We're Off To See The Wizard's Backstory On Emerald City
Is it wonderful, or humbug?
When I first watched this episode about a month ago, I thought the reveal that the Wizard had been a whiny, ineffectual, paranoid nerd who feels inferior (because he is) to the smarter and more qualified women around him and takes over Oz basically out of spite was a pretty clever reveal and a nice spin on the source material. Now, I have to confess, as Steve Bannon takes over the White House it seems less amusing, far more plausible, and also weirdly tame. (And I'm writing this on January 29, so who even knows what will happen between now and when you read it?) Oz seems like a pretty okay place, all things considered, even with its strict policy of hunting down and murdering foreigners. Wait...
Real-life politics aside, the politics of Oz gets quite a jolt this week, as it's confirmed that Glinda is not only acting on her own in secret; she's also raising an army of witches to use against the Wizard. Among other things, this means the Wizettes have been spies all along. Also, the King of Ev dies -- well, technically, I guess it's murder when a tiny witch turns you to stone, even if it's an accident -- in Emerald City, which nearly brings war with Ev. Less politically but just as importantly, Dorothy learns she was born in Oz (though conceived in Kansas), and agrees to go on an I-see-what-you-did-there mission for the Wizard to kill Glinda.
For all that moves forward, I still have a lot of questions.
Why was Frank still using a cassette Walkman in 1996?
Hey, I said I'd stop being Battery Cop, I didn't say I wouldn't be Outdated Tech Cop. While we're here: while the caption in the premiere read "20 years later," I'd hoped they were fudging that a little bit for simplicity. 1996 means Dorothy is for sure twenty years old. Can you be a registered nurse at twenty without Doogie Howsering your way through school?
Okay, but seriously, what is a Vortex Research Laboratory?
This is where Frank, Karen, Jane (so that explains her accent and sciencey ways!), and Dorothy's soon-to-be-departed father worked in Topeka in the '90s, "creating energy out of thin air." The thing appears to make actual tornadoes, and Topeka isn't huge, but it is a state capital. I don't really see this being allowed by Bill Clinton's EPA.
...and what does Frank do there?
Jane says that he does "so much around here," but it seems more condescending than sincere. And mostly he just seems to stand around. He does not, pointedly, have a lab coat. When the reactor (or whatever) malfunctions, he tries to help, and insists that he can, but is told not to touch anything. The resulting twister transports them to Oz, obviously, where the Munchkins (who I only just noticed are in the credits as "Munja'Kins" and I'm sorry but I refuse) take them in, and Dorothy is born. Jane goes to see East (sadly offscreen), and explains to the gang, "When we tore into this world, we caused a ripple effect. Something bad is coming to these people because of us, and the only way to stop it is to leave." East can send them home, but Frank refuses, essentially telling Jane that she's no longer the boss of him. He claims he locked them out of their computers and brought them to Oz on purpose, which is evidence that he's not stupid like he thinks they think he is. I don't think we're meant to believe this, but it's deliberately (I hope) a bit vague, and Karen does believe it and is upset that it means he killed Roberto on purpose.
Is Frank even a scientist?
Later, Frank uses parts from his Walkman, a mechanical pencil, and a jar to make a rudimentary lightbulb to show off for some Munchkin children. When one asks if it's magic, he says, "No, it's science. I'm a scientist." He seems surprised by the sound of it, and repeats it a few times. But in the Emerald City, he shows Dorothy a vortex chamber he claims can bring her home. Did he build it? Did Jane? Is he limited to science fair tricks?
Have these gender politics been here all along?
Nahara (Ojo's wife) makes the rocks near him form a little dude and walk around a bit, showing him up with actual magic. And if there's one thing we now know Frank hates, it's being shown up by a women. In the present, now that he knows the Wizettes are actually spies, any time he sees two of them talking he assumes they're laughing at him. I 100% buy this characterization, and we've seen him be condescending to Anna before, but he also seems to truly respect and maybe even fear West and Glinda. It's a realistic character trait that also feels somewhat out of left field.
How did Frank become the Wizard?
He has a book about Orson Welles, but it seems like he's probably actually read a lot of George R.R. Martin.
