NBC dusts of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, and gives it a sexy (this is not your mother’s scarecrow) Game of Thrones meets Once Upon a Time makeover. The premiere episodes, “The Beast Forever” and “Prison of the Abject,” introduces us to a perpetually-dissatisfied millennial Dorothy Gale (Adria Ajorna) who is transported to a world she could have never imagined in her wildest dreams.
Dorothy lives on a farm in the small town of Lucas, Kansas. She works as a nurse at a nearby hospital where she swipes pain pills from patients for her Aunt Em (Holly Hayes) and has a FWB relationship with a doctor. Dorothy’s estranged from her mother, Karen, who abandoned her on a stormy night when Dorothy was just an infant. Mom moved back to town recently, and Dorothy drives to mom’s trailer but can’t bring herself to get out of her truck and make contact.
Not in Kansas Anymore
Dorothy isn’t a plucky redhead with impressive vocal range but rather a raven-haired Latina beauty. Like her big-screen counterpart, this Dorothy longs for more than what her current life has to offer.
On her 20th birthday, Dorothy, at the urging of Em, decides to visit her mother, Karen. In the midst of a wicked storm, Dorothy finds herself at Karen’s trailer and finds a trail of blood, a dead body and her mother missing. Dorothy locates Karen in her storm cellar, and she’s seriously injured. Dorothy wants to get help, but Karen insists that Dorothy not notify the police and pleads with her daughter to run.
A K9 unit arrives at the scene, and Dorothy runs out to meet him, yelling for help. Either unable to hear her cries or suffering from an itchy trigger finger and a case of nerves, the cop pulls his gun, but is sucked up by a huge tornado as Dorothy seeks refuge in his squad car.
The car is sucked up into the twister, and when it lands, plows into a person and then a tree. Dorothy temporarily loses consciousness, and when she wakes up, she sees the body of a woman laying on a blanket of snow.
Having no idea where she is, Dorothy grabs some supplies from the trunk, and she and the dog take a breather by a nearby tree. She’s not there long before a group of children emerge and lead her to a nearby village. These aren’t cute little Munchkins, and she isn’t greeted with chants and cheers by the Lollipop Guild but rather a very large man who informs her that she’s trespassing on Tribal Free Lands.
Dorothy spots the woman she hit on a stretcher. She tries to explain about the accident, but the only thing that interests these men are that Dorothy killed the stranger. She’s labeled a witch. Their leader, Ojo (Olafur Darri Olafsson), tortures Dorothy with their version of waterboarding and explains that she killed the Mistress of the Eastern Wood — the most Merciful and Stern. He informs Dorothy that only a witch can kill another witch or “The Beast Forever,” and since Dorothy is no beast, she must be a witch.
A hysterical Dorothy begs for them to stop and insists that she is no one. Ojo warns Dorothy that the Mistress has sisters in the East and the North, and she’ll most certainly have to answer to the Wizard of Oz.
This Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio) is all-knowing thanks the drones he dispatches to watch over the kingdom. He sees video of Dorothy’s car dropping from the clouds. He doesn’t know what it is, but it tore the sky, and that is the First True Sign. Now, The Beast Forever will rise.
The Wizard orders Eamonn (Mido Hamada) to head East to find out who or what fell from the sky and to make sure it stays fallen. Eamonn questions if the Wizard wants his High Council to examine this First True Sign, and that would be a big “no.” He orders Eamonn to kill whatever it is if it’s still alive, and if it’s not, he must bury it. Under no circumstances, is it/Dorothy to enter the Emerald City.
Dorothy is exiled from the Tribal Free Lands, and Ojo takes her to its borders. On the way, Ojo informs her that her “toto” looks hungry. That is the word for dog in their language. It’s safe to say the name will stick.
Dorothy does manage to get some ambiguous descriptions of this Beast everyone keeps going on about. The Beast can take many forms, including any number of natural disasters or creatures. Dorothy asks how to stop it, and Ojo tells her that a wizard conquered the Beast once before. He used an army of gigantic Eternal Warriors who formed a wall around the Emerald City to keep the Beast Forever from flooding their entire world.
