Cursed is a King Arthur show with the Lady of the Lake as the protagonist, from the guy who brought us 300 and Sin City. That should be fresh and cool, right?!
Nimue (pronounced Nim-way, like Huawei) is a Fey. She lives in a Fey village, but her peers shun her because she is apparently cursed. One day, Nimue takes a trip to a nearby human city, meets a roguish man called Arthur, and on her return, finds her village under attack from red-robed priests bent on killing all Fey.
She runs in anyway, finds her mother just as a priest stabs her to death. Nimue’s dying mother tasks her with bringing a sword back to somebody called Merlin.
Meanwhile, the wizard Merlin is advising King Uther Pendragon, but not to the King’s satisfaction. It turns out Merlin has lost his powers and he’s gone to drink.
Things quickly escalate from there.
I have to admit that I didn’t see more than the first two episodes of the show, so I don’t know what happens after that. The idea is interesting, although the story isn’t brimming with interesting conflict.
Nimue — played by Katherine Langford — is the protagonist. Unfortunately, she has zero common sense. Like a mosquito flying into a flame because it is nice and bright, she repeatedly walks into deadly situations because of… ehr… Alright, she has even less sense than a mosquito. Now, lacking common doesn’t make for a bad character in itself. However, when it’s so extreme it makes the character seem like a caricature, it’s not good. The story tries to paint her as the heroine pushed into a bad situation and forced to learn her own strengths. Unfortunately, she isn’t so much pushed into a bad situation, as she is so stupid she creates them. Others pay the price and she is rewarded by being the heroine. That doesn’t spell ‘tragic heroine’ but ‘spoiled idiot’.
The other villagers are possibly even more idiotic. We learn in episode two that Nimue was stupid enough as a child to leave her village at night. This got her nearly killed by a demon. I have a young daughter, and if child-eating demons lurked outside, I would lock my doors. But no, Nimue strolled into the night and got attacked. She used magic to defend herself, which apparently cursed her. It is a bit unclear, but everybody shuns her after that.
As a teen, one of the village boys seduces her with the sole purpose of getting her alone to bully her with some others. Now, it’s been a while since I was a teenage boy, but if a pretty girl like Katherine Langford had been interested in me, like hell I would have bullied her. But apparently Fey are less prone to hormones and more to petty cruelty.
Arthur, Merlin and Emo Monk
Then there’s Nimue’s relationship with Arthur. I suppose there should have been chemistry there. It was sort of missing. The Revenge of the Sith was worse, but sparks were not flying here either. It doesn’t help that the first time she meets him, she finds it a good idea to use her magic to unswindle a dice game, nearly getting herself, her friend, and Arthur attacked.
Arthur is also… a weird hobo? He seems to have no real responsibilities, and is kind of drifting around the city. Then, he helps out Nimue, twice, following up with stealing the sword she had to return to Merlin. For… reasons?
Finally, there’s Merlin. He is the only character who has at least some interesting things going for him. It would be interesting to see how he climbs out of the hole he’s in. Unfortunately, the mysteries surrounding him are shrouded in purple prose and unnecessary vagueness, making me sigh.
The bad guys are Father Carden — Peter Mullan — and his protege, the weeping monk. Father Carden is your basic soft-spoken-but-really-a-psycho priest, intent on wiping out the Fey. The Weeping monk is the emo version of Kylo Ren from Star Wars. He’s good with a sword, but has tear mascara because.. I guess that’ll be explained at some point.
Cardboard cut-out villains, basically. Nothing to see there.
Stupidity is King
As you might have noticed, I’m not impressed by Cursed. There are shows that are not bad, but just dull. There are also shows that are not bad, but just have no likable characters. But what really ticks me off, is shows with unbelievable characters. And this show ticks me off bad.
Nimue is, like I wrote earlier, a self-destructive spoiled brat. She sees a dangerous guy with a sword who wants to swindle her at dice? Nimue cheats him right back, for no reason. She sees red priests raiding her village? Nimue decides to run in and starts milling around like a headless chicken. You can be an overconfident thrill seeker, or a scared little mouse, but usually not both at the same time.
A lot of the stupid shit feels like railroading and idiot plotting. The hand of the writers shining through to try to set up some cool scene. And that cool scene seems to be key. There’s one scene where the weeping monk uses a village boy as bait to lure out villagers hiding in the woods. He pretends to sleep, then when they come out he attacks, bare-handed. Supposedly, this makes him cool. In my opinion, he’s an idiot for going about it bare-handed, but it accidentally works out for him because the villagers are bigger idiots than him and don’t kill him on sight. It was apparently all about the ‘cool’ shot of him attacking everybody with his bare hands.
These epic visuals worked out well in movies like 300 and Sin City, but here it falls flat. I don’t know if it was the budget, the director, or the special effects people, but the scenes don’t look fresh or cool at all. They feel silly, and look like they were filmed in somebody’s backyard, or in the muddy field around the corner.
So what Cursed boils down to is stupid characters being railroaded into silly scenes that are supposed to look epic.
That brings me to one final thing. One of those ‘cool’ scenes is the one in the image above this post, with Arthur walking along a road of crosses that the red priests put up to burn Nimue’s fellow villagers. If you look closely at the scene, you can see that some of the crosses are empty. Yep, apparently the red priests had more crosses than villagers and decided to put them up and burn them just for the heck of it. Aside from their strange need to drag the things all the way along a barely traveled road in the middle of nowhere. Makes a sort-of cool visual though. And that was, apparently, the only point.
Maybe you’ll like this show. I don’t, but I’m sensitive to badly written characters. I’m cursed like that — yeah, yeah, stupid pun.
If you can turn that off, or just don’t notice stuff like that, you might enjoy this show. Then again, the visuals and acting aren’t that great either.