Web Series Review: ‘Ren’ Season 1
A deer stands unaware in a light-dappled forest while the titular Ren – played with sensitivity and a wide-eyed sweetness by Sophie Skelton (Outlander) – eyes it through the leaves. The music intensifies, building anticipation for her to shoot it Katniss-style, only to reveal that she is sketching the deer in a notebook filled with mysterious imagery. Though we later see her wielding a bow, Ren plays with and subverts fantasy and YA conventions.
Created by producer and director Kate Madison and actor and writer Christopher Dane, Ren takes place in a medieval-esque fantasy world where books are banned and mysteriously ‘marked’ soldiers hunt people down. Ren lives with her father and younger brother, whom she helps support, in a small village where they are regarded with suspicion by the rest of the villagers. She is guided by a mysterious mentor, an outcast living on the woods’ edge, who gives her the forbidden sketchbook.
When soldiers arrive in her village searching for these ‘marked’ people, Ren’s peaceful existence is shattered by betrayal and the shattering of everything she thinks she knows about her world. These ‘marked’ individuals can be identified by elaborate designs that appear on their faces, indicating that they are hosting spirits who can only be freed when the person dies.
Watching Ren in October 2020 felt like a flashback to a happier time when teenage girls with bows ruled the box office. The comforting space of a familiar yet surprising fantasy world was a welcome respite from the chaos of today. I also loved seeing a young woman as the main character in a fantasy show, where they still often play a secondary role as the ‘strong female character’ and love interest of the (straight and male) ‘chosen one’.
For fans of Eragon, Merlin, and Cursed, Ren tells the tale of an artistic young woman who is forced into a role with expectations and consequences beyond her wildest fears and dreams. With short five episodes, Ren easily can be binged in a single sitting as I did. This intriguing premise ends on a cliffhanger that sets-up a second season, which left me wanting more answers and wondering about Ren’s next steps in her journey. Watch for free on Starbaby Network, https://www.starbabynetwork.com/ren-season-one-episode-1/.