Emerald City is a reimagining of the L. Frank Baum books for a GoT generation, airs on Friday nights on NBC (on Fridays at 9/8c). All images belong to their respective owners. No infringement intended. This week’s discussion contains spoilers so fair warning…
First off, an apology. Last week I said that there were seven episodes left (I thought) in the series, as I was counting the premiere as a single, two-hour long episode. It was, in fact, two episodes (despite my blog title) “The Beast Forever” and “Prison of the Abject”. So, last night’s episode is actually the halfway point, so there had better be some plot development… and was there ever. Can you hear my sarcasm yet?
For the past several episodes, the trailers for Emerald City have been leading up to the infamous delivery of Margaret Hamilton’s line, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” and we get this fairly early in the episode. West’s (Ana Ularu) ‘wicked’ nature is portrayed in the series as a brothel-owning, opiate-using, rage-filled, impulsive magic user, with an ambiguous sexuality that I haven’t been able to pin down, as she seems ready to shag anything with two feet. She also seems grossly unhappy.
Dorothy meeting Karen Chapman (sort of) in West’s dungeon was a bit of a let-down with the character. Dorothy, how naive are you? My husband joked, “She’s not a good witch, or a bad witch, she’s a dumb witch.”
As expected, the episode undoes the filler nonsense of the last episode in an almost comical reshuffling of the main characters: Dorothy is now free, Sylvie is now free, Lucas is now arrested (by the end of the episode) and likely facing death for his past.
I admit to not seeing the relationship development between Jack and Lady Ev, but I wonder if that wasn’t shoe-horned in because convention requires another “insert romantic subplot here” and Tip, while now in the service of West (who may or may not be sexually inclined towards her), is unlikely to be available. I think that viewers would be repulsed by the age gap in what is traditionally a children’s story should things develop in that corner.
Tip really irked me this time around too. She won’t help Dorothy, then she does help Dorothy, so she “won’t be responsible for another death”. But less than five minutes after that decision, her choice to lie about her actions results in the death of someone else. So, are you only not wanting to be responsible for good people’s death here, Tip? Or anyone’s? Your reasoning is unclear. And who defines good in the Oz universe anyway? There’s no apparent religious influence, like, anywhere, so isn’t good/evil just subjective in this case?
We learn what Ojo’s motivation is for capturing Dorothy and he’s bound to seek revenge in a later episode, perhaps offering a much-needed alliance against the confrontation with ‘The Beast Forever’. Don’t underestimate the little guy (pun intended!). There’s plenty of room in that tribal vibe he’s got going on for some sort of arcane knowledge of how to defeat the major boss at the end of the season.
I did really like the Festival of the Beast as portrayed with the festivities and the sky lanterns which allowed Lucas and Dorothy to sneak into Emerald City undetected (convenient!) and the latter into the completely unguarded castle (seriously?!) and finally, into the Wizard’s private quarters (nobody’s around? really?!!).
Lady Ev and Jack share a few moments which had some contrived language for the sake of plot (“You earn a friend”, instead of the standard, “You make a friend”, which hey, technically, Lady Ev did… but that wouldn’t serve the story.)
The CGI of the sky lanterns and the aerial shots of Emerald City were fine. I’ve always thought sky lanterns were romantic and magical, even pre-dating their rise in popularity circa Disney’s Tangled (did the Wizard’s palace remind anyone of that?) Synergy!
All of this CGI is present as background for Dorothy’s not-so-epic confrontation to meet the Wizard, to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album — suitably trippy. Younger audiences may not be familiar with the Dark Side of the Rainbow theory, but it’s a nice nod and segway into where exactly did the Wizard get all of his science from, and how does he know what a bullet is. GASP, a cliffhanger!
Despite all of my snark, I really am quite enjoying the series and trying to anticipate what’s actually going on and what’s coming up. My guess is that we’ll have to wait at least another episode as Episode 6 entitled “Beautiful Wickedness” is bound to be Glinda-centric (Joely Richardson is overdue for some face-time), and it’ll probably further Lady Ev’s background (why does she wear masks?).
My speculations also include that Jack will eventually prove the catalyst for changing Lady Ev’s mind to assist the Wizard in helping defeat ‘The Beast Forever’ instead of watching Oz burn (or drown, as Ev’s preference seems to be). But probably not before her true colors flare up and in a rage, she banishes him, or he flees, leading towards an eventual reunion with Tip and Tip’s newly-developing feelings towards boys (encouraged in a yet-unseen episode by her experiences in West’s brothel) and a culmination of an age-appropriate romance.
Based on the episode 7’s title, “They Came First”, at some point I suspect that the writers will finally get back to Dorothy and the Wizard, and tie in her mysterious birth/dropping off at Karen Chapman’s trailer, the Wizard’s knowledge of science, and the snowy forest Dorothy stumbled upon when trying to channel East’s powers. But how did the witches of Oz cross over into our world, and why? And could it have anything to do with the death of West, East, and Glinda’s mother, South?
What’s your theory? Where do you think the story is headed? Leave a comment below.
For some fun background facts on the Oz books and film adaptations, check out the Oz Wiki at: http://oz.wikia.com/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Wiki
For some great clips and photos from the series, check out the official website at: http://www.nbc.com/emerald-city