A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Emerald City is based on the classic Land of Oz series of kids' books, but this dark take isn't intended for young viewers. In this version, Dorothy Gale and most other characters are adults, and there's more violence than in L. Frank Baum's books. Characters are suddenly killed by stabbing and shooting; we see blood spatters and pools but no gore. Dead bodies are in view; a bludgeoning takes place offscreen, accompanied by pulpy noises. Even a "good" witch has a hidden agenda; another witch rules over a realm that seems to host a never-ending orgy (attendees are clothed and merely flirting and kissing, albeit in groups). Poppy pollen (aka opium, as one character clarifies) is bought and sold like a street drug. A monstrous beast threatens to destroy the entire land of Oz. Some characters can perform magic, causing explosions, unseen pain, and objects to move.
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What's the story?
When a tornado strikes a tiny Kansas town and takes nurse Dorothy Gale (Adria Arjona) on a terrifying ride into the sky, she wakes up in a mysterious new land, already branded a criminal by the locals for accidentally killing the powerful Witch of the East. Her fate? To walk the yellow road to the EMERALD CITY and await the judgment of the Wizard of Oz (Vincent D'Onofrio). But Dorothy's journey isn't fated to be a smooth one, even with volatile new pal Lucas (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) as a walking companion, because the pair seem to have a gift for trouble. They soon run afoul of the Witch of the West (Ana Ularu) and Glinda, the (so-called?) "good" Witch of the North (Joely Richardson), and the complicated politics of Oz.
Is it any good?
This reimagining of the classic Land of Oz stories clearly wants to be a network-TV Game of Thrones but doesn't reach the same storytelling heights. In fact, despite the stellar source material, Emerald City drags a bit rather than carrying viewers along on clouds of transfixed enchantment. On the plus side, Emerald City mines other Oz books, not only the original (and oft-adapted, frequently clumsily) Wonderful Wizard of Oz, for plot and characters -- a savvy move, since there's plenty of meat in Baum's other books. A few characters in Emerald City are imported from The Marvelous Land of Oz, a surprisingly feminist story in which a young boy is transformed into a girl who's the rightful ruler of Oz.
But nothing happens quickly, and most of the characters are rather unpleasant, leaving the viewer with no one to root for. Dorothy is a dull cipher, her Scarecrow-like companion a murderer, and the Wizard of Oz apparently deals in drugs and back-door politics. We knew to watch out for the Witch of the West (here a drug-addled sensualist scheming to increase her power), but in this adaptation, even Glinda has no joy for Dorothy. It's not that this series lacks for plot twists -- it's just that it's not a lot of fun. Considering how imaginative and entertaining Baum's novels were, that's a real crime.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why classic stories are frequently fodder for more than one dramatic retelling. What other Wizard of Oz remakes can you name other than Emerald City? Why is a familiar story used as a jumping-off point for a new story?
The original Land of Oz books are intended for children. Is this series intended for children? How can you tell? Why would a children's story be made for older viewers?
Fantastic lands with magic and supernatural happenings are a frequent setting for movies and TV shows. What other fictional realms can you name? How are they similar to or different from Oz?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love fantasy
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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