The young actors Jordan Loughran and Gerran Howell really stole the show this episode. Tip's storyline is by far the most intriguing, and Loughran in particular is going to be a star in the making.
Ana Ularu's depiction of West is quirky, different and somehow perfect. The way she slouches in her seat and lazes in her speech is unexpected and brilliantly sinister.
The distrust Dorothy and Lucas hold for each other in the beginning was well-played by Arjona and Jackson-Cohen. Two bull-headed characters as themselves were never not going to clash!
We didn't get much of Lucas and his memory hitch this episode, but I hope it returns. The mystery of why he was left out to dry like a Scarecrow(!) is one we shouldn't miss out on.
The Emerald City storyline was a little weak. It has potential (the Beast Forever) but it feels like it's missing something.
I'm not entirely sure if Tip pushing Jack to his death was the right route to go. I can't imagine the show giving poor Jack a pumpkin for a head, either.
‘Emerald City’ veers down a dark path as the mysterious Beast Forever looms, and Dorothy’s quest to return home judders to a frosty end.
It’s a rocky start on ‘Emerald City‘ for Dorothy (Adria Arjona) and Lucas (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) as they evade capture by the Wizard Guard whilst riding with the Circus of Oz. Dorothy’s journey diverts as she finds East’s castle and a huge tornado. Desperate to reach home, she manipulates Sullivan, East’s sworn-sword, into believing she’s East’s apprentice. By sheer luck, Sullivan’s convinced when Dorothy bears East’s jewels on her hand.
Meanwhile, Tip (Jordan Loughran) and Jack (Gerran Howell) escape to the city, where she’s devastated by her new appearance as a girl. Jack, sensing Tip’s troubles, seeks an herbalist’s help. However, it’s only confirmed to them both that Tip was always a girl. Mombi’s (Fiona Shaw) black elixir had suppressed her true form.
In Emerald City, the Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio) plus half the city witnesses the ritualistic suicide of three women. Immediately, West (Ana Ularu) is accused of instigating this though she denies it all. She even goes as far as to say she hates magic as much as the Wizard does, for it is a drug worse the poppy.
In East’s castle, Dorothy must ‘dress for the elements’ in order to settle the storm, prompting a stunned exchange:
Lucas: “Y—you look—”
Sullivan: “Like the Mistress of the East. Merciful yet stern.”
Dorothy: “Yeah, can we just settle the weather?”
However, Dorothy’s attempt to return home is unsuccessful. Instead she finds herself accused of being an ‘interloper’ as her mother apparently was. Before they can find out more, Lucas, Dorothy and Toto escape the castle as it’s crushed by the tornado.
We find Tip, also crushed—by her new identity. When Jack tries to kiss her, she pushes him off a balcony to his death. Again, we’re left lingering: what’s next for Tip?
There’s a little bit of intrigue cast over the Wizard this week, and we wonder the nature of his fraud—for he’s always been a fraud in any spin-off or adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of the Wizard is something else. To be frank, there really aren’t many other portrayals that may beat D’Onofrio’s. He’s powerful, manipulative and clearly exercises his authority whenever he wants. This becomes apparent when Anna (Isabel Lucas) challenges his authority and recklessly tells him that she doesn’t believe his power over giants. He stalks up to her, blankly, and the next thing we know, Anna’s behind bars.
Yet we still have the world to discover of the Wizard—or Frank Morgan. It’s quite telling, when he tells Anna:
The Wizard: “Your past does not define you. Your mother does not define you. All that matters is who you wish to be, and how hard you’re willing to fight for it.”
It’s not subtle at all. We know from every story that’s referenced Baum’s creation, or adaptation, that the Wizard is ultimately a fraud. So far on ‘Emerald City’, the Wizard hasn’t exhibited any powers and he clearly wants to pit his people against witchcraft. Perhaps he doesn’t want to be outshone; perhaps he’s really as ordinary as all the other stories. But how the Wizard/Witch dynamic will change once the ‘Beast Forever’ is upon them will be interesting to watch unravel.
Princess Ozma and Jack Pumpkinhead…Sorry, Tip and Jack.
Jordan Loughran’s Tip is devastated by the herbalist’s revelations this episode. The real mystery lies with who Tip’s parents are, and why they kept her suppressed as a boy. Is Mombi his true mother? The likely guess is no—but she was certainly put in place to keep Tip as a boy. However, if he could never leave Mombi’s house, was he supposed to remain to die?
