King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have been reimagined as many times as you can, well…imagine. Something is captivating about castle intrigue, deceitful romance, chivalrous defense of the weak, and magic. Netflix’s latest offering Cursed is another entry into the medieval realm from the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. This time the focus is firmly female as Nimue, a young woman fated to become a warrior, witch, sorcerous, and queen navigates a landscape filled with religious mercenaries and fantastical creatures.
Using Miller’s quintessential style of mixing live-action and original art, the ten-episode first season is nerd porn for the sword and shield set. It is beautiful, especially the stunning sets. Filmed in various locations around the UK, entire castles and Celtic villages were constructed utilizing the majesty of wild nature to create a gorgeous otherwordly site.
With several high profile genre actors and a few lesser-known ones on the rise, Cursed is well cast and acted. Many of the traditional Arthurian characters are present just not in the same way you are used to seeing them. Merlin, played by Gustaf Skarsgard(Vikings), is a regretful drunk with plenty to make him guilty. Peter Mullan(Session 9) plays Father Carden, the leader of the Red Paladins, and Katharine Langford(13 Reasons Why) is Nimue the Wolf-Blood Witch and soon to be Queen of the Fey.
Devon Terrell(Arthur) is brave and diplomatic before he ruled the land. Shalom Brune-Franklin plays his sister Morgana and is a delight as her character takes an interesting turn mid-way through the series. Brune-Franklin infuses fear and determination into the often beleaguered figure. The most unassuming villain Iris portrayed chillingly by Emily Coates, is easily the greatest unexpected baddie. Coates does a spectacular job making Iris terrifying and fragile at the same time. Lastly, Daniel Sharman(Fear The Walking Dead) as the Weeping Monk is more than he appears. The most complex of all the characters, he sizzles with very little dialogue until nearly the final episodes.
Heavy Spoilers Ahead……..
As the final moments conclude in Cursed, there is a lot in question. Secrets are revealed, allies uncovered, new villains empowered, and one hero’s fate unknown. Iris, having shot Nimue with two arrows, runs off as Merlin grabs the sword in rage. Nimue falls into the waterfall, presumably to her death. Merlin kills all the Paladins and grabs Morgana as he spirits away. Gawain may have been brought back to life by Nimue, and the Weeping Monk and Squirrel are on the run. The Red Spear came to Arthur’s aid and defeated the Pendragons and the Paladins. The Fey that survived are now free to live in peace, for now. A lot happened in the last several episodes; here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.
The Weeping Monk Is Lancelot.
That’s right, the teary violent enforcer for the Red Paladins is none other than Sir Lancelot of the Knights of the Roundtable. The poor kid was taken as a child by the head of the Paladins, Father Carden(Peter Mullan). He was abused and brainwashed into being a tool against his own people. After the Paladins take Gawain and Squirrel hostage, Lancelot finds the strength to fight back and save Squirrel. Unfortunately, he is terribly injured in the process. He is last seen riding away with Squirrel, who is also someone important. He will absolutely be back as a valuable weapon for the Fey and Arthur in Cursed Season 2.
Squirrel Will Someday Be Sir Percival.
Squirrel is not just a humble Fey kid, but also Percival. Percival in Arthurian lore is one of the holiest knights known for his strength and fighting prowess. Most of the stories have him born from humble beginnings to a mother who did not teach him about fighting. As a result, he grew up naive and innocent. His physical talents overrode his lack of teaching, and he became a skilled fighter. Later in history, he became one of the Grail Knights tasked with keeping the Holy Grail. He is often depicted as being foolhardy in his youth but developing a wise soul later in life. Squirrel is undoubtedly brave and less than cowardly. He has a kind and true spirit that will make him an ally to those he cares for.
The Red Spear Is Guinevere.
The main love interest for someday King Arthur and a significant point of contention between him and Sir Lancelot in this version of the story is a serious badass. Traditionally her beauty is referenced and not skill with a sword. The Red Spear not only is handy in a fight but is a Viking captain. Her loyalty is often questioned, but she seems to have a soft spot for Pim, Arthur, Nimue, and the Fey. In Season 2, the love triangles that are already forming between Nimue, Gawain, and Arthur will get even messier. She picked a fight with The Ice King however, when she sided with the Fey. He looks like a guy that holds a grudge. Arthur will need all the help he can get with the Paladins, King Uther, and the others coming for him.
Nimue Will Become The Lady In The Lake.
Nimue’s tragic fate is sealed. Until she officially enters her watery existence permanently, she will fight to protect the Fey against the Paladins. We saw her fall from the stone bridge over the waterfall at the end of Cursed Season 1. You can bet that did not kill her, though. She may have been spared and is now something more than she was. The Lady of the Lake is a sorceress who bestows Excalibur to King Arthur.
In medieval literature, the Lady raises Lancelot from birth after his mother dies and acts as a benevolent force on his and Arthur’s life. In one telling of her story, she is a love interest to Merlin, but since he is her father in Cursed, this is a definite no go. Curiously there is one account of Morgana le Fay being the Lady. With what happens to Morgana, that could be an intriguing twist on what we think we know.
Gawain is Alive.
Nimue saves his life, summoning all her powers. Just like many of the characters at the end of the finale, he is near death but not dead yet. Now that she pierced the veil between life and death, she may be able to harness new powers, including immortality, which may be how she survives the fall into the falls in the finale.
What Is The Cailleach and The Widow?
Morgana had an encounter with the Cailleach that left her forever changed. She has been touched by evil, and the Widow senses it. This is why the Widow is drawn to her, especially when collecting the dead near her. In Gaelic mythology, the Cailleach or Veiled One is a divine hag with control over the weather. In Scottish lore, she is Beira, Queen of Winter. The Veiled One is a creator deity where the Cursed version is still unknown. One the one hand Celia who is dead, comes to Morgana and asks her to bring the sword to the temple of the Cailleach. On the other hand, Celia seems genuinely concerned for Morgana. That may be all an act, however.
In Merlin, the TV series Morgana broke the veil between the living and the dead and met the Cailleach. Morgana accidentally ingested a spider and fell under the sway of Cailleach. It comes to Morgana in the form of Celia, who died in the fire started by Iris.
Is Morgana Death?
When Morgana killed the Widow or the Shadow as the Cailleach refers to her during the stylized graphic novel scene, she effectively became the Widow. She now knows who is going to die and is drawn to them just as the Widow before her was. Since she also has been touched by Cailleach, it will be interesting to know if she has any useable powers beyond foresight.
Iris is A Newly Minted Member Of The Red Paladins.
There is no specific mention of Sister Iris in actual Arthurian lore; however, in Cursed, she is a force to be reckoned with. This diminutive true believer is cruel, single-minded, and vicious. Now that she has the eye of the Paladins, her obsession will only grow. In Cursed Season 2, she will undoubtedly be a golden faced Big Bad despite her petite size.
Merlin Is Nimue’s Father.
Merlin reclaimed the sword, and a whopping amount of magical juice after Nimue fell from the bridge. In his grief and rage, he became what he has been afraid of all these years. After taking out all the Paladins, he took Morgana and disappeared in a wave of lightning, wind, and magic. The Druid is very powerful and very flawed. His guilt over Nimue’s fall(I refuse to call it death) and his rage at Iris will consume him.
There was a lot to like about Cursed and equally more to unpack. As long as there is interest in the medieval legend, there will be enthusiasm for more stories. With COVID-19 shutting down production, it could be a long time before we see future seasons. Catch Season 1 on Netflix right now while we wait for Season 2.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.