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Series / Emerald City

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"Definitely not in Kansas anymore."

"So, are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

Emerald City was a 2017 fantasy television series which aired on NBC for one season. It's based very loosely on L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz books and giving a (much) Darker and Edgier spin on them.

Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona) is a headstrong woman in her twenties who is transported to Oz, where the powerful Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio) rules over the land after winning a Great Offscreen War and has banned magic. Accompanied by a police dog who she names Toto, Dorothy travels for the Emerald City in the hope that the Wizard can send her home. Along the way, she meets Lucas, an amnesiac man she finds tied to a post. However, Dorothy's dramatic arrival into Oz, as per the novel, leads to the death of the Wicked Witch of the East and causes fireworks in the land.

Due to low ratings the show was cancelled after one season of ten episodes.

A trailer for the series can be viewed here.

Emerald City provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The Wicked Witches of the East and West aren’t old crones like in the books and are portrayed by younger actresses.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Toto is a K9 police dog. It'd be strange if he weren't tougher.
    • Lucas is now a young and strong warrior, unlike his book counterpart the Scarecrow.
    • The Munchkins rather than being gentle, non-violent farmers are a culture of fierce, hardy fighters called the Munja'kin.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Characters from the books who don't appear until The Marvelous Land of Oz (the second book in the series) such as Tip, Jack and Mombi, or Ozma of Oz (the third book), like Princess Langwidere, instead show up early in Dorothy's journey, which parallels the action of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
  • Adaptational Gender Identity: In The Marvelous Land of Oz, Tip is revealed to have been turned into a boy as a baby and Raised as the Opposite Gender. Though she initially doesn't want to turn back into a girl, she shows no discomfort after turning back into Princess Ozma and identifies as female. In Emerald City, Tip doesn't identify as female when he's changed back into his original form, and only reluctantly stays in a female form to assume the role of Princess Ozma in order to rally people to reclaim the country. Later on magic lets him shift back and forth between forms at will.
  • Adaptational Personality Change:
    • The Wizard is less charming and more dour and menacing than in many other versions of the story.
    • Glinda is more manipulative and cold.
    • West is not a Card-Carrying Villain as usual, but a more troubled individual.
    • East seems to have been a beloved ruler rather than an oppressive one, despite her hand in creating the Prison of the Abject. The Munja'kin almost vote to execute Dorothy for her death, and end up exiling her from their territory forever.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The Wizard's name has gone from Oscar Diggs in books to Frank Morgan here.
  • Aerith and Bob: The names in Oz cover the whole spectrum from the fantastical (Glinda, Mombi, Tip) to the mundane (Elizabeth, Jack, Anna).
  • Age Lift:
    • Dorothy has gone from the young girl in the books to a young adult in her early twenties.
    • The Wicked Witches of the East and West were depicted as old hags in the books, but are played here by 40-year-old Florence Kasumba and 31-year-old Ana Ularu respectively. However, they are also hinted to be Older Than They Look.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Ozians have languages of their own, but some of them also speak English, which also seems to be the official language spoken in the Wizard's domain. This is how the dog gets its name. "Toto" is the Tribes' word for "dog", and Dorothy decides it's as good a name as any, since she hasn't had a chance to find out the dog's real name from the cop.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Lucas seems like a nice guy, but if Mombi's right about his sword meaning he was one of the Wizard's guards—a force known for their brutality—he didn't used to be. Given the brutal way he kills her, she probably is.
  • Artistic License – Biology: You can't turn a breech baby when the mother is already pushing and the baby is so far down that it's a minute from being born.
  • Ban on Magic: The Wizard has decreed that all magic in Oz is illegal. Those who break this rule are sent to the Prison of the Abject.
  • Big Bad: The so-called "Beast Forever" is frequently referred to as periodically attacking Oz with what appears to be natural (or magical) disasters. The last attack involved a tsunami wiping out most of Ev and killing hundreds of witches. The Wizard assumes that, this time, the witches are the Beast Forever. As "No Place Like Home" shows; he's wrong. The true Beast Forever has been in the Prison of the Abject until Dorothy unknowingly releases him. He puts his skin back on, grows wings, and flies to the Emerald City. Word of God is that he's Roquat, the Nome King.
