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Series / Cursed

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There is a story lost to the mists of time,
of The Sword of Power
and the young woman who wielded it.
They called her a demon
Before Arthur the King
The Sword of Power chose a Queen

Cursed was a 2020 dark fantasy and drama series based on the 2019 illustrated Young Adult novel of the same name by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It premiered on Netflix on July 17, 2020.

The series is a re-imagining of the Arthurian Legend, focused on Nimue (Katherine Langford), a young girl from a village believed to be cursed by dark gods by her peers and called a witch. After her home is torn down by the Red Paladins, she is responsible for delivering Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård) an ancient sword accompanied by a mercenary named Arthur (Devon Terrell) that was in her mother's care, while stoking the fires of a rebellion against King Uther (Sebastian Armesto).

On July 9, 2021, it was announced the show was canceled after a single season.

Tropes in this series include:

  • Aborted Arc: The whole thing about Nimue being otracized by other Fey for her powers is basically dropped after the second episode.
  • Action Girl:
    • Nimue becomes this, wielding the Sword of Power effectively to fight Red Paladins, along with using magic on them.
    • Iris, a violent bigot, can use a bow quite well, downing Nimue with her arrows in the series finale.
    • The Red Spear, a female viking warrior, is the leader of a male raiding crew she leads to battle.
  • Adaptational Diversity: This reimagining of the Arthurian legend makes many classic characters (including Arthur himself) into people of color. Morgana is also revealed to have a female lover.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Red Paladins and the Vatican believe that Fey are demons who are all irredeemably evil and therefore must be mercilessly destroyed. However, this is not true, as Fey are no worse than humans on average, with the same amount of moral complexity.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • As the series seems to be set around the 8th century (at earliest), the Red Paladins' crusade against witchcraft is several centuries early; the Pope didn't declare witchcraft heresy until 1484 (and it still wasn't formally made a capital crime throughout the British Isles until the late 1500's), with people really going witch-crazy in the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, for much of the medieval period the Catholic Church's official stance was that witches didn't exist at all, dismissing such things as pagan nonsense (ironically, this means the Red Paladins might have been branded heretics for spreading such beliefs in the real world); the link between witchcraft and the Devil didn't become popularly ingrained in Christian belief until the 15th century. Furthermore, burning wasn't always the preferred method of execution; while in Scotland and several other European countries condemned witches were burnt at the stake, in England witches were usually hanged. However, it is justified by the fact that magic and magical creatures really exist in this setting, so the anti-witchcraft stuff could realistically have occurred much earlier. Notably, the Red Paladins are pretty specific about the fact it's Fey they hunt, and it just so happens some Fey are witches.
    • To a lesser extent, Morgana/Igraine's sexuality is treated as a dark secret and is deeply terrified of it being found out, but in the estimated time period the series is set in, homosexual conduct wasn't considered a big deal. It was considered sinful behaviour, but nomoreso than sex before marriage, adultery, self-pleasure, or other non-reproductive sex. It's possible her fear was more due to the presence of the Red Paladins, who were already inferred to kill unwed pregnant women, but as noted above, their level of fanaticism (and the support they have from the pope in this fanaticism, never mind the authority they carry in England) is in itself anachronistic.
  • Annoying Arrows: Completely averted. Anyone hit by an arrow is grievously wounded, if not killed outright. This even brings down Nimue herself.
  • Artifact Domination: It is implied that the Sword of Power corrupts its wielder the longer it is wielded, Nimue growing irritable and more ruthless as she uses its power to lead the Fey just as it did with Merlin when he led a campaign against the Romans.
  • Artistic License – Religion: While this is a parallel universe, the culture does also seem intended to be based on that of early medieval Europe. Thus, some departures from real world medieval Catholicism are noteworthy:
    • The Red Paladins, a Catholic order of warrior monks, are portrayed as crucifying Fey and then burning them alive on the crosses. Historically, Christians considered imitating Christ by even letting themselves ever be crucified abhorrent. It was something to be avoided if at all possible. Thus, according to tradition, Peter was crucified upside down at his request (with an upside down cross becoming a symbol of the Pope afterward because of it). Similarly, Andrew was said to be crucified on an X-shaped cross (such a symbol is now called the St. Andrews cross after his name). While not impossible attitudes differ in another world, this would be more likely viewed as blasphemous. Burning at the stake was generally used against "enemies of God" like heretics and supposed witches, similar to the Fey in their view here. Fey here are burned and crucified.
