The last Netflix series I looked at , Warrior Nun, felt like a YA novel being given a whole season of television to run with. This time that is actually the case. Cursed is a YA novel by Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller of all people about the Arthurian legend reimagined. I haven’t read the book, I plan to, but Frank Miller acts as artist where some pages have illustrations of what transpired in the book. Looks interesting enough, and was optioned very quickly/ written with the purpose to be made into a TV series for Netflix.
The series, run by the original author Tom Wheeler himself, is set before the time of King Arthur when magic and Fet still wandered over the land. It follows the story of Nimue, cursed daughter of one of the Fey clan. When her village is attacked by Red Paladins, knight of the Holy Roman Church who seek to purge them of the land, Nimue is gifted a sword by her mother with the quest to take it to Merlin. Upon her travels she must hide from the Paladins, seek aid in the other Fey Kind, and eventually weild the sword herself leading to the multiple other factions, the incumbent king (if that word applies) Uther, Cumber, a Viking who seeks the throne from Uther, and the many magical factions who all quest to gain the sword of power and take claim over the land. This leads Nimue to lead her own army as the Fey Queen in hopes of a better life for her people, if one exists.
At the outset this show felt like it was the midpoint between Warrior Nun’s much more campy and colorful approach and The Witcher’s grim dark tone. Turns out it is a chunky mix of the both that kept very little of what made either of those shows good.
With the rise of Netflix and prestige television, and this so desperately wants to be that, it is honestly hard to tell if shows are actually good or bad anymore. For instance, the acting across the board is strong, setup and pay of is pretty good. Some pay offs maybe be build up for a next season so they don’t count (since it may not get one). Finally, the production is consistent. It also has the same slow burn pacing all the best and “best” Netflix series have. It honestly is kind of formulaic.
Formulaic and dull is really what brings the whole season down. A twist on an Authurian legend like this should require a defined protagonist we spend a bulk of the time with learning the world and going on their quest. This might happen, but I would be hard pressed to say she has a bulk of the time. Or, if she does, the show has so many plots, many of which feel unimportant or so tangentially relates, that she does often get buried in her own episodes. It doesn’t help that many of the episodes feel too long. Especially in the middle section of the show so many episodes have strong endings only to go on for another twenty or thirty minutes and get far less accomplished in that time. It does not help that the first episodes are dauntless when it comes to the made up mystical information just thrown out. Most of it makes sense if you think about it, but it doesn’t give time in each episode. It just bombards you.
The reason so much of this feels boring, tangentially related, or dull is because most of the characters are that way. Most of the characters have very little going on, or are such one track minded that they get time they don’t need. The new standard of acting does not help. Everyone is consistent, but no one really stands out. The girl playing Nimue, Arthur, and Merlin are good, but take a long time to really connect with. Nimue in particular for I agree with her cause and want her to succeed that way, but she is not interesting until the end making it hard to want to see her succeed personally.
The production is also consistently inconsistent. The show keeps its same medieval look but is both far more cartoony than the Witcher but more gruesome than Warrior Nun. I say gruesome but I mean it pretends to be gory and gruesome with terrible special effects that make it look even more cartoony and outlandish. That goes for the design of everything too. It’s hard to make medieval not look silly. This show, most of the time, falls into the more silly camp through sheer force of looking too well produced. There is not enough grime to pull off the look the show is going for. The many practical and body morphing effects are quite good though.
As an adaption/twist on the Arthurian legend there are many different interpretations of the knights of the round table and Arthur himself. I don’t know if they are good changes. I don’t know anyone who would go crazy at them, but the show honestly gets so little accomplished on its way to the end of the season that I doubt it will ever get there to see how these changes play out.
This show should work and be good. A strong female protagonist from a marginalized group gets the power to gather and army of other marginalized groups to fight back against those that put them down all while maybe being corrupted by the power. It should be an easily tale. Instead it wants to add so much additional fluff that it corrupts that vision. Honestly, I see shows like this, specially medieval ones, and fear that is what Game of Thrones is the whole time and people were just too caught up in it to see it. I have not seen Game of Thrones, clearly, but in its wake many shows don’t seem to know how to tell stories with multiple plotlines well. This show, for the few good moments it has, also fell into that trap.
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