My biggest complaint of NBC’s Emerald City is its story or lack thereof. I’ve said that it’s all flash and no substance, a story that just isn’t inspiring. That’s why I find it interesting that episode four, an episode that did very little to advance the story, was by far the show’s best episode. This week Emerald City focused heavily on developing its characters and their motivations, something the show has been severely lacking thus far. This episode jumped quickly between scenes where we learned more about who everyone really is.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the episode was Tip. Up until now Tip just seemed like a whiny little kid with an identity crisis, but this week showed us that there is a lot more to her character and that she is capable much more. After thinking she had just killed her best friend Jack, Tip hit rock bottom and was steps away from jumping off a bridge. Eventually, a guard talks her out of it and takes her to Glinda’s orphanage where she has the option to become a member of the Wizard’s council, funny hat and all, or work for West at her brothel. She says in the episode, “So you’re saying my only choice as a girl is nun or a whore?” which is interesting because they are both extreme and unappealing options, but they also both have their benefits. It seems, however, that Tip is interested in what West has to offer, so long as she has access to West’s magic. In general, though, this was a breakout episode for Tip. She showed that she is a powerful character who might have bigger plans that just becoming a boy again.
Like Tip, Jack also has a new identity and has some problems facing him. After a long fall from a balcony (which I assumed killed him), Jack wakes up in some lady’s laboratory with a new set of metal arms and legs. Yep, that’s right, Jack is our Tin Man. As we learned later, Jack was helped by someone named Jane (Gina Mckee) who seems to be the OZ version of Dr. Frankenstein. We also meet another one of her former patient, Lady Ev (Stefanie Martini) who takes a liking to Jack and eventually claims him as hers. I’m not sure where this relationship is headed but it was fun to watch and offered a nice change of pace to the show. Also, the effects used to make Jack’s tin body are very well done are great to look at.
The show even took a deeper look at our main duo this week and it no longer feels like we are blindly following these two on their long walk. After running into a mysterious and lost little girl (who is more than seems), Dorothy and Lucas take her to a local village where they think her parents might be. While in town, Dorothy is spotted by the Wizard’s guards and before they get away one of them recognizes Lucas and attempts to confront him. They eventually flee to the woods and share a very predictable kiss. But seriously, why does every show have to settle for cheap romance? It’s lazy storytelling that is usually very predictable. A Dorothy and Lucas romance offers nothing to the story besides a very forced dilemma for Dorothy at the end.
However, the kiss came after a very interesting conversation about science and magic. Lucas asks Dorothy if her world has magic and she responds by pulling out her iPhone, giving Lucas the headphones, and playing “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. He is immediately taken back by what is going on. It was a powerful scene that allowed us to examine what science and technology might mean to some. To us, products of science, like an iPhone, are great technological advances, but to an outsider, it might seem like magic. Either way, though, science and magic can have a great impact on people. This week Jack and the guard who was shot by Dorothy were affected by science but Tip and the couple who was turned to stone by the little girl were affected by magic. To outside observers, they can both be one in the same. The Wizard as outlawed magic but can that really change anything?
Overall, episode four of Emerald City was well done. Yes, there were still parts that left me scratching my head, but in general, we learned a lot more about the characters we are supposed to be interested in. There wasn’t much progress in the broader story, but that proved to be a good thing because it allowed us to gain some much-needed interest in the people living it. This week did a great job exploring some larger themes that made us think what can coexist and what things are actually the same. Hopefully, this proves to be a major turning point for the show.