(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for NBC's Emerald City)
This past Friday Emerald City premiered on NBC and fans of #TheWizardofOz were whisked away to a whole new version of the fairytale land. Over the last few decades, there have been several interpretations of L. Frank Baum's classic story, most famously brought life in the 1939 film adaptation starring Judy Garland. The two-hour premier proved #EmeraldCity to be an almost unrecognizable version of Dorothy's adventures in Oz. Whether this will be a successful retelling or an unpopular retelling has yet to be decided.
Episodes 1 and 2, "The Beast Forever" and "Prison of the Abject," seemed to maintain the bare necessities required of any Wizard of Oz retelling. Taking place in the modern day, Dorothy (Adria Arjona) is transported from Kansas to Oz via a tornado. Upon her arrival, she meets a group of people who put her on her path to the Emerald City.
Throw in the death of the Wicked Witch of the East (Florence Kasumba) and the introduction of the essential Glinda (Joely Richardson) and the (not so) Wicked Witch of the West (Ana Ularu), and, poof, that is about all you recognize from the original plot. From here (to the excitement of some and the cringing of others) the creative liberties set in.
The Reimagined Land Of Oz
The show wastes no time getting to the drama with baby Dorothy being abandoned by her mother, Karen. During this scene, the camera closes in on a unique birthmark on the infant's hand (we already smell prophecy). 20 years later, just before the twister takes Dorothy, she went to confront Karen at her trailer. What she found was a dead cop and tornado tracking equipment. Discovering Karen in a storm cellar with a gunshot wound, Dorothy went for help despite Karen's warning about the police. The plot thickens when another officer appears and takes aim at Dorothy. Jumping into a police car with a German Shepard (Toto, is that you?), Dorothy is sucked up by the tornado before he can shoot her.
The thickening plots are as present in Oz as they were in Kansas. Dorthy's arrival sets in motion a prophecy (it is a "chosen one" story, we knew it!) that has something to do with a dark event in Oz's history called "The Beast Forever." Seeing a police car fall from the sky through footage from a flying monkey surveillance drone (no, really), the Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio) realizes that Dorothy is heralding in the potential end of his reign. This is a stressful situation for the Wizard, who rules Oz with an iron fist in a way reminiscent of his counterpart in Gregory Maguire's fantastic Wicked Years series.
Beyond the characters, the premiere gave us a taste of the rich culture and heritages that were designed for Emerald City, giving a depth to the different populations of Oz that is rarely seen outside of the literature. The landscape is, likewise, presented quite differently, with the most notable change being the Emerald City itself. Usually depicted as more advanced than the rest of Oz, this version of the city is on par with something one would expect to see in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.
A Darker, Edgier Oz For Today's World
Emerald City creator Matthew Arnold's darker, edgier version of Oz is unlike anything we've seen in that universe before. There appear to be cultural struggles: the Wizard has outlawed magic, Glinda is a seemingly power-hungry frenemy, and the Wicked Witch of the West is frequently drugged-up and running a brothel. Elsewhere in Oz, Dorothy is packing heat, killing witches, and getting flirty with an amnesia-stricken, hunky version of the Scarecrow (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). It will be interesting to see what happens when all these characters cross paths for the first time.
Those who grew up with The Wizard of Oz will enjoy the references to the original story and, perhaps also, the very creative way in which the tale has been retooled. Ripe with prophecies, monsters, magic and romance, Emerald City has the potential to introduce The Wizard of Oz to a new generation. Viewers will be watching carefully to see if the 10-episode miniseries will earn a place in the Land of Oz or not.
What did you think of Emerald City? Tell us in the comments below!