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REVIEW: Emerald City 1×02 “The Prison of Abject”

The first episode of Emerald City began with a promising start despite a clunky few opening minutes before plunging into a darker take on the Land of Oz. Where we last left off, Dorothy and the amnesiac Lucas encountered the Witch of the East, who Dorothy had run over with a police car before, not that seemed to bother her much. But Dorothy tricked her into shooting herself with a gun. The Wizard, Glinda, and West now know of the witch’s passing and it looks like Dorothy will soon be dragged into the war between magic and science. But not just yet.

The episode opens with Dorothy mourning East’s “suicide” and informs Lucas about her plan to meet the Wizard. Just as the duo are about to head off, the Witch’s magic Ruby Gloves materialise briefly on Dorothy’s hands. As I asked in the first episode’s review, what’s wrong with magic shoes? And where was Toto during the encounter with East? Meanwhile, Eamonn, the Wizard’s subordinate and the equivalent of the Cowardly Lion, spends this episode not really doing much. He very slowly follows Dorothy’s trail, accompanied by a group of bored knights who randomly decide to kill him out of the blue. Eamonn then kills the ringleader off screen later on in the episode.

Glinda arrives in the Emerald City, somehow accompanied by East’s body. How did she get that so fast and why did she not cross paths with Dorothy? Glinda visits West, explaining the Wizard has allowed them access to their sacred temple to perform a ritual that will allow East to travel to the next world and West’s tongue skills are required. No, not like that! I mean she must perform the incantation to make the ritual work. Glinda points out that the ritual must go correctly or they could face their public annihilation as respected cardinal witches. Joely Richardson definitely receives a thumbs up for her portrayal of Glinda, tossing out the sugar-coated sweetness in favour of a more stern, icy, subtly ruthless character hinted at in the books.

Dorothy attempts to teach Lucas the concept of a knock-knock joke but it falls on confused ears. Instead, we get the obligatory flirting before Lucas realises he is bleeding pretty badly. After some more travelling, Lucas keels over and Dorothy rushes to his aid. They come across a village where Dorothy is pointed to a secluded hovel where an apothecary lives. The apothecary turns out to be the elderly witch Mombi (Fiona Shaw). Mombi makes a potion and delivers it to her ward, a boy named Tip (Jordan Loughran).

Now, if know your Oz lore, you probably know who Tip is. If not, well, I’ll keep the surprise secret. It looks like the show intends on remaining true to Tip’s origins. However, what is more important is that Tip is technically a transgendered character, being one of the first in fictional history. And now, 121 years after the character’s debut, he is finally getting justice without the story dancing around the subject. Good work.

Anyway, while Mombi is quite kind and motherly to Tip, he is actually her prisoner. When Mombi steps out to buy a chicken, Tip summons his friend Jack (Gerran Howell) to free him from his prison. In the Emerald City, the Wizard welcomes Glinda and West to his palace. Glinda presents the Wizard with a new nun named Anna (Isabel Lucas) to be his servant. The Wizard asks if East’s purgatory, the Prison of Abject, can be altered with her passing, but Glinda admits each witch’s magic is her own and cannot be copied, only her knowledge and soul can be extracted during her funeral. It also is mentioned in passing that the Witch of the South was eaten by the Beast Forever, the unseen monster that threatens Oz.

Dorothy and Lucas arrive at Mombi’s house, prompting Jack to flee just as Mombi herself returns. Though Mombi is at first dismissive, she changes her mind when she notices the sword that Lucas carries. Later on, Mombi confronts Dorothy and Lucas about the sword, pointing out the hilt is that of the Wizard’s guard. Now, this is getting interesting. Lucas denies being a knight, but Mombi explains the massacred village Dorothy found him in was destroyed by the Wizard’s guard, who burnt and tortured the citizens. She blames Lucas for it, claiming he lost his memory as punishment for doing “unthinkable” acts and thus has been made unable to think himself.