It’s a lot of thought for such a young girl, and immediately Tip renders her entire life a joke. Loughran’s performance this episode completely erases the fact that—let’s face it—child actors weren’t always excellent. Loughran, quite like Millie Bobby Brown (‘Stranger Things’) proves that they can be. Her breakdown upon seeing herself, and her disorientation as to whether to go to the men’s toilet or the women’s is hard to tear your eyes away from.
But while the real mystery may lie with Tip’s parenthood, the real tragedy lay with Jack.
Jack: “You’re still Tip!”
Tip: “Really? Am I still Tip?!”
The chemistry between Loughran and Gerran Howell has been charming, consistently. So when they clash and Tip eventually, in a fit of fury, pushes Jack to his death—it’s heart-breaking. We’re left with a girl who feels like she’s lost her identity. And by her own hand: her best friend.
The build-up of Dorothy and Lucas’ relationship has been well-done—they haven’t moved too quickly, and there’s still a whiff of shaky distrust.
It may be on-the-cards that Dorothy and Lucas is inevitably a romantic set-up. But whatever it is, we’ll disregard that for a moment because Arjona and Jackson-Cohen do an incredibly good job or portraying their dynamic. It does seem like Dorothy is capable enough to do without Lucas, and that this story isn’t in need of a romance to be magical. If they get the world-building right and continue with the underhand political scheming within Emerald City, there is no reason for a Dorothy/Lucas hook-up.
To play the devil’s advocate, it was clear from their first meeting that Dorothy and Lucas were drawn to each other. As charming as some of their scenes were, they revealed themselves to be strong characters of their own accord. And strong characters butt heads. The initial distrust Dorothy and Lucas display at the beginning was just right. To learn of Lucas being an ex-Wizard Guard—the same as those hunting Dorothy down—was one thing. To see him violently beat Mombi after stabbing her is surely another. Suspicion is fair. But for amnesiac Lucas, upon witnessing Dorothy manipulate East into killing herself, can surely be a little suspect too.
And maybe—maybe more so if we find out more about Dorothy’s mother—this exchange is significant:
Dorothy: “You were right, Lucas.”
Lucas: “About what?”
Dorothy: “I am far more dangerous than you are. My mother was here. In Oz.”
Final Verdict: Episode three didn’t quite live up to the flashy, well-paced double-bill premiere, but primarily the charm of the main cast leaves us hanging on for more.
The double-bill premiere had the advantage of just that: being a double-bill premiere. Highly anticipated, it blew us all away because it was genuinely so good. And it’s nice to be legitimately excited for a show again! However, this week was a little bit of a slump following last week’s high-octane premiere. The pace definitely slowed, and much time was wasted on Tip and Jack (despite both young actors performing brilliantly) only to have it conclude a little unsatisfactorily.
It’s hope we cling onto that says: well, they’re just setting up for further world-building. But as shows like ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘The Crown’ or even the second season of ‘The 100’ had shown, plot can still move quickly upon the maintenance of world-building. This episode just didn’t go very far. However, the cast remains enthralling and captivating. They are the rescue party of this episode’s relatively weak script.
We should perhaps go into it not thinking of Baum’s books too much. This is an entirely different adaptation, and it’s to be embraced. A consistency that looks to be kept is the wonderful direction and cinematography. The opening sequence and the end ones were the standouts, and for that we applaud the camerawork. In a fantastical setting as this, it’s exciting to see that the world to be built looks to be quite the magnificent one.
Questions and Comments:
- The idea of West and the Wizard cooperating, albeit frostily, is surprising.
- So is the idea of opium-smoking witches!
- A scouse accent in an NBC programme! ‘Emerald City’, how low you’ve sunk…
- I wonder if this season will accumulate with an encounter with the Beast Forever.
- Next week’s trailer pulls off a huge twist — can Dorothy wield powers, as perhaps her mother did? Maybe the Wizard exiled her mother and that is why he plans to kill her?
- The journey’s getting twistier and twistier…
- Excuse the pun, but I can’t get my head around how Tip could be Ozma and Jack be Pumpkinhead on this show. ‘Emerald City’ doesn’t feel like a show that’ll stick a pumpkin on a boy’s head. How they’ll pull it off—if they pull it off or even resurrect Jack—will be interesting.
- Maybe they won’t at all. I just don’t want Jack to die! He was so sweet.
- What’s next for Tip, now that her best friend and confidante is dead by her hand?
- In terms of continuation and longevity – will it follow Frank L. Baum’s many books of Oz? I’m guessing yes, right? That’s the only way Ozma would realistically exist…
Catch episodes of ‘Emerald City’ on Fridays, 9l8c, Network: NBC.
Emerald City Review [1×03]: “Mistress – New – Mistress”