The quality of this series has truly taken me aback—I wasn't expecting to be so hooked over the double-bill premiere, but I couldn't tear my eyes away!
Again and again: Adria Arjona is the perfect lead for this. Fits like Cinderella's shoe. Her charisma and charm makes Dorothy instantly likeable and raw.
The supporting cast is filled to the brim with talent.
The setting of the show is insanely gorgeous. Some of the sweeping shots took my breath away.
It's still early days, so we'll give it a pass—but the story seems a little disjointed so far. Again: early days.
Tip was excellent, but I remain unconvinced by her story—we'll have to wait for it all to unravel...
Surely this isn't the last of East?! Florence Kasumba's on-screen presence was sheer brilliance and fear.
‘Emerald City’ is NBC’s new gem of a show, and its double-bill premiere blew us away. All the way to Oz.
Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona) is an unassuming, promising nurse who gets violently swept up in a tornado. Disorientated, she’s quickly thrust into the foreign world of ‘Emerald City‘s Oz. Accused of witchcraft by Ojo (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), she’s sent to follow the Yellow Brick Road to seek the Wizard’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) justice.
“Yeah…Definitely not Kansas.” – Dorothy
As the Wizard’s Guard attempt to track her, she stumbles across a tortured amnesiac (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). She names him Lucas, and together their fates seem intertwined as they journey to the Emerald City together.
The first shock is the scary East (Florence Kasumba) who tortures Dorothy and Lucas for information. After tricking East into shooting herself in the head with a gun—foreign to Oz, of course—it stirs huge unrest and grief within West (Ana Ularu).
Over the course of the double-bill, we see the frosty relations between the Wizard and the Witches. It’s clear the Wizard has an agenda, and he manipulates his people into watching the usually-private Witches’ ceremony for East. It works, for he wishes to show what Oz was like before he came and ‘saved’ everyone. But we all know he’s not all he says he is.
Meanwhile, we meet young little Tip (Jordan Loughran) who conspires with his friend Jack (Gerran Howell) to escape Mombi (Fiona Shaw). By chance, they happen upon Dorothy and Lucas, who’s severely injured. Whilst Tip and Jack escape, Mombi points out that amnesiac Lucas was a Wizard’s Guard. Brutal, murderous and impassionate—nothing like the Lucas we know.
However, it comes to the forefront when Mombi attempts to kill Dorothy, and Lucas stabs her, then violently continues to beat her to death. Is some of his memory coming back? Is he truly what Mombi says he is?
It’s Tip, however, who gets the last shout. In the woods, Jack finds his friend missing and scrambles after him—only to find that Tip isn’t boy Tip. It’s pretty girl Tip. Whatever potion Mombi was giving her, it was to suppress the turn. And now we’re ready for a whirlwind of mystery.
It’s hard to overcome the nostalgia of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, so the perfect Dorothy had to be just that: perfect. And Adria Arjona is.
Adria Arjona (‘Person of Interest‘, ‘True Detective‘) rather effortlessly sweeps in and steals nearly every single scene she’s in. Her Dorothy Gale is witty, charming, quick-thinking, manipulative and intelligent. She’s someone you’d put your life in the hands of—and that’s what Lucas does. In a frantic first fifteen minutes, the sheer array of emotion Arjona displays so convincingly is surely a gift blessed by Glinda.
She’s compassionate; tender; kind—and also strong. And we’re going to use the buzzword: badass.
An important aspect was her instant connection with Lucas. Be it platonic or not, Jackson-Cohen and Arjona rock instant chemistry. It blossoms almost naturally from the scene in which Dorothy helps Lucas eat, and names him. Her toe-to-toe with Fiona Shaw in the apothecary is another highlight, as is her initial confusion and disorientation when she lands in Oz. We can’t wait to see more of Dorothy, and even after just two episodes, Arjona deserves a standing ovation.
There are tongue-in-cheek references that’ll make you smile, in the different spin put on it. The Yellow Brick Road being covered in, well, yellow pollen—
This Dorothy is not Judy Garland’s Dorothy. It’s entirely Adria Arjona’s—and it’s our Dorothy.
The magic of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is wonderfully recreated into quite a feast for the eyes.
The nostalgia of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ also comes hand-in-hand with top quality graphics back in the day. Terrible quality now. Yet there is always an inherent charm when it comes to watching the films. It’s a little like the first ‘Star Wars’ trilogy. ‘Emerald City’ amps up the special effects and camera quality, accompanied by a walloping music score… and it triumphs.
It’s really well done. The creatures at the beginning, when Dorothy first lands in Oz, could’ve been a little on the Ewok side of cheesy (and cute) but they were simply the latter.
