With The Witcher, Netflix signaled that it could handle adapting beloved fantasy source material in a fresh and exciting way. With any luck, Cursed will reach similar heights. The 10-part series, led by 13 Reasons Why standout Katherine Langford, is an intriguing take on the Arthurian legend that doesn’t shy away from bloodshed or pain. It also refocuses the story on Langford’s Nimue, a decision that pays off due to Langford’s screen presence. From the stunning cinematography to the great performances by a talented cast, Cursed is Netflix’s next big hit.
Cursed follows the story of Nimue, a Fey destined to become the Lady of the Lake. She is tasked with returning the Sword of Power to magician Merlin after the anti-magic group the Red Paladins slaughter her people in a quest to rid the world of magic. It is based on a graphic novel by Tom Wheeler and legendary artist Frank Miller, and his influence on the series’ look becomes evident from the gorgeous title animation as well as the glittering opening sequence. The visuals are absolutely beautiful, with an interesting color palate that grabs attention. The solidly rated-R action sequences are dizzying and well-choreographed, particularly the one that sets up Nimue’s quest: the Red Paladins destroying her village and everyone she holds dear. It’s truly remarkable how the scene unfolds, and director Zetna Fuentes guides the first episode to an emotional climax I wasn’t sure could be matched by the rest of the episodes.
But matched it was. One of the things I loved about Cursed was how it boldly moved to toss out some of the conventional mythology surrounding the Arthurian legend (sure to upset some fans, but why bother making another adaptation if not to shake things up a bit?). We see familiar names like Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård) or Arthur (Devon Terrell), but they aren’t quite the characters we’re accustomed to. Arthur, for example, is a rough-around-the-edges knight with a seriously gorgeous voice when we initially meet him. Terrell is great in the role, emphasizing parts of Arthur we haven’t seen on film before. Merlin is first shown as a drunkard who barely has enough power to be effective anymore, but when he gets his first taste of real power a few episodes in, he morphs into a sorcerer (with some solid special effects to boot). Skarsgård definitely seems to be enjoying himself in the role (distinct Jack Sparrow vibes are present from episode one on), and it’s great to see him really let loose as an actor. Daniel Sharman also gets some creepy moments as mysterious assassin The Weeping Monk. His fiery first scene in the series is so powerful, I instantly needed more of him, and thankfully his backstory is revealed as the season progresses.
Nimue herself is presented in an entirely different way, going from a legendary antagonist to a protagonist you root for. Much of this is down to Langford’s natural charisma as an actress. She deftly plays both a battle-hardened leader of her people and a teenage girl seeking love and belonging, melding the two into an interesting and compelling character. She grounds the often fantastical action around her by giving the audience a human (well, sort of) face to latch on to. The Daenerys Targaryen comparison is inevitable, especially with fans hoping Cursed will be the second coming of Game of Thrones, but Nimue is distinctly her own person. Langford gives this role her all, and her Nimue holds the series together by making us care about what happens to her and her people.
Cursed is a beautifully shot, well-acted, and unique series that I hope is watched by many. If you’re looking for great action sequences, visually stunning world-building, and characters worth rooting for, this is the show for you. It’s a perfect fantasy distraction that I thoroughly enjoyed. The first season of Cursed is available now on Netflix. You can watch the trailer below!