A young, outcast fey woman finds herself in possession of a mystical sword of great power in Cursed, a reimagining of the Arthurian legend told from the perspective of Nimue, aka the Lady of the Lake.
The 10-episode Netflix series is an adaptation of the young adult novel of the same name, written by Tom Wheeler and illustrated by none other than the legendary Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, The Dark Knight Returns). It was published last year by Simon & Schuster—with eight full-color and 30 black-and-white original illustrations, making it a collector’s item for diehard Miller fans—but the series was already in development prior to the book’s publication. Wheeler is a well-known screenwriter, producer, and showrunner, with such credits as Empire (ABC) and The Cape (NBC), as well as the Oscar-nominated Puss in Boots and The Lego Ninjago Movie.
Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) stars as Nimue in the series. The show also stars Devon Terrell (Barry) as Arthur; Gustaf Skarsgård (Westworld) as Merlin; Daniel Sharman (Fear the Walking Dead) as the Weeping Monk; Peter Mullan (Ozark) as Father Carden; Lily Newmark (Pin Cushion) as Pym; Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl) as Morgan le Fay; Sebastian Armesto (Broadchurch) as King Uther Pendragon; Matt Stokoe (Bodyguard) as Gawain; Emily Coates (Flack) as Iris; and Billy Jenkins (The Crown) as Squirrel.
We should expect the series to pretty much follow the book, given that both Wheeler and Miller were executive producers and Wheeler wrote the book at the same time as they were developing the series. We should also expect there to be significant departures from the most familiar Arthurian legends. Per the official premise:
Based on the New York Times bestselling book, Cursed is a reimagining of the Arthurian legend, told through the eyes of Nimue, a young woman with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the powerful (and tragic) Lady of the Lake. After her mother’s death, she finds an unexpected partner in Arthur, a humble mercenary, in a quest to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. Over the course of her journey, Nimue will become a symbol of courage and rebellion against the terrifying Red Paladins, and their complicit King Uther. Cursed is a coming-of-age story whose themes are familiar to our own time: the obliteration of the natural world, religious terror, senseless war, and finding the courage to lead in the face of the impossible.
The trailer opens with a close-up of Nimue’s blood-spattered face. “They took everything from us, because magic runs through us,” she says in a voiceover. “They” are the Red Paladins, an extremist religious sect hell-bent on exterminating the fey, burning their villages, and extinguishing magic from the world. “This is war, and in war there can be no mercy,” Father Carden insists, as we are treated to the sight of a woman burning at the stake and other scenes of violent carnage.
Nimue’s mother gives her a sword with instructions to take it to Merlin, who is an advisor to King Uther but secretly has lost his magic (“That’s what the sword took from me”). But Nimue ends up wielding the sword herself, which might not be a good idea, since we are told, “The sword is cursed and will corrupt all who wield it.” We catch glimpses of Arthur, Gawain, and Morgan, who urges Nimue to claim the sword as her own and lead the fey. “You are not some fragile maid,” Nimue’s mother (Catherine Walker, The Delinquent Season) tells her. “You are a warrior.” But will it be enough to ensure the fey’s survival?
Cursed begins streaming on Netflix on July 17, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix