accidentally becomes the most notorious and wanted highway(wo)man in 18th-century England. What follows is an almost Doctor Who-esque adventure, as Nell and her gang set out on their quest for justice, complete with a compelling cat-and-mouse narrative and David-and-Goliath dynamics.

Underneath the highway hi-jinks, Wainwright cleverly explores timely themes of class war and gender politics as Nell attempts to defy her circumstances and fight back against the villainously wicked — and unapologetically unaccountable — rich gentry. Wainwright also isn’t afraid to tackle difficult historical topics such as slavery, with Enyi Okoronkwo’s endearing former-slave-turned-gang-member, Rasselas, and his complicated dynamic with childhood companion, and secret antagonist, Sofia Wilmot (Alice Kremelberg).

Louisa Harland shines through as the courageous new hero.

There is a lot here, and tonally, it’s not always clear who the show is really aimed at; at times it’s dark, mature and violent, a Young Adult show skirting around the edges of an adult drama. The fantasy elements, meanwhile, feel more skewed to a family-friendly audience.

But Harland shines through as the courageous new hero, effortlessly switching from blunderbuss-wielding highwaywoman to undercover high society, from cockney to RP, even slipping seamlessly into a Scottish accent. The charismatic Derry Girls star more than fills the boots of a Sally Wainwright leading lady, lending real wit and bravado to this convention-defying rebel. The excellent supporting cast also features an impressive array of British talent, with Adrian Lester a standout as the deliciously devilish Earl of Poynton, along with a hilariously hoity-toity turn from Joely Richardson as the brilliantly named Lady Eularia Moggerhanger.

The creative team excel in bringing their version of the 18th century to life, capturing the opulence and excess with lavish production and impressive period costumes (giving Bridgerton a run for its big wig budget). Packed with superpowered action sequences, thrilling shootouts and gloriously choreographed hand-to-hand fight scenes, Renegade Nell certainly packs a punch.

With a bold premise and an array of fantastic performances, Renegade Nell is an action-packed, fairy tale-tinged swashbuckler with something to say. Stand and deliver!
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us