This past Friday the first season of Emerald City came to an end, so I thought I would share my views on the show. Be aware there are spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen the show yet and want to go in without any knowledge, don’t read this yet.
You’ve been warned.
The Challenge of the Premise
When I first heard about Emerald City I was skeptical about the show. There have been a lot of series about Oz. Why make another? What was this one going to bring to the table that was so much different?
The fact that it was billed as a sort of “Game Of Thrones” meets “The Wizard of Oz” story only made me less sure about the show. It just seemed like something that popped out of some producers head. Take a franchise people know and then make it tonally match one of the most popular shows on TV right now. Perfect!
As viewers, I think we are desperately in need of fresh, new content and settings that aren’t based on things we’ve seen before. Emerald City just seemed like such an obvious ploy for dollars, that I didn’t have high hopes for it.
And unfortunately for the show, I have a feeling there were a lot of people out there who felt the same. Granted, having a Friday night air time isn’t great in terms of attracting viewers, but I think a lot of people probably didn’t tune in because of the issues I just mentioned with the premise. In the end it was probably a hurdle that the show couldn’t quite clear.
And I think that’s a shame.
Why I Liked It
Despite my initial skepticism and the issue of the premise, I actually enjoyed Emerald City as a show. I found the new interpretations of the characters and the world to be fun. The steampunk elements of the new Oz were different from things I had seen in the past, and so was the way that the writers kept focus on the political machinations being played out between The Wizard of Oz (Vincent D’Onofrio), Glinda (Joely Richardson), and The Wicked Witch of the West (Ana Ularu).
The land of Oz from L. Frank Baum’s books is a large one full of its own kingdoms and politics. Of course his books were for children, and Emerald City takes on a much darker tone than the source material, but I thought it was very cool to actually see characters like Ozma or places like the the Land of Ev, which aren’t usually depicted in adaptions of Oz. Generally stories involving Oz stick to re-imagining the more well known film The Wizard of Oz rather than exploring the other aspects of the setting that Baum created over the 14 books he wrote in the world.
I thought there were also some great acting performances. D’Onofrio was amazing as always, playing a paranoid man who managed to grab power as the wizard and wants to do all he can to keep it. This ultimately results in him leading a crusade against magic and the witches who challenge his authority.
Adria Arjona, who I thought did a great job in the lead role, was a compelling Dorothy Gale who spends the series trying to get back home to Kansas, only realize that really isn’t where she belongs. I also really appreciated that the part of Dorothy was given to a Latina actress because diversity.
Stefanie Martini did a great job with her portrayal of Lady Ev, a young and petulant woman who doesn’t have very many friends but ends up being put in the position of having to lead her kingdom because her father has lost his mind.
And perhaps the best performance was by Jordan Loughran who played Tip or Ozma. Tip finds out that he was born a girl and has been given a male body by a spell in order to hide his true identity as the Princess Ozma. Eventually he has to decide if he will maintain his male identity, the one true to him, or remain in his female identity, which will make it possible for him to rightfully claim the throne of Oz.
Transgender issues are very rarely tackled in fantasy, at least from what I’ve seen, so I thought having a trans character at the heart of Emerald City was an interesting way to adapt the story.
Why It Should Come Back
I don’t really have any reasons on this front that would be impressive for a producer. From what I’ve seen of the ratings, Emerald City did not do very well. Granted, it is on a Friday, so maybe that will work in its favor. Or, maybe, it could get renewed on a smaller network than NBC where the numbers wouldn’t need to be more impressive.
But, from a viewer and storyteller standpoint, I really hope they renew the show mostly because Season 1 ended up feeling more like a prologue than a full story. We got to see the different factions fighting against each other in an attempt to gain supremacy, and we got to see some highly developed back stories for the major players in Oz. But the true Big Bad of the setting, the oft referred to Beast Forever, didn’t show up until the last episode, and even then only at the very end when Dorothy had already left Oz.
I think a Season 2 of the show would be really interesting. Now that all of the characters have been given a really rich back story that we’d be familiar with, we could see Dorothy team up with people from the different factions to try and take down the Beast Forever. I assume she would be aided in her quest by the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Lion. With each of them having their own, largely unresolved, baggage, that would make for a really interesting team-up and some great conflicts to follow up on.
We’d also to get to learn more about The Beast Forever, who is, at least according to the credits, apparently Roquat. Roquat is another character from Baum’s books, perhaps more commonly known as the Nome King. Seeing the writers take another twist on one of Baum’s characters would be interesting. And maybe we’d get to see some Nomes.
If you haven’t seen Emerald City yet, I recommend you check it out. I thought it was a fun show, and I think it’s deserving of a second season.
If you watched the show, let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading and see you next time!