Last week, NBC’s new series Emerald City premiered and I was psyched. As a child I was an Oz nerd who had a crush on the Tin Woodsman (don’t look at me like that, he was shiny) and who terrorized the L. Frank Baum section of every library children room I visited, looking for Oz adventures I hadn’t read yet.
So was I ready for a grown-up take on the books that had bewitched me as a child? Oh yes. Yes I was.
As far as I’m concerned, the series mostly delivered. I mostly liked the pilot, although I was dismayed that East, the witch best known for dying early in the Oz saga, is the only one of the cardinal witches played by a black actress. Plot wise, I don’t know how I feel about the Beast Forever. I do, however, like the sweeping visuals, the imaginative costuming and set pieces, and I think that Dorothy is well-cast.
My favorite thing, though? Obscure characters from the books are making their way into the show.
I mean, almost everybody knows Dorothy, the wizard, and the Wicked Witch of the West, but there are other characters who never made it into the Judy Garland movie, and thus, into the mainstream. And there are a LOT of them — L. Frank Baum wrote 14 books about Oz and 26 more books were written by other authors after his death, and put out by Baum’s publishers.
Here are some Oz characters you might not know that have appeared in the show (or will, according to IMDB) and also a few I hope we will see.
(SPOILERS: I’m going to do my best not to spoil you here, guys, but since I don’t know how the show is planning to reimagine these characters, possible spoilers to follow.)
Characters that are definitely going to be in the show
Mombi: I was super-excited to see Mombi, who in the books was the narratively-neglected wicked witch of the north. (Glinda is the witch of the north in Emerald City, so we know she’s not that.) Mombi is a powerful witch, but she’s also a hermit, and as you’ve seen, she’s keeping a kid trapped in her house. For reasons.
Tip: It’s hard to explain Tip properly without spoiling everything, but let me just say here that yes, that whole changing-into-a-girl thing is canon. In the books, Tip is a lonely orphan who just wants a friend, and to get out of Mombi’s house. He is very adventurous and resourceful, and although he is mischievous, he’s basically a good kid. A lot like Dorothy, actually.
Jack Pumpkinhead: Tip’s friend who tries to rescue him from Mombi has his roots in the book as well. Tip makes Jack from a pumpkin and sticks, and sets him up in the house to scare Mombi. It works, but backfires because Mombi recovers from her fright quickly and decides to test a new spell on Jack, bringing him to life. Jack then becomes Tip’s best friend, and much as they do in the show, they then escape together.
Ojo the Lucky: Ojo may look and act like a Game of Thrones wildling, but Ojo is a munchkin in the books and a very unlucky one. (And if you look at the picture of him, he is basically the inverse of the Ojo on the show.) Poor Ojo was born on Friday the 13th, and has a bunch of other unlucky things about him, and all the other munchkins are wary of him. He lives with his uncle in the wilds of Munchkinland.
Lady Ev: We didn’t meet her in the premiere, but I’m seeing the Lady of Ev, Oz’s neighboring nation, listed as a character on the show’s IMDB page. I’m thinking (and hoping) that this is a version of Princess Langwidere, a frightening woman whose vanity makes her Elizabeth Báthory-like. She finds pretty women, and takes their heads, and instead of changing her dress, which is always plain, she changes her head, like some sort of psychotic Barbie doll.
Characters I really want to see introduced
The above characters are the only characters I could identify from the pilot and the IMDB page, but there are other beloved Oz characters who may be waiting in the Emerald City wings:
The Sawhorse: An enchanted sawhorse, brought to life by Tip to carry him and Jack down the Yellow Brick Road. You wouldn’t think the sawhorse would be much of a character, actually, but it plays a big role in many stories, and definitely has a mind of its own.
Scraps: Scraps, the Patchwork Girl, is a life-sized doll made of scraps of fabric. She was brought to life to be a mindless servant, but interference with the magic that brought her to life (thank you, Ojo) has made her unpredictable and given her a personality. She spontaneously bursts out with poetry, or does acrobatics for no reason. You know Ed from Cowboy Bebop? She’s kind of like that, but a quilt. Also, she is the Scarecrow’s girlfriend.
The Hungry Tiger: The Hungry Tiger never gets much screen time, which is too bad because he’s a big orange sweetie. He’s the Cowardly Lion’s BFF, and he’s always hungry, no matter how much he eats. (Maybe I love the Hungry Tiger so much because I identify with him.) He also really, really wants to eat live people and animals, but he can’t bring himself to do so because he’d never forgive himself.
Tik-Tok: Tik-Tok is a clockwork man originally bought by the evil King of Ev, who whipped him regularly. This didn’t bother Tik-Tok at all, because he can feel no pain, physical or emotional. Tik-Tok, who is possibly the first robot to ever appear in a book, has no feelings whatsoever, in fact — although the other characters do feel some affection for him. He is dutiful and does whatever he’s told as long as he is wound up. But he tends to run down often because plot reasons.
Billina: Billina is Dorothy’s sassy talking chicken. ‘Nuff said. If I don’t see some Billina, I will be vexed.
Ozma of Oz: The mysterious lost princess of Oz, who disappeared when her father was killed before the start of the Oz stories.