TV Review: Emerald City

I sometimes wonder what the masters of storytelling of the past would think if they saw how we told their stories today. Back when there was no television, no movies, no remakes, no new, different, “modernized” depictions of the same franchise, I doubt they could comprehend even the possibility of their work being the source material for so many wildly different tales.

Certainly, when L. Frank Baum, after a lifetime of poverty, published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he had no idea how successful it would be, and I doubt he could imagine what we’d be doing with his work over a century later, with Oz the Great and Powerful, Wicked, Tin Man, and dozens of other adaptations. Then again, he did quickly help create a musical version of it, so perhaps it wouldn’t strain his comprehension that much, eh?

The latest in this long line of Oz-based adaptations is NBC’s Emerald City.

Featuring a version of Dorothy Gale that is an attractive, twenty-something nurse, Emerald City follows Dorothy as she is unwittingly plucked from Kansas by a tornado and deposited into a most unfamiliar world of magic and brutal physical force. As she struggles to find her way home, she finds that her past and her future destiny both seem inextricably linked to the fate of Oz.

Dorothy’s mere presence, let alone her choices and her actions, brings the tumultuous wind of change to the land and its people. She may be far out of her element, often in over her head, but her strength and her honest compassion make her the next best thing to unstoppable. Which, considering everything she endures, is a very good thing.

Throughout Dorothy’s journey, she meets characters who are, or become, obvious allusions to the classic Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and, of course, the Witches, and the Wizard of Oz. There are other important characters, but, with the exception of Ozma, I’ve no idea exactly which ones are original creations and which ones are new versions of older characters. I can only say that these characters do take their nod from their originals, in ways which are fascinating to explore. We see how the Tin Man loses his heart, how the Lion truly is a coward, and how the Wizard, ruling all the land, truly is a fraud, and a small, petty man as well.

Emerald City turned out to be a pretty well-crafted story. The dynamic between science and magic, for instance, lent weight to the conflict at hand. Power itself is discussed, as well as how those who hold it are often liars and hypocrites. There’s the question of identity, the balance between justice and mercy, the redemption of one who has fallen into misery after a great loss, female empowerment, and more, all woven together. Best of all – especially with the fine work of the actors – it is the relationships between the characters which drive the twisting, many-threaded plot, making it all both gripping and personal. The ordeals they face drive them to their physical and emotional limits, and even the limits of sanity.

And all of that is just a build-up towards an ominous cliffhanger, before we ever even get to the real danger driving everything.

That is obviously meant to entice people back for a second season, but I’ve not heard that said second season has even been approved. I am just going to say, it would suck for the first ten-episode season to be all we got of Emerald City. I personally enjoyed it, by and large, and I hate to see a story left unfinished.

If they continue Emerald City, you can bet that I will be watching it. For now though, if they leave it as is…

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: B-Plus.

EDIT: This is now confirmed, they are not continuing the show. It stays as is, unfinished.

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