  • Black Girl Dies First: The Witch of the East, who is portrayed by a black woman here, is the first character to be killed off.
  • Boom, Headshot!: How the Witch of the East accidentally kills herself. In something of an oddity, they show her actual brains blowing out of the back of her head - a trope that doesn't usually apply to women.
  • But Not Too Bi: West is shown as attracted to women, and mentions her past involvement with Anna's mother. On the show she's only shown having sex with a man though.
  • Canine Companion: Toto, who in this universe is a K9 police dog who happened to be in the car when it was sucked into the tornado, follows Dorothy everywhere. Though he seems to prefer Sylvie.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The pistol Dorothy finds in the trunk of the police car when she first lands on Oz. She tricks East into killing herself with it by the end of "The Beast Forever". It's brought back again in "Beautiful Wickedness" as the Wizard wants to reverse engineer it to kill the Beast Forever.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mombi's dagger, last seen in "Mistress-New-Mistress" later shows up in "They Came First" when West recognizes that the dagger previously belonged to King Pastoria.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Jane, the Mad Scientist from "Science and Magic", who leaves after selling Jack to Lady Ev. "Beautiful Wickedness", reveals that she was a colleague of Karen Chapman and is from our world.
  • Clarke's Third Law: While some characters explicitly refer to what the Wizard does as science and technology, some keep referring to it as magic, different from the magic of witches.
  • Composite Character:
    • Zigzagged with Glinda, who is the Good Witch of the South in the books. She is referred to as the Witch of the North, suggesting that, as in the 1939 film, she's a composite of both characters. However there is also a Witch of the South in the show's backstory, referred to as the deceased mother of the other three witches.
    • Jack has the same name and a similar role (that of Tip's friend) as the book character Jack Pumpkinhead; but in "Science and Magic", he has most of his body and heart replaced with metal, becoming the show's version of the Tin Man. Furthermore, since his new heart is clockwork (rather than the Tin Man's hollow chest), and the doctor who "repaired" him works for the Kingdom of Ev, he also appears to be a nod to Tik-Tok.
    • Eamonn appears to be the show's version of Omby Amby, the lone soldier in the Emerald City from the books; however "Lions in Winter" reveals that he's also an analogue of the cowardly lion.
  • Conlang: For this show, linguist David J. Peterson created the Munja'kin language spoken by the people of the same name, and Inha, the tongue the witches use to cast their spells. The latter also has four separate dialects, which was an idea given by Ana Ularu herself.
  • Costume Porn: Expected from a Tarsem Signh production. Special mention to East's dresses, West's beetle wing and red velvet dresses, Ozma's dress when she reveals herself to the witches binding West, and Lady Ev's masks.
  • Creepy Child: Sylvie, the lost little girl Lucas and Dorothy run into in "Science and Magic", who can turn people into statues. "Beautiful Wickedness" reveals that she's a witch, so it makes sense.
  • Cruel Mercy: In the finale, Ozma doesn't execute Eamonn, who betrayed and killed Ozma's parents when the Wizard took over... but instead exiles him and casts a spell on his wife and children so that they don't know who he is.
  • Daughter Of A Whore: Anna is dismayed to learn her mother was one of the prostitutes in West's brothel. It seems the Wizard was a favorite client, though West claims he isn't her father.
  • Death Glare: West uses this when she has Dorothy captured. Here's photographic evidence.
  • Different for Girls: Tip has to struggle with being in a girl's body after reverting to his natural sex, when Mombi's potion wears off, and still identifies as a boy. At a tavern, he doesn't understand why people keep staring at him, before the waitress tells him to cover up his breasts, unless he's advertising himself.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": This incarnation of Toto takes his name from the Munja'kin word for "dog."
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In "Mistress - New - Mistress", three women, West's girls, appear on top of a statue and perform a magical ritual to kill themselves in a manner similar to a hanging. It turns out the magic they used came from the Beast Forever.
    • At the beginning of "Science and Magic", Tip contemplates jumping off a bridge after accidentally killing Jack in the previous episode.
