Tin Man, on Sci Fi
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Well, this is a strange reimagining of "The Wizard of Oz," for the most part darker, more serious than the original story, but it has plenty of its own brand of weirdness and even goofiness at times. I thought it was fun seeing things that were clearly based on the familiar story, even if they were twisted from the original, but it was also quite interesting to see all the things that were completely different. And twists on familiar story elements aren't the only sort of twists in this miniseries; there are also plenty of good old-fashioned plot twists, which you may or may not see coming.
DG (played by Zooey Deschanel) is a young woman who lives on a farm with her parents, and who works in a diner. She's never felt at home here, however, she dreams of something more. And recently, she's started literally dreaming of someplace else, and a woman with lavender eyes, who has a message for her: a storm is coming. Meanwhile, the place from DG's dreams truly exists. We see a sorceress named Azkadellia, who has agents searching for the Emerald of the Eclipse, which is very important to her plans. She also has a viewer (which are rather shaggy, beastlike people with psychic power that comes from the heart rather than the mind) trying to locate the emerald, or whether there's anything that might stand in her way. Her captive viewer, Lylo, tells her there is a light which could stop her, so she sends a group of her agents, called Longcoats, to "the other side," to find that light and eliminate it. It turns out to be DG. The Longcoats use a mystical twister to travel to the other side, and DG's parents, who clearly know more than they're saying, toss her into the twister to escape them.
She awakes in a strange place, ands wants to find her parents. But she is quickly captured by resistance fighters who are suspicious of her. It is in their custody where she meets another of their prisoners, a man called Glitch (Alan Cumming), who has a zipper on his head, and who had half his brain removed because of "something he knew." So now his synapses don't exactly work quite right. But he used to be a brilliant inventor and advisor to the queen, who Azkadellia had overthrown I think about 12 annums ago. It's Glitch who tells DG she's in the O.Z., or "Outer Zone." Meanwhile, the Longcoats return to Azkadellia unsuccessful in their search, and so she sucks her general's soul out, and promotes a Longcoat named Zero.
DG and Glitch escape together, and soon come across a scene of a man and his family being tortured by Longcoats, including Zero. When DG rushes in to try to stop them, it turns out to have been a holographic projection of something that happened sometime in the past. It turns out to be playing in a loop as a kind of psychological torture for a man who is imprisoned in a metal suit and forced to watch. (Lest you think the suit is the only connection to the "tin man," think again: the man is a former cop, and policemen are referred to as "tin men" in Central City.) The man's name is Wyatt Cain (Neal McDonough), and he's been in the armor for seven annums. He now wants to kill Zero, who he believes killed his wife and son (about which he is, naturally, heartbroken, so now acts somewhat coldly- though I later get the sense he's always been capable of this in his line of work). Since he's heading to Central City, which is where DG and Glitch are also heading, the three of them travel together, though Cain isn't happy about this at first.
They soon come across an area where creatures, which I think are called "papay" or something like that, attack people. They rescue a viewer named Raw from the papay... but he has been nervous since his second sight was stolen from him by Azkadellia. (Which I don't understand, because he does still see things, or at least he's empathetic, so maybe he just has half his power, I dunno. Or maybe she didn't take anything from him and he's scared for some other reason, like because of torture or whatever.) Meanwhile, Azkadellia discovers that DG is someone she thought long dead, so she confronts the queen, who she has had imprisoned all these annums.
DG, Glitch, Cain, and Raw soon come across Mill Town, which is where her father was supposedly from, in all the stories he told her growing up. Her parents are there now, and it turns out they're from the O.Z. But there's a much larger surprise about who they really are, and I won't spoil that, except to say they're not really her parents, they were merely sent with her to the other side when DG was a young girl, to protect her. And her memories of the O.Z. had been magically blocked. Yes, that's right, DG is from the O.Z., too. But they did tell her stories her whole life, which would prove important on her current quest. Her real mother, it turns out, is the lavender-eyed woman from her dreams. Anyway, in Mill Town, DG meets someone who imprints a magical symbol on her hand, which her mother wanted to guide her on her journey. That'll come in handy in a number of ways.
