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Emerald City - The Beast Forever / Prison of the Abject - Advance Preview

The trick to re-imaginings, or reboots, or re-tellings isn’t so much the story they choose to tell, but how they choose to tell it. We all know that Dorothy will inevitably be gathered up by a cyclone and sent to the strange Land of Oz and that she will end her journey at the Emerald City before the wizard. But what about everything in between? This is where Emerald City excels; it takes one of the more well-known stories of our childhood and instead of retelling it beat by beat, Emerald City takes the scenic route to the titular location.

There are landmarks in Emerald City for those familiar with the traditional tale; names, locations, traveling companions. However, the writers have taken a large amount of liberties and because of that it’s almost as if the audience is viewing a completely new tale. This could be seen as a weakness, that Emerald City is only vaguely about The Wizard of Oz story so it doesn’t really count, but I see the deviation from the expected as the reason I’m going to continue watching. Emerald City is keeping me on my toes. I admittedly rolled my eyes when I first heard this show was going into production, and again when it got out that we’d be getting a “gritty” version of The Wizard of Oz. But having seen the first two episodes, the more mature and different take on the Oz story is refreshing. It’s everything I had wanted the miniseries Tin Man to be.

With Emerald City, the audience is at the same disadvantage as Dorothy: presented with unusual and unfamiliar settings and plots. The landscapes we see in Emerald City are vast and give a weight to the setting, as well as establishing the show’s unique aesthetic. Don’t expect a shiny, beautiful land of Technicolor. One thing that many versions of The Wizard of Oz story play with is Dorothy’s traveling companions. Often times interpretations of the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and the rest can be a bit too on the nose and try too hard to nudge the audience in the ribs and say “get it, get it, he doesn’t have a brain!” Emerald City is slightly more subtle and definitely explores these attributes with more depth. I particularly enjoy what they’ve done with the Scarecrow and the whole situation surrounding the Wicked Witch of the East.

The plot of Emerald City kicks off right away, whisking us to Oz very quickly. While I’m grateful for that since this Land of Oz has a mysterious past and seems to be flirting with the political intrigue that’s so popular in fantasy television nowadays, I feel as if I don’t know Dorothy as I should. I'm very much of two minds when it comes to this character, which I will go more into depth on in my post-airing review. She has all the attributes of her traditional traveling companions: clever, caring, courageous, while still having moments of vulnerability. Yet her lack of definition also makes it hard to see what her motivations are. I feel like she wants to get home because that's what Dorothys do. Then again, Dorothy was never the most exciting character in her own story and regardless I do look forward to seeing her navigate more of the Land of Oz.

Emerald City is unique enough in its interpretation of a well-known story that I can’t readily predict what will happen next, which makes me want to learn more. I hate the phrase “dark and gritty” so I’ll say Emerald City is a serious and mature take on a whimsical tale that avoids becoming a dark and depressing mire. This is still a fantasy tale, just an adult one. The writers are twisting things about with Emerald City and I want to see what’s at the end of this particular yellow brick road.

Emerald City has its two hour premiere Friday January 6th at 9/8c on NBC