The City of Emeralds seems like it should be polished and beautiful, the streets filled with people singing and dancing, right?
Or are there the poor of Oz, hanging around the city in hopes of seeing the Wizard or securing a job? Are there underground groups of resistance, trying to take out the Wizard and his advisors? Are there concentration camps where Animals and other are rounded up and squads of the Gale Force (the militia) march the streets?
The third section of Wicked is “The City of Emeralds,” about four or five years after “Gillikin.” It takes place around the holiday Lurlinemas, with decorations and snow providing a bleak contrast to the political atmosphere. Elphaba is part of an underground resistance movement and we learn that she is not after the Wizard, but Madame Morrible, although the Madame’s position in the government is not as clearly defined in the book as it is in the musical.
We also meet Fiyero, the Winkie Prince. He is in the city for business when he sees Elphaba and tracks her down. Although he has his bride and three children back in Winkie Country, he and Elphaba start an affair (“As Long as You’re Mine,” anyone?). Most of “City of Emeralds” is seen through Fiyero’s point of view, so Elphaba’s actions are mostly unknown to the reader, because she keeps that information to herself. But through Fiyero, we do see what is becoming of Oz. He reports to Elphaba that the Wizard is trying to invade Quadling country again.
Many little bits of information are revealed in “City of Emeralds.” Elphaba reveals what happened between “Munchkinlanders” and “Gillikin,” how when Nessarose was born, the drought in Munchkinland was temporarily lifted; and that the Munchkinlanders brought it about through a human sacrifice, and that human happened to be Turtle Heart. After, the family moved to Quadling country and were missionaries; five years later, Elphaba’s brother, Shell, was born and their mother died in childbirth and it only made their father more of a religious fanatic.
Fiyero also finds more information on the group of former friends from Shiz. Now that Elphaba is gone, Nessarose is next in line to become the Eminent Thropp in Munchkinland after her great-grandfather dies; Glinda has married a baronet and barely uses her sorcery, she puts on an act of being a vapid blonde like she was when she first arrived at Shiz. Boq has married another classmate and living in Munchkinland, while Avaric is as shallow as ever. Croupe seems to have carved out a living as a painter. And Tibbet hasn’t been the same since the friends entered the Philosophy Club all those years ago.
This section is truly the beginning of the end. I believe the climax of Wicked is when Elphaba’s group fails to assassinate Madame Morrible at the theatre towards the end of the section. Fiyero witnesses it and returns to Elphaba’s loft where a squad of the Gale Force is waiting and beats him to death. The failure and his death change Elphaba, although the true extent isn’t known yet; but she finds her way to a convent and is taken in by the maunts on Lurlinemas, mute and unaware of her surroundings.
And in those moments where she is in shock, Mother Yackle is there, rocking her and telling her that it will be all right. But from here, Elphaba starts to descend into her role as the Wicked Witch of the West.