    • In "Lions In Winter", West slits her wrists after thinking Tip died from drinking her sister's spell. After Tip revives, in the next episode "The Villain That's Become" he heals her and West recovers.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Temple of the Cardinal Witches. The visible part looks like a fairly modest chapel, but beneath it there is a truly massive chamber, hundreds of times larger, where the spells of all the deceased witches are kept in jars. In "No Place Like Home",Dorothy either destroys or damages it heavily with the stone giant's sword in order to stop Glinda and her witches.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Cardinal Witches are usually referred to by the name of the Cardinal point they represent, i.e. "East" and "West". Only Glinda's personal name has been revealed and regularly used.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The entirety of the first season takes place over the course of 10 days at the most. In "Mistress - New - Mistress" both Elizabeth and Anna concur in their estimation that the Beast Forever will manifest in 8 days, when the two moons align. This event takes place at the end of "No Place Like Home".
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted when the Wizard introduces flintlock muskets and pistols to Oz. They turn out to be useless against witches.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Prison of the Abject for those who break the Wizard’s prohibition against magic. They are kept in a cast cavern inside a mountain, stuck in mud and rock, unable to move or talk. East's interaction with Dorothy and Lucas implies it's their souls that are stuck in there.
  • First Kiss: Dorothy and Lucas share their first kiss near the end of "Science and Magic".
  • Gender Bender: Tip, Mombi's ward, takes "medicine" to suppress an apparent illness. When he escapes Mombi with help from Jack and Dorothy, Tip transforms into a girl overnight. Turns out the magic was to keep his identity safe. Later, he transforms back, relieved after struggling with having a girl's body. He takes on female form again to gain control of the witches' sisterhood as Ozma.
  • Great Offscreen War: The battles against the Beast Forever, which come roughly once every generation. Specifically the last war, which took place twenty years before the events of the series, resulted in the deaths of King Pastoria and Mother South, as well as the Wizard supposedly saving Oz and becoming its ruler as a result.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: No one character is flatly good or evil, with sympathetic and unsympathetic qualities.
  • Hollywood Darkness: The outdoor nighttime scenes are shot day-for-night with a blue filter.
  • Hotter and Sexier:
    • Dorothy is a beautiful adult woman here. She also has sex with Lucas (a very handsome man), while he's shown shirtless and her wearing her bra while getting dressed afterward.
    • The Witches in general are no longer old hags, but attractive and young-looking women. The Witch of the West specifically runs a brothel, she's introduced having sex with a man and shows attraction to women as well, mentioning she was once involved with Anna's mother.
    • The Scarecrow has been replaced by Lucas, a Troubled, but Cute hunk who is introduced shirtless and has obvious sexual tension with Dorothy.
    • Tip, once turned back to female, is shown as quite good-looking. Unfamiliar with female clothes as a result of being turned male as a child and brought up that way, Tip inadvertently shows deep cleavage that get him stares at first before getting advised to cover up unless he's advertising by a nearby woman.
  • Hypocrite:
    • The Wizard has imposed a Ban on Magic on Oz... and yet makes use of it himself when Mistress East employs it to create a hellish prison for his regime to use against magic users.
    • There is also Glinda. She mandates celibacy for her acolytes, and demeans West for running a brothel, even going so far as to lock up one of her own acolytes for breaking her vow of chastity in "They Came First". The very next episode shows Glinda having sex with Roan, who the audience knew as Lucas before this point and it turns out they're married, so she doesn't apply her rule to herself.
  • Large Ham: The Wizard gives an amazingly bombastic performance every time he speaks to the crowds of Emerald City.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia:
    • Lucas can't remember who he is, or anything before his attempted crucifixion. "Beautiful Wickedness" reveals that his amnesia was deliberately magically induced.
    • In "No Place Like Home", Tip punishes Eamonn for the murder of Tip's parents, by erasing the memory of Eamonn from his wife and daughter.
  • Last of Their Kind: Glinda worries considerably that she and West might become the last Cardinal Witches ever. The Wizard seems convinced that Mother South's death means no more witches will be born in Oz again. Subverted when it's revealed that Glinda's lying. Not only is she hiding Mother South, who is still alive, but Glinda's secretly breeding and training a new generation of witches to fight the Wizard.
