Hello, fellow Geeks! I’m Melody, and I realize we’ve just met (on the internet, no less), but I have this gut feeling we’re going to get along just fine. Are you looking for a new show to fill that gaping void until Game of Thrones returns? Well, look no further. As my welcoming gift to you, I present recaps to the first two episodes of NBC’s next big fantasy show, Emerald City.
We open on a shot of an open field during a very turbulent rainstorm – complete with a brief glimpse of a scarecrow flapping in the wind. An outline of a woman (Gina Bellman) runs through the field. As her figure zooms closer, we see she is very distraught and covered head to toe in mud. She runs to a farmhouse and knocks frantically on the door. Suddenly, a baby starts crying. The woman has said baby concealed in a pack in front of her stomach. We see her kiss the baby’s hand in a close up, along with a mysterious tattoo consisting of 5 dots forming a star (could this mean something? Hmmm…). She soothes the child as the door opens. “Please, I’m sorry. Please help us!” Help you from what? What are you running from? Why does this baby have a hand tattoo (ahem, that child is way too young for that)? But now it’s time to flash forward…
Twenty years later. A pickup truck drives down a dusty road, past a sign that reads “Lucas, Kansas. Population 393.” A young woman (Adria Arjona) occupies the driver’s seat. She pulls into the yard of a mobile home and discreetly watches the same woman from twenty years ago. Cut to Lucas Medical Hospital, where the young woman works as a nurse. We see a doctor ask her out for dinner, to which she responds with “How about I just come over after dinner?” (Tsk, tsk, my dear. Not in the workplace!) As she is talking to a favorite patient of hers we discover our young woman’s name is Dorothy (Arjona).
Next, we see Dorothy at home. The camera pans to the same five-point star hand tattoo that was on the baby from twenty years ago (in the words of Jack Skellington, “What does it mean? What does it mean?”). Her aunt Em (Joely Richardson) and uncle Henry (Pere Molina) surprise her with a cake for her birthday, who also live in the same house from the flashback. We see a storm is brewing outside, again much like the one from the past. Em and Dorothy discuss her mother Karen, and Em urges her to reconnect with Karen. “She wouldn’t have written you if she didn’t want you to know her,” she says. Side note, major props to whomever was responsible for the rainbow stained glass that was hanging above Dorothy’s head, along with a view of the scarecrow in the field. Subtle imagery will always win me over. But I digress.
Dorothy heads outside into the increasingly violent storm (as you do in these situations) and drives to her mother’s house. Lightning strikes all around her. When she arrives at the mobile home she finds it empty, save for a bloody and presumably dead cop in Karen’s bedroom. Upon this discovery, Karen retreats back outside, thoroughly spooked. She finds a cellar, its door wide open. She descends the stairs and stumbles upon Karen, dying on the ground. Her mother tells her not to involve police and to run away. If she were to listen there would be zero conflict, and what’s the fun in that? Dorothy is outside again , but this time she comes face to face with a live policeman who immediately points his gun at her. She pleads him not to shoot her, but he lunges toward her. However, in the perfect timing that only a tornado can conjure, well…a tornado swallows him whole. Dorothy shuts herself in a police car with a German Shepard (yes, THE dog), hoping to ride out the storm. The car is sucked into the vortex. Well, folks, we’re nine minutes in and wasting no time. I love it.
The car lands in a snowy landscape, then proceeds to abruptly take out a figure dressed in red. Dorothy wakes sometime later, clearly concussed and very confused as to why she hit a woman in red. Dorothy runs to her side and discovers red woman is dead. Clearly at a loss, she grabs a backpack from the trunk of the police car, her trusty new canine friend and her growing bewilderment and makes for the forest. She sees a glowing red object in the sky along her journey (Eye of Sauron, anyone?). While resting against a snow-covered tree she is surrounded by small children dressed like Ewoks (I love me some sci-fi references). They lead her to a camp where people are chanting and dancing around a pyre of sorts. A man of this tribe steps forward to meet Dorothy. He begins speaking to her in another language entirely until the actual leader comes into the conversation with “These are the tribal freelands, and you are trespassing.” Dorothy is only trying to get home. That’s it. One very straightforward objective. She asks for directions, but then notices the body of the red woman. Then the tribal leader discovers Dorothy killed her. The red woman was called “Mistress of the Eastern Wood,” and she was well loved. For this atrocity, Dorothy must pay. Ojo (Olafur Darri Olafsson), the tribal leader, has Dorothy waterboarded while he interrogates her regarding her motives for killng East (Florence Kasumba). He tells her that East has sisters, one of the West and one of the North. Oh, and that she would “most certainly have to answer to the Wizard of Oz” (squeee!).