    • Father Carden believes that the Weeping Monk can be saved, despite being Fey. Yet other Fey never receive a chance for this-Carden specifically says no mercy must be given to them. While that might make sense if they're perceived as irredeemable demons, it also contradicts what he claims. This could be viewed as simply Carden's own bigotry, but this stance is portrayed as having the Pope's sanction, which goes against the Catholic doctrine, which says any person (non-humans were in fact discussed by theologians at times) must be given an opportunity to accept Christianity. Human pagans also seem to be killed without mercy like Fey, rather than at least attempts at converting them being made.
  • Bears Are Bad News: As a child, Nimue was attacked and nearly killed by a dark god in the guise of a giant bear.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: There are three enemy factions in the story: Uther's faction, Cumber's faction and the Church. While all three of them have conflicts with each other, especially Cumber and Uther, since they fight for the same throne and the same sword, both are capable of allying with the Church if the situation calls for it.
  • Black Vikings: The series is set in the British Isles in the Dark Ages; given there are Viking raiders and the Holy Roman Emperor is mentioned, the time period is presumably late 8th century at the earliest. Despite this there are many people of color present throughout the land, including people of color in prominent positions such as Sir Ector's wife Lady Marion, which no one comments on. Truth in Television, as there is archaeological evidence that people of African descent came to Britain during the rule of the Roman Empire and one Arthurian story from the 13th century featured Sir Morien, a Knight of the Round Table who is of Moorish descent (and isn't even the only non-white Knight either). Not to mention, less than a century earlier in time, Adrian of Canterbury, also known as St Hadrian, was an important abbot in England who had originally came from North Africa. It's important to note that modern understanding of race is Newer Than They Think, and their presence wouldn't have been seen as any odder than any other immigrant or foreigner.
  • Blaming the Victim: Nimue comes to Arthur for help after her village is sacked by the Red Paladins. While she rests at an abbey, Arthur steals the Sword of Power entrusted to her for his own purposes. When the Sword is in turn stolen from him, a furious Nimue confronts him about it and he in turn snaps that it's her fault for trusting him in the first place, as she knew he was a thief and mercenary.
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: Nimue fights and kills some Red Paladins who murdered Fey refugees in a pond; afterwards the water is almost completely red with blood.
  • Burn the Witch!: The series is full of witch-burning of the Fey by the Red Paladins, either torching entire villages, or chaining them up and burning them at the stake to make their point.
  • Canon Character All Along: There are a few characters who seem to be Canon Foreigners, only to be revealed as classic Arthurian characters. This includes:
    • Igraine, Arthur's nun sister, who explains soon after her introduction that her birth name is Morgana.
    • Squirrel, who in the Season 1 finale reveals his given name is Percival.
    • The Weeping Monk, who reveals at the end of Season 1 that he was once called Lancelot.
    • Although not mentioned on the show yet, the book Cursed is based upon reveals that the Red Spear's real name is Guinevere.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Using the Sword of Power excessively weakens Nimue, even causing her to pass out a few times.
  • Cat Girl: Kaze. She looks mostly human, but has tiger-like facial markings, long canine teeth and a bushy tail.
  • Character Shilling: Nimue is quickly held up by the Fey as being a great leader and fearsome warrior who is responsible for bringing them all together, but until the seventh episode all she's really done is have the Sword of Power in her possession and kill a few Paladins; she doesn't step up as a leader until the final minutes of this episode, though she begins living up to her reputation afterwards. In comparison, Gawain is actively doing more to rally the Fey and resist the Paladins for much longer (leading night raids, getting food, leading refugees to Nemos etc) but doesn't get nearly as much hype.
