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Yes, You're Going to Love "Renegade Nell"

"Renegade Nell" Is the Unlikely Heroine You Will Fall in Love With

Image Source: Disney Plus

Move over Merida! Disney has a new red-headed heroine — but she definitely isn't a princess. "Renegade Nell" is a new eight-part swashbuckling adventure series set in the 18th century coming to Disney Plus. Perhaps, like me, you might not think this new show is going to be up your street. But I promise that, like me, if you give it a chance, you're likely be totally swept away.

Our heroine is Nell Jackson – depicted by Louisa Harland, who is best know for her role as Orla in "Derry Girls," but could not be more suited to this polar opposite role. Hot on the heels of the success of "Happy Valley", writer Sally Wainwright reimagines folklore and twists popular tropes to give us "Renegade Nell" — and it's extremely clever.

When I first saw the images for "Renegade Nell" I wasn't sure if it would appeal to me. My first thoughts were, "Is this a children's film or a twist on "Peter Pan" with a female lead?" I have to be honest and say, I really wasn't convinced. Now, I can admit: I was wrong. The show is well-crafted and I took a real like to leading lady Nell. After her husband dies on the battlefield, Nell is forced into the life of a highway robber to survive, but in the first episode she returns home to reconnect with her family.

Harland brings a certain charisma to Nell that has you on her side from the start. In the first five minutes of the series, you are gripped by a thrilling fight scene where Nell battles with male robbers and it sets the tone for the series ahead. Harland's Nell is brash, bold, almost "Robin Hood" inspired, and has admirable forthrightness. With each quick-witted cockney comeback she makes, sword she snatches and bully she defeats, you fall more in love with her character.

Image Source: Disney Plus

Nell is often the only woman in the show that partakes in the sword-fighting and she is mostly always up against men. As a woman, I instantly wanted to root for her. Each time an unsuspecting male villain under-estimated her strength and ability, I found myself excited for her to show them her power.

The true strength of Nell (which she gets a boost of when her life is in danger) comes from a little firefly called Billy Blind that zooms into her mouth at a crucial moment and gives her superhuman abilities. To society in 18th century England, for a woman to hold this much strength and power scares all who encounter her. Throughout the series different characters say she has the "strength of 10 men". Nell reminds them all with each battle she wins or villain she outsmarts, that women can also be powerful in their own right.

But at the core of Nell's character (although she may put on the front) is a strong moral conscious that guides her throughout. Her undying need to protect her two younger sisters (George and Roxy) and keep them out of harm's way is her sole motivation. Nell would rather risk her own life than have anything happen to her family.

However, Nell's real superpower is hidden — there is a quiet vulnerability to her. As the episodes go on, you can't help but feel like her tough exterior is more of an act or a defence mechanism after being alone and fending for herself for so long. I think we can all in some ways relate to Nell in that way. She's unique and there is no other woman written into Wainwright's world like her.

Image Source: Disney Plus

Although she attempts to shield any vulnerabilities out of fear of being perceived as weak, it's so clear to see her true desires. Nell so desperately wants to be loved - not in a romantic sense, but to be accepted by a world that so often rejects her. It doesn't matter the century, as human beings we are always searching for that acceptance.

It's also always nice to watch when a production normalises inclusion throughout the story and in its casting. Following the lead of shows like Bridgerton, there is no racial division in the society hierarchy of "Renegade Nell." There is strong representation throughout the series and people of colour are also represented across all levels in society, from the Queens Privy Council to the market sellers.

"Renegade Nell" has a talented cast, great production and holds an unflinching mirror against the disparities in society. More than anything we've found a great new heroine in Nell and her crew. The exciting world of "Renegade Nell" is a place that audiences will want to continue to escape to through their TV screens.

"Renegade Nell" is out on Disney Plus on 29 March.

Aaliyah Harry (she/her) is the associate editor at POPSUGAR UK. She writes extensively across lifestyle, culture and beauty. Aaliyah also has a deep passion for telling stories and giving voice to the voiceless. Previously, she has contributed to Refinery29, Grazia UK and The Voice Newspaper.

Image Source: Disney Plus
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