(Editor’s note: this is the complete recap of “The Beast Forever,” the first half of the Emerald City premiere. Check back later for the recap of the second hour, as well as our reviews of the two hour event. SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
As a storm buffets a scarecrow, a windmill, and cornfields, a woman runs with her baby to a farmhouse and wails “Please! I’m sorry! Please help us!” On the infant’s hand is a birthmark: five blue points that could trace a pentagram.
Cut to hazy daylight, glinting on a sign that says “Welcome to Lucas, KS POP 393.” A truck moves down a dirt road, past a mailbox marked “Gale.” The driver, a 20-something woman, parks outside a trailer and watches, in her rear view window, as an older woman takes out her trash. Laundry and flags hang from the trailer. When the young woman adjusts her rear view mirror, we see by her five pointed birthmark that this is the infant, all grown up, and at least twenty years elapsed between scenes. When the older woman looks towards the truck, we recognize the birth mother.
The young woman arrives at Lucas Medical, where an intern asks her out to dinner, and she proposes to skip dinner for what comes after. A nurse interrupts and finally speaks our young heroine’s name: “Dorothy, it’s Mrs. Clifford.” Dorothy arrives to the elderly patient’s room, talks kindly, and steals the old lady’s medication.
Upon Dorothy’s return to the Gale farm, Auntie Em and her Uncle celebrate her birthday. Her Spanish-speaking father says (translated) “I hope all your wishes come true,” to which Dorothy responds “This year I only have one.” There is also only one candle on Dorothy’s cake, which she blows out.
Afterwards, while they’re washing dishes, Dorothy gives the stolen pills to her Aunt, who tells Dorothy not to do that, but does not refuse it. We can speculate that Auntie Em needs the medication so desperately that she cannot refuse it, though we never learn her ailment by name. Dorothy complains that there should be more to her mother, who was nothing like she imagined. “You’re my real mother,” Dorothy says to Aunt Em.
Dorothy gets back in her jeep, either to keep her rendezvous with the intern or to get closure with her mother, but as an epic storm rolls in, she outraces it to her biological mother’s trailer. After knocking and yelling to no response, Dorothy lets herself in, and finds weird stuff on the computers, blood on the floor, and a dead or unconscious man wearing a bomber jacket and some kind of pilot’s helmet–as if he just flew there. In the storm shelter, she finds her mother crumpled to the ground but conscious. She tells Dorothy, “Nobody can come here…Dorothy…no police…not good…no, you have to run.”
When a police car arrives, Dorothy asks for help, but to her surprise, the officer is about to shoot her in cold blood when the tornado rips him to shreds. Dorothy jumps into the car to escape the twister, only to have the dark funnel swallow her, car and all. Debris clatters on the windows, and a police dog barks in the back seat, until the darkness of the tornado is supplanted by a slightly brighter twilight, and the police car slams into a red robed person before coming to a stop.
Dorothy comes to her senses only to be numbed by the shock of seeing the victim, and it may help the viewer credit some conscience to her, that even though she steals pills, she feels responsible for a death caused by a tornado-propelled vehicle that she had chosen for shelter from lethally inclement weather. Dorothy frees the police dog, and swipes the officer’s jacket and gun from the trunk.
The dog follows Dorothy as she trudges through the woods, until Munja’kin children surround them and bring them to their village, where there’s a ritualistic, percussion-punctuated funeral dance in progress. When the barking police dog interrupts the proceedings, one of the Munja’kin elders, “Ojo of the tribe of Free Lands,” proves to be an animal whisperer and calms down the dog. “These are the tribal free lands…you are trespass,” he says.
Dorothy recognizes the deceased to be the woman that she ran over. Even though Dorothy claims the woman stepped in front of her, since she killed the “mistress of the eastern wood, the most merciful and stern,” and that “only a witch can kill a witch, or the beast forever,” Dorothy is suspected of being a witch, tied to giant wooden ribs, and tortured by submersion in water until the point of near-drowning, despite her protestations that she is “no one” and doesn’t “mean anything.”
