If you've ever wondered what it would be like if Frank Miller wrote John Constantine, you have your answer – in Netflix' Cursed. Yes, Cursed may be based on the YA fantasy novel that's a prequel to the legend of King Arthur about how a Fey girl became the wielder of Excalibur and eventually becomes the Lady of the Lake, but it's really a John Constantine show in disguise. That disguise is Merlin, as played by Gustaf Skarsgard. He may be called Merlin, but he totally acts like John Constantine throughout the series.
Miller and co-creator/showrunner Tom Wheeler created the story together. They recently admitted that Miller did most of the writing on the original YA novel while Wheeler was busy developing the show. The show and the book follow the same story beats surprisingly closely. Instead of a wizened old codger that many people imagine Merlin as being, Skarsgard's Merlin is a drunken, dashing, bounding, wisecracking trickster. He can handle and bluff his way through the worst situations. He befriends people who know they should know better but they want something from him – mostly power – and he uses that to his advantage. He's improvising his way out of tricky situations all the time, rolling with whatever setbacks come his way.
Everyone has a love-hate and hate-hate relationship with him but can't resist doing business with him. They even give him a long coat to walk around in. Miller and Wheeler are two steps away from reconning the existence of cigarettes into their version of the Arthurian era to have Merlin have a ciggie dangling from the corner of his mouth all the time.
In "Cursed," Everyone is Chasing After Merlin's D***!
The ultimate Sword of Power is actually Merlin's, but he hasn't had it for a long time. As a result, he no longer has any magical powers, so he depends on his wits and bluff to get his way. He's done quite well for a long time considering he manages to advise loads of kings on how to run their country. Now every would-be king wants to possess his sword so they can claim power and sovereignty. The corrupt Church wants the sword so they can control who gets to be king. A teenage girl is given the sword and she's not giving it up – she uses it to declare herself Queen of the Fey. That is the entire plot of the show!
In Freudian symbolism, a sword is a phallic symbol. It represents male strength and virility. This means everyone in the show is fighting over Merlin's phallus! They all need to possess it! They can't get enough of it! The whole show turns out to be about him after all! Everything that happens in the show is because of Merlin. He's the cause of it all. The sword of power was his originally. It's the source of his magical powers and without it, he's powerless and forced to rely on his wits and strategy to stay alive and manipulate kings and demons.
Everything Merlin does is a John Constantine move. He pisses everyone off but they still need him to help them get what they want. He plays on his marks' greed and avarice and sets them all against each other. He keeps his cards close to his chest while spinning several plates in the air. His real agenda is to protect the people he cares about and he's terrified of failing, which he does again and again, because he always overreaches, overplays his hand. He's clever but is often too clever for his own good and the plates come crashing down. He's even called a trickster like Constantine is by his enemies.
So if you're a Constantine fan who's hankering for a new series, you could just stream Cursed and squint. It's pretty much "Medieval John Constantine Trolls Everyone".
Cursed is now streaming on Netflix.