Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, March 10, 2017

Television Review: Emerald City Season 1 (Spoilers)

I like Emerald City. It's probably the best network sword and sorcery fantasy series I've seen since Xena. But it's not perfect and the more I think about it the more of its imperfections could be tied the thing I like.

So the moment I came to love Emerald City was when Princess Ozma dispenses justice to the Cowardly Lion. In that moment something clicked. This is not a retelling of the Wizard of Oz but a reclaiming of Ozma.

Let's Back Up

On Adaptations
Okay This Television show is based on The Wizard of Oz, which is a book that was turned into a movie so legendary that people kind of forgot it even was a book first.

I've seen the Wizard of Oz. I've seen a couple of the adaptations but it was not some crucial artifact of my childhood. But I love the hell out of fantasy and the word on the street is that as far as developed fantasy worlds go Oz is primordial gold.

But the Wizard of Oz movie is a simplified version of the first book so there is a lot of weird stuff the popular culture hasn't been exposed to.

It feels like the entire point of the show is because somebody wanted to do Princess Ozma. As far as important characters in Oz she actually probably ties with Dorthy as the most getting shit done person in Oz but since she wasn't in Wizard people just kind of forgot about her.

Emerald City feels very much like it views telling her story and what's going on in her head as the most important thing. By far she and everything related to her are the most interesting stuff going on.

But the show also feels the need to be a dark gritty retelling of the original Wizard of Oz.

I really like Tin Man. People don't but Tin Man had a lot of good ideas, a lot of good ideas Emerald City ran with. It remakes the WORLD of Oz into something I at least hadn't seen before.

But  Tin Man is not good. The writing's wonky, it relies too much on nostalgia, and the acting is horrific. They had some of the best oddball character actors working and they are all simultaneously restrained and overacting.

But Tinman did try to get the ball rolling in making Oz not revolve around Dorthy.  For a long time, people have been trying to get weird stuff we forgot from the books back into adaptations of Oz.

And dear god if that's what Emerald City was trying to do I have to give a slow clap. They did it masterfully.

We have versions of

  • Princess Ozma
  • Jack Pumpkin
  • Ku-Klip
  • Mombi
  • Princess Langwidere
  •  And A Version of Tik Tok That I probably just spoiled
With maybe the exception of the character that everybody loves to "revise",   all of those characters are more interesting than when the show stops to try to retell The Wiz.  But this was probably pitched to a network exec as a dark gritty retelling of Oz so it kind of has to.

It doesn't help that the show is short. Like I said the one character from the Wiz that works is the Wicked Witch, who is almost entirely sold by the actress. The script does not tell you what her deal is. I take that back it kind of does but breezes right past it.

So Glinda's main beef with West is that West is broken. The Wizard did a lot of stuff because of course, he's evil (they try to hide this fact long after it makes sense to do so). and Glinda is preparing for war, while West has more or less basically just given up. And West has a slow burn redemption arc. Except everything is so low key and in the background that it's hard to recognize as a redemption arc.

Here is the thing. We're in fantasy land. We don't know what NORMAL is for a witch period let alone West. We the audience don't know how she acts when she's on her game. And by the time the show really reveals how broken she is and how much guilt she feels it's almost over.

Her redemption arc is satisfying but it takes too much brain power to realize there was a redemption arc in the first place.

The end result is the realization that in the grand scheme they could have probably cut EVERYTHING with Dorthy save 2 mildly important scenes that they could have written around.

And while that sounds bad and there is no way the execs would have let them do it. The show has no time for fluff with its 10 episodes. Dear lord we get a love triangle with Dorthy, the Scarecrow and Glinda for crying out loud.  Things grind to a halt at Glinda's castle right around the time everything else starts to cook.


All that said. How many places do you get to see Princess Ozma come in all d. swaggar and put things to right.

I think I may be a monarchist.

Nah. Sometimes you get Arthur but most of the time you get Geoffry. (I have my soundtrack for the next four years)

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