Netflix’s new 10-episode fantasy series is a creative medieval prequel that re-imagines the classic King Arthur legend, popularized in The Once and Future King.
This jumbled interpretation revolves around teenage Ninue (Katherine Langford), a Fey sorceress who has been entrusted by her dying mother (Catherine Wilson) to deliver the legendary Sword of the First King to the drunken, misanthropic druid Merlin (Gustaf Skarsard).
The Fey are what we know as Fairies, blessed with magical, mystical powers. Because of that, they’re ruthlessly demonized and turned into a displaced people.
Destined to become the Lake of the Lake, vulnerable Nimue (pronounced Nim-way) and her awkward best-friend Pym (Lily Newmark) are besieged by religious zealots, led by Father Carden (Peter Mullen) and his extremist Red Paladins, whose violent villainy is spurred on by the mysterious Weeping Monk (Daniel Sharman).
Meanwhile, rival Viking forces are threatening the rule of petulant King Uther Pendragon (Sebastian Armeso), who is henpecked by the demanding, domineering Queen Mother (Polly Walker) and whose power is hampered by Merlin’s current inability to perform magic.
Based on the YA graphic novel by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler and initially directed by Zetna Fuentes, it’s a sword-wielding, female warrior’s coming-of-age story, filled with adolescent love and R-rated, bloody battles.
Yet it has a distinctively contemporary feel, particularly since Arthur is adroitly played by hunky Black actor Devon Terrell (Barack Obama in “Barry”), who oozes humble confidence and scruffy charm.
There are familiar personages, like valiant Gawain (Matt Stokoe) and Igraine (Shalom Brunce-Franklin), plus eye-catching animation sequences that punctuate many scene transitions.
Yet I’m ultimately reminded of Monty Python’s Holy Grail comment: “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Cursed” is a slow-starting, sword-and-sorcery 6. It’s set for a second season now that the revised backstory has been dutifully delineated.