Emily Clark

TV Series Review

We all know the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. We know he became king because of a legendary sword. But apparently, we don’t know the whole story. Because before Arthur the King, that same sword chose a queen.

Nimue is a summoner of the Fey people (a collective group of magical fairies, fauns, druids and the like). Her whole life, she’s been called “cursed” by both Fey and humans alike—all because she somehow managed to survive an attack from a demon-possessed bear when she was just 5 years old. Even her own father rejected her after the attack. But her mother, Lenore, stayed by Nimue’s side and protected her from those who would persecute her, all the while instilling strength in her daughter: “Did I raise you to suffer fools or to lead?”

It’s not the life she would have chosen, and Nimue takes every opportunity to run away and escape it all. Then, her village is attacked …

To humans, the Fey are demons—evil and unnatural beings that need to be scoured from the earth. The Red Paladins (warrior monks of the Roman Catholic Church) hunt them down, burn their villages and slaughter their people.

Nimue rushes to her mother’s side, but it’s too late. With her final breaths, Lenore hands Nimue a sword—the Sword of Power. She tells her to take it to Merlin (yes, that Merlin). And so Nimue flees, not realizing that everything she’s ever known is about to change.

Big, Medieval Mess

In addition to Merlin, Nimue (known as the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legend) also meets Arthur; his half-sister, Morgana; and several other characters who would eventually become the Knights of the Round Table. Together, they rebel against the Red Paladins and Uther Pendragon (the current and illegitimate king of England), seeking to liberate the Fey people.

And while that’s an admirable goal, it’s also where the show’s content concerns begin. In order for Nimue to free her people, she has to take a few lives—and that’s an understatement. Characters slash and stab their way through battlefields. Bones are broken, blood is shed, and heads are lopped off.

The first episode doesn’t feature much in the way of sexual content or foul language, but as the series amps up, so do these elements. By the end of the first season, the s-word is much more common, and Nimue and Arthur wind up having sex (showing quite a bit of skin). There’s also a same-sex relationship between two nuns that comes into play.

And speaking of the church, two of Cursed’s main villains are allegedly followers of Christ. Wreaking havoc under the guise of religious piety, Father Carden and Sister Iris are some seriously twisted characters.

Granted, a lot of the magic they fight against is pretty dark. (The usually drunken Merlin is certainly no Boy Scout, and there’s a whole subplot involving a mystical angel-of-death type character.) Still, the line between “good” and “evil” seems to be a bit fuzzy. Nimue and other magic users get their powers from the “Hidden” (invisible forces tied to their ancestors and nature). The Hidden can heal people, make plants grow and even protect their wielders. But they can also gouge out a man’s organs, strangle their victims and drive people crazy.

Cursed has an interesting take on the Arthurian legend, but so does The Sword in the Stone. And one is a lot easier on the negative content palate than the other.

Episode Reviews

July 17, 2020: “Nimue”

After the Hidden choose Nimue to be her people’s new summoner, she runs away, not wanting the powers or responsibilities. She returns home to find her village being attacked and is tasked by her mother to take a sword to Merlin, seemingly to save their people.

Nimue uses her magic to make a man’s bow attack and choke him. She hears the whispers of the Hidden on the wind and from a fawn. When she uses her magic, green vines appear on her face like veins. Several Fey Elders perform a ceremony at a funeral during an eclipse to choose a new summoner. Birds fly in a mysterious spiral formation. Later, more birds are found dead in a circle. A flower magically flies on its own.

Nimue is called a witch, demon and hag. People say she is cursed by dark gods. Merlin threatens to turn two men into mole rats and starts chanting. He offers to have the “Shadow Lords” stop the Red Paladins. He also sees signs of a prophecy about “a great and terrible war” just before the sky rains blood. Merlin and Nimue share a vision.

A monk gives a speech about how God’s love purifies and sanctifies. He also talks about getting rid of demons (the Fey), and presses a leaf to a young boy’s hand, which then also turns green, revealing the boy to be Fey. Several other monks have crosses branded into the backs of their heads. A tavern wall is covered in skulls.

Much blood is seen as Red Paladins burn two villages, slaughtering the people (including children). They tie people to crucifixes and burn them alive. Nimue and her friend are thrown from a horse. Her friend is carried off by a Red Paladin and Nimue is dragged by her hair, kicked and choked.

A man with glowing red eyes and black, tear-like tattoos slashes a fairy with a sword as the forest burns around him. An injured fairy girl describes how her people were killed by the Paladins when they set the forest on fire.

Nimue is attacked by wolves and gets bitten on her arm and leg. She draws the Sword of Power, which glows and gives off a burst of energy, and then proceeds to kill the wolves with it (some by beheading).

A bleeding woman shot with two arrows falls into a lake and sinks. A young girl’s back is sliced open by a bear’s claws. Merlin is struck by lightning. Several dead bodies are seen hanging outside a city wall. A black-market dealer shows Merlin the corpse of a 3-faced infant. Merlin disarms a man, holds a knife to his neck and warns his attacker that he burned 400 assassins in a lightning storm. A man is threatened with a knife.

A deer is shot with an arrow. A bird pecks at another bird’s corpse. Several dead fowl hang in a market. A woman lies about killing hundreds of people. Two people spar with swords and one gets headbutted.

We see Merlin’s unclothed backside when his robe falls off. We also see a flash of a naked man in the fetal position. Merlin is shirtless under his robe and is often drunk. A boy drinks stolen wine. People drink in taverns. A young woman wakes up with a hangover. A bard sings about kissing and drinking wine. A man using weighted dice makes a bet with Nimue for a kiss.

Someone accidentally drinks blood. A young boy pickpockets several people. A man abandons his family because he believes his daughter cursed with darkness. A young woman says her mother is trying to marry her off. Nimue says she is going to cut off her hair and pretend to be a boy when she runs away. The king learns his people blame him and the Fey for an ongoing drought and famine.

We hear four uses of “h—,” and one each of “p-ss” and “bloody.” People say “gods” four times, but they are referring to pagan gods. Someone is told to “burn in the nine h—s.”

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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