Netflix’s newest fantasy series Cursed is a retelling of the King Arthur legend through the eyes of Nimue, who will later become the Lady of the Lake. In the first episode, we meet Nimue, Arthur, Merlin, and others who will become significant in Nimue’s quest to reunite the Sword of Power with Merlin. We also get a truly majestic battle sequence that is sure to please fans of Frank Miller’s work. Read on to find out what happened in “Nimue.”
In a title crawl, we learn that before the sword of power chose legendary King Arthur, it chose a queen. Suddenly, Nimue’s body, struck by arrows, hurtles into the lake. As the water turns bloody around her, she sinks. “Where to begin,” her narration asks, “with water, or fire?”
After the title sequence (fantastic animation reminiscent of Miller’s original illustrations), we see Nimue riding through a forest on her white horse. She hears whispers and sees crows flying ominously in a circle, but urges Old Boy on. She arrives at a village in the forest, where a young boy named Squirrel is quietly pick-pocketing from everyone. He offers her a drink from a stolen flask, but she refuses, knowing it’s not his. A woman walks by and hisses “witch” at Nimue, but Squirrel gets the last laugh as he immediately replies “piss off, half wit” (my new favorite way of telling someone to go away).
Nimue walks through the woods, picking flowers for “the offering” that’s happening later. It’s a beautiful, magical world that Nimue seems content in … until she hears whispering in the distance. The wind around her whooshes as she hears “Save them.” This is followed by the far more ominous “Death is not the end, Fey Queen. Seek him. Death is not the end. Save them” (why are mysterious whispers always so foreboding?). She sees a fawn standing there who seems to be the source of the message, but before she can ask more it is shot by two hunters. The hunters mock her for being a witch, which she shrugs off, but when Benum mentions her father she turns on him. She gets brief flashbacks to her father leaving her and her mother as the hunter calls her “cursed” and the cause of his leaving. She tells him to get out of her forest, but then her face changes. Vine-like lines appear on her face as the Benum’s bow begins to strangle him. Flashbacks show this has happened before as others rush to help. Nimue’s mother is able to calm her and the hunter is released, screaming it was her fault.
Nimue and her mother Lenore rush away, with her mother insisting she apologizes and makes Benum a new bow. She thinks this will make the villagers stop discussing banishing her. Nimue apologizes for causing trouble but says she can’t control it. Her mother is also the High Priestess of the Fey, and she says Nimue has to make them understand her so she can lead one day. Lenore mentions that some can hear “The Hidden,” which appears to be the voices calling out to Nimue. Nimue retorts that they don’t call Lenore a witch or a demon, but her mother stops their conversation. The Offering is about to begin.
At The Offering, Lenore begins the ritual by talking about Agatha, the previous Summoner of the Hidden. But soon, the moon covers the sun and covers them all in darkness. The sparks from the fire begin to dance as Lenore says The Hidden are among them to choose a new Summoner. The sparks coalesce around Nimue as the rest of the Sky Folk murmur. They insist Nimue cannot be the new Summoner, that she is touched by dark magic and a witch. Lenore defends her, saying The Hidden have chosen. Nimue insists she doesn’t want it and leaves the circle of sparks, her mother trailing after her as the light returns to the sky. Lenore tells her it is The Hidden’s will, but Nimue asks why she should serve her people when it’s clear they hate her. She calls her powers a curse, and Lenore says it’s no wonder the other Fey hate her when she treats them with contempt. Nimue says she’ll no longer be Lenore’s problem as she gathers her things. Nimue’s friend Pym asks where she’s going, and Nimue says she’s catching a ship away from the village. Pym says she’ll go with her.
Father Carden, the leader of the Red Paladins, sits in a cart with a small boy. He tells the boy that what they’re doing is a reflection of God’s love. They must rid his garden of demons, who can be hiding anywhere. He brushes a leaf against the boy’s skin, which turns green. Carden sighs and orders the boy to be taken away. The camera goes wide, and the horrible scene that was hidden from us becomes clear. The Red Paladins have murdered everyone in a village of Fey, burning down their houses for good measure. Carden is utterly unbothered by the violence as he rides away.
Lenore is staring out at the water when villagers rush up to her holding a pale girl with wings. They call her a Moon Wing, and she tells them the Red Paladins lit her forest on fire and killed many of her kind She mentions that a Weeping Monk murdered the rest with his sword as we see him amid the flames. She whispers “the one who cries” as we see that his face has red, tear-like scars under his eyes, making it look as if he’s weeping blood. He’s a terrifying villain. The other Elders note that the Red Paladins are on their way. Lenore says they’re on their own – King Uther Pendragon has no interest in helping the Fey.
A drunk Merlin is sitting in a tavern as several men approach, looking for money he owes them. It seems like he’s asleep, but when one gets close Merlin quickly grabs him and holds him to the table using a knife. He’s insulted the lord looking for money sent such a small group to find him, saying he once burned a whole crew of assassins in a lightning storm and they were much better fighters. The two men apologize and rush out when Merlin threatens to turn them into mole rats. But when Merlin stands it’s clear he’s in rough shape. The woman running the tavern mocks him on the way out, noting he didn’t actually use a spell. She wonders if the rumors of him losing his magic are true as Merlin walks out in silence.
