Emerald City Raises A Storm Of Questions
The Oz reimagining finds its groove, but does it make any sense?
In my New Show Fact Sheet on Emerald City I said that this third episode was the one that not only convinced me the show might not be garbage, but got me hooked enough to marathon several more of the screeners NBC was kind enough to give us. I'm happy to report that it holds up quite well on a second viewing, and maybe even a little more knowing a bit of what's to come (don't worry, no spoilers here). But it did leave me with questions. A lot of questions. So let's get right to them.
Wait, are guns bad?
Dorothy wakes to find Lucas hanging out shirtless and holding her gun (not a euphemism). "You shouldn't have that," she tells him. "I don't think anyone should," he solemnly replies. "When you kill someone with a sword at least you've got to work at it." And, like, as a politically liberal American I agree, but as an Ozian...you live in a world with actual magic. A gun seems like the least of your problems. Also, the writers seem to have already forgotten that Dorothy is only dressed like a cop, in things she found in the car she took shelter in. She's actually a nurse (and based on the "20 years later" caption in the premiere, only 20 or 21 years old?). It's not even her gun. Sure, she's from a red state, but would she have even fired a pistol like this before? I'm pretty sure I only care because of the sermonizing, so why draw attention to it?
Dorothy and Lucas hitch a ride with a circus that has a lion with them. Is it the lion? (No. At least not yet.)
How did the dead women get down?
Someone sends a magical message to the Wizard (and anyone else in Emerald City who happens to be watching) via three possessed women (or are they willing suicide messengers?) who chant a spell, then fly, then fall to their deaths...by what looks like hanging...in mid-air. It's a neat effect, and certainly makes whoever's point dramatically, but...then what? It's not like the Wizard's guards can go cut them down.
What exactly is the purpose of Glinda's nuns?
In Oz, I mean. Their purpose on the show is mostly exposition. Elizabeth reads sacred scrolls and signs. Anna is a meteorologist/detective in a funny hat. We know they come from Glinda, who is a witch, but magic is outlawed, so they're presumably not trainee witches. Do they all serve the Wizard or are some assigned elsewhere? Anna believes the Beast Forever sent the message, and that when it returns things will go very badly. She also believes the Wizard never controlled the stone giants, and whoever did is locked inside the Prison of the Abject, and she tells the Wizard this, which just seems like a bad idea. It is: it lands her in jail. But she's right about her signs: It starts to snow.
What's the Wizard's deal?
He's obviously an asshole, and a dictator, but he seems to genuinely care about at least some of his people, and is visibly shaken by the suicide messengers. He shows real concern for Anna when she learns that her mother was one of West's girls (though that could just be fear that he's her father -- he isn't), going so far to reveal to her his real name and the fact that he was powerless before coming to Emerald City.
Is drunk/high/depressed West going to be a consistent thing?
Because I hate it. A lot. She even gives a speech about how magic is an even more powerful drug than poppies. Sigh. The Beast Forever drowned most of the witches in Oz, and West couldn't stop it, so she's sad for good reason, but this is no fun to watch.
How does East's magic work?
So the Witch of the East controls the weather, apparently. That seems like a full-time job. When would she be able to also go torture people in the Abject? Anna and Elizabeth also speak of weather as one of the signs of the Beast Forever...so it must not be entirely under East's control? Meanwhile, East's magic ruby gloves, "The Elements," transferred from her to Dorothy when she died. They magically appear mostly when Dorothy is in distress (she puts her hands up to stop Lucas and East's guard from fighting and they show up. But in the book/movie the Witch of the North/Glinda gave Dorothy the silver shoes/ruby slippers, and she can't really do anything with them. Is our Dorothy a witch too? But "only a witch can kill a witch" and she -- or at least her tornadoed car -- failed to kill East. And why does East's magic need special gloves anyway when West's and Glinda's doesn't? And why'd they have to kill East if they're changing things anyway, since she was so incredibly fabulous?
Anyhoo, since Dorothy has the Elements, East's guard decides she's her acolyte, and invites her in to fix the tornado coming out of the castle roof. Dorothy thinks this might get her home, since she arrived by tornado, so she plays along. She's partially successful, walking on water and transporting herself to a place full of wreckage from our world, including a jumpsuit with Karen's name on it. But she can't stop the tornado, and her interest in Karen reveals her to be an "interloper." The guard lets them go as the tornado rips the roof off the castle and flies away. So...she did stop it? Does that cause the snow too?
Why is Glinda the only witch with a name?
Because calling these people "West" and "East" is feeling increasingly ridiculous.
Which restroom should Tip use?
Tip and Jack make their way to Ev in search of Tip's medicine. Tip is miserable, because she feels like she's "wearing someone else's skin." A woman in a tavern advises her to cover her cleavage "unless you're planning on making money off them." She gets up to get her shit together and doesn't know which bathroom she should use. Unlike the gun speech, it's a moment that ties the show to our real-world politics but feels appropriate, in character, and earned. It is also extremely brief. When they do find an herbalist, they learn that Mombi's "medicine" is forbidden magic which was hiding her true nature. Despite what she believes and remembers, she was born a girl, and male Tip was the lie.
Is Jack really dead?
Of all the wonderful appropriations of Oz, I find Jack's the strangest. Tip's story so far is lifted pretty much directly from the books, with the added layer of her gender transition happening earlier and being a crisis for her. Lucas's only real resemblance to the Scarecrow is that he was found strung up in a field and he "doesn't have a brain," but that's at least a fairly clever way to hit those marks with the character. In Jack, it looked like we were getting a gay subplot, as he and Tip were pretty heavily coded as a secret couple, but then he kisses her and it seems like they were just meant to be friends all along but he's confused now that Tip has boobs. This, of course, takes place on a balcony, and when Tip shoves Jack away, he falls to his apparent death. It's a moment that genuinely shocked me. But look, Tip does have a friend named Jack in the books, so if he is in fact dead...well, I'm not saying I actively want him to come back next week with a pumpkin for a head, but I wouldn't be mad about it either.