  • Loophole Abuse: Invoked regarding the death of Mistress East; only witches can kill witches, so Mistress East was only killed by a gun because she technically killed herself.
  • Love Triangle: One developed between Dorothy, Lucas/Rowan, and Glinda, but was never truly resolved.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: Embodied by the contrast between Glinda and West. While West runs a brothel and spends her time having sex and getting high on opium, Glinda runs an order of virginal and celibate quasi-nuns devoted to the pursuit of knowledge. Lampshaded in "Science and Magic" by Tip when he's asked to choose between going with Glinda and going with West.
    Tip: So you're saying my only choice as a girl is nun or whore?
  • Mage Tower: Even though she isn't legally allowed to do magic anymore, Glinda's residence in the North is still a tall white tower.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: One of the central themes of the show, as the clash between the Wizard's technology and the Witches' magic moves towards an inevitable confrontation.
    Glinda: War is upon us. A clash... of science... and magic.
    • In the season finale, Princess Ozma/Tip reclaims her throne. West envisions a Golden Age of magic and science working together and has to convince Glinda, who wants only magic to rule, to join them.
  • Magical Gesture: Part of Mombi's process for making Tip's medication involves reciting an incantation over the mixture while making various hand gestures.
  • Magical Incantation: The witches use a language called Inha as part of their means to cast spells.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Wizard (specifically, his tools and other accomplishments). While he definitely uses technology, his giant stone statues seem a little bit... more advanced than the rest of his devices. He also is able to keep control of Oz and keep the Witches under control despite being (or appearing to be) a perfectly normal man. It's revealed that he never had control of the stone giants. He used a woman with the power to do that to stop the flood and then had East put her in the Prison of the Abject "for safekeeping" and to keep the truth hidden.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Several to The Wizard of Oz:
      • "The Beast Forever":
      • There's a rainbow ornament in the Gales kitchen window, referencing Judy Garland's famous solo "Somewhere over the Rainbow".
      • The Munja'kin who accompanies Dorothy to the borders of the Tribal Free Lands tells her that the wizard is "great and powerful."
      • In "Everybody Lies", West says Glinda's first line when Dorothy is brought to her.
      West: So, are you a good witch or a bad witch?
      • The central hut of the Munja'kin village is surrounded by fences in a spiral layout, echoing the design of the Munchkin village in the movie.
    • In "The Villain That's Become" West teasingly tells Tip that she was once known as the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Prison of the Abject. Lampshaded by the Wizard himself:
    Wizard: Mistress East and I, we had a partnership.
    Glinda: The Prison of the Abject.
    Wizard: Yes, an unfortunate name.
    West: An unfortunate prison.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Killing the Witch of the East means there's nobody in charge of stabilizing the weather in Oz.
    • Also, during her search for someone to control the stone giants, Dorothy unknowingly releases the true Beast Forever from the Prison of the Abject.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Killing a witch in Oz is a singularly difficult proposition as they have a tendency to not stay dead unless killed by another witch. The Wizard hopes to use firearms to kill them, except they don't work. The only reason the gun worked on East is because she pulled the trigger herself (i.e. she was killed by a witch - herself).
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Well, both characters are slightly above-normal in intelligence, but they still fit.
    • The Wizard was a shy lab tech named Frank Morgan in our world, who hadn't achieved anything in his life. After his clumsy attempts to impress his superiors result in the death of Dorothy's father, and when Frank, Karen, and Jane end up in Oz, he sees a golden opportunity for himself to impress the locals with his science and refuses to go back to Earth.
    • However, fast-forward a few decades, and the city of Ev appears to have tech that's even more advanced than what the Wizard has. This is implied to be because Jane, the inventor who created all of Langwidere's masks and devices, was one of the lead scientists of the project Frank was working on.
  • Older Than They Look: The Cardinal Witches are far older than their appearance would indicate. West in particular, played by a 31-year-old actress, participated in the last battle against the Beast Forever 20 years ago and was already having sex with Anna's mother before Anna was even born.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: The Scarecrow, one of Dorothy’s friends from the books, is re-imagined as Dorothy's love interest Lucas.