She wants to find her mother, and the one person who might be able to help is the Mystic Man, in Central City, for whom Cain once worked, when he was a tin man. Now, unfortunately, the Mystic Man is addicted to Azkadellia's "vapors," a drug that addles his mind, and he uses what's left of his powers in a lounge act. But when DG comes to him, he regains some of his senses, and tells her to go to the Northern Island. After she leaves, the Mystic Man is imprisoned by Azkadellia, who uses Lylo to read him, to find DG.
Well, DG has lots of things she's going to have to remember about her past, and she'll discover several important facts on Northern Island, her former home. First, her mother was the queen. There's also a surprising revelation about Azkadellia. Actually a few surprises. I don't want to reveal anything here, but it's difficult not to. But a single scene from DG's childhood tells us several important things, including how it is that the queen lost her power, why she had to send DG away, and also that she whispered the knowledge of the Emerald's location to young DG, but unfortunately, DG doesn't remember. Then Azkadellia and her Longcoats show up, and our heroes flee. So we get to see flying monkeys (or "mobats") morph their way off of Az's chest, where they normally reside as tattoos. While they chase Glitch, Raw, and DG, Cain faces Zero. The fight... does not end well for Cain. And part one ends with one of the mobats bringing DG back to Azkadellia.
Az wants DG to tell her where to find the Emerald, but of course she can't. Az also tells her they used to be friends when they were children, which soon seems to be a lie, but later we'll see that Azkadellia seems to be having some trouble with her own memory, and perhaps they were actually close at one time. Meanwhile, Raw has been imprisoned with Lylo and other viewers, but Glitch was left behind for some reason. Which is odd, but lucky, because he manages to save Cain, who Zero had left for dead. Anyway, since DG proves no help in Az's search, she turns again to Lylo, who informs her that the Emerald is in the Grey Gale, though that too is of little help. So again she visits the queen looking for answers. She says something to Az which at the time merely sounds like an insult, but which... I think I may have wondered if it meant more than that. And indeed, in time it turns out it did.
Now in a cell, DG again encounters the Mystic Man. He tells her about a machine being built that will destroy the O.Z., for which Azkadellia requires the Emerald. He also tells DG that the Grey Gale is a myth. And he tells her to go south. Then Az goes to see another prisoner, a former teacher of magic. Meanwhile, Glitch and Cain sneak into Az's palace to rescue their friends. Before they arrive, however, DG receives some help from a small dog. Then she gets Raw out, and they meet up with the others. They all follow the dog out of the dungeon, and then it transforms into a man- the prisoner Az was talking to earlier. He says he was a friend of DG's mother, who sent him to help. He presents DG with a toy from her childhood, which helps her remember her past. The man was her magic teacher when she was little; she called him Toto, but he was really called Tutor.
As they head south, Tutor leaves messages for Az's mobats to take to her. Zero wants to take Longcoats and capture them right away, but Az wants to leave them alone, so they can lead her to the Emerald. As they travel through a burned out orchard inhabited by papay, we get to see DG's magic start to return to her, and see more of her memories return. And perhap's Az's memories returning to her. Along the way, our heroes come across a resistance fighter, who helps them out. Also, Glitch realizes Az's machine is a twist on something he invented, but he can't remember enough about it, so Raw reads his memory. And we learn why his brain was taken.
