Star Rating:

Renegade Nell

Streaming On: Watch Renegade Nell on Disney+

Season: 1

Episode: 8

Actors: Louisa Harland, Nick Mohammed, Joely Richardson

Release Date: Friday 29th March 2024

Genre(s): Adventure, Fantasy

Running time: 350 minutes

After-school adventure shows of the '90s were a rare and fanciful breed, and it's only with the arrival of 'Renegade Nell' that we realise how much we've missed out on these types of shows.

The greatest hits of this particular genre included 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', pre-fame Ryan Gosling in 'Young Hercules', Australian variants like 'Spellbinder' and 'The Girl From Tomorrow', and the more comedic efforts like 'The Secret World of Alex Mack'. In 'Renegade Nell', showrunner / creator Sally Wainwright eschews the teenage hang-ups of romance and adolescence and instead swings straight into swashbuckling action and adventure. Louisa Harland, late of 'Derry Girls', is the title character - the eldest child of an innkeeper who is murdered in the first episode by a psychopathic aristocrat played by Jake Dunn, who then subsequently frames her for the murder of his own father.

Faced with certain death, our plucky swashbuckler takes off with her siblings in tow and soon finds herself an outlaw with the help of Frank Dillane's smooth-talking highwayman and imbued with fighting skills by a sprite fairy played by 'Ted Lasso' alum Nick Mohammed. The goofy nature of the story is in keeping with the throwback feel of 'Renegade Nell', and trying to parse it out or run it deeper just feels like it's being deliberately truculent. The pace of the show is such that you're barely given a moment to breathe, as there's fisticuffs and horseback chases at every turn.

It's not to say that 'Renegade Nell' doesn't have some stumble and lose its footing here and there. There's a sense that it's often four or five steps ahead of the audience, with some of the plot twists running past the scale of the show. For her part, Louisa Harland is a natural as an action hero and is able to throw herself - and other people - across the screen with apparent ease. Jake Dunn, Alice Kremelberg, and Adrian Lester play their antagonist roles with gusto and class, while Nick Mohammed and Frank Dillane add a layer of light-hearted comedy and pizazz to the whole thing.

At eight episodes, 'Renegade Nell' keeps the whole thing spinning right to the end and as the stakes get higher and higher, the show sometimes fails to keep up with the grand ambitions of it all. It may be that a second season - and it surely deserves one - would see a bigger budget to match these ambitions, but for now, 'Renegade Nell' has a rough-and-ready edge to it that makes this damn good fun to watch.