  • Church Militant: The Catholic Church in the series is portrayed as having an army called the Red Paladins who hunt down Fey, whom they have deemed demons. There is also another force called the Trinity Guards which is said to be even more fearsome. Pope Abel threatens Father Carden with the Trinity Guards usurping the Red Paladins if he is unable to produce results in the hunt for Nimue.
  • Cliffhanger: Season 1 ends with Nimue thrown out of a waterfall after being pierced by arrows by Iris. The Weeping Monk reveals he is Lancelot, a Fey, and ditches the Church to protect Percival. Iris joins the elite soldiers of the church, the Trinity Guards. Merlin gets his powers back and Morgana becomes the new Widow, and both flee. Arthur finds Red Spear, and she swears to help the Fey in her quest for vengeance against the Ice King.
  • Comically Inept Healing: The nuns try to heal a badly wounded Red Paladin by bleeding him, to which Nimue incredulously states "He's already bleeding". In this case, Morgana knows it's ludicrous, but the Red Paladins think the more effective herbal treatments of the Fey are witchcraft.
  • Connected All Along: It's revealed that Nimue and the Green Knight are Childhood Friends.
  • Cool Sword: The Sword of Power is an ancient Fey-forged sword covered in glowing runes, that can only be destroyed with Fey Fire and can grant the wielder great combat abilities.
  • Corrupt Church: The Catholic Church is portrayed as mostly a force of evil in the series. It's convinced that Fey are demons who must be killed without mercy, with an entire order called the Red Paladins tasked in doing this. A few exceptions exist, however, such as Abbess Nora and some of her nuns who don't agree with this. Nora is killed for heresy after it's revealed she gave sanctuary to Nimue, who's Fey.
  • Cuckold: Jonah learned that his wife had an affair while they were engaged, thus their daughter was biologically another man's. This was part of why he abandoned her.
  • Cut Short: Seeing as the show wasn't renewed for a second season, the final episode leaves many plotlines unfinished; in particular it's left unclear if and how main protagonist Nimue survived her injuries.
  • Demihuman: Sky Folk look visually identical to humans, while Ash Folk are distinguished only by facial markings that look like black tears dripping down their faces.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • The people who bullied Nimue for apparently no reason in their village. It was apparently common for her powers to go haywire by themselves and seriously harm, almost killing anyone that tries to attack her, but people kept finding reasons to intimidate her for no particular reason, and constantly getting their ass kicked by her powers acting on their own.
    • Merlin's negotiation with Cumber. In exchange for proof of his claim for the throne, his only plan is to offer Nimue to him as a war prisoner, let her offer him the sword (the Fey's only leverage in this conflict) and then beg for him to spare the fey. It's no wonder even Arthur, someone who wants to avoid conflict and direct fighting, realizes that a nearly suicidal siege is a better offer than that.
    • Iris wants to join the Red Paladins, but is told that they don't accept women. After she runs away, she tracks down some Paladins and is mistaken by them as a boy due to her more androgynous appearance at the time. You'd think she'd go along with this to increase her chances of acceptance, but instead she immediately informs them she's a girl and thus they immediately dismiss her.
  • Doomed Hometown: In the first episode, the Red Paladins destroy the Sky Folk's village and Nimue is forced to go on the run, tasked with bringing the Sword of Power to Merlin.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Downplayed with the Red Paladins. They have predominantly white membership, but do have a few men of color in their ranks. However, they don't let women join.
  • Evil Cripple: Brother Salt, a blind Red Paladin, is also their sadistic torturer.
  • Excalibur: Given its possession by The Lady of the Lake, the Sword of Power is implied to be this.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The Red Paladins believe all Fey are the spawn of evil and seek to wipe them out wherever they find them to "cleanse" the land.
    • Some Fey can be prejudiced towards humans; Merlin is widely seen as a traitor because he became an advisor for human rulers - to the point that some Fey think he should die for it - Gawain judges all humans by the actions of the Red Paladins and says they should kill as many humans as possible, and Arthur is met with unwarranted hostility by some Fey despite actively helping them.