Meanwhile, a large golden metal monkey (very steampunk) flies over an expansive ocean to a large and ornate city (not unlike Braavos from Game of Thrones) stretching before it. Cut to a magnificent castle, the abode of the Wizard. This is the Emerald City.
Our wonderful Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio) is wiling away his afternoon playing the organ when his maids come to inform him that the brass flying monkey recorded an object falling from the sky the night before. “It is the first sign of the coming of the Beast,” the Wizard says. He sends his aides eastward to look into the mysterious crashing object.
In the freelands, the tribe decides to forgo execution and simply banish Dorothy from their lands forever. Ojo walks her to the border. “Your ‘toto’ looks hungry,” he comments, explaining that “toto” means “dog” in the language of his people. Thus, Toto is born! Ojo also explains to Dorothy of a creature so powerful it has taken on multiple forms and required a multitude of fighters to stop it. It is known as the “Beast Forever.” “Yeah, definitely not in Kansas,” is Dorothy’s reply (GUYS, SHE SAID THE THING).
Back to the Emerald City we go. Close up shot of a woman gettin’ her thang on with a gentleman caller. Afterwards she partakes in a potion of some kind, leading the audience to believe she is a witch. She is the “Mistress of the Western Fields,” or East’s sister, if you will. The Wizard visits her to impart the news of the unknown falling object. He asks her if this is her magic. She denies it, since the Wizard outlawed magic and she found a new line of work (did I mention she runs a whore house? How very “King’s Landing brothel-esque!”). Again, the Wizard insists to West (Ana Ularu) that this act marks the return of the Beast Forever, and they must do something to eradicate it.
Dorothy and Ojo go through a mountain that contains more than our young heroine expected. It is rife with dead things, crows, moans and a mangled tree at its center, with bodies immobilized in quicksand scattered about its trunk. Ojo explains that this is a prison where witches who practiced magic were punished. East would put people in prison, and was supposedly the only one with the abilities to free them.
Cut to a shot of a windswept terrain as the two reach the other side of the mountain. Ojo tells her to follow the yellow road that will lead her to the Emerald City, where she can seek penance for her crimes from the Wizard himself. “Can this Wizard take me home?” Dorothy asks him. She really, really wants to go home. Who can blame her?
Dorothy notes that the “yellow” road is comprised of poppy pollen, akin to opium. She gets very drowsy and stumbles upon a dilapidated town, with a real man hanging like a scarecrow. He is covered in straw and mud, strung up by the wrists with barbed wire. Dorothy helps him down. She tends to his wounds, asking him what happened to him. The scarecrow man has no recollection of the events prior, along with no memory of who he is. Dorothy brings him along on her adventure.
Meanwhile, the Wizard’s guards, led by a man named Eamonn (Mido Hamada), speak with Ojo regarding the whereabouts of Dorothy. He says she is gone, and also discovers that East is gone as well! Uh-oh…
Dorothy and nameless scarecrow man find food along their path and stop to eat. She decides to name him Lucas, after her hometown (awww.). We see a shot of two moons here in Oz (ahem, TATOOINE). While they’re sleeping, we see East alive and well looming evilly above them. Creepy.
Lucas wakes to find Dorothy gone – but discovers she’s sluggishly trudging along the poppy road. Both begin to hallucinate – they are in the prison in the mountain pass. East is there, torturing them. She asks Dorothy if Glinda (North) sent her. “In Oz nothing good comes from the sky, so we send it back in pieces,” she hisses. East finds a gun in Dorothy’s backpack and asks her how to use it. Dorothy incorrectly tells her that she must point it toward her head. She coerces East into pulling the trigger, which results in East being really, really dead…for real this time. Lucas and Dorothy are pulled back to reality with the true death of East, and out of the prison. As they continue their trip, golden metal gloves adorned with rubies appear on Dorothy’s hands – the same ones that East wore. They dissolve into her skin. I like this. A modern take on the ruby slippers.
West, back in the city, runs screaming outside her brothel, distraught over the death of East. North (also Joely Richardson) finds out from one of her handmaidens, and places the blame on the Wizard himself. Meanwhile, the Wizard gives a rousing speech to his citizens about the return of the Beast Forever and his vow to protect them from it.
The Wizard’s guards reach the same mountain pass from earlier. They decide to go through it, as Eamonn knew Ojo lied to him about Dorothy going “around” the mountain.
A funeral procession takes place for East. The Wizard goes to meet North and give his condolences. North and West also exchange a few words, and we find that it has been twenty years since they last saw each other. North informs West that the Wizard will allow them to open their sacred temple, so they can properly sing their sister East into the night.