What about the rest of Lucas's memories?
The Wizard brings in West to retrieve Lucas's magic-blocked memories, which he's perfectly eager to have her do. Dorothy helps, so the three of them see, from his perspective, a guard stopping his wagon, which is full of black-eyed, vibrating little girls, including Sylvie. It turns out most of the guards were killed by magic that day, presumably by the girls (though I suppose we don't know for sure it wasn't Lucas). When Lucas is wounded, he tells the girls to run to Nimbo, and takes a pill that causes his amnesia. So this is a solid chunk of information, but Lucas (and everyone else) still doesn't know who he is, where he was coming from, or why. It just seems like if you're going to do a spell, finish it?
Where do baby witches come from?
This is a question everyone would like the answer to, since South is believed dead, and is also believed to be the only one who can give birth to witches.
Will anything good ever happen to Tip?
She and Jack run into each other in the palace while she's there with West and he's there with Lady Ev, and the reunion does not go well. He's understandably angry that she left him for dead. She thought he was dead, and still feels pretty terrible about it. To rub salt in the wound, Jack shows her his heart -- or lack thereof -- at Lady Ev's insistence. "Children can't be corrected if they don't know what they've done wrong," Ev tells them.
Why wasn't Anna briefed better?
So since it turns out Glinda is raising an army of witches to fight the Wizard and take back Emerald City, it stands to reason that her "girls" are actually spies, and their counseling of the Wizard was fake news. Elizabeth confirms this when she frees Lucas and fills in a piece of the puzzle: that the now-closed portal in Nimbo was a shortcut to Glinda, which is why he was taking the kids there. She sends him north ("through Gllikin Country," if you're keeping track of shoehorned-in book references that mean nothing) to Glinda now, and tells Dorothy she had better choose sides in the coming war.
But poor Anna apparently knew none of this. She asks if she was "never meant to help the Wizard" at all, and Elizabeth tells her she was "meant to learn his secrets." Did she know that? Or was she kept in the dark so she'd have deniability, and her fights with Elizabeth a ploy by the latter to get the Wizard to trust Anna?
Why do they keep leaving Sylvie by herself?
Lucas and Dorothy don't want to leave without Sylvie, so while Lucas gets ready for the trip, Dorothy heads out to find her, and conveniently runs into Eamonn, who takes her to his place to get the kid because he cares about her...or wants to be rid of her maybe (or, y'know, it's all a setup by the Wizard). Coming back into town, there are too many guards around, so Dorothy just leaves her behind a bush with Toto while she goes to ask the Wizard to let her go.
Meanwhile, the senile King of Ev is out looking for his long-dead dog, gets too close, and sets Toto off barking. But since he's looking for a dog, this doesn't deter him. Sylvie freaks out, and the King is soon found turned to stone.
Why would Dorothy give up her gun?!
Dorothy tells the Wizard, "If you let her go back to the North, she'll be safe and so will you." This makes no sense because it's not like anyone has talked to Glinda about this, but never mind. He tells her he'll send her home in his vortex machine if she'll go to the North and kill Glinda, so she's free to take Sylvie and Lucas because they'll get her in the door. The Wizard also wants her gun, which is a reasonable request (and reasonable for her to refuse) given that she keeps pointing it at him, but he also wants to use it as a prototype for Ev to build him an arsenal.
But even without he knowing that...won't Dorothy need the gun to kill Glinda? The Wizard seems to think Sylvie will just do it (since a witch can kill a witch), but that seems unlikely. Dorothy has no desire to kill Glinda, but still, just in case?
Why would a murder placate a woman who's upset about another murder?
Lady Ev is extremely upset about her father, in no small part because she'd wanted to leave earlier but the Wizard insisted she stay and talk about guns. She declares war on Emerald City, but the Wizard insists that Glinda is the real enemy, and that if Ev builds his guns (and keeps half for themselves), all will be well. He proves his point by shooting Anna right in the heart! As far as one can tell behind her mask, Lady Ev seems impressed! ...but didn't he just prove her point that he's a monster and Emerald City is a dangerous horrorshow?!