Danger Gal Friday: Nile Freeman
Be warned, spoilers follow.
This week’s Danger Gal Friday profiles Nile Freeman as portrayed by Kiki Layne in the new Netflix fantasy series The Old Guard, based on the Greg Rucka graphic novel series.
The Old Guard may be a story about a band of ancient warriors who can never die, but what the series offers instead is a brand new type of superhero suited to the modern struggles of today. Not only is Nile’s growth arc from resistance to acceptance apparent, but the story also depicts how the other immortals have evolved through the ages—something that can be a poignant metaphor for our own time.
While The Old Guard provides several female characters worthy of standard Danger Gal profiles— Nile, Andy (Charlize Theron), and Quynh (Veronica Ngo)—and shows the combat mastery each of them wields, the takeaway theme for me about The Old Guard was that everyone and everything is connected. We watch each character struggle with this idea of connection and relevance, but I chose to profile Nile because the story shows us the beginning of her struggle while she’s in the liminal state between her old and new lives. We watch Nile mature from a kid (Andy’s literal moniker for Nile, but to the 3,000-year-old warrior everyone is a child) pushing against the limits imposed on her to taking control of her life, charting a course for it and embracing her agency.
Throughout most of the series, Nile finds herself torn between outing her new everlasting status to her family or walking away from them. When Andy returns Nile’s cell phone to her, the young woman realizes how much easier it was to rail against the rules when the rules weren’t up to her. Now with her phone back, she can return to her family if she chooses. Remarking that Copley has offered to conjure a killed-in-action death for her, Nile holds the phone in front her, considering the consequences of the decision as if she were the Egyptian Maat weighing the virtue of her heart against a feather.
The decision is left hanging for the audience—and for the sequel—but it’s a choice Nile makes in increments throughout the story. In the beginning she resists the call to adventure until Andy steals her phone and makes the decision for her. To me this seemed like Andy giving Nile an excuse to stay since death isn’t part of the potential consequences. Nile really could have left any time she wanted. Phones are replaceable, but what the device represented is not.
In Nile’s arc of severing her connection from her family to affirming her connection to the Old Guard, the decision to stay over the phone is the first beat. The second beat is a stronger one, when Nile chooses to participate in the rescue of Nicky and Joe. At the end, we witness the third beat as Nile holds her phone and considers choosing a new and irreversible path.
While Nile may decide to relinquish her old life for one in the Old Guard, the importance of connection is born out in other ways for each character.
- We learn that Andy’s work, as well as that of the whole team, has had an “exponential” positive impact on the world for thousands of years
- Nicky and Joe’s enemies-to-lovers backstory shows us that we can all learn to live, and love, together no matter how antagonistic things may seem
- Booker’s disastrous example of staying connected to his old family meant that he never truly imprinted on his fellow immortals and later betrayed them
Andy remarks on how in these modern times no one can really disappear, but her own story shows us that being able to disappear has never been completely true. After all, Andy’s conquests have become the stuff of legend as “Andromache the Scythian,” despite her trying to hide in the shadows.
No matter her ultimate choice, Nile learns you can’t run from connecting with others and that it’s these connections that give our life meaning. In the movie, it’s unclear why warriors suddenly lose their immortality, but it could be due to a loss of connection to others. After all, Andy seems pretty depressed emotionally for most of the movie, a state she’s been in since the loss of Quynh. It’s Nile’s emergence (and probably Booker’s betrayal) that prompts Andy to care again. On the other hand, it could be that there can only ever be a handful of immortals and when a new one emerges an old one must fade away—the new guard replacing the old guard.
- Weighing of the Heart, Wikipedia
- A Short History of The Old Guard Comic Universe, Wired
- Kiki Layne’s Reluctant The Old Guard Hero Is An All-Too Accurate Sign Of The Times, Refinery29
- The Old Guard: Force Multiplied #1 Review: A Welcome Return for These Immortal Warriors, Comicbook.com
- ‘The Old Guard’ Review: Fighting to the Death, and Beyond, The New York Times