Cursed (2020) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Though it struggles beneath the weight of too many characters, Cursed is a magical exploration of what might have happened in Arthurian lore if the sword Excalibur had fallen into a fey female's hands.

Since she can remember, Nimue (Katherine Langford) has felt burdened by the magic deep inside her. She can understand and commune with the forest, but resists growing this power because it ostracizes her from the other young people in the village. Desperate to avoid her destiny as a Fey leader, she runs off into the woods, intending to sail abroad with her friend Pym (Lily Newmark). But they miss the boat and then are chased into the wood... in time to see her village go up in flames. The Red Paladins, a group of murderers sanctioned by the Catholic Church, are wiping out Fey people and anyone who harbors them. Nimue arrives too late to save her mother's life, but in time to accept her last gift -- a sword of destiny. Her mother tells her only one thing: take it to Merlin, the Magician.

Many miles away, Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård) senses a change in the storm. It rains blood instead of water. His quest to find out what is happening takes him deep into the mountain, where he attempts to steal green Fey fire. Meanwhile, Nimue has run into a charming vagabond named Arthur (Devon Terrell ), who in search of his own honor, decides to steal the sword and use it for his own purposes... and lost amid the violence in the camp, Pym winds up on a Viking ship, headed for her own adventure. Yet, stalking them all is the infamous Weeping Monk (Daniel Sharman), a man of unparalleled power... and cruelty, with a secret of his own to keep.

I know people are growing tired of comparisons to a recent HBO series that went down in a flaming heap of dragon fire in its final season, but I feel I need to mention something future writers need to remember: you don't all need sprawling epics, thirty main characters, and a dozen simultaneous subplots. When you spread yourself out that thin, especially in a fantasy epic, it means none of your characters receive the required screen time for proper development. Cursed is no exception. Apart from Nimue, no one else has subsequent screen time to fully understand their motivations, their struggles, to get invested in their romances, or to feel all that attached to them. The frantic pace sometimes seems slow, because a character has undergone an entire journey "off screen" before we catch up to them again. (Just one example -- Pym's romance with a Viking pirate gets maybe three brief scenes, not enough for us to feel sad when they are torn apart.) That being said, there are some good scenes, I liked this new characterization of Arthur (he is less noble than he seems), and Nimue is a believable heroine even if I didn't like her much.

The music and costuming is great, as are the special effects. But to be honest, I got tired of all the gore. Both humans and animals are hacked to pieces in streams of spattering blood and carnage... and in an otherwise fairly "tame" series (no language, minimal sexual content, occasional nudity) it just seemed unnecessary. I am also a little tired of the Catholic Church always being the villain. It's a tired old trope.

Sexual Content
Two nuns kiss on the lips inside a convent, and defend their lesbian relationship to a bystander (who doesn't care). Merlin shows side nudity after being struck by lightening; Arthur shows backside nudity when he strips down and invites Nimue to skinny-dip with him in a hot spring (she does). In episode nine, a heterosexual couple has sex (lots of movement, kissing, them rolling over, pleasured expressions). A man and woman start making out in a flashback; Nimue turns away to not see them.
 
Language:
None.
 
Violence:
Extreme. People are hacked to pieces, torn in half, shot by arrows, ripped by swords, stabbed in the gut, and left to die. Nimue is often part of the carnage, as she takes out an entire band of Paladins who murdered some of her friends. She makes the rivers run red with blood. Her first use of the sword involves brutally hacking to pieces the wolves who are chasing her. In a flashback, she causes a rock to fall on the head of a bear-demon, crushing his skull and spewing blood everywhere. People are also manhandled, tortured, slapped, and hit by lightning, strangled by vines, and have vines growing out of their entrails.

Other:
The Catholic Church "sanctions" the Red Paladins to commit genocide and wipe out the Fey races (centaurs, faeries, and other creatures). They are ruthless, calculating, and brutal, slaughtering men, women, and children without remorse, burning them alive, and the only way to stop them is through black sorcery. Morgana sees Death, as does Merlin, as a grotesque, weathered blackened face.