  • Feminist Fantasy: The series is a much more feminist take on the Arthurian legend, told from the perspective of Nimue, The Lady of the Lake of the legend. She's remade into the lead character, who wields the Sword of Power while Arthur here is (although not unimportant) in a secondary position. Nimue leads the Fey to protect them from genocide, and is explicitly The Chosen One. Other female characters are also in prominent positions, both as warriors or otherwise. The difficulties many women would have in the medieval pastiche setting also get explored, such as mostly having been denied real power over their gender, which Nimue and the characters mentioned actively defy.
  • Fictional Earth: Although it's unclear just how much it differs from real Earth, Cursed appears to be set in an alternate Earth where magical beings have lived alongside humans for thousands of years, which in turn results in the Catholic Church leading a crusade against Fey-kind and witchcraft in the Dark Ages.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Lenore and Merlin fell in love after she drew the Sword of Power from his body, saving his life.
  • Forbidden Love:
    • Morgana's relationship with Celia was in violation of their vows to be celibate (being nuns) and also generally prohibited under Catholic doctrine, given they were a same-sex couple. She's initially alarmed when Nimue finds them together, but Nimue's got no problem with it.
    • Lenore and Merlin's love was forbidden; he was despised by most of Fey-kind for "betraying" them to serve humans, and Lenore was also betrothed to another man.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The show has several plotlines going on at once, some more interconnected and given more prevalence than others. By the end of Season 1, few have been resolved.
    • The A-plot concerns the Red Paladins committing genocide against the Fey and Nimue going on the run with the Sword of Power to deliver it to Merlin, hoping he can save them. About halfway through though, she decides she's going to use the Sword to fight back against the Paladins herself.
    • When Merlin learns about the Sword's reappearance, he decides to steal some Fey Fire from the lepers to destroy it, which takes up several episodes. Then when he realizes Nimue is his daughter, his motive switches to trying to keep her out of harm's way; all the while he's trying to keep out of trouble with Uther and other people he's ticked off. Merlin's storylines generally form the B-plot.
    • Uther wants the Sword for himself to secure his power especially when he learns he's not actually the true heir and clashes with his scheming mother.
    • Vikings led by King Cumber invade to reclaim the throne and the Sword, and get caught up in the conflict between the Paladins and the Fey they eventually side with the former.
    • Another band of Vikings led by the Red Spear (who are at war with Cumber) turn up and Nimue's buddy Pym joins up with the for protection, forming a romance with one of the raiders.
    • The Weeping Monk starts getting an attack of conscience as he hunts down the Fey culminating in him turning on the Paladins to save Squirrel and going on the run.
    • Arthur tries to reclaim his honor, initially in dubious ways such as stealing the Sword before he becomes devoted to protecting Nimue and helping the Fey, leading to a romance with Nimue.
    • Morgana, grieving for her murdered lover and struggling with a sense of powerlessness, is tempted to make a deal with a dark goddess for magical power.
    • Sister Iris sets out to prove herself to the Paladins by trying to get close to and kill Nimue.
  • Hate Sink: Bors; though there are quite a few detestable characters, Carden especially, they're mostly the Big Bad and major villains. Bors stands out for just being an utterly loathsome creep who bullies Arthur because of the debt he owes him, and takes a creepy interest in Nimue after meeting her, at one point all but outright declaring an intention to rape her, while being a constant Spanner in the Works. This is of course the intent of his character.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: The Green Knight is first seen returning from a mission in a vivid green helmet, which is easily the most noticeable part of the armor that gives him his name. Having thus established that the character is strongly associated with a distinctive helm, he takes it off and never wears it again.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Nemos is a sanctuary for Fey-kind hidden deep in the forest; the only way to reach it is by reading Fey runes that show the route.
  • Historical Fantasy: The series is set in a version of The Low Middle Ages in which magic is real and Fey, (several species of demihuman beings) are actively hunted by the Church, which views them as demons.
  • How Dad Met Mom: A lot of the sixth episode "Festa and Moreii", is dedicated to Merlin showing his newly-discovered daughter Nimue how he met her mother and why their relationship fell apart via magical visions. At one point, he nearly accidentally shows how she was conceived too, prompting her to quickly look away while shouting that she doesn't want to see this.