Lucas and Dorothy go on their merry way to the Emerald City. Lucas is still bleeding, but he tries to keep this from Dorothy. Lucas falls on the poppy road, and Dorothy vows to go get help for him. When they reach the next town, they meet a stranger and inquire after a doctor, or in this world, an “apothecary.” “She don’t take to visitors,” the stranger warns of their apothecary.
We see a woman mixing tinctures and various potions – this is the apothecary (Fiona Shaw). She has a young boy in her care (Jordan Loughran), and administers a vial of medicine to him. She goes off to the butcher, leaving him locked in his room and the house ensconced in a huge patch of thorns. A young boy dressed as a soldier named Jack (Gerran Howell) attempts to slash through the thorns to help the boy escape, but to no avail.
West and North are in their temple with the Wizard. He unseals their temple so they can honor East. We also discover that this Beast Forever murdered “Mother South” (he had a disdain for cardinal directions). The Wizard has an ulterior motive (because who doesn’t?) – he wants the witches to unlock the “Prison of Abject” (the prison within the mountain) or at least recreate the magic that East used for it.
Meanwhile, as Jack is still hacking away at the thorny entrance to the apothecary’s home, Dorothy and Lucas run into him. The apothecary returns from her butcher’s trip and initially declines to help Lucas, saying he is “already dead.” Then she sees a sword at his side, and changes her mind. We see another scene between the apothecary and the boy, where she tells him that the medicine is to protect him from all that’s out there.
Dorothy is treating Lucas with the apothecary’s supplies and he is returning to form. The apothecary asks him, “How long have you been in the Wizard’s guard?” She was able to guess by the ornate hilt of his sword. He, of course, has no memory of anything. Dorothy defends him by saying when she found him he was barely alive. We are shown that the Wizard’s guard tortured and burned witches during a “purge” of some sort.
Our witches enter their temple, ready to perform the ceremony. The Wizard informs them the funeral is now open to the public. He wants to remind Oz of its past and what witches used to be.
Dorothy discovers the boy locked in his room. The boy slips a sign reading “help me” under the door for Dorothy to see. While Lucas is asleep, the apothecary slips poison into his tea. Dorothy then confronts her about the sign, and who she has locked away. Dorothy threatens to free whomever is trapped against their will. The apothecary pulls the protecting mother card (that card we know so well and love), claiming this is for the boy’s own good.
The ceremony is now underway in the Emerald City. Both North and West join hands chanting and circling around a ruby candle. West breaks away, then falls to the ground, chanting vigorously. She makes East levitate. West breathes a blue light into her mouth, then the temple explodes. The Wizard watches this scene of magic with a quiet amusement.
Meanwhile, Lucas is awake and seemingly normal, until he starts seizing and frothing at the mouth. Dorothy realizes he’s been poisoned. She hurriedly creates an antidote from charcoal and forces Lucas to drink it, citing it will soak the poison. He is functioning somewhat normally once more. Dorothy, in a fit of rage, grabs his sword to kill the apothecary while she sleeps.
North revives West after her exhausting magical ordeal in the temple. She asks West if she was able to extract the spell from East (hmmm…what could this be about?).
Dorothy busts down the door and allows the boy to escape with his friend Jack. The apothecary escapes from her room after Dorothy locks her in, and in a frenzy exclaims she was protecting the child and it was unwise to let him go. She attempts to kill Dorothy. Lucas plunges the sword through the apothecary’s chest, then proceeds to bash her head with a vase…to a rather bloody pulp. Yeesh. Somebody escaped to the Darkest Timeline.
In the city, the temple is resealed. North and the Wizard go toe-to-toe in a verbal spar (my favorite kind of spar). He threatens to destroy her temple whenever it suits him, and reminds her that he made sure no more witches were born in Oz.
Eamonn and his guards finally find the poppy road…and are now one step closer to our heroes.
Dorothy walks steps ahead of Lucas on said poppy road, but is scared to face him after that grisly scene in the apothecary’s house. Speaking of…
Back at her house, we see some of the gruesome scene…and a bloody hand begin to subtly twitch.
Jack wakes up in the forest to find the boy, whose name is Tim, is gone. He stumbles upon a girl wearing Tim’s coat…well, the girl IS Tim. Now we know at least partly why he was forced to take medication. PLOT TWIST!
Phew. Y’all, I’m tired. These first two episodes of Emerald City were jam-packed with action. I enjoyed that the exposition didn’t weigh down the flow of the story, and the character development was still there in the midst of said action. And of course I thoroughly dug the Wizard of Oz references peppered throughout the episodes. I’m stoked for more, and I hope you are too!
Emerald City airs Fridays at 8pm on your NBC affiliate.
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