Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had quite a few heroic fantasies to help us through the weird times we’re in these days. From The Witcher to The Letter for the King, Netflix has adapted books and comics in this genre. This re-imagining of the Arthurian legend almost got me to groaned “again,” but I kept in mind that certain stories have been done to death and yet still resonate (e.g.: Romeo & Juliet, or any of Shakespeare’s work). It was the first stills that gave me hope, they looked crisp, fantastical, and with a decent budget for special effects.
The show’s creators Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler based the series on their own illustrated novel, “Cursed,” – and look at that they kept the name. The series centers around three stars Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) as Nimue, Devon Terrell (Ophelia) as Arthur, and Gustaf Skarsgård (Vikings) as Merlin. There also some new and familiar faces in the show, to name a few, Daniel Sharman (Fear the Walking Dead, The Originals) as the Weeping Monk, Peter Mullan (War Horse), Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl), Sebastian Armesto (Tulip Fever), and Emily Coates (Flack) round the cast.
Premise: After her mother’s death, Nimue, a young heroine with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the powerful (and tragic) Lady of the Lake, 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.
Review: There are not many authors that get to adapt their own work. The ones that did – at least the ones that come to mind now – did it with varying degrees of success. Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), J.K. Rowling, or recently Greg Rucka (Guard) come to mind, so this series could have gone in either way.
It is apparent, after a few episodes that the show is a coming-of-age story. The heroic fantasy theme is present but the flashbacks lean hard toward the coming-of-age tale while giving us context and more information about Arthur, Nimue, and Merlin. We see our main characters grow and evolve but for some of them they start at such a low point that they can only onward and upward. I was surprise to find one of them to be a selfish deceitful b*tch. It was quite the departure from the usual portrayal of that character but I didn’t mind. It’s also one of the strength of the show, they play with your expectations about some characters and hide others in plain sight.
The other themes in the series – war, religious extremism, xenophobia to name a few, – resonates with us today because what’s happening in this fantasy world is very much real in ours. Cursed explores those themes without watering them down, here they’re complexe and driven by egos. The cast does a great job in infusing life into the thematics of the show, and into their respective characters. At times the series feels like a theater play with striking visuals. The colors pops without being eerie, the cinematography is beautiful, and I enjoy the way the powers are showcased. The show also had a particular way of transitioning from one scene to another, which felt like turning the pages of a comic book.
Cursed is a story we’ve at least heard but the show manages a few surprised and reveals that will keep you entertain as the heroin faces impossible odds.