We were super interested in Cursed, a British-American fantasy drama web television series, based on the illustrated novel of the same name by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler, that premiered on Netflix on July 17, 2020. The trailer for the show was intriguing and I love Arthurian legend but more importantly, I like a show that can incorporate the mythology but update or revamp either the characters or the story. This show does both and after watching it, I really hope for more.
“Cursed” features Nimue (Katherine Langford) as the main character in this vastly entertaining version of the Arthurian story. The story begins with young Nimue who is destined to become the powerful and tragic figure of the Lady in the Lake. As a member of the Fae, Nimue joins forces with young mercenary Arthur (Devon Terrell) when her mother dies, killed by the powerful religious zealots, the Red Paladins. Nimue must go on a quest to find Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård ) and deliver an ancient sword. On the way, she becomes a symbol of rebellion against the Red Paladins and King Uther (Sebastian Armesto). She struggles with her power and her secret history but is assisted by Morgana and the Green Knight (Matt Stokoe), all the while being hunted by the Weeping Monk (Daniel Sharman). In the end, the question will be will she master her abilities and save her people or will the Red Paladins wipe out all the Fae?
While Arthurian myth might not be everyone’s favorite, it’s a particular favorite of mine. There are several elements that make this show in particular interesting. First and foremost, I love that the main character is not Arthur, that the focus is on a female lead, in particular, Nimue, who in the legends is fairly sparse. In this reimagining, her role is far more critical and having her be Fae adds to the intrigue and power of the story. Making a woman the lead is a great way to change up the story and the dynamics of the legend. It isn’t just Nimue who has been changed, I think for the better.
Arthur is also different. On the show, he’s a mercenary, his father having died and his grandfather a lord but he’s been disinherited and his only goal is to regain his family honor. But he’s definitely not the nice guy. He makes mistakes, he grows throughout the show, but mostly, he doesn’t have a problem following Nimue’s lead, at least most of the time and when he doesn’t, there’s a valid character reason, not just diminishing the female narrative. His sister is Morgana but a much different version than the one in the stories. She begins as a normal human but finds her own power to help others along her journey. That is the most powerful part of the series, each character grows and changes as they interact with each other and powerful forces battling them. Even Merlin, set in his ways as a powerful wizard, grows and changes.
The re-imagining itself is a powerful change. The Fae being hunted by the Red Paladins and distrusted by normal humans is a statement that resonates with issues in today’s society and Nimue’s coming of age is a storyline that can empathize with most people. Her struggle to accept her abilities and find a way to use them to help her people are what make the story so dynamic and such a strong female narrative makes for a great change to the typical fare.
The plot is fun and while there is far more story to tell, the introduction of interesting and varied characters, like The Weeping Monk, the Tusks, and the Ice King, stand-ins for the Celtic and Germanic tribes using far more authentic names than have been utilized in most TV shows makes for a much more diverse and intriguing show. The actors do a fantastic job both with acting and action. While there is room to grow, it is intriguing and entertaining enough to bring me back for more.
So if you’re looking for a new show in quarantine, I highly recommend this retelling of Arthurian legends, especially for its use of a female protagonist, the blending of new types of magic with a semi-authentic grittiness that reflects the history of the time into a fantasy setting. It hit the spot with me and I think it will entertain others. I loved it and can’t wait for more.
Rating: 4 out of 5 swords.