The fantasy genre is far from gone or even endangered, but doing it correctly is no small feat. Lord of the Rings set a high standard, but most fantasy productions fall flat with audiences. The Warcraft movie was fantasy, but it only did well overseas. TV shows like The Shannara Chronicles looked pretty epic, but it fell flat due to poor casting as do many fantasy shows. Cursed breaks the fantasy curse and succeeds where others fail.
This is the story of Nimue, a Fae cast out amongst her own people for her link to the darkness. Pursued and slaughtered the Fae have no choice but to look Nimue to be their savior as she wields the sword of kings, the legendary Excalibur. In the time before King Arthur and Camelot, can Nimue save her people? Or will she fall to the darkness of the sword?
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: Modern Story of Ancient Legend
The first thing cursed does is take an ancient legend and successfully puts a modern spin on it. The old Arthurian legend of King Arthur and Excalibur is perhaps one of the oldest stories in Hollywood. The movie Excalibur is perhaps the standard bearer for the cinematic story. The most recent telling, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, attempted a new spin, but did not resonate with most audience members. Cursed does a great job modernizing.
In today’s world there is a huge push to make women the main characters. That can be hard to do with old stories without completely breaking the story itself. Cursed not only introduces a great heroine lead, but does so in a way that still fits the Arthurian Legend. It folds the rest of the mythology nicely around her.
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: Excellence in Execution
Cursed does a great job with production. The sets and locations they used to film look amazing. The costuming looks very solid and not like some cheap, throw-it-together wardrobe. The looks are very basic for the period but contain just enough accessory to make it look good. Even Excalibur looks well designed, yet holds a feeling of age and wear. It is the mightiest sword in the world, yet shows its years in its weathering.
I am not a huge fan of the Fae design for this show. It is actually pretty accurate for the era I suppose, but where most Fae have antlers, it simply looks like twigs growing out of their heads, and the placement of the antlers and horns is all over. One person might have rams horns from their temple while another has them growing out of the back of their neck.
One of my favorite parts of Cursed belongs to extraordinary artist Frank Miller. Both the opening and 1-2 transition scenes per show have an animated transition that look like it came from a comic (Miller’s touch). It looks cool and does a great job moving the story as well.
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: In the Lead – The Power
The casting in this show is a mixed bag. Some roles jsut do not pan out while other lesser roles shine and carry scenes. Then again some roles need to be understood.
Katherine Langford did a solid job against major acting guns in Knives Out. She does an awesome job portraying Nimue here. What I love about the job she does is that when she needs to be strong, she sells her confidence and ability to be the bad ass she needs to be, yet at the same time she is soft and broken. She portrays a vulnerable side showing Nimue’s lack of belief in herself or who she is.
Odd as this may sound, I like that she was cast with the physique she has. Normally roles like this might go to an actress that looks like an athlete or martial artist like a Jessica Biel. Langford has what I would call a very normal build, but let’s face it. By Hollywood standards they would say she’s on the heavier side. This adds to her credibility in the role, and the nice thing is, creators did not ask her to be something she is not. Nimue does not possess over the top fighting skills like many heroes, but when she fights she is believable in what they ask of her.
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: Supporting Cast Ebbs and Flows
The cast around Langford is a mixed bag. Perhaps the worst performance unfortunately lands closest to the heart of the story. Devon Terrell does not deliver as Arthur. This story is a prequel to the main story, so Arthur’s presence and age seems a bit out of place, but I just could not buy the performance Terrell gives. Maybe he will grow into it as the story moves along, but his role is not the most enticing. Daniel Sharman as the weeping monk also falls flat for most of the show. He just does not look or deliver the deadly, intimidating, bad ass his character needs to be. He looks too “Hollywood” instead of deadly, but as the show goes on he begins to morph a bit. We shall see.
Gustaf Skarsgard as Merlin comes across as a different character. At first, I hated both Gustaf and Merlin. Merlin, the greatest wizard ever, came across as a drunken sot who betrayed the Fae for the power of Uther whom he also failed. The oddest part? This great Merlin, greatest of all wizards, lacks magic. As the show continues though, he quietly gains purpose and focus once more, and by the end he grows on the viewer.
Peter Mullen does a wonderful job as Father Carden, leader of the Red Paladins, but there are two side roles that stand out more than any other. Shalom Brune-Franklin as Sister Igraine and Emily Coates as Sister Iris. She quietly goes through the series until she is forced out of the nunnery at which point she switches back to her original name – Morgana! Shalom does a nice job playing one of Nimue’s closest friends, but at the same time hints at the darkness to come. She gives Morgana a very solid base to draw from going forward. As for Coates? All I can say is creepy-as-shit! (watch and you’ll understand)
Young Billy Jenkins and Matt Stokoe also turn in wonderful performances as young Squirrel and Gawain.
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: A Bleak Future
One of the fun things with this show happens when you try to connect names of the current characters with the original Arthurian legend. Gawain comes easy enough, but other characters drifting in and out of the story will reveal their futures as the show progresses.
Perhaps the worst part of the show is the ending. Of course it leaves us with tons of questions. Some fates are left in question. Some characters undergo revelations that will not be explored until next season. Nimue’s ending is concerning at least, but for those that do not know where her story is heading, her true destiny remains veiled right in front of our eyes. This is going to be a long wait.
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: What About Season 2?
Some shows for Netflix receive second seasons or sequels shortly before or after releases. A movie like The Old Guard with Charlize Theron is almost guaranteed a sequel and in short order. Meanwhile, Dark Crystal fans are still anxiously awaiting word on whether or not they will receive a second season. Cursed more than warrants a second season and not just because of the ending. It is more than good enough, but there is a problem.
Cursed is based off a book written by Thomas Wheeler and artistry by the legendary Frank Miller. The book just came out in 2019. This shows production time from book to Netflix is either simultaneous or in very close conjunction with each other. The problem lies in the timing of book two. Do they produce the second season without the book, or can Wheeler and Miller churn out a quality book in a hurry? I really do not want another Game of Thrones Book/movie problem again.
Cursed Breaks Fantasy Curse: Final Thoughts
I really like almost everything about Cursed. There are a few issues here and there, but most belong with trying to reconcile the series with known Arthurian legend. This show definitely gets a lot of things right. Between how they ended things and the want to see how this melds into the Arthur story, most viewers will eagerly await season 2.