Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler's Netflix fantasy series Cursed is a beautifully-rendered story that lays out its world-building in a way that was inviting to me as the viewer. The storytelling approach is compelling, drawing you in from the very first moment. That said, it did suffer from "Netflix bloat" in that it got a little "laggy" in the middle but the last three episodes really leave you screaming at the screen and wanting more. And though I know this goes against Netflix's "religion," this is yet again another one of those series that would've benefitted from a weekly release. I am a huge fan of binge-watching, but the episodes were long and we get a ton of information thrown at us. Watching just two episodes back-to-back was draining, though never in a bad way and the series' way of educating the viewers on history and backstory worked for the most part.
Cursed was well-written and better paced than I gave it credit for now that I've seen the "bigger picture." A couple of minutes could have been tightened up here and there, but knowing now how it ended I do not think there is anything I would have taken away or changed to quicken the pace. It laid out the story it wanted to tell, and definitely took advantage of the time to flesh out why we should be feeling the way we feel about certain character (love, hate, and everything in-between). Nimue (Katherine Langford) is a strong character who still comes across as relatable, with Langford presenting someone we feel for… want to root for… and yell at through the screen when they're about to make an understandable bad move. In fact, across the board, I would say that there wasn't a single character I disliked or found annoying- because some of the character types in the series could have easily been traps for over-the-top melodramatic performances. In the interest of full disclosure, I already had my knives sharpened for Arthur's (Devon Terrell) sleazy ass when it first started.
While Arthur surprised me, he ties with the Weeping Monk (Daniel Sharman) for the best storyline arc. I was screaming with joy when he confirmed who he was at the end of the season (???) finale. I hope we get to see his adventures with Squirrel (Billy Jenkins) next season. Taking into consideration that every sword-n-fantasy series comes with a number of thematic scorecard items they are required (by law?) to check off, the series still found ways to surprise and impress me. Am I a sucker for people being revealed to be someone I know from the history/lore? Guilty as charged. I was uber happy with Morgana (Shalom Brune-Franklin) and where her storyline is heading (and that amazingly powerful scene back at the nunnery with the kiss). By the time the credits rolled on the last episode, I was hoping that the Red Spear (Bella Dayne) would turn out to be Guinevere.
To absolutely no one's surprise, Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård) was the biggest standout for me, stealing pretty much every scene he was in (though that's no slight against a very strong cast). We know the character, we knew he would turn out to have a past and be super powerful (like c'mon, duh, it is Merlin) but I was not expecting to both like him and appreciate where he is coming from on a number of levels. While I know it's been said that he comes across as a fantasy world version of DC Comics' John Constantine, Merlin also reminded me of Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" book series: always (but barely) one step ahead, able to get out of any situation but not without a cost- to himself and to those around him. I'm looking forward to Skarsgård further exploring the complexities of his character.
Beyond those points, I hope the series continues to use animation sequences for scene transitions: they were a great visual break between some incredibly tough moments. While I mentioned earlier that there isn't too much that I would've trimmed to shorten the season, a potential second season could benefit from 8 episodes instead of 10 now that much of our backstory has been laid out. The fighting scenes, makeup, and wardrobe combined to convince us of the reality of the world we were experiencing: combining the whimsical with the terrifying. The dialogue flowed as if the cast was having a regular conversation, another important element in keeping me anchored in a new fantasy world (along with the show's clear move to having a diverse cast). While not perfect, Miller, Wheeler, Langford, and the rest of the show's "guild" definitely deserve a second season to work more of their magic.