NBC's gritty reimagining of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard Of Oz has introduced dozens of fascinating characters over the course of its first season, all with shifting allegiances and murky motivations. But one of the biggest questions has been the true nature of "The Beast Forever" on Emerald City. We first learned of it in the series premiere — which even took its title from the monstrous and mysterious force — but it has been unclear what exactly it would look like when it manifested. (SPOILERS for the finale below.)
Ozian legend says that The Beast Forever has taken many forms over the years, sometimes coming as a great fire, most recently as a terrible flood that wiped out most of the city of Ev; but no one knew what form it would take this time. Supposedly the twister that ripped open the sky and brought Dorothy Gale to Oz was the first sign of the Beast's coming. The Wizard assumed The Beast Forever was Glinda and the army she was amassing in the North against him. So which was it: witches, or Dorothy herself?
Neither, as it turns out. In the end, The Beast Forever was revealed to be a peripheral character we'd met only briefly before: the flayed man locked in the Prison Of The Abject by Mistress East. Given that said Prison was used for punishing people who disobeyed the Wizard's ban on magic, Dorothy probably should have been a bit more careful before freeing everyone there in her search for someone who could awaken the Stone Giants. In an unexpected twist, our heroine was the one responsible for unleashing The Beast Forever, perhaps dooming everyone in Oz.
So who is the mysterious flayed man? According to NBC, the character is credited as Roquat, and a quick perusal of Baum's Oz lore will reveal that he isn't an original creation for the TV show — in fact, while The Wicked Witch Of The West may be Baum's most famous villain courtesy of Margaret Hamilton's iconic performance, Roquat is Baum's most significant and recurring villain throughout his many Oz books.
This antagonist (variously known as Roquat the Red, Ruggedo of the Rocks, or simply the Nome King) is the leader of the Nomes, who are a race of immortal, cave-dwelling rock fairies who have a deep-seated hatred for anyone who lives aboveground. He frequently clashes with both Dorothy and Ozma throughout the novels, only being defeated when they manage to steal his magic belt — the artifact through which he derives his powers. In fact, Roquat is such a prevalent presence in the books that his ultimate reveal as the show's big bad Beast Forever should come as little surprise to fans more intimate with Baum's source material beyond the 1939 film adaptation.
At the end of the finale, Roquat pulled his skin back onto his flayed body, sprouted wings, seemingly transforming into some sort of dragon, and made flight for Emerald City. His imposing shadow swooped over our scattered cast of characters — including a dismembered Jack, an exiled Aemon, a crucified Lucas/Rowan, and a newly crowned Princess Ozma, along with West and Glinda — making it clear that the story of Emerald City is far from over. Hopefully NBC renews the series so we can see Dorothy and Ozma do battle with The Beast Forever in Season 2.