Let me preface this review by saying that I am an Arthurian legend fanatic. I have read and studied the legend for so long that as soon as the premise for Cursed, I was in. Now, I know this show is based on a graphic novel but I have not read it (yet) and so I came in blind with the hope that I would enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed Arthurian Legend content in the past. The problem? Cursed tries so hard to be so many things that in the end it fails it’s an interesting premise and becomes a mess that drags on and can’t seem to get to the point of its premise.
A re-imagination of the Arthurian legend, Cursed tells the story of Nimue, played by Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love Simon), a young woman with a mysterious gift who will eventually become The Lady of the Lake. After her mother’s death, she must enter a quest to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. But on her way to do so, she becomes a figure of the rebellion against the Red Paladins and King Uther while also trying to figure her own part in this world.
The story brings elements of the legend while also mixing historical facts. The show seems to be taking place in a semi-realistic world by placing it in our historical past with Rome and their conquest to Christianize the world and introducing the Red Paladins as a faction of the church that is there to purge the world of the Faye. Talks of the Crusades or even the name Britannia (the name for England back then) are thrown around and it’s quite interesting to see the mixture of this world and our world since it gives us time reference to the time this could have taken place in. By doing so, it makes it clear that this is not the Arthurian legend that we know but also it isn’t our history that we know. It brings an element of surprise but also helps the show feel more realistic if you can say so of a show with magic and magical creatures.
The problem is that Cursed has too many characters and instead of focusing on a few, tries to handle every single one of them with the same amount of time. While shows have been able to handle large cast (i.e Game of Thrones, even Netflix’s own The Witcher) it does so by focusing on a few key members of its ensemble and trying to balance them instead of trying to give everyone the same due in each episode. Cursed has a lot of potentials but it gets muddled in too many stories that bring nothing to the main reason why we are here, to see Nimue become The Lady of the Lake. There are multiple stories that seem to be important and get squash in just seconds by being resolve with a simple sentence, but there are also stories that drag on and seem to be so unimportant in the end. So many characters go on side quests that are simply there to fill time instead of spending time with the main character of the show, it loses itself by trying to build such a big story and cast that in the end, it does such a disservice to itself. So many elements of Merlin’s story could have never happened and nothing would have changed to Nimue’s main story, the whole Uther storyline feels uninteresting and brings nothing to the table, and those are just two examples. Instead, Cursed should have focused on a few key characters, developed them perfectly and then evolve past them during their second season but by trying to do everything in the first season everything feels rush by the last two episodes because nothing has truly happened and now they have to resolve everything with no time left.
That doesn’t mean that some of the characters are not interesting. But in my opinion, the show should have focused only on Nimue, Arthur, the Weeping Monk, Pyn, Igraine and Squirell. If this would have been their main core with other characters orbiting in and out of the story, the show would have felt less crowed and the other characters could have still been there but did not need to take the attention from the characters that are clearly at the center of the whole show. Gustaf Skarsgard (Vikings) continues to be a great addition to any cast but in my opinion should not have been as important as he was and should instead have been in a few key episodes instead, which would have brought so much more tension to the arrival of Merlin. Katherine Langford as Nimue is more than solid and showcases that she is capable of leading her own show. The casting of Devon Terrell (Ophelia, Barry) as Arthur is a superb choice and while he is not the Arthur we are accustomed to from the legend he brings this leader energy to the role and by the end of the show I was sold as him as the future King of Camelot. But my two standouts are Shalom Brune-Franklin as Igraine and Billy Jenkins as Squirell who take characters that could have very much been one-note and turned them into two of the most interesting characters of the show.
Cursed isn’t bad but it gets lost in trying to do way too much in too little time. By trying to fit what I assume is a big part of the graphic novel. The whole premise of the show is to see Nimue become The Lady of the Lake but by trying to introduce so many characters and stories, the show becomes about everyone but her and is rushed to tell her story. It’s a shame because Katherine Langford deserves a show that is far better then this and the whole cast is let down by the execution and pacing of the show.