Scorned as a witch, a young woman with powers leaves her village to start a new life—just as a ruthless army scours the countryside for her kind.
At the behest of her dying mother, Nimue, a Fey who’s long been shunned by her tribe for being cursed (i.e., too powerful), sets out on a quest to bring Merlin, the famed magician, a powerful sword *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*. Along the way, she finds herself in the company of Arthur, a young warrior/con man, and fighting the Red Paladins, a group of religious zealots who are out to rid the world of Fey kind.
Katherine Langford as Nimue
Langford’s made a name for herself in YA movies and TV with roles in Love, Simon and 13 Reasons Why. But the role of hers that stands out to me most is Meg from Knives Out. Nimue and Meg aren’t anything alike, which is a good thing; Nimue is a powerful young woman who realizes that she can make a difference, even if that means going against what others might see as the “correct” way of doing things while Meg is a terrible [REDACTED].
Gustaf Skarsgård as Merlin
I had to have checked Skarsgård’s age at least twice every episode because my brain will not believe the fact that he’s my age and younger than his brother Alexander. Perhaps it’s the hard life Merlin’s led, perhaps it’s his baldness,* perhaps it’s just that Alexander is so unfairly pretty. Regardless, I know he’s a big deal in his home country and in the historical fiction genre thanks to his role as Floki on Vikings. Which I … haven’t seen, but I can imagine that Skarsgård plays it as well as he does Merlin—a drunk, down on himself and his luck, tired to his bones Merlin. Those Skarsgårds, amirite?
*I think baldness is sexy. My husband is bald. Patrick Stewart is bald. But my husband also thinks that this is what makes Skarsgård seem older. I disagree, even if I can’t quite place what it really is that makes him seem older than he is.
Daniel Sharman as The Weeping Monk
I honestly don’t recall seeing Sharman in anything—I’ve never watched Teen Wolf or The Originals—but if I didn’t include him here, I think some of my friends would disown me.
Couch-Sharing Capability: Call Your Classmates
When I was a senior in college, I finally had space in my schedule to take an Arthurian Legends literature course that I’d been wanting to take for a long while. Unfortunately, the class did not live up to expectations—the teacher would literally read to us the entire time and the only paper I remember writing was an answer to “Who is your favorite knight of the round table and why”—and it ended halfway through the semester when the teacher (who was an elderly woman) got sick and the school decided not to replace her. Even with all that disappointment, I still have a love of the stories and characters and retellings and alternate versions of the King Arthur myth(s). Cursed probably wouldn’t be a good addition to the course syllabus, given how different it is from the standard tale, but it’s something I would have loved to talk about with my classmates, pre-unexpected class ending.
If you don’t have Arthurian Legends classmates to watch with, I’m sure your family would do in a pinch.
Recommended Level of Inebriation: Tap the Mead Kegs
Cursed is a show with a lot of promise that meanders its way toward a season finale and winds back on itself multiple times along the way. It could be the general level of “sigh” that comes with living in 2020, but I was disappointed and wanted more from a show that aimed to breathe new, feminist life into a mythology that’s so often male-dominated. I would have liked to have something spicy and warming and renaissance fair-reminiscent to keep me company while watching. (Instead, I just turned to social media which is frequently the exact opposite of all that.)
Use of Your Streaming Subscription: A Promising Quest?
I haven’t read the book this show is based on, but I get why Netflix took a chance on the adaptation—retellings of Arthur’s story are always interesting, even when they’re not entirely fresh or are Guy Richie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword—and Cursed promised to be a new take on the old tale. It just took too many liberties with the story and the characters and went too far away from the known myths. It ended up feeling more like uneducated fanfic (i.e., like someone who’d heard of some of the characters and plot lines, but never took the time to figure how they all worked together wrote it) than something based on the story that so many of us love, or even if we don’t love, are super familiar with because pop culture. I enjoyed watching it, but was ultimately disappointed in how much it didn’t meet my expectations.
That said, I wouldn’t say no to a second season, particularly if it looked like the showrunners were going to bring it back into line, at least a little. The characters deserve time to shine! (And Arthur is not at all hard on the eyes.)