Rebel is a series designed to be an instant ABC hit in the vein of Grey's Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. With a female lead, personal drama and intrigue, and legal battles, the series is a perfect example of the primetime TV formula. However, while Rebel does entertain, it has such a familiar pattern that if you've watched several of ABC's past hit primetime series, you'll feel as if you've seen Rebel before. Rebel might be trying to capitalize on the "I am woman, hear me roar" feeling of the 2020s, but it also feels rote and surface level. The series is filled with the same tropey aspects of other past "strong woman"-led shows like HawthoRNe, Saving Grace, The Closer, and Major Crimes. Like those shows, the woman in question -- this time being Annie Bello (Katey Sagal) -- is a firecracker who doesn't care about the rules. Of course, Annie's nickname is "Rebel," which is a little too on-the-nose. Also similarly to those aforementioned past series, Rebel has a complicated inner life, suggesting that dominance in her career doesn't always translate to having great familial relationships.
The series is very formulaic, but it also tries to convince viewers that it's cutting-edge and fresh. From Rebel's nickname and her motorcycle club-chic wardrobe to the show's soundtrack, which uses bluesy rock songs sung by brassy women, Rebel tries to force the belief that there's never been a show about a complicated, tough-as-nails woman until now. Yet, the show doesn't have anything new to say. In other words, it takes a surface-level approach to feminism that can feel exclusionary and incomplete, but paints that approach as if it's a deep dive. If you're just interested in being entertained, Rebel is good for that. But go into it knowing that it's just another typical primetime drama that has the air of being edgy without actually challenging viewers.