Netflix brings a bold new retelling of the Arthurian legend that won’t sit well with a lot of sensitive folks. It doesn’t exactly succeed in its goals and doesn’t fail either.
Cursed is based on the illustrated novel of the same name by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It tells the story of Nimue (Katherine Langford), a girl with powers who is thrust with the responsibility of taking the ‘sword of power’ to the legendary magician Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgard).
As she embarks on her quest, the heroine meets friends and foes, most notably the young Arthur (Devon Terrell), a man she falls in love with.
But the sword has a power of its own and wielding it makes Nimue the target of the ‘Red Palladins’ of the church and everyone else who desires more power.
As the inevitable war between humans and the fairies draws nearer, Nimue finds out that she and Merlin have more in common than she thought and as she forges alliances, the dark power of the sword threatens to consume her while an unknown adversary more dangerous than her known enemies inches closer.
Katherine Langford is not a bad actress but she lacks the charisma to play the part of one who has to bear a great responsibility and becomes the leader of a rebellion. Also, her acting range is limited, but I guess there is room for improvement (that is, assuming we get to see a second season).
I’m so sick of the whole ‘I don’t want to be the chosen one’ stuff as it’s something that has been used too much that it has lost its touch.
Nimue is portrayed as someone who doesn’t want to be ‘chosen’ by her people as the next great mystic (or whatever they call it). She is rejected by her own people, seen as an outcast. Why? The answer is never given. It doesn’t make sense that her mother who seems to have a few unusual gifts herself is accepted by the clan while her daughter is not.
When tragedy strikes, Nimue and a handful of survivors from her village flee for their lives, finding refuge among their kind in a hidden encampment deep in the woods. Within a short period of time, she suddenly becomes the leader of these people. What did she do to earn that coveted position? Nothing. She just wields the sword of power and is emotional towards others.
At a certain point, Nimue becomes the ‘Queen of the Fey’, and starts to give the impression of someone who is slightly arrogant and craves the power she has been given. There is a scene where she orders the leader of the town she and her people take over from the Red Palladins to vacate his throne so she can sit there. This surprised me as it was against who the show made me believe Nimue is. These are some of the flaws in the plot that I had issues with.
Was I supposed to believe that it was the power of the sword that made Nimue act unlike herself? Okay, if that is so, why wasn’t her struggle with the dark power of the sword explored satisfactorily? Just a few questions for the showrunners to ponder.
Devon Terrell is quite convincing as the handsome Arthur who falls (too quickly if you ask me) for the beautiful heroine. One thing I loved about him is the brother-sister dynamic between him and Morgana (Shalom Brune-Franklin). This was as realistic as possible because the two are constantly at odds with each other and hardly agree on anything.
Arthur here is inexperienced and brash but also brave and always willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. He aligns himself with the ‘Feys’ even though they dislike him. He exhibits all the attributes that a great leader should have.
Touching all the main characters in the series in my review would be quite a daunting task, so let me talk about two more; Merlin and the antagonistic Father Carden (Peter Mullan).
I boldly say that the actor known as Gustaf Skarsgard made the character of Merlin the most intriguing and interesting to watch. In some ways, he reminds me of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Merlin is not what you would expect. He is a drunk who always has something up his sleeve. He is without friends as no one trusts him. But the best thing about him is his unpredictability. You never know what he is up to. And another appealing thing about him here is that he has lost his magic powers. This makes him use his intellect more than most, making him several steps ahead of those in the echelon of power.
This is the first time I have seen the actor in a role, so I don’t know about his acting in other screen productions. But from his delivery here, I say he has the makings of a veteran in the industry. My face always lit up whenever he appeared onscreen.
Commendation must also go to Peter Mullan for his astonishingly perfect portrayal of the villainous Father Carden. He is the bad guy you don’t want to mess with. Even his drawling is intimidating and fearful.
Father Carden is at the forefront of the Red Palladins; agents of the church donning red robes whose mission is hunting down every fey in the realm. They are merciless, efficient, remorseless and Father Carden is their capable leader.
Mullan starred alongside Dwayne Johnson in Hercules, and his wonderful acting there didn’t go unnoticed by me. In Cursed, he reaches down to channel this twisted man who is convinced his work is for ‘the Lord’.
Perhaps the best distraction of the series (I say distraction because he isn’t present most of the time) is the tiny character called Squirrel (Billy Jenkins).
Jenkins as Squirrel (whose real name is Percival) is definitely one of my favorite characters here. He is fiery and fierce, and utterly without fear most of the time. If there is a second season, I would love for him to be given more screen time.
The character arc of one of the villainous individuals (I will not spoil it beyond this by saying his/her name) was a welcome surprise that I didn’t see coming. The only thing is that it happened in a way that seemed a little forced and too easy.
As is always the case with television shows, Cursed struggles in the first few episodes to make an impression but things pick up in the third episode. Episode six is really thrilling as it reveals a major plot point involving two main characters.
One thing I can’t take from this series is the exotic locations and breathtaking landscapes with lush vegetation. Also, the sets, costumes, and visual effects didn’t disappoint.
Let me stray back to the heroine, Nimue. Her powers aren’t exactly defined and there were times when even her using the sword in combat came off as disappointing. It left more unanswered questions.
Even though Cursed is riddled with a lot of flaws, there is a lot of potential for this to be one of Netflix’s best new series because there is still a lot to be explored. Some of the pieces that make up the Arthurian legend have slowly begun to fall in place, and by the time the final episode ends, these teases promise to be as tantalizing and delightful as can be expected.
The last few minutes of the final episode ended in a controversially annoying way. In a bid for the tale to end with a cliffhanger, a few things were messed up. That notwithstanding, I hope Cursed gets renewed for a second season.
Conclusion: Cursed isn’t as great as it aims to be but its shot at greatness isn’t too wide off the mark.