The trip isn’t a short one, and Ojo and Dorothy enter a vast cave where Dorothy spots bodies moaning, giggling, crying and writhing in a pit of mud. Ojo tells her it is a Prison of the Abject (wretched, miserable, hopeless.) It’s where anyone who violates the Wizard’s law against magic is sent. It also happens that Ojo’s wife is there. Dorothy killing “East” presents a bit of a problem. She is the one that put the people there and was possibly the only one who could free them.
If He Only had a Brain
They finally reach the yellow brick road which is comprised of poppy pollen (opium). Ojo instructs Dorothy to follow it to the Emerald City and to the Wizard. She can offer her apologies to him. Dorothy wants to know if the Wizard can get her home, and Ojo assures Dorothy the Wizard is great and powerful and can send her back. She thanks him, but he isn’t interested in her gratitude since he voted to kill her instead of letting her go.
Dorothy begins what promises to be a very long — given the first half hour– trek. She comes across what looks to be the aftermath of a battle and encounters a man tied to a stake with barbed wire, similar in pose to a scarecrow or Christ during his crucifixion.
Dorothy frees him, and soon learns he has no memory of who he is or what happened to him. Being a nurse, she’s able to administer some basic first aid, and he cleans up pretty well. (Yes, the stranger is smoking hot.)
The Cardinal Witches
In another part of Oz lives the Mistress of the Western Fields (Ana Ularu). She also goes by the Vessel of Truth and Solace — obviously not a nickname, so we’ll be referring to her as “West” from here on out. She runs what appears to be a brothel. I’m able to gather this from the dÃ©cor, and all the prime-time appropriate canoodling between the opposite sexes. She also dabbles in poppy distribution.
West is visited by the Wizard. She’s heard rumors of magic, and he wants to know if she’s responsible for the rip in the sky. West assures him it’s not her doing; she’s not practicing any magic thanks to him. He warns her about the First True Sign.
Eamonn arrives in the Tribal Lands and learns that Dorothy left, but they’ve held on to East’s remains. But when they enter the tent, she’s gone.
Scarecrow guy (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) decides to tag along with Dorothy. She decides he should have a name but argues when he insists she be the one to give it to him. Dorothy says a name is permanent, and she doesn’t do permanence or responsibility. He pushes, and she finally lands on Lucas. Her own little slice of home in Oz. So, Lucas does have a brain, it’s just not working at the moment.
The next morning, Lucas and Dorothy are visited by East (Florence Kasumba). Apparently, she wasn’t dead after all. Her powers haven’t been hampered by death since she’s able to incapacitate her captives. East wants to know who sent Dorothy, in particular, if Glinda, her sister, had anything to do with it. Dorothy explains that she came via tornado, and East responds that nothing good ever comes from the sky. So, when it does, they try to send it back in pieces.
East has a particular interest in the gun that Dorothy took from the police car. She wants to know how it works. Figuring it’s the only way to save herself, and Lucas, Dorothy instructs East exactly how to shoot herself in the head, and the spell she has cast on them is broken. And now guns can be added to the list of things that kill witches.
While East doesn’t own a pair of red slippers, she does have some bejeweled gloves — complete with rubies — that magically leave her cold, dead hands and land squarely on Dorothy’s. But this accessory isn’t very flashy, the gloves become immediately invisible to the eye.
Word spreads that East is dead — really dead this time. West is overcome by grief, and we also finally get to see the infamous Glinda, Maiden of Northern Light and Mother of the Sound and Pure (Joely Richardson), whose reaction may be less sedate but no less intense. She blames the Wizard. Also note that NOBODY refers to her as a “good witch.”
Glinda arrives in Emerald City with East’s body. Magic may have been outlawed by the Wizard, but the people still love Glinda. She has an uneasy alliance of some kind with the Wizard as she has handpicked a council of advisers for him that presumably serve as her eyes and ears as well. The Wizard’s most trusted is Isabel (Suan-Li Ong) who even though she is supposed to be chaste and is dressed like the flying nun, is actually knocked up by some soldier.
