A few weeks ago a show caught my attention that I hadn’t heard of at all. There were no whispers or murmurs of this show anywhere….at least not the places and spaces I dig and crawl through and find things. Trust me I do have a good set of eyes & ears as far as picking up on new shows is concerned. So a few days after the show premiered I was perusing through a list of new shows that I could possibly invest my time & interest in…and voila! There it was…’Emerald City.’ That led me to Youtube to check out the promotional trailer, which then led to the discovery that Vincent D’Onofrio is on this show which in turn piqued my curiosity even more, because let’s face it, the man picks very interesting projects.
The trailer was pretty darn interesting. Okay maybe I was having a nice senior moment, but for some reason I didn’t make the connection between the title and The Wizard of Oz. Heck, when I read the title I thought it might be a show on Irish mythology. The trailer in itself showcases that it’s a different take on The Wizard of Oz, not what we have come to expect after reading or watching the different adaptations over time. The cinematography and visuals are quite spectacular, in fact you get a certain ‘Once Upon A Time’ and steampunk-ish vibes when you watch the promo. Following the promo I started watching the show, and, I was sold within the first 5 minutes of the proceedings. Why? Because Gina freaking Bellman is on the show, at least she was in the pilot! Which made this far more interesting…fast!
Alright, let’s get into my thots about the show so far. The first 2 eps will leave you confused, perhaps even a little unsatisfied & with a boat load of questions. But that is to be expected, I mean how can you watch a show if everything is explained within the first 2 eps? That just ruins the mystery, appeal and intrigue right? Anyway, all I can say is that the curiosity & suspense regarding the plot-line just keeps building after each episode. The characters on this show are starkly different from what you’ve read and watched on other Oz adaptations. One of my fav aspects of the show is just how much the creators have dived into and played with the gray spectrum of human nature. There’s more than one way to view a character as good or bad, not just by their costumes or dialogues, but also by their actions and the situations they’re in that bring out this bivalent nature. It’s not our inherent natures, personalities, attributes, strengths or weaknesses that define us really. It’s how & what we turn to in order to survive that gets us labelled as good or bad. None of the characters are black or white representations of good or evil. Everyone is on a quest of their own.
The next few lines are going to be a few things that really stood out and were moments that made me pause and say ‘Hmmm…’ that’s an interesting way to put it. So this is my way of saying SPOILER ALERT for those of you who care, in which case skip this paragraph. For those of you who just don’t give a damn, as you were I guess. In this adaptation of Oz-ness, Dorothy is adopted by a couple after her Mum comes running to their house for help. It’s unclear what or who her Mother was running away from. Anyway flash forward and Dorothy wants to get to know her birth mother and she tries to go and talk to her but loses her nerve every time apparently. Then when she finally gets the courage to do so things get a little complicated, there’s a little blood and disturbance, trouble with cops and then a tornado which pretty much teleports her to Oz land…where she is on a completely bizarre new journey. When she lands in Oz she is subsequently captured/held & tortured for a wee lil’ bit before being released/freed, with some advice from a tribe leader telling her to follow the yellow road to Oz to see the Wizard, who in turn will be able to answer her questions, hell even save her. The yellow road, we find out, is made of pollen from the Opium poppy, which eventually has an effect on Dorothy and travellers she meets along the way & accrues as she heads on towards Oz. After watching the last 4 eps, the Yellow Road had me doing a lot of thinking. While the road takes you to your ultimate destination that has the answers, sometimes the path prescribed the most isn’t the path that you as an individual need to take to get to your goals. That commonly taken path might be one full of delusions that dim your hope away, and, may cause you to stray more from your destination, as opposed to the path you choose to make and take to your end goal. Besides, life has a funny way of giving us answers we’re looking for in the most interesting places and spaces, and a quest is not defined by a fixed path, but by the choices we make. One of the characters on this show has caught my attention more than the others. The character is a young kid, well is introduced to us as a young boy, probably in their early to mid teens. This character was given a magic potion (for lack of a better term) to help keep them alive, because as per the kid’s guardian he apparently has ‘bad blood.’ Now magic is something that is banned in Oz, a decree passed and enforced by the Wizard. So this kid was told that without the elixir they would die from their condition. The information was given him by his guardian, most probably a witch, who keeps him under lock and key at all times. Eventually, the character is busted outta house prison by a friend, only problem is they don’t have enough elixir for him to take on a daily basis to stay alive. Kid & his friend spend the night in the forest…the next morning kid makes a discovery after running out of the elixir, much to his surprise and horror he finds himself transformed into a girl. In the subsequent episodes you find out the elixir helped hide the fact that he’s a girl. The character’s struggle is heart wrenching to watch. Spending all your life thinking & believing you’re one way only to discover you’re not and not knowing how to handle something so complicated and not knowing whom to turn to or what to do, is definitely beyond frustrating, aggravating & nerve wracking. While trying to adapt to his new body, comes the expectation to adapt to gender roles in society. The character spouts a pretty epic line in episode 4 and it stuck with me. It goes something like this, ‘So basically as a woman you’re telling me my options are either to become a nun or be a whore?’ There was something so damn profound in those words. Society and their perceptions really peg us down. Why do we let assumptions and perceptions define what can or can’t be done, or what expectations are? Why can’t everyone, regardless of all the differences we like to get into, be able to set their own expectations and standards? So far, these are the scenes/moments that have stuck with me, I’m sure there’ll be more ‘lightbulb’ moments as the show progresses.
This show’s locales and cinematography is very reminiscent of something that’s a cross between ‘Once Upon A Time,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Merlin,’ and LOTR, with a hint of steam-punk dashed around. In terms of plot it reminds me of OUAT, only it’s much darker. I love the creative liberties the writers and creative heads have taken to tell this story. It basically is an old tale re-told for a new generation. But then again, that’s the idea of stories and story-telling right? To make them as relevant as the world & times we live in. Initially I was annoyed by some of the reviews I read by prolific ‘critics.’ I mean honestly, how do you write off a show based on 1 or 2 eps? If this show was done straight to Netflix where all the eps were lined up and one wouldn’t have to wait a whole damn week to see what happens next, I think the opinions might just be a smidge different. In conclusion, give ‘Emerald City’ a shot and let me know what you think of it!