A steampunk drone monkey—more specifically, a mechanical drone sculpted into a monkey ‘s shape, that flies with rotors–soars over the sea, a vast footbridge stretched between two towers, and gigantic statues in the surf. The stone giants look like they were once flesh and blood giants poised to attack the coastal city, and turned into stone mid-attempt. Running concurrently with this footage is an organ-laden soundtrack that surges in an inspiring swell as the tableau is revealed. The Wizard interrupts his organ playing to address his all-woman High Council. “Why do I get the feeling, Isabel, that when I stop playing you’re going to deliver some horrible news?”
Isabel tells him something has happened in the East, near the Munja’kin village. By turning a crank in the drone monkey’s head, its recording is screened on the wall. “Do we know what it is?” asks the Wizard as they pore over the very vague aerial photography. “Not yet,” says Isabel, “but it tore the sky, and that is the first true sign. Now the Beast Forever will rise.” The Wizard entrusts his crony Eamonn to “find out who or what fell from the sky” and “make sure it stays fallen…If it’s alive, kill it; if it’s dead, bury it. Whatever it is, it doesn’t come back here.”
Cut to the Munja’kin village, where Ojo says “my decision has been made. You are to be exiled from the tribe of free lands, never to return.” On their way to her point of exile, Dorothy’s tagalong police dog gets a name when Ojo tells Dorothy, “your toto looks hungry…toto means dog in our language,” and from that point on, Dorothy calls the dog Toto. They pass a monstrous skeleton, and Dorothy asks if it is the Beast, to which Ojo responds: “The Beast Forever drowned this, and hundreds like it. The Beast Forever takes many forms: floods that meet the sky; fires that water cannot extinguish; monstrosities that slither and soar.” The Beast Forever was stopped by the Wizard and the Eternal Warriors that formed a wall around Emerald City “to keep the beast forever from flooding our entire world.”
From here we cut to a den of iniquity that resembles a cross between a coven and a brothel. The Wizard inquires if the witch named West was the cause of what happened. West, introduced as ‘Mistress of the Western Fields; Vessel of Truth and Solace,’ says “No magic here. I found a new line of work, thanks to you.”
Ojo, given a choice of the long way around a mountain or the quick way through The Prison of the Abject–a magical mud that entraps, in a Bruegel version of Hell, those who violate the Wizard’s law against magic– chooses the fast track through, to get rid of Dorothy. We learn he has an ulterior motive for ensuring that Dorothy see The Prison of the Abject, as Ojo’s wife numbers among the prisoners there, and he blames Dorothy for killing East, the only witch that could set his wife free.
Upon completing their journey through the pass, Ojo tells Dorothy to follow the yellow road. It isn’t a yellow brick road, by the way, as the yellow comes from poppy flowers. “The Wizard is great and powerful, and he can get you home,” says Ojo.
Dorothy staggers from the opiate aroma of the vast poppy fields, but manages to keep her footing, and soon happens upon the scene of a battle, which includes a wrecked cart, and a man tied to a cross which reads NIMBO on its cross piece. It’s hard not to see religious parallels, as the man is on a cross with a deep wound in his side. In terms of Wizard of Oz parallels, the man is amnesiac, so we can consider him to be the scarecrow analogue, as while he isn’t lacking a brain, his mind is nearly content-free.
Dorothy checks the man’s head, and, finding an ostentatious sword at his feet, gives it to him. From here, Dorothy and the amnesiac man travel together.
(Viewers: you may want to rewatch the previous two scenes when you get to episode six.)
Ojo tells Eamonn, who has arrived at the Munja’kin village, that Dorothy has gone. When Ojo leads Eamonn to East’s body, they discover that it is gone.
