Netflix's newest fantasy series, Cursed, tells the story of Nimue (Katherine Langford), a young woman with mysterious magical powers. From the outset, we're shown that she commands a strange power over not only the natural world, but over fate itself. But the origins of Nimue's powers in Cursed are even stranger still, and the answer to just how strange lies in Cursed's source material: Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller's bestselling novel.
Cursed's premise revolves around reimagining the classic King Arthur fairy tale by dipping into the story from before Arthur becomes king. It does that by focusing primarily on the infamous Lady of the Lake, whose name is actually Nimue. As the story goes, the Lady of the Lake (i.e., Nimue) chooses to bestow the Sword of Power (i.e., Excalibur) to Arthur, and in so doing, offers him a symbol of not just power but of the "true sovereignty" of Britain.
Cursed reaches back further to explore how the Lady of the Lake came to be associated with the sword in the first place, and what her possession of it meant for the years preceding Arthur's rule. In other words, it explores a world in which a queen wielded Excalibur — but again, not just any queen: a queen with powers from strange and mysterious sources.
In the show's trailer, Nimue's face is streaked with green veins, implying a connection to the natural world around her. But we also see that there's a darker, more sinister edge to her power. According to co-creator Wheeler, who spoke with Barnes & Noble about Cursed, "[Nimue is] a pariah among her people, thanks to the scars on her back, the result of an encounter with a Dark God in her early childhood, an encounter she should not have survived but somehow did." He went on to spell out her connection to the natural world, saying, "She also has an extraordinary connection to The Hidden, the spiritual ancestors of her Skyfolk Clan and the source of their magic. This power comes unbidden to her in visions and moments of shocking nature magic."
In the show itself, both of these powers are on full display in a particular scene: shortly after Nimue and Pym (Lily Newmark) meet a handsome young man named Arthur (Devon Terrell) — an obvious reference and connection to the King Arthur — they get into a small gamble against one of Arthur's brothers-in-arms. Arthur warns Nimue that the dice in play are weighted, but Nimue chooses to play anyway, and uses her natural power (again, on display via the green veins and slithering sounds) to influence the outcome. She's asked to do it again, only this time she's under much harsher scrutiny, as everyone's watching her face, not the dice. As she rolls, her face doesn't change, but the dice come out in her favor again regardless, as the sound of creepy whispering rises to a crescendo in the background; such is the contrast of her two powers.
The origin of Nimue's powers are but one of the many mysteries at the heart of Cursed, a thoroughly fresh and feminist reimagining of the legend of King Arthur.