Walking into the Emerald City panel at New York Comic Con on Saturday (October 8), I was fully prepared to not like the show. I’m not the world's biggest Wizard of Oz fan and feel like the story’s been successfully played out over the past 15 years, with the Broadway hit Wicked, Oz the Great and Powerful, and various Wizard of Oz story lines on Once Upon a Time and Supernatural.
And yet, I was pleasantly surprised after watching the first half of the two-hour premiere, which debuts January 6, 2017. This new reimagining of the classic story is super, super dark. It’s also refreshingly inclusive, with new transgender characters — which actually came straight from L. Frank Baum’s books — that help make up a “cast that happens to look like the United Nations.”
This includes a Hispanic actress, Adria Arjona, as Dorothy Gale — and Arjona’s Dorothy isn’t this whiny chick you’d like to punch in the face, oh no. She’s a total badass who can take care of herself and doesn’t need a man to save her. Plus, she’s got a gun. Dorothy is definitely not in Kansas anymore.
The show’s vibe is extremely cinematic — more like a blockbuster film, not a network TV show. Several of the sets were Game of Thrones–level monstrosities and, as the Q&A panel revealed, a costume designer for Emerald City also worked on Star Wars.
Interestingly, Tarsem Singh, known for directing Immortals and Mirror Mirror, directed all 10 episodes of Season 1 — something virtually unheard of in the television world. Usually, multiple directors are brought in to film individual TV episodes. The fact that one person directed every single scene is the equivalent of Steven Spielberg directing Jurassic Park; the director’s vision lasted from start to finish.
The Emerald City pilot was an auspicious start for the series, with the Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio) about to get a rude awakening from the Wicked Witch of the West (Ana Ularu), who lost her damn mind in the middle of the episode.
Perhaps my favorite part of the episode was the insane reimagining of the Wicked Witch of the East’s (Florence Kasumba) death. The house-falling-on-her thing is ancient history, and her death on Emerald City was totally shocking — exactly what a reimagining should be. Get ready.
Hopefully, the rest of Emerald City will be just as powerful and gripping as what I saw at New York Comic Con. If so, we’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.