SpoilerTV - TV Spoilers

Cursed - Season One - Review: A Dash of Dany, a Teaspoon of Frodo, and a Few Drops of LSD


"From Frank Miller and Thomas Wheeler, Cursed is a reimagining of the Arthurian legend told from the perspective of Nimue (Katherine Langford), a teenage heroine with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the powerful (and tragic) Lady of the Lake. After her mother’s death, she finds an unexpected partner in Arthur, a young mercenary, in a quest to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. Over the course of her journey, Nimue will become a symbol of courage and rebellion against the terrifying Red Paladins, and their complicit King Uther."

Where to begin? With the introduction? The first question posed is as dramatic and cheesy as you'd expect, and the same goes for the way they set up this world. After that, there is still some cheesiness but, eventually, the show settles a bit more. Be advised that this review will contain spoilers. I'm afraid it might read like a negative review but I by no means hated it, the intention is for this to be an analysis of flaws and virtues in something with great potential that could still improve if it were given a second season.

Cursed
clearly had good intentions, great cast, lore filled with possibility, but there were many things that seemed more like easter eggs than actual plot points and like they bit off more than they could chew. We're shown different Fey tribes, warring Viking clans, and conflicting human politics with the Monarchy and the Church, fighting each other throughout the season, and at times even all at once. That might make sense, historically speaking, if we consider the real conflicts that took place at the moment this story is set, but trying to combine them all in a ten-episode season while trying to make most of them three-dimensional factions is hard to pull off by even the best in the industry. That being said and considering that first big storytelling sin, this show did some of that surprisingly well.

The whole thing was quite beautiful, it did feel a little too fake at times and the transitions (very Frank Miller) were a bit jarring at first, but the overall quality was much better than in other fantasy shows. Still, the show seems to have a confusing concept of time and space that is crucial to the viewer's immersion in the story. The more action-packed moments are pretty good but wolves, monsters, and people alike, all decide to slow down or even stop altogether when our main characters require it, and though we are aware this is fiction, we need a little more believability so we're not pulled off from the story.

To me, this should've been a drawing board for the real thing, something to pull information from to tell these different stories that could become interwoven slowly over time. Instead, we get an overcomplicated and, at times, quite confusing story. Now, that doesn't mean there's no enjoyment to be had, the Fay world is quite interesting, and the human politics, in general, are quite well executed even if they're not groundbreaking by any means. The story of the Vikings could never be told better than it was on the show by the same name, but that doesn't make them any less interesting. Same with the religious zealot angle, it's something that we've seen time and time again, and the contradictions seem more based on reality than a plot hole, but they do prove great villains, as it's shown clearly with the fanatic Red Paladins lead by Father Carden (Peter Mullan - Westworld, Ozark), and, later on, the Trinity.

The Weeping Monk is a bit of a different story, I do understand he was brainwashed, but he's done so many horrible things that the whole arc with him eventually starting on the road to redemption and the final reveal didn't fully mesh for me. It seems like they dedicated a similar amount of time to flesh out the different angles and though I totally bought in on Nimue and Merlin's relationship, I just didn't buy it with Lancelot. Daniel Sharman (Teen Wolf, The Originals, FTWD) is great but it doesn't seem like he gets a lot to work with here since he spends most of his time being more of a seemingly stoic warrior than anything else. Still, the adventures of Lancelot and Percival (Billy Jenkins - The Crown, Humans) is something I would love to see, and that's what I mean with potential, it's all over the place, just like the show.

Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) who seems to be following in Sean Bean's footsteps, is the center of this story and though she seems a bit out of sorts at first, she has some good moments and is a compelling heroine. The arc with her reluctantly starting to lead and quickly becoming drunk with power, mostly attributed to the sword, felt like a mix of Danaerys' arc on Game of Thrones mixed with Frodo's on The Lord of The Rings. And though Cursed can't be really compared to any of those, I have to say Nimue's arc made even a little more sense tan Dany's final turn did to me.