She stops to speak to West who says their sister had something important to discuss with her. East never got the chance to share her secret, and Glinda denies having any knowledge of what the topic could have been.
There isn’t any love lost between the sisters, but they have a common goal. They have to lay their sister to rest properly or risk losing their powers forever. The Wizard has allowed a sacred temple to be opened for this particular occasion. He does want something in return — for Glinda and West to open the Prison of the Abject. Unfortunately, Glinda explains she’s can’t comply with his request. The Prison was of her sister’s making, and a witch’s spells are her own. Normally, East would have had an apprentice, but the Wizard’s ban on magic put an end to all of that.
Maybe Lucas is in Need of a Heart
Dorothy and Lucas get waylaid on their journey when Lucas’ injuries prevent him from continuing. They stop in a village where Dorothy gets direction to the nearest apothecary, Mombi. Dorothy is pretty resourceful, all she needs are some key ingredients to garner the effects of penicillin. Mombi directs Dorothy to her onion patch, telling Dorothy to take what she needs and then be on her way. But Mombi spots Lucas’ sword and has a change of heart. She invites them in and offers her help.
There’s something off about Mombi. She’s keeping Tip (Jordan Loughran), a young boy captive, but she isn’t cruel to him. She gives him medicine and appears to be concerned for his safety so much so that she’s used magic to construct a barricade to her front door that is virtually impenetrable. But whatever her motives, the boy wants out.
Dorothy is able to concoct an herbal remedy to fight of Lucas’ infection, and Mombi questions how long he’s been a member of the Wizard’s Guard. He denies it, but she points out that he carries their sword. Mombi is intrigued with this non-witch who can raise the dead and her traveling companion. Mombi sheds some light on Lucas’ past, as the Guards aren’t nice guys. Nimbo, where Dorothy found him, was burned and the citizens tortured by the Guard. Lucas swears they did the same to him. Mombi believes that Lucas’ amnesia is the result of some truly despicable acts that he’s perpetrated, and his mind has literally made them unthinkable.
But those who live in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones. While Mombi is out in her garden, Dorothy comes across the door to the boy’s room, and he passes a note underneath that reads “Help me.” Dorothy questions Mombi who says the boy is prone to hysterics. She may not be his mother, but she is determined to protect him from everything, no matter how unrealistic that might seem. She lives in fear of anything ever happening to him which is why she moved to a town with no name that can be found on no map. This twisted maternal instinct strikes a cord with Dorothy since she’s got mommy issues of her own.
Dorothy is eager to leave, but she doesn’t realize that Mombi has poisoned Lucas until the effects begin to take hold. Dorothy uses charcoal from the fire to suck up the poison and saves Lucas for the third time. (What’s the male equivalent of a damsel in distress?)
Realizing Mombi is bad news, Dorothy breaks the boy out with help from his friend, Jack (Gerran Howell), a nearby neighbor who has been trying to free his pal on his own with no luck. And just for kicks, whatever medicine Mombi was giving Tip, it seems it was to disguise his true gender which is actually female.
When Mombi realizes Tip is gone, she loses her mind and emits a high-pitched screech that brings Dorothy to her knees. Mombi tries to cram some herbs down her throat, but Lucas stabs Mombi through the chest with his sword. To finish the job, Lucas bashes the old woman’s skull in repeatedly with a bowl. This “good” guy has a “dark” side after all.
Toil and Trouble
The Wizard decides to make East’s funeral a public affair. He wants to remind his people of what witches are all about. Glinda is convinced that he’s just trying to embarrass her and West. A valid concern giving her sister is a sleazy, opium addict.
West goes off-script during the sacred ritual, but she manages to procure what she and Glinda need which appears to be their sister’s magic.
Does this dark reimagining of The Wizard of Oz deliver? Is Lucas a reformed bad boy, or will he turn on Dorothy? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Emerald City airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.
(Image Courtesy of NBC)