TV Show Reviews

Cursed: the Final Bites

Now that I’ve finished the first season of Cursed and had time to fully digest, I can honestly say that I have a pretty severe case of indigestion. What started with a shaky first episode eventually toppled over, shattered, and became a series of jagged inedible pieces

And now I’m here to give you a report on every serrated bite.

like this, but less edible

Bite #1: Story

Cursed didn’t have the most auspicious start. 

picture this, but with more swords

The first episode was supposed to be a jumping-off point for Nimue’s rise to power. However,  throughout the rest of the first season we mostly see her stumble, fall, get lost, and then finally end up a few feet away from where she started. Meanwhile, most of the B characters are either fuming that they don’t have the sword of power, planning to steal the sword of power, or Pym, who has a delightful adventure that was pretty great until it connected back to the main story.

There are so many questionable narrative decisions, that I would stagger under the weight of trying to list them all… but I’ll list a few.

  • None of the bad guys are even a little sympathetic
  • Important moments happen off-screen
  • One character starts their face-heel turn because a spider god said so
  • Will they / won’t they for absolutely no reason
  • The fisherman… just everything about that guy
  • Using a pile of bodies every time they want to elicit an emotional response
  • Deciding that every character had to play a part in Arthurian bingo

Were any of these the nail in the coffin, no, but each was certainly a nail that was used.

Bite #2: Characters

It’s a little hard to criticize the story without a critique of the Characters. These were the people that were supposed to hold up the story even through its failings. Unfortunately, they were crushed under its weight… or just plain refused to exert any effort and decided being pressed was preferable.

I’ll start with Arthur and Nimue’s hot and cold relationship. While this trope can be irksome across several twenty-two episode seasons, it is especially so when crammed into a ten-episode Netflix (Buh Bum) series. If you miss a scene you might be wondering why they’re making out instead of actively trying to murder each other.

the benchmark for a healthy relationship

And speaking of Nimue, I need to talk about how great everyone thinks she is despite the fact that she rarely shows any signs of greatness. People she’s barely met fawn all over her like she pulled the sword from the stone, instead of just taking it from her soon to be murdered mother. 

It was painful to watch someone who was introduced two scenes ago, singing Nimue’s praises, immediately after she’d just thrown the sword of power into a gaping chasm. It’s especially bad since her defense for throwing the sword was basically…

Because reasons?

I mean they hadn’t even gotten the sword back… so, like, maybe do something about that before you pat her on the back.

Now the whole sword throwing decision was not a good one. Unfortunately most of the decisions in this show are painfully similar. It starts to feel like you’re watching a bunch of characters being forced to follow a terrible script instead of a story that’s unfolding organically.

  • Told that something is a trap – better walk into it 
  • Character shows that they’re completely untrustworthy – trust them completely
  • Everyone says your decision is insane – make worse decision to prove sanity
  • Make a deal with a psychopath – break that deal to show how clever you are

It becomes increasingly frustrating to watch as the show goes on. However, I will say that some of the characters deliver monologues that are actually not bad. They seem to be saying the right thing, at the right time, and with the emotion it deserves. 

Unfortunately, these are few and far between.

Bite #3: Time and Scale

I watched this whole show and could not tell you how much time was supposed to have passed for the characters. Hell, I couldn’t tell you how much time was supposed to have passed between scenes. People seem to teleport about the countryside. Sometimes people talk about someone from a previous scene like they haven’t seen them in weeks, and other times things that happened last episode were the day before… even if those two events are linked. 

And don’t get me started on the scale of things… 

But since you did.

  • The red paladins are said to have 5000 or more men, however they are both overstaffed when winning, and understaffed when the good guys need a win. 
  • Uther supposedly has an army of his own, but is worried about Schrodinger’s red paladin army.
  • The Vikings (that’s right Vikings) Have enough men to rival either army, but all we ever see are their boats and tents. Which is great for them I guess, but less great if you’re trying to make them seem threatening. 
  • The Fey are simultaneously on the verge of extinction, and ready to go to war with the Vikings, Paladins, and Uther because they have Nimue backing them… you know… the girl who chucked the sword of power down a hole. 

All of this makes for confusing television. 

Should I be concerned that the Fey lost twenty guys? I’m pretty sure that’s, like, half the people they had left… oh, they have hundreds suddenly, cool I guess they’re… I only see like thirty guys. Are you sure… 

Netflix Bit Off More Than It Could Chew with Cursed

Cursed showed some potential in its early episodes, but that potential was smothered before it could come to fruition. Whichever bite you think was responsible for this, it wasn’t. It was all of them at the same time.

I don’t lay this at the feet of the actors or even the writers (not entirely anyway). I lay this mess of a show on how Netflix (Buh Bum) structures it’s shows (and then a little on the writers). 

Ten hour-long episodes are perfect for some shows, but not for others. This show was, at least to my mind, not written with Netflix (Buh Bum) in mind. It was clearly a twenty-two-episode CW show that got lost, only to find itself mangled beyond recognition and crammed into ten episodes.

And so, I beseech the CW; save this show from Netflix (Buh Bum). 

You can turn this hot mess into a perfectly serviceable show about hot young people making out when they should be fighting a war. 

I know you can do it, because I’ve seen the 100… which is down to, like, five people now.  

TV Show Reviews

Cursed: the First Taste

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. 

Oh yeah.
THIS was worth it.

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… 

Probably. 

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). 

Solid prank, bro.

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. 

Everyone 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:

  1. Merlin may have lost his magic. 
  2. There is a terrible drought throughout Uther’s Kingdom. 
  3. 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. 

Style

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.