There’s something very grounding about the setting, the beautiful mountains and sweeping landscape shots. A dark theme courses through the show and it’s exhibited within the setting itself. It’s a stark reminder that Toto, we aren’t in Kansas indeed. A highlight was perhaps the Yellow Brick Road—or rather, a trail by the mountainside covered with yellow pollen.
Small things like that work. We expect ‘Emerald City’ to have better graphics than ‘The Wizard of Oz’. It’s no ‘La La Land’. It isn’t a nostalgic reflection on its mother film; it’s an entirely different entity, and the double-bill premiere showed that convincingly.
Toto got a bit of an upgrade… and so did everyone else.
So, Toto—literally the meaning of “dog” in Oz—isn’t quite the cute little puppy you saw in the film. Toto’s a curious, growling, well-sized dog. The only similarity is Toto’s fierce loyalty to Dorothy.
But it isn’t just Toto that’s given a bit of a revamp. The Wizard is still scheming and shady as ever; Glinda as glamorous as ever. Most markedly, the Wicked Witch of the West is no longer your green, beak-nosed villain but rather a troubled, conflicted young woman. Ana Ularu plays her with steady conviction and a darkness that just tips the scales. She’s on the precipice of freefalling into the abyss of evil, not quite as sinister as Florence Kambusa’s East, but still a wildcard. Where Glinda is disciplined and regal, West is impulsive and reckless.
The theme’s much darker, there are drones, and in the space of two back-to-back episodes, we’re left with a dozen intriguing questions. Aside from Arjorna, Oliver Jackson-Cohen shines as the confused, previous member of the Wizard Guard. He’s disorientated. Left to rot. But even though we’ve seen nothing but kindness and trust from him, his violent lash-out against Mombi, killing her, is a sinister reminder of what Lucas could’ve been before he lost his mind. How that will reveal itself, whatever Lucas’ true history is, is a journey we’re looking forward to seeing.
Final Verdict: NBC just knocked it out of the park with a winner in the first two episodes of ‘Emerald City’. Let’s hope it continues to shimmer as we go on.
By a clear mile, Adria Arjona’s Dorothy Gale steals the show. She’s stunning in every single scene that she’s in, and that’s hugely important. Supported by a vastly talented cast, her performance is only lifted by the excellence of her co-stars. But Arjona is instantly likeable. She makes you want to root for her within minutes, and that’s not easy to do. Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City seems fraught with danger, but Arjona’s magnetism draws us to wherever she will go.
Matthew Arnold and Josh Friedman’s creation is something special. It’s difficult to separate Dorothy Gale from the original film, but here, they collaborate excellently with Arjona to make their own Dorothy. Whilst there are much darker themes, political twists and manoeuvres, there is still a sense of nostalgia as you watch the episodes and recognise the subtle throwbacks.
Yet it’s not necessarily a homage. ‘Emerald City’ stands perfectly well on its own.
Tarsem Singh’s direction in the double-bill premiere is to be applauded too. Accompanied by fantastic cinematography, ‘Emerald City’ makes full use of the gorgeous landscapes and mountains. If the department wanted to convince us we’d landed with Dorothy in this fantastical world of Oz, they’ve achieved it. And dropped the mic.
Undoubtedly, and unexpectedly, ‘Emerald City’ has just boasted one of the most promising premieres of the new television season. And we just hope that it’s sustainable enough to keep up this pace throughout the season, and perhaps more moving forwards.
Questions & Comments:
- It’ll be interesting to see if Glinda and West’s frosty relationship will continue to pierce through like an ice-shard. We know from the classic film they’re pretty much worst enemies—but here, they are reluctantly joined by blood and by the opposition against witches. Upon East’s death, what will happen to Glinda and West’s bond?
- Dorothy’s manipulative skills are a genuine joy to watch. It’s not the Dorothy know, but it’s the Dorothy NBC have gifted us with. And we like her a lot.
- Oliver Jackson-Cohen is very convincing as Lucas. Surely we will unravel Lucas’ memories, and we can’t wait to see the dark acts he committed for the Wizard. Yet what did he do that caused the brutal Guards to hang him up to dry like that?
- Hopefully it will give us some backstory for the Wizard and his scheming.
- We know the Wizard is not all he says he is. So is he really the saviour of Oz?
- So if amnesiac Lucas is ‘without a brain’ and young Tip perhaps is ‘without a heart’…?
Catch episodes of ‘Emerald City’ on Fridays, 9l8c, Network: NBC.
Emerald City Review [1×01-02]: “The Beast Forever” & “The Prison of the Abject”