'Cursed' Season 1 Review: Netflix's Arthurian retelling is proof television doesn't need any more medieval fantasy shows
Spoiler Alert for Season 1 of 'Cursed'
To be fair, a retelling of the Arthurian legend was promising, especially considering that it would have been told from the perspective of the Lady of the Lake, whom we know as Nimue in Netflix's 'Cursed'. Played by Katherine Langford, Nimue is one of the feys who is entrusted the Sword of the Power -- which may or may not become what we know as the Excalibur -- by her mother and asked to give it to Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård).
However, the first season of the show is plagued by a slow pace and uninspired storytelling, evoking much of 'Game of Thrones' and Netflix's own 'The Witcher'. In 'Cursed', after Nimue's village is slaughtered by the Red Paladin Army, led by Father Cardin (Peter Mullan), who wants to vanquish the feys on behalf of the church to "cleanse" the lands. Avid 'Harry Potter' fans might recognize the actor by his voice - he played Death Eater Yaxley in the films.
Nimue is then thrown into a quest with Arthur (Devon Terrell) who in this version is a cutthroat - not the noble king of the legends. Arthur at first steals the sword to get back his family's honor by becoming a knight. But once he is caught by the Red Paladins, that dream dies away and Arthur finds himself fighting beside Nimue. Terrell is best known for playing former President Barack Obama in a biographical film, 'Barry', and we felt bits and pieces of Terrell's Obama slipping through in his dialogues.
With a cast of ensemble characters, 'Nimue' soon becomes very much like 'Game of Thrones' - several factions yearn for the sword that would declare them the one true king. In the midst of this, we also meet a very drunk Merlin, who is not the wise old wizard, but rather an untrustworthy character reviled by many. We soon learn that there is a deeper connection between Nimue and Merlin, and how the sword ended up in Nimue's mother's hands.
Even the dialogues of the series are subpar - they oscillate between the old English that is often common in medieval dramas and the modern English that we hear on British dramas today. The fey's language is also very similar to the Elven language from the 'Lord of the Rings' series - another fantasy drama that 'Cursed' feels highly inspired from.
However, given all that, there are some amazing performances by Langford and Daniel Sharman - who plays the Weeping Monk. Skarsgård's performance, while commendable, feels reminiscent of Johnny Depp's performance as pirate Jack Sparrow.
Much of the show's pitfalls could be put on the book by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler it is based on. The novel in itself feels highly uninspired, feeling like a mashup of 'Game of Thrones', 'Lord of the Rings', and plenty of young adult fantasy drama shows. Perhaps a second season can address the show's faults by tying more firmly to the legend of King Arthur.
Season 1 of 'Cursed' is now streaming on Netflix.