Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
What’s It About?
A young woman named Dorothy Gale is swept away in a tornado and transported to a strange and mystical world. When a local tribe discovers she is to blame for the death of a witch, Dorothy is exiled from their lands and told to follow a yellow-brick road. This opium-laden path will lead her to a great and powerful wizard, who may be able to help her get home. Along the way, she runs into the scarecrow a man who has forgotten his entire past and decides to accompany Dorothy in the hopes the wizard may be able to “help him with his head.” Sounds slightly familiar, yes? Emerald City is, of course, the latest addition to a long line of The Wizard of OZ remixes. It’s more fantastical and elaborate, darker and far more violent, and, at points, a little sillier (though unintentionally so) than the more commonly known versions. It’s certainly not the worst adaptation of this story, but it’s far from the best it could be.
Emerald City is visually stunning. The directing, cinematography, set design, and costumes are a feast for the eyes. There’s no shift from black and white to full color, like in the movie musical version, but that doesn’t take away from this Oz having its own distinct visual feel. In particular, it was the pops of color against a mostly neutral background that were a standout. The dramatic red of the East Witch’s dress, the bits of yellow poppy pollen floating around Dorothy’s face, or the variations of blue and green throughout Emerald City.
Though most of the characters feel like sketches of what they could become, Dorothy and Tip are both very intriguing so far. They both yearned for something more out of life, and it should be interesting to see them navigate their newfound paths. Tip, in particular, is one of the main reasons to continue with Emerald City. It’s still too early to tell what’s really going on with this character, but it’s one of the few plots in the show that doesn’t feel complex just for the sake of complexity.
The pacing was, at times, excruciatingly slow. The show wasted no time in getting Dorothy to Oz, and the tornado sequence, specifically the part where the East Witch was killed, was very captivating. Unfortunately, from there the plotting became quite tedious. Or, perhaps it’s that there just wasn’t enough substance. It does feel as though the two-hour premiere had a lot going on, but most of it wasn’t able to leave any lasting impact. It’s not the kind of show that makes you impatient for the next installment.
The show is trying to be too many things; its ambition is too big for its own good. Throughout the premiere, there were vibes of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and other narratives that have combined fantasy with politics. In theory, that’s not a bad thing, but in this case it was poorly executed. Ironically, it feels like a cheap knock off, but not of The Wizard of Oz. In particular, the plot between the Wizard and the Witches, West and North, is where the ambition falls flattest. On its surface, their story feels grand, but when you look closer, you realize it’s far too convoluted to be truly enjoyable.
Some of the nods to the source material felt hacky. The word “toto” translating to dog, Dorothy mumbling to herself “definitely not Kansas,” and a handful of other moments were eye-roll and groan worthy. It can’t be an easy line to walk, between paying the right and wrong kind of homage when creating an adaptation. While a lot of the material that feels similar to the original story is reasonable, it was largely overshadowed by the painfully obvious wink-wink nudge-nudge moments.
Despite its shortcomings, Emerald City deserves a few more episodes of our time. The visuals alone are worth coming back for, and it will be interesting to see what other adaptive changes to the source material are made as the season progresses. Unless the story starts gaining better focus, though, it’s not a show you need to pay close attention to. It would make for great background noise while you accomplish more important tasks, or something fun and not too mentally taxing to keep you company on a lazy weekend afternoon.
Watch This if You Like
Adaptations are a divisive concept. If you’re not a big fan of even the best remakes, I wouldn’t bother with this one. If you’re open to modern interpretations, it’s worth a shot. In certain ways it reminded me of the early days of Once Upon a Time, when the show’s reimagining of classic fairy tales was still inventive and intriguing. Honestly, I’d suggest watching The Wiz before Emerald City; I haven’t been able to stop humming “Ease on Down the Road” since watching this premiere.
Emerald City S1E1 & S1E2
Emerald City – S1E1 – “The Beast Forever” & S1E2 ”Prison of the Abject” | Starring: Adria Arjona, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Gerran Howell, Jordan Loughran, Vincent D’Onofrio, Isabel Lucas
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