Another very enjoyable thing was Gustaf Skarsgard (Vikings) as Merlin, yes, he tends to do similar roles, but there are enough differences to make it stand out and his character arc is not only interesting but also provides a lot of heart as we see him bond with Nimue, again given how little time they were actually given it was enough to actually give all the emotion the story needed in those key moments. After having known each other for such a short period of time, it's honestly amazing that their final conversation, when they both agree they are both just as stubborn, hits you in the feels more than it should.

With Morgana (Shalom Brune-Franklin - Bad Mothers) it's hard to know where we stand, and that might help the story but I feel it was squandered and even made more confusing by including the whole Cailleach thing. Maybe it's just me, but I feel Morgana should've played a bigger role in Nimue's death, to me, her being unable to resist her new role as The Widow and killing Nimue despite herself would've made the moment a lot more meaningful and provided some new stories for a possible second season. We could also have avoided the character of Iris (Emily Coates - Ladhood) altogether or have her die in a satisfactory manner for killing the nuns including Celia (Sophie Harkness). The only time I saw any value in Iris' story was right after she'd just betrayed her own for the Red Paladins and she asked to become one of them only to be laughed at, that’s a metaphor if I’ve ever seen one, no matter how hard you try to betray your own, the people in power will not see you as an equal.

Another character whose story took a lot more time from the show than it should've was Pym's (Lily Newmark - Sex Education), I do like her but we didn't need to see her entire journey (even if it was enjoyable) when things that were more important to the main plot where left out. And have her fall in love with a Viking just to see him die and having Nimue unable to save him, also quite unnecessary. Who she did supposedly manage to save is Gawain (Matt Stokoe - Misfits, The Musketeers), and I wonder how much better the name Green Knight would fit him moving forward.

Telling the story of Uther Pendragon (Sebastian Armesto - Harlots, Gold Digger) was important but I feel it could've taken less valuable time from the rest of the stories. Still, watching his relationship with his mother (Polly Walker - Rome, Line of Duty), and even Merlin, was quite entertaining and it added to the dynamic that allowed such a mess of conflicting powers in "his kingdom".

And last but not least, we need to talk about Arthur (Devon Terrell - The Professor), unfortunately. I'm sure we can agree Arthur would be one of the most important characters in this story, and yet it doesn't feel integral to it in any way, he's always appearing in places for no reason, and the first time he actually has a big role is when he steals the sword from Nimue just to "get his honor back" by entering a tournament, that whole plot point could've been eliminated completely and I'm sure they could've found a different way to move the story along. So much here seems unnecessary, like if I don't get a strainer through this show my head will start hurting.

Honestly, his whole personality makes no sense to me, we see him constantly struggle with the concept of honor and manhood but, for the most part, he feels like a pipsqueak (how odd do I sound?) and he did so many annoying things, the first one that comes to mind is when he's just about to go out to fight (and maybe die) with Gawain, but he takes the time (while the roof is literally on fire) to make him say out loud that he's not interested in Nimue as if he could stake his claim that way. That was infuriating to me in so many ways, and that's just one example, but it's the only one I'll give. Honestly, I have no idea why they chose to go this route with such a key character.

Part of me is hoping there's a director's cut somewhere that makes more sense and takes the appropriate time with each of its stories but that's probably wishful thinking, and it shouldn't even be a thing when you get a whole TV show to tell your story. Sill, I'm interested in seeing so many things from this story moving forward: I want to see Merlin's journey, Morgana's journey, Nimue as The Lady of the Lake, the maybe new and improved Gawain, the adventures of Lancelot and Squirell. I do feel this show deserves some special reader's choice awards. Who's in?

Most Unnecessary Character
Most Annoying Character
(not always the same)
Most Unnecessary Plot Point
Worst Performance
Best Performance
Most Enjoyable Aspect
Best Relationship


What did you think about the show? What would you like to see if it was renewed?

Get Email Alerts