Before Arthur, there was Nimue. The new Netflix series chooses to explore the past of the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur’s history. Cursed puts Katherine Langford in the spotlight, in an ambitious reinterpretation of Arthurian legend. Does the first season work miracles?
Nimue is played by Katherine Langford. © Netflix
The Arthurian legend will have inspired a good number of directors and screenwriters. From the movie Excalibur to the Disney cartoon Merlin The Enchanter through the disappointing Camelot series with Eva Green, the adaptations are numerous. While waiting for the long-awaited Alexandre Astier trilogy, fans of the Breton legend can already discover Cursed on Netflix.
This ambitious reinterpretation of the history of the lady of the lake follows Nimue, a young woman from the Fae people who is given a most difficult task. After the destruction of her village by the Red Paladins, fanatics of the one god, she must find the wizard Merlin to entrust him with Excalibur. Along the way, she meets Arthur, who will help her pursue her goal. Denied by all, Nimue will make strange discoveries about her past and about the blade she must deliver to Merlin.
Now the Wolfblood Witch, she is now the only hope of her people. If on paper the plot has everything to please, its development is not without flaws. The introduction is laborious and far too childish for amateur spectators of the genre. Again Netflix aims its series at young adults, the core target of its subscribers. The series, which nevertheless chooses to focus on religious excesses and the passage to adulthood, struggles to find its cruising speed.
The first few episodes don’t do the rest of the series justice, which gains depth in its final minutes. The slowness of the introduction is quickly erased to give way to a sometimes hasty intrigue. Nimue goes from a hated outcast of his own to a heroic figure in the blink of an eye. It is depriving the viewer of an effective treatment of his character at the same time. What was shaping up to be a fascinating origin story quickly turns to the introduction of a larger plot.
However, halfway through the series, we get caught up in the game, and we come to be passionate about the fate of the horde of Cursed characters. Adapted from the eponymous graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City and 300) and Thomas Wheeler, Cursed is an effective medieval fresco that, without reinventing the genre, could find a prominent place on Netflix alongside The Witcher.
Moreover, the universe of the series is reminiscent of the adaptation of the novels of Andrzej Sapkowski.
The Witchermade the bet not always to take itself seriously, and it is undoubtedly what lacks in the series of Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. Still, with the original duo in charge of the novel, our expectations were high. It should be noted that certain narrative arcs are particularly well exploited, like the personage embodied by Emily Coates. However, some other intrigues are relegated to the background, while we burn to know more, as with the weeping monk, whose mere mention of his name had already convinced us. We can nevertheless console ourselves by saying that the series will undoubtedly have a sequel and that his character could well play a central role in the rest of the plot.
Merlin, played by Gustaf Skarsgard, makes his own mead. © Netflix
To embody this legendary figure, Netflix called on Gustaf Skarsgard. The name of this actor is also not unknown to fans of Vikings who had seen him in the skin of Floki. Here, he camps a Merlin far from at his best, who prefers to practice the elbow lift rather than magic. Kind of Jack Sparrow at the end of his career in the first half of the story, the actor gains in intensity in the rest of the series.
He also gives the reply to an actor he had met on the set of Westworld , Peter Mullan. After playing James Delos in Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s series, the actor becomes a monk in Cursed. Bewitching, he sets himself up as a strong antagonistic figure. The rest of the cast is also not left out, starting with Emily Coates, who plays a good sister who is far from showing Christian charity. On the other hand, in the first half of the series, it should be noted that Katherine Langford ( 13 reasons why) is far from being as convincing in Nimue’s role, but she makes up for it in the last episodes.
The series at least has the merit of dusting off the legend and breaking free from classic patterns. Arthur, played by Devon Terrell, is not yet the fearless, blameless heroic figure we already know and it’s refreshing enough to underline it.
Who says fantasy necessarily says spectacular and bombastic special effects, and on this point Netflix is living up to our expectations. Thanks to its efficient photography and its precise combat choreography, Cursed wins the bet and offers a successful entertainment that will delight fans of the genre.
Game of Thrones will have left a void for fans of fantasy on the small screen, but Cursed will obviously not sit as a worthy heir to the HBO series. While waiting for season 2 of The Witcher, The Lord of the rings from Amazon and especially the Kaamelott trilogy , Cursed is a beautiful walk imbued with feminism in an enchanted universe.