Cursed stars Katherine Langford and Devon Terrell as the future Lady of the Lake and King Arthur in Netflix’s new dark fantasy retelling.
Arthurian legends and retellings have always been a source of fascination. So, of course, I had high hopes for Netflix’s Cursed. The new show is about the origins of Nimue, otherwise known as The Lady of the Lake. Based on Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler’s YA Graphic Novel, the drama serves as a precursor to the familiar King Arthur tale.
Unfortunately, the series spends too much time imitating Game of Thrones rather than creating a fresh take on the beloved source material. Nevertheless, the female characters, diversity, season one cliffhangers, and a Byronic Merlin, make the show definitely worth the time for devoted fans of fantasy and mythology.
Netflix’s Cursed – What It’s About
Under Uther Pendragon’s reign, magical folk live in the forests and the caves in hiding. Uther (Sebastian Armesto) merely sits idly by as the Red Paladins, an order of religious assassins, seek to murder and eliminate all Fey. The brutal Father Carden (Peter Mullan) leads them, including his favored asset, The Weeping Monk.
The Weeping Monk is lethal and nigh-unstoppable. But he also becomes more than just an assassin by the end of the season when we learn more about his background.
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Meanwhile, Nimue (Katherine Langford) is your average, bullied teen seeking escape. Even the other Fey fear her and call Nimue a witch (she controls plants). Still, since Cursed is a coming-of-age Joseph Campbell quest, things can always get worse!
So, to set the stage for this quest, Nimue’s world comes crashing down when the Red Paladins slaughter her village, and her mother is fatally injured.
Her dying mother’s last words send Nimue on an urgent quest. She must get the Sword of Power (not unlike the ring of power) to Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård). Quite the task considering Merlin is an alcoholic working for King Uther. He has also lost his magic.
Along the way, Nimue meets a young Arthur (Devon Terrell), who also happens to be a troubled mercenary. Naturally, there are sparks and budding romance blooms.
From there, Nimue slowly transitions into the leader of all Fey as a Joan of Arc type figure. With the sword, she’s a symbol of hope for a people almost extinct.
Can she save her people? Will she find Merlin? How does she eventually become the Lady of the Lake? The flawed yet entertaining first season of Cursed explores all these questions and more.
Netflix’s Cursed – The Secondary Characters
First, there’s Arthur’s sister Morgana (Shalom Brune-Franklin), who has a mysterious destiny. (For those who know the medieval legend, you already know her importance to the story.) Here, Morgana was raised in a convent and later helps an underground of Fey find freedom from the Paladins.
Then there’s Gawain (Matt Stokoe), the Green Knight (an interesting merge from literature) who leads the Fey as their protector. Gawain comes in later and is a welcome (and rather handsome) addition to the series. Thankfully, there isn’t a love triangle between Nimue, Arthur, and Gawain as Nimue is much too young for him as a character.
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One of my favorite characters from Cursed is Nimue’s best friend, Pym (Lily Newmark). She’s awkward, a healer, and absolutely hilarious. I love it when she accidentally becomes the healer for a group of Vikings because she has a crush on one of them. It’s cute and endearing.
Honestly, I wish there had been more scenes with Pym. Sometimes, I even wished she was the protagonist. She’s just so lovable.
Another truly enthralling and intelligent female character is Lady Lunete (Polly Walker), Uther’s Queen mother. Her desire for power and masterful plotting is a joy to watch. This top-notch period drama actress is fabulous, like always!
Then there’s the cutest character award. This goes to Squirrel (Billy Jenkins), a young fey boy close to Nimue who idolizes Gawain. He’s a smart and fast little fighter that you will likely find adorable.
However, while I like most of the characters, I absolutely cannot stand Iris (Emily Coates), a zealot who weasels her way undercover in the Fey underground to plot and kill Nimue. She’s one of those cockroach villains who never dies! Ugh. I mean, the actress does a good job, but Iris is an irritant rather than a villain I enjoy watching.
Netflix’s Cursed – Overall Thoughts
Cursed is brimming with potential, but it’s just not quite there yet. It’s so close. The world-building has intriguing elements with the Fey. However, some of the development is also a derivative of prior popular series: For example, Game of Thrones with all the political rivalry, The Lord of the Rings with the ring (the sword in this case) of power, and even Star Wars when it comes to the quest.