  • How We Got Here: The opening scene of the first episode depicts Nimue injured by arrows and sinking in a lake. The rest of the series revolves around the events that led her to this point.
  • Hunter of His Own Kind: The Weeping Monk, a Fey of the Ash Folk who was adopted by Father Carden and turned into his personal Tyke Bomb.
  • In Name Only: Aside from certain characters having the same names and/or similar roles (Arthur, Morgana, Nimue, Merlin, Uther Pendragon etc.), having a plot involving a magic sword that Only the Chosen May Wield and being set in the British Isles in the Dark Ages, overall the show's plot bears little resemblance to the usual stories in the Arthurian mythos.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Morgana and Nimue soon become close friends after Morgana helps shelter her from the Red Paladins. It helps that Morgana is already sympathetic to the Fey and she becomes one of Nimue's biggest supporters.
  • Interspecies Romance: Arthur, a human man, and Nimue, a Fey woman, end up developing romantic feelings for one another. It also counts as a Muggle–Mage Romance, seeing as Arthur is just a normal man while Nimue has magical powers considered unusual even amongst Fey kind.
  • In the Blood: Merlin fears that Nimue will be corrupted by the Sword of Power like he was because they're kin.
  • Irony: One of the Paladins' main goals is to find Nemos, the hidden base of the Fey refugees and resistance. They also dismiss Iris when she tries to join them simply because she's a girl. Iris manages to do what the Paladins couldn't and infiltrates Nemos with surprising ease; she's mistaken as another refugee and invited there.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: The Red Paladins use torture to extract information from prisoners, even children. One member, Brother Salt, is their full-time torturer.
  • Karmic Death: Uther kills his mother with poisoned wine, after finding out that she killed his birth mother using the same method.
  • Knight Templar: Many of the Red Paladins genuinely believe their quest to kill all the Fey is righteous and that they are carrying out God's work.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Morgana and Celia are secretly lovers (as they're nuns at the start). Both are also feminine young women with long hair and wear dresses, as was expected then.
  • Matriarchy: Kaze tells Nimue that her people are always ruled by queens.
  • The Middle Ages: The show is ostensibly set in the British Isles in The Low Middle Ages given England has been formed, there are Viking invaders, the Byzantium Empire and Holy Roman Empire are mentioned etc. though it makes minimal efforts to be historically accurate. It's a bit of an unusual choice given that the Arthurian Legends are usually set a few centuries earlier in the so-called Dark Ages (not that this stops most creators from using fashion, architecture and technology belonging more to The High Middle Ages).
  • Modesty Bedsheet:
    • Lenore is shown with a blanket covering her chest after she had slept with Merlin.
    • Arthur and Nimue both have the bed covers up over their chests on waking up the next morning.
  • Naughty Nuns: In a downplayed example, Morgana (who's a nun at the start) is secretly lovers with her fellow nun Celia. This isn't fetishized, although they're still attractive, but portrayed as sweet. However, they still count as it violates both their vows to be celibate and is doubly forbidden as they're a same-sex couple.
  • Not Actually His Child: Jonah abandoned Nimue since he learned that she wasn't biologically his daughter, and also because he was afraid of her powers.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Catherine Walker's English accent slips especially in the second episode during her talk with Nimue at the lake.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Fey collectively refers to many different kinds of beings, some more closely resembling humans than others. Some, such as the Tusks and Snake Clan, are humanoid with animal-like attributes, the Moon Wings look like traditional fairies with butterfly wings and the Sky Folk look indistinguishable from humans unless they use their powers (which cause green vine-like markings to appear on their faces).
  • Parental Abandonment: A lot of characters are lacking in the parent department.
    • Nimue's father Jonah left when she was a young child out of fear of her powers and because he became aware she wasn't his biological daughter. Later, it turns out that her birth father is Merlin. Once this is revealed they begin a relationship. Her mother is also killed at the end of the first episode.
    • Tor, Arthur and Morgana's father, died in a tavern brawl defending a bar maid. There's no mention of their mother.
    • Uther's father died in the past, and he kills his mother after learning they are not his parents by blood. She took him from his birth mother, a peasant, murdering her to cover it up. His birth father is not mentioned, though he was also possibly dead or absent already since there's no indication that he was another "complication" which she had also dealt with. It's possibly implied he was born out of wedlock.
