The flying monkeys are now drones that constantly record the goings-on in every corner of Oz. The yellow brick road is actually a stone path covered in a thick layer of dusty yellow opium. And the Good Witch of the North? Well, based on first impressions alone, good old Glinda may not be as kind and gentle as we remembered.
In other words, this is Emerald City. And while I hate to be so cliché, we’re most certainly not in Kansas anymore. In fact, I’m not even sure we’re in Oz — at least, not the version from 1939 we all know and love.
NBC’s dark, violent twist on L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz series stars Puerto Rico-born actress Adria Arjona as Dorothy Gale, a 20-year-old nurse who ventures out in a storm to seek answers from her estranged biological mother. While seeking shelter — from both a tornado and a gun-wielding cop she encounters at the crime scene that is her mother’s trailer — Dorothy is suddenly transported to the land of Oz.
Upon arrival, Dorothy realizes she accidentally killed the Wicked Witch of the East — oops, I mean the Mistress of the Eastern Wood — but quickly sets off into the woods with Toto, a German shepherd K9 who unwittingly came along for the trip, in search of help.
The pair is soon surrounded by what I assume to be Munchkins, but instead of singing about lollipops and giving Dorothy a warm welcome to Munchkinland, the non-English-speaking feral-like children lead her into a village, where men of the “tribal freelands” are performing some kind of ritual around the aforementioned dead Mistress. (Say what?)
As it turns out, killing the Mistress of the Eastern Wood is a big no-no in these parts, so the tribesmen decide to banish Dorothy from the freelands and send her to the Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio) to make her apologies. She’s escorted to the border by Ojo, a stern man who voted to kill Dorothy but who also gives the impression he may become an ally for her later. During their walk, Ojo tells Dorothy about The Beast Forever, an evil mythical force that can take many forms but is pretty much guaranteed to unleash hell on earth (er, Oz).
Defeating The Beast Forever the last time it came for a visit is how the not-so-wonderful Wizard first rose to power. We also learn the Wizard has outlawed all magic throughout Oz, presumably in an attempt to subjugate women more powerful than he who might present a threat to his rule. (Hmm, what real-life man-child does that sound like?)
Anyway, all this spells bad news for our girl Dorothy, whose unexpected arrival is seen as the first “true sign” of The Beast Forever’s return. Though she thinks the Wizard will help her get home safely, he actually wants her dead and sends his trusted guard Eamonn to do the deed. And no, he doesn’t want his High Council to examine “the sign,” whatever it may be: “Go east and find out who or what fell from the sky. Make sure it stays fallen. If it’s alive, kill it; if it’s dead, bury it. Whatever it is, it doesn’t come back here… It doesn’t come back to Emerald City.” Them’s straight-up fightin’ words.
With her life unknowingly in danger, Dorothy sets off for Emerald City — but not before Ojo escorts her through the Prison of the Abject, where citizens who violate the Wizard’s law against magic are sent by the Mistress of the Eastern Wood as punishment for their crimes. The prison itself seems magical, though, so perhaps the Wizard is okay with using magic so long as it reinforces his power? Either way, said prison feels like a warning, something else designed to let viewers know this is no ordinary Oz.
NEXT: She’s off to see the Wizard