Glinda, West, and their followers re-enter their old temple to perform the ritual. The Wizard strides in shortly after, asking to witness the event and in a rather douchebaggy move, opens the temple up to the public, so they can gawp through the windows. He is obviously trying to destroy the public’s respect of the witches in the most humiliating way possible. Glinda is visibly pissed, but instead warns West that the Wizard hopes to see her screw up her role in the ceremony. Dorothy explores Mombi’s house and receives an SOS from Tip. Mombi poisons Lucas’ medicine out of revenge and to protect Tip from him. Dorothy confronts Mombi, who admits Tip is locked up to protect him from the world and asks if Dorothy’s own mother protected her from harm. Dorothy’s reaction explains everything.

The Wizard visits the new nun Anna. I really thought he was going to try to seduce her, but thankfully it turns into a scene of admiration, the Wizard taking a shine to Anna when she expresses her love for science and numbers. The two attend the ceremony. West is late for the ritual, looking a bit on the wild side. After a brief sibling squabble, the witches perform the ceremony. It is quite the spectacle, with West seemingly being used as a conduit to extract East’s soul, and is enough to scare off the crowd. The ritual is a success, but the Wizard watches like he is a school snitch. His plan is a success itself. Later, Glinda helps West vomit up East’s soul into a glass urn, no all Glinda can do is insult West again. Well let’s see you perform mouth-to-mouth with a corpse and puke up its soul, you stroppy cow.

Dorothy talks with Lucas who is confused by Mombi’s accusations only to suddenly start convulsing. Dorothy comes to the rescue, using her nursing skills to save his life. Poor fella can’t catch a break. Realising Mombi poisoned him, Dorothy grabs the sword and looks like she is about to make her witch kill count hit two. Instead, she locks Mombi’s door using the sword and busts Tip out with help from Jack. Tip and Jack flee into the night, only taking a tiny dose of Tip’s medicine with them, while Dorothy tries to get Lucas up and going.

Mombi uses magic to bust out of her room and confronts Dorothy. Mombi realises Tip is gone and has one hell of a freakout, though there is some sympathy for her. She meant well. Mombi then tries to shove poisonous leaves down Dorothy’s throat, only for Lucas to run her through with the sword and then beats her into a bloody mess with a kettle. This Scarecrow is downright nutty! Too bad, I quite liked Mombi.

Tip and Jack, oblivious to Mombi’s unfortunate end, camp for the night. Tip makes it clear he needs the medicine, claiming he has “bad blood”. Not that it seems to bother the runaways since they decide to start howling at the moon. The witches’ temple is sealed up again and the smug Wizard arrives to see Glinda back off home, pointing out if she causes any trouble, one of his giant so-totally-not-a-Nome rock guardians will crush the temple. It has also become clear that the public are not so welcoming to the witches now.

Dorothy and Lucas walk down the yellow brick road in awkward silence, still drenched in Mombi’s blood, and Lucas tries to lighten the mood by trying to start off perhaps the most tense knock-knock joke ever. Dorothy looks just about ready to head for the hills. However, a brief shot into Mombi’s house implies she may not be dead. In the final scene, Jack wakes up to find Tip missing and glimpses a girl running away wearing his friend’s jacket. Jack catches up with her, only for the girl to round the tree and reveal she is in fact Tip – but now as a girl.

As I said before, a little bit of research can reveal the truth about Tip’s transformation, but my lips are sealed until the time is right. All in all, this episode was a bit more interesting than the first. Eamonn’s scenes are relatively pointless but the rest of the episode is a blast. The tense relationship between the Wizard and the witches in their own Game of Thrones is good politicial entertainment. Fiona Shaw was fantastic as Mombi and I hope she makes a return in later episodes.

Final Score: A-

Additional Notes: There is a brief focus on a dragon-shaped dagger that Jack wants to pocket, but Tip forbids him. I wonder if it’ll have some significance later on and will relate to who Tip really is.

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About the author

Mark Russell