  • Race Lift:
    • Dorothy, who in the original books was a blond white girl, is portrayed by a mestizo Latina actress. To account for this, Uncle Henry has also been turned into a Latino.
    • The Wicked Witch of the East is usually depicted as Caucasian (when she's not just a pair of feet sticking out from under a house); here, she’s black.
  • Railing Kill: In "Mistress - New - Mistress", this happens to Jack after he kisses a very upset Tip. Tip pushes him away, causing Jack to crash through the railing of the balcony they're standing on and fall to a Disney Villain Death.
  • Related in the Adaptation: In the Oz books, Princess Langwidere is merely the niece of the King of Ev. Here, she is his daughter.
  • The Reveal:
    • "Mistress - New - Mistress":
      • Dorothy's birth mother, Karen Chapman, has been to Oz.
      • Mombi had been using magic to disguise Tip as a boy since infancy.
    • "Lions in Winter" shows that not only is Eamonn the show's version of the Cowardly Lion, as revealed by his armor that's adorned with a lion's head, but he's also the one who murdered King and Queen Pastoria.
    • "No Place Like Home" reveal that Karen Chapman is not Dorothy's birth mother, Jane is.
  • Rightful King Returns: In the season 1 finale, Princess Ozma/Tip returns to the Emerald City, leading an army of witches liberated from the Prison of the Abject, with West as her advisor. They curb-stomp any guard dumb enough to try to fight them.
  • Scenery Porn: Every episode contains spectacular vistas both natural and architectural.
  • Schizo Tech:
    • Even though most of the technology in Oz seems to be medieval, the Wizard has access to unmanned drones equipped with video photo equipment. Although the drone footage is in color, it's projected by cranking a handle and has an old-style cinema feel.
    • At the same time, the city of Ev displays a far more advanced and uniform level of technology, with monorails, factories and electrical lights in every building.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the first season, Jane sends Dorothy back to Kansas against her will, but later Lucas comes to take her back to Oz because Jane has been taken prisoner by the Beast Forever.
  • The Show of the Books: Rather than focus exclusively on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the series takes elements from the entire Land of Oz series.
  • Takes One to Kill One: Only a witch can kill a witch. Dorothy takes advantage of this knowledge (and the witches' ignorance of Earth technology) to trick East into shooting herself.
  • Trans Tribulations: Tip, due to being kept a boy by magic so long, doesn't identify as female when he's changed back into his original form and feels intense dysphoria. He reluctantly stays in female form to assume the role of Princess Ozma though. Thankfully, East's magic lets him shift back and forth between forms at will.
  • True Blue Femininity: Glinda's followers dressed in matching blue robes.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Each of the Cardinal Witches has a string of titles attached to their office:
    • Glinda is the Maiden of Northern Light, Mother of the Sound and Pure.
    • East is the Mistress of the Eastern Woods, Most Merciful and Stern.
    • West is the Mistress of the Western Fields, Vessel of Truth and Solace.
      West: Enough! I spend half my life waiting to walk into rooms.
  • Tuckerization: The Wizard reveals that his birth name is Frank Morgan, the same as the actor who played the Wizard in the 1939 film.
  • Vow of Celibacy: The women of Glinda's order make a vow to remain chaste and unattached in order to devote all their energies to serving the Wizard. One of them breaks this by having an affair, and gets pregnant.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: After Jack's horrible fall at the end of "Mistress - New - Mistress", a woman named Jane finds and heals him, replacing a large portion of his damaged body with metal prosthetics in "Science and Magic".
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Wizard plans to kill all the witches in Oz, most of whom are just little girls.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of Everyone Lies, The Wizard sees Dorothy and says: "Dorothy, you've come home!"
    • When West sees the dagger that Tip is holding: "The crest is King Pastoria's. Handed down to his daughter at birth."
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Dorothy spends approximately 10 days roaming through Oz but in the episode "No Place Like Home" when she's sent back to Kansas, she discovers that only ten minutes has passed.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Dorothy inherits East's ruby gauntlets after tricking her into killing herself, though they quickly turn invisible.