Later, Cain finds the grave of his wife, Adora. Not long after that, the group discovers a mobat (Zora, Az's favorite) trying to retrieve one of the messages Tutor dropped, and Cain shoots it dead. This instantly causes Az pain, even from such a great distance. It's at this point that Cain really starts to mistrust Tutor, even though so far they only know about the mobat, not the message. As they travel to Fenaqua, where apparently DG's family used to vacation, they come across a cave that triggers another memory in DG. We now learn the most shocking and disturbing twist yet about Azkadellia, which makes DG blame herself for everything that's gone wrong in the O.Z., even more than she already did. Meanwhile, with Zora dead, Zero once more wants his men to go after DG and the others, but again Az refuses. Part two ends with her once again releasing mobats from her chest, to search for them.
DG finds a holographic message from her mother, telling her to head south to the Realm of the Unwanted, to look for a man named Ahamo, who can help her find the Emerald. Tutor tells DG that Ahamo is her father. But soon after, Az finds the same message, which rather reminded me of the movie "Serenity".... Anyway, the group finally discovers what Tutor has been up to, but they allow him to continue along with them anyway.
Meanwhile, Az remembers something from her childhood that will help her find Ahamo before DG and her friends do. In the Realm of the Unwanted, the group meets a woman who sets up a meeting with a man called the Seeker, who might be able to tell them where to find Ahamo. But she betrays them to Zero, who captures Glitch, Cain, and Raw. The Seeker manages to get DG away from the Longcoats in the scuffle, and Tutor also gets away in his dog form. And DG finally meets her father, who helps her find the Grey Gale (in a hot air balloon, naturally). But Az was watching, and followed. Ahamo tells DG he was from the other side, which, along with his balloon, means I guess he shared duty with the Mystic Man as this miniseries' analog for the Wizard from the original.
The others get rescued from the Longcoats by a group of resistance fighters, led by Cain's son, Jeb. Jeb would like to kill Zero, but Cain convinces him not to. But they do get Zero to give them some information about Azkadellia's machine (and, not incidentally, Glitch's real name).
When DG and Ahamo make it to a royal mausoleum, he tells her a bit about her ancestry, and we get a pun from the writers about "slippers," which are people who came to the O.Z. from the other side... including the "greatest of DG's great grandmothers," for whom she was named. Which seems weird to me, because when she meets the Grey Gale, she's apparently a teenaged girl, in a black & white scene, on a farm. Clearly, this is meant to be the Dorothy with whom we are all familiar, or perhaps a ghost of her, since the real one is old and dead. But what bothers me is the time frame. In the mausoleum, it seems as if there's been a very long line, starting with Dorothy, making her more than just a great grandmother (which itself might be believable). I assume from Ahamo's words that he's implying there should be many more "greats" describing her relation to DG, but the time Dorothy's from appears to be pretty much what it was in the original movie, which doesn't give nearly enough time for that many generations between her and DG. Unless of course time works very differently in the O.Z. (which is unlikely, considering no great time passed between the Longcoats going to the other side at the start of the miniseries and returning to the O.Z., not to mention Az and the queen not aging more than the, I think, 15 annums DG aged on the other side). At any rate, Dorothy gives the Emerald of the Eclipse to DG.
Alas, Az shows up and takes it from her, and imprisons Ahamo along with the queen. DG, she imprisons in a tomb. But Tutor finds her, and goes to the others for help. Which isn't really necessary, since DG figures out how to use her magic to escape on her own. But hey, at least it's nice to have the gang back together. But the eclipse Azkadellia has been waiting for, the one time she can use the Emerald in her machine, is drawing very near. So Jeb's resistance fighters mount an explosive assault on the palace, while our heroes sneak in. Cain, Glitch, and Raw attempt to shut down the machine while DG confronts Azkadellia.
Well, it all ends with a witch melting and happy reunions all around. The anticlimax was rather anticlimactic and all too brief, but at least it was sunny and happy. All in all, the miniseries was an enjoyable experience, and... I guess that's all there is to say. Except I'm not sure the title makes much sense, unless you want to say that ultimately the movie is about family (particularly for a reason I've taken pains to avoid spoiling throughout this review), and Cain, in his own way, represents family. Which, btw, was pointed out in one of DG's lines in part three, which I rather liked....