Cursed – Netflix Season 1 Review

Season 1

Episode Guide

Nimue – | Review Score – 3/5
Cursed – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Alone – | Review Score – 2.5/5
The Red Lake – | Review Score – 2/5
The Joining – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Festa and Moreii – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Bring Us In Good Ale – | Review Score – 2.5/5
The Fey Queen – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Poisons – | Review Score – 3/5
The Sacrifice – | Review Score – 3/5

 

There’s a reason the Arthurian Legend has remained a mainstay in fiction for such a long period of time. Much like some of the greatest books and movies ever written, a good story is a good story regardless of its plot content. Cursed then is a series that takes that Arthurian Legend and challenges traditional stereotypes but does so in a bungled, unnecessarily convoluted manner.

In the hands of good writers, there’s actually quite a good framework to work with here – especially given the book this is based on. It’s worth noting that I haven’t actually read the book so I can’t comment on how well this has been adapted but every tired trope in the writer’s arsenal is here. It’s a such a shame too because the intriguing notion of switching up old ideas in favour of something original is actually quite interesting but the execution is disappointing to say the least.

This is yet another example of a show using themes over substance and does a poor job conveying its story with conviction. With multiple half-baked antagonists, several sub-plots that entangle into a messy overarching narrative that lacks any resolution and an unbelievable amount of plot armour and deus ex machina, Cursed is the perfect example of how not to write a show.

At the centre of this drama lies Nimue, the Lady of the Lake in old folklore and the central protagonist for this series. The first episode wastes little time getting right to the heart of our conflict with one simple question- what would happen if the Sword of Power (the one Arthur wields) fell to a Queen instead? Nimue is thrust into the call to action early on thanks to a religious group known as the Red Paladin burning villages holding Fey-kind. With all hope lost, Nimue’s mother gives her the Sword of Power and tasks her with visiting Merlin and handing the sword over.

With the quest established, the first half of the series sees this journey play out with various different characters coming to the foreground. Arthur joins Nimue in her quest and may or may not have his own motives for doing so. Merlin finds himself butting heads with King Uther and stumbling between different Kings while Father Carden leads the Red Paladin with his trusty right-hand man known as The Weeping Monk.

The second half of the series however introduces more characters that get little screen-time until very late in the game when everything comes together in a climactic fight for the future of the Kingdom. Only, nothing is really resolved and instead everything is left wide open for another season.

Along with the aforementioned characters, a Viking fleet show up, there’s Cumber the Ice King and his goons, a shadowy man known as Lord Rugen and even a higher religious order above the Paladin. The result is something that instantly feels messy and with no expository text, map or clues as to exactly where all this is taking place, Cursed feels messy, confusing and surprisingly claustrophobic.

Some of this is attempted to be alleviated through hand-drawn edits between scenes but these often drag on for far too long or pop up so randomly that they lose their effectiveness. The characters themselves are okay but with the exception of Arthur, Nimue, Merlin and a couple of other close companions (whom I won’t spoil here) everyone else pops up and disappears as quickly whence they came.

Numerous minor characters are introduced at the start of episodes and then killed off toward the end as a way of injecting drama and it’s made all the worse by the amount of plot armour every major character seems to adopt.

I won’t spoil any of that here but suffice to say the finale has a minimum of seven different encounters that see characters in perilous situations and saved at the last second by various different plot conveniences. This deus ex machina is sadly a mainstay occurrence throughout the series too and while I understand other shows do this as well, when used sparingly it can be an incredibly powerful narrative tool. When it’s rehashed and re-used throughout 10 hours of drama then it instantly feels like a cheap cop-out to every dramatic situation.

There will undoubtedly be fans of Netflix’s Cursed. The visuals are gorgeous, the various production and set designs are sublime and there’s been a lot of good work put into making this a solid production that could go on for multiple seasons. Unfortunately the writing consistently lets this show down from being the fantasy epic it so easily could have been.

There’s definitely some good material here and the ending scenes may be enough to entice you back into a second season, but in order to do so the writing needs to improve drastically. If it doesn’t, this show is cursed with remaining in mediocrity.

 


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