TV Fantasy is in a bit of a renaissance right now, along with all other manner of geek-centric tv, which is fine by me. What can get a bit tiresome is reboots and revisions of existing concepts, like rather than make a whole new show, we’re going to do a public domain classic, but put a new spin on it, and hope it works.
Well, I can say that so far, after seeing the first two episodes of Emerald City, it mostly works for me. It’s The Wizard Of Oz meets Game of Thrones, essentially. We start out twenty years in the past, when a mysterious woman drops off an infant with an odd circular birthmark on her hand (I’m sure that’s totally not going to come into play later with this child being the chosen one at all) on a trailer in Kansas.
We then cut to our present day, and Dorothy (Adria Arjona-True Detective) is a medical assistant at a local hospital in Kansas. She’s been brought up by her Aunt Em, of course, but keeps an eye on her mother by visiting her house, but never talking to her. She goes to her house to talk to her finally, to find a dead police officer at the bottom of her basement, and her mother is also bleeding. Another cop shows up and pulls out his trigger to fire on her before he’s sucked up by an approaching tornado. It must be a magic tornado, because this happens twenty feet ahead of her, and there’s no wind force pulling her in or anything. She runs into the dead cop’s car and gets sucked up into the twister along with the policeman’s dog, and then is transported to the magical land of Oz wherein she runs over the Wicked Witch, East (Florence Kasumba-Captain America:Civil War) and is taken by the local tribe of Wildlings er Munchkins, and his held hostage, telling her that “Only a witch can kill another witch”.
Eventually they set her free on her journey, along with the dog, called a ‘Toto’ in their language, which then becomes the dog’s name (of course it does) and she goes off on her journey along the yellow poppy filled road, before succumbing to the opium and tripping out a bit, and then she encounters the proxy for the Scarecrow in this version, an amnesiac former soldier for the Wizard who was set to be crucified, whom she gives the name Lucas to (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen: Dracula tv series) And they set off on their journey to see the Wizard.
There’s also a whole lot of expository backstory stuff with The Wizard (Vincent Donofrio) and the Witches. It seems that before this story happened, a great war was waged against a demon called The Beast, which wasn’t defeated until The Wizard came along and outlawed magic, except for the four witches from each direction, North, East, South, and West, of course. It’s some fascinating backstory, that hopefully will be fleshed out further as the show goes on, and Donofrio kills it once more as ostensibly the real villain of the piece. If you haven’t seen his portrayal of Wilson Fisk in the Daredevil series you really should, the man does complex villains well.
The real star of this whole show though are the visuals. Director Tarsem Singh (Cell, Immortals) knows visuals, and his redesigns of the land of Oz are fantastic to look at. It’s not the same Oz that Judy Garland and friends walked through, it’s not even the uber dark Return to Oz from the 80s, it’s it’s own thing, a new version that feels original, unlike some other attempted reboots.
I look forward to seeing where this show goes forward, learning more about the backstory of this world, and seeing how the rest of the story does it’s twists and turns, making this one a definite show to watch this mid-season.
Emerald City airs Friday nights at 9 pm on NBC.