In the world where power is measured in terms of capital and physical strength, Cursed forms an analogy where power is represented by not only knowledge but virtues that remain loyal throughout generations without falling apart precariously.
Cursed is an enigma with good looking leads, strong performances, loads of magic, stirring battles and teeth-gnashing villains in fancy dress. This high fantasy YA drama, based on Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler’s 2019 eponymous illustrated novel, places Nimue (Katherine Langford) from Arthurian legend at the centre of the action.
Many of the people in her magical village view her as a witch and despise her, yet Nimue’s priestess mother Lenore (Catherine Wilson) knows her daughter has extraordinary powers. When Nimue is chosen as her clan’s spiritual leader, she attempts to flee to a new life with her best friend Pym (Lily Newmark) and makes the acquaintance of a handsome young knight named Arthur (Devon Terrell). Meanwhile, her village is set upon by the Red Paladins, a ruthless band of religious reformers led by Father Carden, who is intent in ridding the domain of King Uther Pendragon of magic, despite relying on the imperfect sorcery of court wizard Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgard) who was perhaps the only being alive who recognizes what Nimue’s powers herald.
Nimue belongs to the magical Fey community who are being brutally persecuted by crimson cloaked Red Paladins, religious zealots backed by the Catholic Church. After her village is attacked, her dying mother Lenore tells her to deliver the Sword of Power to Merlin. This raises some questions — Why does the sword need to be entrusted in the hands of someone she does not even know? What is the importance of this weapon? Along the way she meets the outlaw Arthur who helps her fulfil this mission.
The cinematography captures the lushness of the forests and landscape, the brightness of the sky and all different magical fey creatures. The illustrated transition sequences recall the show’s graphic novel inspiration.
Arthurian legends were never meant to be a historical record—it is only in Stewart’s hands that they turned into a heady concoction of myth and history. Arthurian legends were never meant to be a historical record—it is only in Stewart’s hands that they turned into a heady concoction of myth and history.
Cursed is different for not only giving the lore a new spin with a strong female protagonist but also for making the supporting characters delightful. Lily Newmark captivates as Nimou’s supportive and quirky best friend Pym. Merlin is not a pointed hat-wearing, wizened Druid, but an alcoholic whose magical abilities have waned. Sister Igraine is a kind-hearted rescuer of the persecuted, a rebellious nun in love with Sister Celia.
Cursed thus, subtly intersperses the ideas of tolerance and accepting diversity; relevant messaging especially in the current worldwide political scenario. The acting is competent with a special mention for Katherine Langford’s Nimue. The 13 Reasons Why star makes for an appealing, wilful girl turned powerful sorceress and leader.
To get down to the bare bones of Cursed, the plotting is fairly tight with lots of strands left to be picked up in Season 2. While all the major players of Arthurian legend have made their appearance, Excalibur is not mentioned by name even though the 10 episodes speak of the sword of power. Maybe all that and more have been saved for season 2.
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