tek's rating: ¾

Emerald City, on NBC
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This was just 10 episodes long, and it's one of those things where I'm not sure, at the start, whether it's supposed to be a limited series with a single season and fully contained story, or whether it's meant to have more than one season. But I will tell you right now, the season ends on a cliffhanger, so the creators were obviously hoping for a second season. And I liked it well enough that I kind of hoped it would get one, but the show wasn't particularly well-received either critically or in terms of ratings. So it's not surprising that it was cancelled after one season, and I'm not terribly disappointed about it. I mean, it's a lot different from the normal sort of "Oz" stories, and some of the twists are kind of interesting. But the various plotlines are kind of muddled and confusing. I kind of wish I could have seen how a second season would have played out, though.

Anyway, it begins on a stormy night 20 years ago, when a woman leaves her baby on a doorstep in Lucas, Kansas. In the present, that baby is now a young nurse named Dorothy Gale, who knows she was adopted by "Aunt Em" and "Uncle Henry." She's ambivalent about potentially meeting her real mother, Karen Chapman, who has recently reached out to her. She finally does meet Karen, during another storm, but immediately has to run, when the police show up. (There is a murdered man nearby, and Karen herself seems near death, but what exactly transpired before Dorothy got there is unclear.) She ends up taking shelter from the storm in a police car, the only other occupant of which is a police dog. The car gets swept up in a tornado, and when it lands and the storm passes, Dorothy soon finds she's not in Kansas anymore.

She is, of course, in the land of Oz, which is ruled by the Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio), who apparently defeated some kind of monster called the Beast Forever, years ago. Now witchcraft is outlawed, but there are four "cardinal witches" whom the Wizard allows to rule their own corners of Oz, I guess. And the car Dorothy was in hit the Witch of the East while it was caught in the tornado, apparently killing her. After she lands, she meets a tribe of people called Munja'kins (who are nothing like Munchkins). And I'm not sure whether they actually liked or disliked the witch who ruled them, but they certainly weren't pleased that Dorothy had killed her. So, they have a vote on whether to kill Dorothy or just exile her. They choose the latter, and one of them, Ojo, leads her to the border of his people's land. (He also tells her that "toto" is their word for "dog," which is why Dorothy ends up calling the police dog that's now traveling with her "Toto.") However, we'll later see that the Witch of the East isn't dead after all. Meanwhile, Dorothy meets a man who's sort of been crucified, but he's not quite dead yet, and begs for her help. She gets him down from the cross, and learns that he has no memory of his past. She decides to call him "Lucas," after her home town. (And I guess he's supposed to be the scarecrow.)

And... I should say, I think the Witch of the South had died some time before the series starts, I'm not sure. But the main witches we see will be Glinda of the North (Joely Richardson) and the Witch of the West. They're sisters, but they don't get along very well. Also... Dorothy and Lucas encounter the Witch of the East again, and she does them some harm, but Dorothy tricks her into killing herself with a gun (something that no one in Oz has ever seen). After East's death, her gauntlets sort of get absorbed into Dorothy's hands, so she acquires some of the witch's magic. (But not all of it, because we'll eventually see some of East's magic go to someone else, but I don't want to get into all that.) Later, Dorothy and Lucas meet an "apothecary" named Mombi, who I expect is actually a witch, just not practicing since the Wizard outlawed witchcraft. She's holding a boy named Tip hostage, and Dorothy and Lucas help him escape. Tip runs away with his friend Jack, but the next day when they wake up, Tip has transformed into a girl. Also, the Wizard has sent some of his guards, led by a man named Eamonn, to kill her. So they'll be tracking her down for awhile. Meanwhile, at one point Dorothy and Lucas meet a young girl called Sylvie, who turns out to be a witch in training, who had been separated from her group some time ago. She doesn't talk (at least I don't recall ever hearing her speak), so Dorothy and Lucas don't learn much about her, but they do befriend her. And we'll eventually learn a bit more about her (including that her real name is Leith). We'll also eventually learn that Lucas's real name is Roan, though Dorothy will always continue to call them Sylvie and Lucas.

Well, so many things happen over the course of ten episodes, and I don't want to spoil too much of it. But I must say that it's not long before we learn that Tip was born a girl, but Mombi had used a potion to transform her into a boy, a potion that had to be administered every day, I guess. So after leaving her, it wears off. However, Tip had no idea she hadn't been a boy her whole life, it's all she'd ever known, and it's how she... or I should say, how he identified. And he wanted to get his old body back. This whole subplot is probably the thing I found most interesting about the series, as a rather unique twist on the whole concept of gender identity. And speaking of identity, we eventually learn Tip's real name, and why Mombi had been hiding him away all these years. That's not something I want to spoil, though if the show does get a second season, I suppose I'll have to. I will say that he does eventually turn back into his old self, but subsequently has to return to being a girl, for a reason that ties into his/her true heritage and destiny. And he's still in a girl's body at the end of the season, but I maintain hope that someday he'll change back into a boy... because I think that's just what would be right for him.

Meanwhile, something happens to Jack that leaves him nearly dead. However, a scientist named Jane Andrews saves his life by replacing parts of his body with mechanical prosthetics. (So I guess he's like the Tin Man.) And this operation has been paid for by Langwidere, the princess of a city called Ev. So now she owns Jack, but eventually she tries to become friends with him. Also, she has a grudge against the Wizard, who had allowed the Beast Forever to do great harm to her city, the last time it appeared. And it does reappear periodically, always in a different form. The Wizard has a council of advisers (women who had been trained by Glinda), who are supposed to predict when and in what form the Beast will next return to Oz. At first he thought whoever had come to Oz via the storm was the Beast, which is why he sent his men to kill her. However, when he learns that she's Dorothy, and not the Beast Forever, we get some flashbacks to how he, and Karen, and Jane, had all originally come to Oz. And he makes a deal with Dorothy to do something for him, in exchange for sending her back to Kansas. But what he wants her to do, I won't spoil. Nor will I say whether she succeeds.

In fact, there's really not much more I want to say about the series. Except that a war is brewing, with like four different sides, and shifting allegiances. And none of them seem particularly good. I should also say that Lucas does eventually get his memory back, which leads to his separation from Dorothy. And we learn that Eamonn is this story's version of the Cowardly Lion. And there is just so much I'm leaving out. Hopefully I've given you some sense of how confusing the story is, but even so, I've barely scratched the surface. I don't want to say how the war turns out, but I will say that at the end of the season, the Beast Forever finally makes its appearance... sort of. We don't get to see exactly what form it's taken, or what it does. But Dorothy does get back to Kansas... and not long thereafter, Roan/Lucas shows up, and tells her she's needed back in Oz, because of what the Beast has done (which I won't spoil, mainly because it would require me to spoil something else). Anyway, that's the cliffhanger. Dorothy has to decide whether or not she's willing to return to all that craziness and danger. (I think it's safe to assume she would go back if there were a second season, so it's a shame we don't get to see that.)

fantasy index

Untitled Document The Wizard of Oz
movies: The Wizard of Oz * Journey Back to Oz * Return to Oz * Oz the Great and Powerful * Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
TV: Tales of the Wizard of Oz * The Wizard of Oz in Concert * The Muppets' Wizard of Oz * Tin Man * Once Upon a Time * The Wiz Live! * Emerald City
web: Lost in Oz
comics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz