The stellar “Emerald City” comes to a close on Friday night (Mar. 3), and the episode, titled of course “No Place Like Home,” continually asks the question: What is “home,” exactly? Is it peace of mind? An actual location? Is it an internal feeling that can follow you anywhere? Or is “home” wherever you decide it is, based on whatever makes you most comfortable?
Each character in the Season 1 finale is either struggling to find or to protect that undefinable thing — but not everyone survives the journey. The war in Oz has finally come to a head, and the casualties — some but not all of which set in a literal fog of war provided by swarms of insects directed by Glinda’s (Joely Richardson) young witches — are massive, and brutal.
Glinda (Joely Richardson) and her army of witches are the first to cross paths with Frank the Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio), Dorothy arriving moments later with a Stone Giant in tow. Glinda instructs Sylvie (Rebeka Rea) to destroy the Giant with her rock-controlling powers — and though Dorothy begs her not to, Sylvie makes the Giant crumble as if a bomb exploded in his chest, raining destruction down.
Now that Sylvie is clearly in control of her powers, she’s a force to be reckoned with — Dorothy begs her to spare the Wizard, the only person who can get her back home, and secures it with a promise to take Frank back with her to Kansas, which Dorothy thinks will simultaneously end the war and save Oz.
But the Wizard has no intention of ever returning to the real world: In Kansas, he’s nothing but a loser named Frank: No power, no army, and therefore no reason to live. Erasing any suspicion that the Wizard deserves to stay alive, he shoots Sylvie. So scared of losing his kingdom — crumbling to pieces like those big empty giants — he’ll do anything, hurt any woman, and so if little Sylvie poses as a threat, he won’t he hesitating: He kills the sweet, uncanny child in cold blood…
However, as following the rules set forth by L. Frank Baum, “only a witch a can kill a witch.” Sylvie is thankfully not dead — and an angry, annoyed Glinda tells the Wizard the witches were never the Beast. The witches and their magic are not what’s looking to destroy Oz, and never have been: It’s Roquat, the creepy looking monster being held captive in the Prison of Abject.
And now the King of the Nomes, the ultimate enemy of Oz, has been set free. And it’s Dorothy who allowed him escape.
Before Glinda and her army can retaliate, a tornado of dark forces magically appears, buying Dorothy time to get herself and the Wizard out of Dodge, and to the Wizard’s steampunky tornado-travel machine. While the Wizard has now escaped death three times over in the past few hours alone — and after a prime D’Onofrio fit, one for the ages — Dr. Jane (Gina McKee) comes out of nowhere… And shoots him dead.
Dorothy freaks out. Without him, going back to Kansas is now forever impossible. But that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a lot Dorothy doesn’t know. Right before Frank dies, he tells Dorothy that Karen (Gina Bellman) is not her biological mother — her real mother is here in Oz, always has been.
Turns out, Dorothy’s entire family story was contrived in order to protect her: Jane is her real mother, not Karen — but if Dorothy knew that, Jane feared her daughter would come looking for her, and she couldn’t guarantee her safety in Oz. Jane’s always been one of the most intriguing characters, but a lot of her attachments and reactions — not to mention her very non-Ozian skillset — become a lot clearer now: Her protective-beyond-even-death instincts toward young Jack (Gerran Howell) and even Langwidere (Stefanie Martini), of course, but also her half-indentured/half-conspiratorial relationship with the powers that be. It felt a little collaborationist from a citizen of Oz or Ev — but as a person from our world, we’re left thinking she’s played the game better than Dorothy by a long shot.
Dorothy is understandably confused, and demands a clear explanation, with much more details. Jane says she’ll tell her everything once she gets into the travel machine… But of course the second Dorothy steps in, Jane locks the door shut, sending her back to Kansas alone.
While this may seem harsh, it’s the action of only the most selfless mother: The opposite of abandonment. In fact, sending the daughter she hasn’t seen in 20 years back home after mere minutes is probably most heartbreaking of all to Jane, but it’s the only way she knows how to ensure her safety.
Meanwhile, as West and Ozma (Ana Ularu & Jourdan Loughran) retake Emerald City, hopefully allying themselves with Glinda to give Oz and its witches the peace they deserve, regicide Eamonn gets his due: Ozma removes his family’s memories of him and curses him to walk the land as an outcast, in a lion’s skin. It’s harsh, but fair: He took Ozma’s family, so his is taken in turn. Of all the wanderers left in the wake of the war, it’s Eamonn we wonder most about, in the world the Beast Forever will create.
Dorothy wakes up all out of sorts, tends to Karen, and we spend some time-jump amount of time with the unfortunate sense that the entire journey to Oz was nothing but a crazy dream: An ending so cheap, and such a cop-out, we would’ve been pissed — but we know better. Not so for Dorothy, who shares these exact sentiments. Not exactly the long-awaited prodigal return, the joyful homecoming, she imagined: Just back in her life, all her feelings of being special signifying not much at all.
Auntie Em also seems to be acting strange. Whether or not she’s merely worried about Dorothy’s well-being after such a traumatic experience, for getting caught in a tornado and saving the life of a woman thought to be your biological mother would be a jarring experience for even the strongest person, Auntie Em’s continuous inquiry feels suspicious. Does Auntie Em know about Oz? Did she have some sort of pact with the Wizard? Is she Jane’s sister, and thus Dorothy’s true aunt? (And most tellingly: Why are her fingers black with poppy juice?)
Walking through the field to clear her head, Dorothy finds a much younger-seeming Toto… And then any notion “Emerald City” was nothing but a dream is dispensed when Lucas/Roan (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) appears, menacing her with a scarecrow in the background. Roan tells Dorothy he isn’t going to hurt her: Just that her mother is being held captive by the Beast, and that Oz needs her help.
It seems Glinda, West, Jane and Ozma — currently biting the bullet and living as a woman, to keep her land’s focus and bring it back from the brink of destruction — all need her help to defeat Roquat.
The Wizard told Dorothy time and again that Oz was her home. But in “They Came First,” Dorothy pledges her allegiance to her adoptive parents: Home is Kansas, and that’s where she’ll finally get to know her biological mother. But now, that’s all shifted. Dorothy still loves her adoptive parents, but her true home is now elsewhere. And in front of her stands her Lucas, like forbidden fruit, holding out his hand to follow him back to Oz, where she can be a hero. Offering to take her home.
Frank never understood why Dorothy felt so strongly about returning to Kansas. In Oz, she’s powerful. With the powers inherited from the Witch of the East (Florence Kasumba), she is special. How could she give all that up for a mundane life on a farm in the middle of nowhere? Kansas isn’t enough for Dorothy, even if she wants it to be.
The announcement for a second season of “Emerald City” has yet to be announced — and what NBC is waiting for, we have no idea. But it’s safe to assume that Dorothy will be going back to Oz: Ego, magical powers and sexual desires aside, she still wants nothing more than to know her mother. And Dorothy’s ready to go back home. To Oz.