When Lucas asks Dorothy how he looks, since he does not remember his own appearance, she almost admits he is handsome. Then, changing the subject, she says”even the dog has a name,” and says that they should name him. Lucas asks Dorothy to name him, and she says, “No, that’s too much responsibility. A name has permanence. I try to avoid responsibility and permanence.” Lucas insist that she call him the first name that comes to mind, and he badgers her until she blurts out Lucas, naming him after her home town. “So Lucas is home?” asks Lucas.
When night falls, two moons shine on Oz. Dorothy and Lucas camp in the ruins of a house, and we see East, very much alive, perched on the rooftop. Lucas wakes to discover Dorothy gone and mist rolling in. He finds Dorothy standing listlessly in mud; from her perspective, she believes herself in The Prison of the Abject, and when Lucas steps in the mud, he shares her phantasm, and both roll around in the torturous magical mud.
As what follows is a well-acted scene with wonderful dialogue, I’ve transcribed the exchange for your enjoyment.
East reveals herself, and says to them, “I awoke with the strangest taste in my mouth. You!” She beckons with her gauntlets, and they writhe in pain, and become entangled in a plant/stone hybrid. “Do you know who I am,” asks East.
Dorothy can only stammer, “witch…stern…”
“Merciful and stern,” corrects East. Lucas tries to draw his sword, and it flies into her hand. “Steel won’t help you, swordsman, unless you want to open your neck and end your hurt. That’s the merciful part. Why did you come for me?”
“I didn’t,” says Dorothy.
“Are you one of Glinda’s girls? Did she send you to hurt me? My sister, my sister with her secrets?”
“I came through a tornado. I dont know how but I did.”
“In Oz, nothing good ever comes from the sky, so when something does, we try to send it back in pieces.”
When East begins to inspect the gun, Dorothy says, “put it down, it’s dangerous.”
“I’ll be the judge of that. I’ll be the judge of everything.” Dorothy and Lucas’s agony increases.
“Don’t,” says Dorothy.
“Or you’ll die again and forever.”
“My my, so pretty and so stupid. Only a witch can kill a witch. What does it do and how does it work?”
“Let him go, and I’ll say.”
“I don’t make deals.”
“Ok, ok, fine, I’ll tell you. You’re pointing it the wrong way.”
“See, that wasn’t so hard, wasn’t it?” says East.
“Squeeze the trigger. Squeeze it!” East squeezes the trigger, blows her own brains out, and the Prison of the Abject disappears.
Lucas helps Dorothy up. The scene is cut with a shot of East and her robes spread out over the dirt.
In Emerald City, while walking under the giant statue, West feels East’s death. Isabel tells The Wizard, “the witch of the East is dead. By whose hand we don’t know. Sir, this was magic strong enough to kill a cardinal witch.”
In Glinda’s tower, we hear arctic winds, but in her sanctum there is a tree with red blossoms before which Glinda sits. Is she praying to or meditating on the tree, or using it as a crystal ball? Or is this just to evoke The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy? We don’t know, but it’s an outstanding visual. “Mistress North” asks her servant. “Glinda, Do you have any notion who might have killed?”
Glinda says, “No, but there is only one man to blame.”
Back in Emerald City, The Wizard addresses the crowd: “20 years ago King Pastoria and the magic realm fought the beast forever. They fought bravely and they lost. If it were not for me, Emerald City would have fallen like many great cities of Oz. I will protect you forever from the beast forever who ravages our land. I will protect you from the forbidden magic in the woods. I will protect you because I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.” His speech runs in tandem with a contrasting scene of him turning in for the night. For instance, in his last repetition of “I will protect you,” the interwoven parallel scene shows him removing his wig and slumping into a chair, as if the illusion of his bombastic promises is being contrasted with the reality of who he really is.
Trivia: The license plate of Dorothy’s truck is 3G9 5G2. There may or may not be a clever reference to Attack on Titan in the viewer’s first entry to The Prison of the Abject, as one of the creepy faces embedded there resembles the “Titan in the Walls.”