First Impressions of the TV Show Cursed
Cursed is a fantasy-drama web series based on an illustrated book by the same name. It takes place in the time of Arthurian legends, focusing on Nimue’s story. In this first taste, I summarize the show’s first episode and discuss my initial impressions of its style and potential.
Don’t Judge the Show By Its Trailer… (Maybe)
When Cursed first showed up on my Netflix account, I avoided it for a (admittedly somewhat shallow) reason. Basically, the intro clip on the Playstation version of Netflix was all but worthless.
It showed a girl standing on a rock in the middle of a storm holding a sword aloft. Sure, there were wolves around her to make things more “interesting”, but for the clip’s minute or so runtime, it was just the girl marveling at the sword while CGI wolves circled menacingly.
- Was the sword magic?
- Was she magic?
- Could the CGI wolves have been even more CGI?
The answer to all three was probably a resounding “Yes,” but the clip cut out before anything substantial happened. Unimpressed, I moved along to find something more worth my time.
What can I say? Sometimes I do judge a book by its cover.
After finally sitting down and watching the first episode, I can say with absolute confidence that it is better than the one-minute window I was given…
Confidence was never my strong suite.
Cursed Plot, Based on the First Episode… (Spoilers?)
On its surface, Cursed seems like a standard YA fair.
The main character is Nimue, one of the Fey, and if you are up on your Arthurian legends, you might have a vague idea of where this show is going. She is largely ostracized by her community for being–as far as I could tell– too Fey. Everyone whispers “Witch” very loudly as she walks by to quickly establish her place in their hierarchy.
There is, of course, a very early scene where two of her peers decide to accost her Just to drive home how terribly everyone treats her. This ends as expected, with one of the boys being nearly choked to death (because no one ever seems to realize that messing with the chick who could kill you with her mind might be a bad idea).
Nimue only snaps out of her PTSD-fueled murder trance because her mother shows up at the last second.
Nimue’s mother plays the voice of reason, basically saying that Nimue needs to chill and accept her gifts because they’re awesome. Unfortunately, Nimue is an angsty teen and just throws a tantrum.
Before their conversation gets very far, a procession goes by and her mother ushers her to follow. They are led to the edge of a lake where their village summoner, who has just passed away, is to be burned upon a pyre and the new summoner is to be chosen.
So, the body is put to the torch and–gasp–Nimue is chosen by the cinders as the new summoner of their village. I honestly did not see that–
Oh wait… yeah I did.
Nimue responds to being chosen in the appropriate way: by basically telling everyone to fuck off, and saying that she doesn’t want to be their summoner because they all suck. (It doesn’t help that basically everyone at the pyre burning was like, “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NOT HER!”).
Nimue flees the village along with a girl named Pym, who appears so suddenly and with such a pro-Nimue stance that we must assume that she is Nimue’s only friend.
We then find ourselves abruptly in the countryside where we are introduced to the story’s main villains, Father Carden and The Gray Monk (aka “the one who cries”). They lead a sect of religious zealots known as the Red Paladins who are out to wipe the world clean of all Fey in the name of the one true God. We are also quickly shown that their next target is–wait for it–Nimue’s village.
One cut later, we are greeted by Merlin, personal Wizard of Uther Pendragon and–if this first episode is any indication–permanent drunk. Through a series of brief interactions, we learn a few things:
- Merlin may have lost his magic.
- There is a terrible drought throughout Uther’s Kingdom.
- All of the birds in the castle are dying in weirdly specific circle patterns. Disturbing? Most certainly. An omen? Probably.
When we finally catch back up with Nimue, we find out that she hopes to get on board a local trading vessel and sail for distant shores. Of course, these hopes are dashed, because what kind of story would let its main character off so easily?
On their way out of the port town, Nimue and Pym are stopped by a dashing rogue.
His name? Arthur.
Now we’re only missing a couple of names to complete Arthurian Bingo.
Arthur just wants to have a drink with the mysterious and beautiful Nimue. She, of course, is encouraged by Pym Thirdwheelerson (of the forest village Thirdwheelersons). The “just one drink” turns into a shitshow when a group of mercenaries that Arthur happens to be a part of show up and accuse Nimue of being a witch. (In fairness, she kind of is.)
Nimue ends up chased out of town, pursued by two Red Paladins who saw her running and decided “A woman running? Probably a witch!”.
The chase goes into some nearby woods where the Red Paladins lose the girl’s trail, randomly declare “THERE!” and run off into the forest.
Oh, Arthur also somehow finds them at this point just so there can be a little sexual tension between him and Nimue.
The next morning, Nimue and Pym head home without saying goodbye to Arthur (rude), only to discover that–Surprise!–their village is being sacked by the Red Paladins (bet they wish they had a mercenary now).
Nimue and Pym separate when a Red Paladin calmly picks up Pym and just kind of… walks off with her…leaving Nimue to try and find her mother as everyone either ignores her presence or gives up on chasing her if she gets more than a few feet away from them.
When Nimue finally finds her mother in the super sweet Fey temple, it’s too late. Her mother has already been stabbed and does not look long for this world. She holds out what is very obviously a sword wrapped in a cloth and says, “Take this to Merlin”.
Then some Red Paladin mook stumbles into the room and a… struggle?…ensues. It’s hard to describe, but Nimue just kinda moves out of the way as this guy goes over and kills her mom.
The final scene in the first episode has Nimue run off into the forest as it starts to storm. She suddenly finds herself beset by CGI wolves and climbs up onto an outcropping of rocks. She then realizes that the thing wrapped in cloth–which looks like a sword–is totally a sword. So, she unwraps it, and holds it aloft, and it starts to glow.
She then proceeds to murder the everloving shit out of those wolves as blood sprays everywhere and eventually covers screen and… fade to black.
Now, I have to admit: with context, that scene is a lot cooler than it looked on Netflix’s splash page, and all of my questions were answered: The sword is clearly magic, as is she, and the CGI wolves were some of the most clearly CGI’d wolves I’ve seen in a long time.
Initial Impressions of Cursed
While Cursed wears its young adult novel origins on its sleeve, it actually has a pretty decent first episode. Not the greatest I’ve ever seen–I didn’t feel the need to immediately put on the second episode–but it certainly washed away the bad taste that Netflix’s snip-it had put there.
Story and Pacing
Although the story is a little clichẻd, the pacing is fair and helps to keep you engaged. The prequel style to the well-known Arthurian legend adds a dash of freshness, even if every actor is merely hitting their role directly on the nose.
One of the most notable things about this show is it’s bizarre use of graphic design elements, which are as jarring as they are intriguing. Some scenes end by transitioning into something that resembles a painting and then using various methods transforms into the beginning of the next scene. It almost makes you feel like you’re turning the page in a comic book (which makes sense since this was based on an illustrated novel co-written by Frank Miller).
Initial Satisfaction Rating
Overall, at a first look, I would give this show a 6.5/10. It shows promise, and is trying very hard, but has fallen short of slaking my thirst for something to watch. I’ll keep at it though, as it at least deserves the effort of watching a few more episodes to see if it can find its feet.