    • Iris's father killed her mother, and then was presumably put to death for it or otherwise went out of the picture as she grew up in the abbey.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Nimue looks away hurriedly and begs Merlin to move the vision along when it shows her parents embracing passionately, clearly about to have sex (quite possibly when she'd been conceived), narrowly avoiding an unwanted primal scene.
  • Powers That Be: The Fey (and some humans who hold to the 'old ways' like Morgana) believe in the Hidden, gods of nature who they believe can influence their lives and grant some of them powers.
  • Race Lift: Both Arthur and Morgana are played by black actors in this incarnation.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Both Cumber the Ice King and his raiders, and Father Carden and his Red Paladins, are fond of this. The rape part is only explicitly implied by one Red Paladin's comments to Iris though otherwise not shown, but the rest we see pretty clearly in action. The Red Spear's forces also do this, but are portrayed more sympathetically as they're in opposition with Cumber and are convinced by Pym to Pay Evil unto Evil against the Red Paladins.
  • Red Is Violent: The Red Paladins wear red robes and carry red flags, and they're constantly committing acts of violence against the Fey or anyone they see as sinful.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: A few changes are made to Arthur and Morgana's family as it's usually presented in the legends:
    • Igraine is mentioned as being Arthur and Morgana's grandmother, rather than their mother.
    • Ector is their uncle-by-marriage rather than Arthur's adoptive father.
    • Similarly, Merlin and Nimue have a very different relationship in the show, being father and daughter when in the myths, they were lovers in a Mentor Ship.note .
  • Religious Horror: One of the main villainous factions of Cursed are the militant Catholic Red Paladins, who are portrayed as a terrifying inquisition. They find pagan communities and burn them to the ground, killing whatever is in their sight. They also won't hesitate to torture and kill anyone they suspect of aiding the Fey, however unwittingly, all the while justifying and even exalting their actions as holy.
  • The Reveal:
    • Merlin is Nimue's real father.
    • Uther Pendragon actually isn't the previous king's son; Queen Lunete's child was stillborn and she replaced him with a peasant's baby son to stay in power.
    • The Weeping Monk is a type of Fey called Ash Folk and his real name is Lancelot.
  • Sadist: Brother Salt shows a clear enjoyment of his work as a torturer.
  • Sadly Mythcharacterized: The Cailleach is a deity in real world Irish Celtic mythology, but she appears to bear next to no resemblance to the Cailleach as depicted in Cursed. The real-world Cailleach is a goddess of winter, storms and the harvest, and protecter of wild animals, often depicted as an old woman, not a dark spider-like entity who makes sinister deals with people and eats children.
  • Savage Wolves: While fleeing from the Red Paladins after they attack her village, Nimue is attacked by a pack of wolves. Using the Sword of Power, she's able to kill them all and it's this incident that leads to her being known as the Wolf Blood Witch.
  • Scenery Porn: Much of the scenery is very nice to look at, though the scenes set in the lush forests of the Fey are particularly beautiful.
  • Secret Relationship: Morgana and Celia have to keep their relationship secret, because they're two nuns living in Dark Ages Britain. When Nimue walks in on them kissing, Morgana initially tries to threaten Nimue into keeping quiet, until Nimue says she wouldn't tell because she doesn't think they've done anything wrong.
  • Setting Update: Most Arthurian adaptations (unless they go full-scale epic fantasy and take place in another world) seem to take place in the 5th or 6th centuries (the historical figure or figures that may have inspired the Arthurian legends is believed to have lived around this time and fought the Saxons). Cursed appears to take place a few centuries later, after the Viking raids began in Britain in the late 8th century but before the Norman conquest in 1066. As such, there are several Viking characters who play large roles in the story, such as Cumber and the Red Spear, who either have no counterpart in the legends or deviate greatly from the source material. Uther is also described here as being the king of England; the Kingdom of England was founded in 927 AD by King Aethelstan, which would put the time period in the 10th century.
