The Call To Action
Following Game Of Thrones’ lacklustre final season, we’ve seen a whole slew of shows recently rise up from the ashes to try and claim a slice of that fantasy drama pie. Next in line to try and capture that same lightning in a bottle is Cursed, a show that aims to tell a new Arthurian legend, this time from the perspective of Nimue (or the Lady of the Lake as she’s known as in the original mythology.) This conflict is all about the Sword of Power and the first episode is essentially used to establish the characters and balance of power moving forward.
Episode 1 of Cursed begins with Nimue riding her horse through the forest. Looking up at the sky, she notices birds circling ominously in unnatural patterns. Is this an omen of things to come? Arriving back at village, she greets a troublesome young boy called Squirrel before heading out to pick flowers. Once there, a strange deer appears to whisper to her, telling Nimue that “Death is not the end; save them.”
When the deer is shot, Nimue loses control of her magical powers, wrapping tendrils around a boy who begs for help. Thankfully her Mother arrives to pry her away and forces Nimue to make an offering with the High Elders as a way of apologizing. That offering comes in the form of The Hidden (strange, orange embers that seem to signify hidden power) choosing Nimue as the new Summoner. She rejects the call to action though and decides to get on a ship down at Hawksbridge.
Riding with her friend Pym, Nimue arrives by the dock and decides to cut her hair and hide that she’s a Fey. Only, the ship she was supposed to board – The Brass Shield – is not there and sailed a week earlier. Even worse, it’s not due to return for 6 months. Despite her best efforts, fate intervenes and prevents her from leaving.
In Hawksbridge, she and Pym meet Arthur who happens to be a knight who takes a fancy to her. Only, another knight named Bors arrives at their table and challenges Nimue to play a game of dice. Despite the die weighted against her, she uses her magic to control them and forces the man to hand over 20 silver. He calls her out for being a witch though and she’s forced to flee.
Arthur, Merlin & Father Carden
Back at camp, a Moon Wing (a winged elf-like creature) arrives before Lenore and tells the story of the Weeping Monk who’s been slaughtering them all. They’re not the only ones being slaughtered either, as we cut across to see our antagonist force for the first time. Dressed in red robes and doing the Lord’s bidding, the Red Paladins burn and pillage a village while sweeping North. The group are led by a man named Father Carden.
In a tavern nearby, Merlin is confronted by two soldiers trying to collect money owed. Although the men leave upon threats of him using magic, one of the barmaids taunts Merlin and reveals that he’s lost his magic.
In a drunken stupor, he arrives before Lord Uther who demands rain to help with the drought. Promising to do his best, when he leaves the throne room he finds a dead bird. Unsure what this means, he collects a torch and heads up to the top of the tower where more birds lie in a perfect circle on the ground.
This, combined with the ominous symbol of a three-faced child, prompts Merlin to realize a great war is coming. It’s here he sifts through old books and finds images of the Sword of Power.
The Sword Of Power
After evading the Red Paladins, Arthur meets back up with Nimue and Pym. Despite Nimue receiving some sword fighting lessons from Arthur, she starts experiencing frightening imagery and passes out. When she awakens, she finds the Red Paladins are right on her doorstep and burning her village.
Nimue and Pym are separated in the ensuing carnage, with the latter carried away. As Nimue hides, she notices Father Carden talking to a cloaked figure whom we come to know later on as The Weeping Monk. She also notices Squirrel too and she tells to run. Although Squirrel manages to get away, Nimue is not so lucky. Thankfully rogue archers to the North are enough of a distraction for her to flee at the last second.
At the temple she finds her Mother who hands over the Sword of Power and tasks her with bringing it to Merlin. Only, Merlin has bigger problems when he heads outside and stares in stunned disbelief at the sky as it starts to rain blood.
As the episode closes out, Nimue finds herself surrounded by wolves and forced to use the sword to defend herself. As she constantly slashes, killing numerous wolves, the screen fills with blood.
The Review Write-Up
Cursed is a show that could go either way. On the one hand, there’s a unique perspective on this tale that could prove to be a decisive factor to help it stand out. However, there’s also danger of this series falling into the trap of trying too hard.
The hand-drawn animation used to shift perspectives and characters is a nice idea on paper but feels like an aging technique that takes away from some of the urgency.
There’s a decent production design overall and interesting characters for the most part, even if Nimue does come across as hot-headed and irrational. Unfortunately the CGI and blood effects at the end with the wolves is really badly implemented and it certainly puts a damper on the episode overall.
For now though there’s enough with this one to keep watching but whether Cursed can grow into something more or remain a cursed fantasy series destined for mediocrity remains to be seen.