Indeed, I never expect complete originality in a fantasy quest because of the archetypes. Nevertheless, there should at least be a unique voice and more subtlety amid the similarities. In this way, the writing falters a bit.
Furthermore, the beginning of Cursed is especially cliché in characterization and plot twists. Some of the dialogue was a little wobbly at first, too.
Then there is the romance between Arthur and Nimue. Look, I like both characters and the actors. But occasionally, there is conflict in the overall tone of the show. One moment, the series is a teen fantasy romance with bad dialogue between lovers. Then suddenly, the writer jumps into an HBO level of fantasy gore in the next scene.
Cursed would improve if the writers toned down both and met in the middle. Give us a little less blood and more of the swoon factor.
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Now don’t get me wrong, Cursed is one hundred percent entertaining, especially in the second half of the series. The production design is fantastic, the costumes are gorgeous, and I like most of the characters and the protagonist. And by the end of the first season, I was completely invested. (Especially after a couple of twists that has me dying for a second season.) Plus, I love the diversity too!
Most of all, I adore Merlin. At first, I couldn’t stand him. He had no powers and was always drinking! But as the layers come undone and the writers reveal his past, Merlin transforms into the most fascinating character. This immortal Byronic Hero kills it in the end. I am here for it and would like more of this interesting immortal.
Should you watch Netflix’s latest show, Cursed? Yes, it’s worth watching despite the flaws, and I’m excited to see where Cursed is going to go next.
Content Note: Rated TV-MA. While cursing is infrequent, there are several scenes with intense violence. There’s also brief nudity and one love scene (not long or overly explicit).
What do you think about Cursed on Netflix? Sound off below…
Photo Credit: Netflix
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5 thoughts on “Cursed on Netflix – Watch an Arthurian Prequel about Magic and Destiny”
I agree with the reviewer. Cursed is a mixed bag, but overall it’s worth a watch. By the end, I was invested. If there is a second season, I will definitely watch it. I’m with the reviewer, Merlin won me over by the end. I also loved Polly Walker as Uther’s mother. I really enjoyed the cast. I appreciated that the actress who played Nimue wasn’t a twig. I really enjoyed the casting of characters of color–black, mixed-race, Asian. They really fit into this world and had chemistry with everyone and were great actors. I agree with the reviewer that the Green Knight was oh-so handsome (so was Arthur) and that Pym was a great character. In some ways, this version of the Arthurian tales reminded me of the show Camelot that aired on Starz about 10 years ago. I’m looking forward to more.
Yeah. It is a mixed bag but I hope more people watch so we can get a second season! I’m also invested and can’t wait for more Merlin. And I never actually watched Camelot. It’s always been on my list. I should get to that soon…
The romance is annoying
Merlin is the most fascinating character on the show
Merlin is definitely my favorite character on the show! And I get what you’re saying about the romance. It’s definitely weak. Hopefully, they can improve by the second season.
Re “Camelot” on Starz: You should watch it. It’s also a mixed bag, but I loved most of the elements and rolled my eyes at the rest of the elements. If you liked Skargard’s portrayal as Merlin in “Cursed,” then you will LOVE Joseph Fiennes’s portrayal as Merlin. It is basically the SAME performance (mood-wise), except that Joseph Fiennes is given much more to do than Skarsgard. The whole time I watched Cursed, i thought, “Oh, they reallly fell in love with Joseph Fiennes’s Merlin.”
Re romance: It was annoying because it seemed that the writers couldn’t decide if they wanted Nimue and Arthur to be a couple. The two actors definitely had chemistry. But Arthur kept wavering between being honorable and sketchy, and Nimue kept wavering between being attracted to him and afraid of her own sexuality. If there had been a “mood” in the show in which we felt they were destined for a romance, then the wavering would have been acceptable as a Ross and Rachel plot device until they got together. But…we keep waiting for Guinevere to come into the picture… With this new take though, who knows what she will be…if the TV show gets that far?
Either way, this series has prompted me to re-read The Mists of Avalon which I have not read in a loooong time. I’ll probably re-read The Fionavar Tapestry after that as well.
PS: Was anyone else annoyed with how Nimue was pronounced? I’ve always heard it pronounced as a three-syllable name: NIM-yoo-ay. Hearing it as a two-syllable NIM-way drove me up the wall!