Uther Pendragon is getting reports of the Red Paladins’ misdeeds, which he is at first concerned by until one of his advisors, Borley, tells him the group has the support of the people. Most of them are blaming the Fey for recent droughts instead of him, which Uther is upset about as it implies some people blame him. Merlin is dragged in to explain the drought. He’s supposed to be making it rain, but Merlin just sarcastically says that the weather is fickle. Gustaf Skarsgård is very funny as he drunkenly stumbles around, trying to find excuses for his lack of magic. Uther points out that it is his people that are suffering under Carden and he should want to help them. Merlin says the prejudice against his people is far older than Carden. But if he could call upon the Shadow Lords, they might be able to slow Carden’s march. Uther is sick of his excuses and says to make it rain. Merlin mockingly bows as he leaves. But his mirth is gone when he finds dead birds arranged in a circle in his tower – echoing the birds Nimue saw earlier.
Nimue and Pym arrive at the port as Pym tries to convince her to stay. Nimue mentions she’s going after Gawain who’s traveled to the desert lands. Her plans are put on hold when they find the ship she was going to sail on is gone and won’t be back for six months. Pym lovingly mocks Nimue, saying being Summoner isn’t so bad compared to her life. They walk around the city together, and Pym pulls Nimue in the direction of singing. The voice belongs to Arthur, and as he sings he and Nimue catch each other’s eye.
Arthur asks to drink with them, which Nimue initially refuses but bashfully accepts. Pym is worried about riding home in the dark, but Nimue brushes off her concerns. Arthur sits with them, and Nimue asks what he does as it’s clear he’s “not a professional singer” (ouch). Arthur proudly says he’s a knight, which both girls are skeptical of since he seems too young. A group of older men approach, mocking Arthur. Pym looks uneasy at the attention, not wanting people to find out they are Fey, but Nimue asks to play their game of dice. Not having enough for a wager, she offers a kiss if she loses instead but wants ten silver if she wins. This makes Pym even more nervous and Arthur frantically tells her the die are weighted. Nimue uses her powers to win, enraging the leader of the gang and exposing herself and Pym as Fey. Pym pulls her out of the tavern as he calls “witch!” after her, leaving Arthur shocked. A group of Red Paladins nearby begin chasing them as Nimue and Pym run.
Merlin goes to Dellum, cryptically asking for his “number three.” The collector pulls out a deformed infant with three faces. Merlin mutters “three faces, nine doves, thirty-one magpies” to himself. He believes this foretells a magical child – and a great war. He pays Dellum and saunters away. Nimue and Pym race out of town on Old Boy. They realize they can’t outrun the men and try to hide in the forest. Arthur, who has followed them, joins them as they hide, his hand on his sword. The men ride off in the wrong direction, and the three start walking. Arthur returns Nimue’s cloak that she left behind, and Pym prods her to say thank you. Arthur tells them the Paladins are sacking Fey villages, which Pym and Nimue are sobered by. He offers to let them camp with him for the night, and they accept.
That night, Nimue and Arthur duel, with Arthur teaching her how to use a sword. They are flirting, and it’s working … until Nimue sees a distressing vision. She collapses, seizing, as she sees images of herself drowning, a sword, and Merlin. Merlin gasps awake, having had the same dream as Nimue collapsed. He gets up, walking around his tower room while taking swigs from a flask. He goes to a book full of spells and flips through the pages. As a storm rages outside, he finds what he’s looking for: a drawing of a sword. His eyes widen in amazement. Back in the forest the next morning, Nimue wakes Pym without stirring Arthur from his sleep. She and Pym leave, with Pym teasing her about Arthur. Their mood shifts when ashes begin raining down on them as they ride.
They rush to the village to find it on fire. The battle sequence that happens next is one of the most well-done action scenes I’ve seen since Game of Thrones. It’s all in one fluid camera motion, with allusions to Frank Miller’s artwork. Nimue and Pym are thrown from their horse and pulled away from each other as Pym screams. A shocked and terrified Nimue runs, looking for her mother. They don’t shy away from violence, showing the true power of the Paladins. Nimue watches her people die as she locks eyes with the Weeping Monk from across the carnage.
She sees young Squirrel holding a sword, hopelessly trying to defend himself. She pulls him into a bale of hay to hide him. He’s clearly traumatized and she tells him to run. Carden nearly catches her when she continues to look for Lenore, but she escapes him and runs into an underground room in the forest. Lenore is there, but she’s mortally wounded and holding a sword. With her last breaths, she tells Nimue that she needs to get the sword to Merlin. A Paladin arrives and Lenore holds him off long enough for Nimue to run, though she watches her mother die.
Merlin is frantically casting a spell, but for what he doesn’t say. The skies open, but instead of rain, blood comes down from the skies. Uther’s men rush to Uther, handing him a bucket full of the blood. The king thinks it’s water and that the drought has ended … until he drinks blood. He curses Merlin as we see the sorcerer standing outside, just as confused as Uther. As Nimue runs through the forest, Merlin is completing some sort of ritual. The image of the sword is burned into his body. Chased onto a rock by wolves, Nimue uses the sword – and it responds to her. Blood covers the camera as Nimue fights. It seems this mysterious sword has chosen her.
Season 1 of Cursed is available now on Netflix. Check out our review here!