  • Shout-Out: While the story is an adaptation of Arthurian Legend, a lot of its plot bares a strong resemblance to another certain High Fantasy epic: an Ancient Artifact that everyone seeks out (and corrupts its wielder into keeping it) that can only be destroyed in the fires of its creation falls into the hands of a peasant who gathers a fellowship that attracts the attention of various governing powers (both magic and mundane) with a wise old wizard who fears using the artifact due to its corrupting influence.
  • Superior Species: The Fey, in typical Our Elves Are Different sense, who besides the fact they're seemingly more magically-inclined, many of their tribes have animal-like traits with the resulting advantages, and dialogue indicates that Fey are in-general physically more capable than mere humans. This is Played for Drama, as their superiority marks them as different enough to be on the receiving end of Fantastic Racism, and as they're both greatly outnumbered by humans and whatever physical advantages they hold are apparently not very significant, they're currently being hunted to extinction by human extremists. The advantages they possess though are best showcased by The Weeping Monk, who is a One-Man Army capable of significant physical feats of agility, strength, and combat, and survives being beaten by maces with only some bruising, which makes him a very useful weapon against his own people.
  • Supernaturally Young Parent: Merlin doesn't look old enough to be Nimue's father (as the actors are only fifteen years apart-although that has happened). It's revealed however that he hasn't aged for centuries.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Nimue is planning to cross-dress in the first episode to get on a boat. However the boat has already left by the time she arrives at the port.
  • Switched at Birth: It turns out that Uther isn't actually royalty. He was just the son of a peasant woman, and when the queen gave birth to a stillborn baby, she took him from her (also murdering his mother to cover it up). He's outraged after discovering this, and then kills his putative mother in revenge.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Sword of Power is one of the last Fey-forged magical swords made by the Shadow Lords. It can only be destroyed by the Fey-fire from whence it was forged and any who wield it can call themselves king (or queen) of the land as others have before. When wielded by Nimue, it amplifies her magic, although it also seems to corrupt its wielder if used for long enough which is what happened to Merlin and why he now seeks to destroy the Sword.
  • Technicolor Fire: Fey Fire, which was used to forge the Sword of Power and is the only thing that can destroy it, is bright green.
  • Their First Time: In "Poisons" Arthur and Nimue have sex after much obvious mutual attraction. She explicitly says it was her first, while saying it's different than she expected, but enjoyable.
  • Token Minority: Arthur and Morgana become black in the series, along with some minor/background characters.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Nimue feigns being a young, clumsy girl with a sore tooth to enter a city. A sadistic Red Paladin asks the man accompanying her to remove her tooth on the spot to soothe her pain, and the viewer accompanies the impromptu surgery.
  • Torture Technician: Brother Salt of the Red Paladins specializes in torture, and isn't impeded through being blind at all.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Merlin still has a flower given to him by his former lover Lenore.
  • Trust Password: If trying to figure out if someone is a Fey, a member of the Fey will greet them with the phrase "Born in the dawn..." to which they are supposed to reply with " pass in the twilight." The full phrase, as spoken by Gawain and Squirrel, is apparently "A knight of the Fey is one with the land, as enduring as the Great River and as true as Arawn's bow. We are born in the dawn, to pass in the twilight."
  • Tyke Bomb: The Weeping Monk was raised by Father Carden for the sole purpose of hunting and killing the Fey. He's very good at it, standing out significantly next to the Red Paladins, which is likely because of the fact he's Fey himself.
  • Uncertain Doom: Nimue, at the end of the season. Iris pierces her with arrows, before she falls off a bridge into a waterfall.
  • Warrior Monk: Red Paladins are an order of Catholic clergy tasked to hunt down and kill every Fey. Most are titled "Brother", with their leader being called "Father". All wear red robes in the same design as Catholic monks.
  • Wham Line: In the Season 1 finale, the Weeping Monk finally reveals his name: Lancelot.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Fey women or girls are targeted equally with males by the Red Paladins, including the main character, whom they call a witch.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Red Paladins show no compunctions toward killing or torturing children. The Weeping Monk is the only exception, and his growing disgust over his "brothers" lack of compunction about this motivates his Heel–Face Turn.