Emerald City: Mistress New Mistress Review

Dorothy's quest home might not be worth sticking around for, but the exploration of Tip's gender identity crisis continues to compel.

Emerald Citycontinues its bizarre, beautiful, convoluted 10-episode run on NBC this week with “Mistress New Mistress,” the third episode of the season. Here’s everything that went down…

Dorothy continues to wander around Oz.

By the end of the third episode, it’s still hard to get a read on who Dorothy is as a person, which is not an ideal problem to have with your series’ protagonist, especially one as famous as Dorothy Gale.

In “Mistress New Mistress,” Dorothy goes from wanting to turn herself into the Wizard’s guard to pretending to be the next The Witch of the East in order to get access to a tornado that might take her home to hightailing out of East’s castle like she didn’t just cause the place to blow down. Sure, there are plot convolutions that lead her to make these decisions, but Dorothy very much feels like an agency-less character. Dorothy is just kind of wandering through Oz bumping into things that happen to have major consequences more than owning her own journey. (I suppose that leaves room for growth?)

Even when Dorothy makes steps to get what she wants — to go home, of course — they are dictated by others’ actions. It’s Lucas that drags her away from the Wizard’s guard so that she can overhear that the Wizard has ordered her death. It is East’s loyal servant Sullivan who suggests that Dorothy might be East’s mentee, something Dorothy just goes along with. And it is the tornado who brings Dorothy where it wants, to the mysterious creek where she finds her mother’s shirt. Upon Dorothy’s return, Sullivan tells her that the river is filled with the interloper’s possessions, leading Dorothy to believe that her mother was one such interloper in Oz.

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This could (and should) be an interesting plot point. Dorothy just learned something monumental about her mysterious birth mother, but Emerald Citybrushes past it faster than a tornado destroying a murdered witch’s castle. We know because Emerald Cityliterally destroys East’s castle next, as the tornado is unleashed and consumes the building it was once trapped in. So much for controlling the weather.

Dorothy ends up the episode still stuck in Oz back on her mission to talk to the Wizard, with only Lucas as her companion. There’s a strong alliance between these two. They might not know what the heck is going on, but they trust each other. In an entire world of chaotic confusion, they are on another’s constants. The thing they have decided to hold onto. There’s something really sweet about that… I just wish they had better dialogue.

The Wizard is losing control of Emerald City.

Meanwhile, back in ye olde Emerald City, the Wizard is not happy when three women commit a highly visible magical suicide from the Eternal Soldier. The Wizard takes new assistant Anna to investigate, and she proves herself highly adept, identifying the women as part of the Witch of the West’s brothel.

They visit West, with the Wizard eager to find someone to blame for this troubling turn of events, but West has no interest in being a scapegoat. These may have been her women, but she has no interest in bringing magic back to Oz (or so she claims). It’s highly addictive, and couldn’t save the land from The Beast anyway. This is a witch without hope.

West also gets a few barbs in, at the Wizard’s expense. She reveals that Anna’s mother used to work for her and that the Wizard himself once slept with her, causing Anna to flee the room. The Wizard pursues her and tells her a bit about himself. His real name is Frank Morgan, and he wasn’t born a wizard. He became one through hard work, but that past doesn’t define him.

This seems to make Anna feel better, but it only creeps me out further. The Wizard might not be defined by his past, but that seems like a better alternative than his creeptastic present, which involves hitting on woman who could be his daughter. (Even though West assures him that Anna isn’t actually his daughter, the point still stands.)

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I’m not sure where Emerald Cityis going with this storyline or what we are supposed to feel about the burgeoning affection between The Wizard and Anna. Because, from where I’m sitting, it seems highly unrealistic that Anna would be anything but creeped out by The Wizard’s advances, not to mention the immense power he seems to wield so carelessly.

Anyway, Anna gets back to work, interviewing the women at the brothel in an attempt to get to the bottom of the suicides. Her conclusion? They were caused by the Beast, who was trying to make a point to the Wizard. The women killed where all ones who slept with impotent men, a metaphor for the Wizard himself.

Anna’s insights delve further, however. She tells the Wizard that she doesn’t think he can control his Warriors anymore, which is why he wanted Glinda to open the Prison of the Abject. She predicts that the coming of the Beast will be foretold by snow, rather than the hailstorm of fire the other assistants predict.

The Wizard is angry at Anna’s (probably too-close-to-home) insights, imprisoning her for her gall, but, before the episode ends, snow starts to fall in Emerald City. It’s probably smart to keep Anna around.

Tip struggles to understand his transformation.

Poor, confused, scared Tip. After the shocking, unclear cliffhanger that ended last week’s two-hour premiere, we catch back up with Tip (who woke up in a female body) and Jack as they make their way to a city, hoping to find an herbalist who can make more of Tip’s medicine and turn his body back into a boy.

The herbalist initally says he will try to recreate Tip’s medicine, until he realizes what it is. Apparently, the witch was giving Tip some kind of magic elixir that hid his “true form.” He refuses to make more of it, which tells us a little bit about how the citizens of Oz feel about rigid gender identities, I guess.

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The news devastates Tip, who was already having trouble dealing with the way the people of the city were treating him — i.e. like a girl. When Jack leans in for a kiss to comfort Tip (has Jack always had romantic feelings for his best friend or is it only now that Tip is female-bodied?), it is the last straw. Tip strikes out in anger at his best friend, inadvertently pushing him off of a balcony and to Jack’s apparent death.

It is a cruel, somewhat contrived development for a character who has already been asked to deal with so much. What will happen to Tip now? Though I wasn’t a fan of this twist, out of all the main plots in Emerald City,I still find Tip’s the most fascinating. His journey to understand and take control of his gender identity is one I will keep tuning into Emerald Cityto follow…


Emerald City was a topic on the January 2017 episode of Sci Fi Fidelity (timecode 43:31). Listen below or subscribe! iTunes | Stitcher | Soundcloud


2.5 out of 5