Friday, October 11, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (1x1)

Television spin offs are either wins or losses. Very seldom are they in between. Fraiser is an example of a win (having followed in the wake of Cheers); Joey is an example of a loss (trying to cling to the popularity of Friends). There is neither rhyme nor reason--it all depends on the audience. One Upon a Time was one of the golden children of ABC in the past few years. Its ratings were high and its fandom loud. The second season took a bit of fall but the fandom remained just as loud and loving. So ABC decided to try for a spin-off. Introducing, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland which tells the story of an all grown up Alice, the love of her life the genie Cyrus, sarcastic curmudgeon The Knave of Hearts, the evil Red Queen and her partner in crime, Jafar. There is also a rabbit in a hat which is my very favorite thing about this show so far. Alice in Wonderland (and through the Looking Glass, which a good portion of OUATinWL is based off) is a bit of a bizarre book, and made for a very interesting Disney animation. Young Alice falls down a rabbit hole (or goes through a mirror) into Wonderland (or the mirror world, which is not Wonderland) and has all sorts of adventures involving creatures that defy imagination--a cat that grins, a rabbit in a waistcoat, a mad Queen, talking chess pieces, and puzzles and games. Hollywood has been good to the book, churning out both big and small screen adaptations. OUATinWL is an 11 episode mini series that will tell the story of what happened to Alice after she left Wonderland (twice). Let's break it down. 


The show opens with a very familiar sight: 10 year old Alice exploding (literally) out of rabbit hole in her blue dress and white apron, running home to tell her father all about her adventures in Wonderland. But Alice has been gone for so long that her father thought her dead, and when she turns up on the porch telling stories about a smiling cat and a smoking caterpillar, he deduces that Alice is insane. Alice longs to prove her father wrong and thus spends the next 10 years of her life traveling back and forth trying to bring back proof that she is not crazy. On her last visit to Wonderland, about a year ago (actually it's 28 years but we will get to the timeline headache in a second) Alice met and fell in love with Cyrus, a somewhat exotic gene in a bottle (you gotta rub him the right way) from Agrabah.
They traveled to far off lands, had adventures, and fell in love. Cyrus proposed to Alice on the cliffs near the boiling sea and then disaster struck. The Red Queen stole Cyrus from Alice after a sword fight and Alice believed him dead, returning home to London where her depression finally forced her father to lock her up in an Asylum. After a year (28) in the Asylum, the doctors approach Alice with a procedure that will rid her of her pain and Alice consents. But the morning she is scheduled to go under the drill, her old friend the Knave of Hearts (Will) and the White Rabbit break her out with the news that Cyrus is alive. And it's off to Wonderland we shall go!


We know very little about Cyrus at this point. He is not a traditional fairy tale character--creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsiss has stated that he is NOT Aladdin and NOT the Genie of the Lamp from said story. In fact Cyrus lives in a bottle. Somehow he is able to leave that bottle and go with Alice on amazing adventures. Before falling to his "death" he shows Alice how their hearts are entwined on his magic necklace so that whenever they are near, it will glow. Cyrus, as you may have already guessed, is not dead. He is being held captive by Jafar in a gilded cage, dreaming of Alice--while she dreams of him. Ah, true love. Before they were separated, Cyrus gave Alice three jewels that represent the three wishes he is allowed to grant. Those are important. Remember them.

 The Knave of Hearts (Will)

His name his Will, he has a history with women who dress in scar--red, and Robin Hood will be coming onto the scene. I want you to think about that and then report back to me who Will really is.
The Knave doesn't like Wonderland and it turns out, Wonderland doesn't like him! He has been on the run for some time, though we aren't sure of his crimes. In the books, the Knave was put on trial for stealing the Queen of Heart's "tarts." Wanna bet he was caught stealing Cora's hearts instead of tarts? He is a very relcutant companion of Alice. The Knave doesn't want to be in Wonderland or think about Wonderland. He wants to go live his life but Alice blackmails him: "long ago, I helped you get back your heart. Now you you've got to help me get back mine." The Knave is also hysterical--really, he's obviously the comic relief in the show. There are wanted posters for the Knave in Wonderland so he's obviously in deep trouble--the posters don't even care if he has his head or not. 

The Red Queen

The Red Queen was one of the characters I was most excited for. In the book, she is a chess piece and I was intrigued to see how that could translate on screen. For one, she lives in a giant chess palace and talks about setting the board and the game that must be played. She is also cold, clinical, calculating, and detached. All things a chess player should be. She doesn't come across as ruthless however and she is certainly nothing like Regina on ONCE. Regina is fireballs and spitfire; the Red Queen has ice in her veins. I also strongly suspect she is Alice's sister and the wife of Jefferson the Mad Hatter. For some unknown reason, the Red Queen has struck a bargain with Jafar but we don't know what she wants out of it. A fair bit of warning, the voice Emma Rigby has chosen for her character is a wee bit grating. I'm used to Lana Parillia's low evil voice but Rigby has chosen a higher almost nasal one (again trying very hard to be the anti-Regina). While it seems that Jafar is the more powerful, I doubt it. This is the Wonderland story so I bet the Red Queen has more to do with Alice's story than Jafar. Chess is going to be important--or at least the idea of chess. Taking pieces, getting as close to the queen as possible in order to knock out the King, all integral in chess. She has also got some interesting outfits.


Here's my theory: when Sayid sacrificed himself by taking the bomb in the sixth season of LOST, it actually magically transported him to Agrabah where he grew out his hair to a magnificent perm and then he declared himself ruler and wizard. He has magic because of the island.

No? Ok then. It's VERY nice to see Sayid back on my screen, even if he's not Sayid. As a devotee of LOST, I have missed him. And oh boy he is creepy. Unlike with the Red Queen, we do know what Jafar wants. He wants the wishes Cyrus granted to Alice (see, told you there were important). Just based on the final scene, I would wager that Jafar and Cyrus have a history--a long complicated rough history. And that's just from one look between the two of them.

The Plot

Find Cyrus.

What? Too vague?

Oh very well. Here's the thing I am very worried about: if you haven't watched ONCE or if you're not a crazy person who can literally recite the episodes and eat spoilers for breakfast (*ahem* me) then you might be a wee bit lost. There are so many things about this week's episode, "Down the Rabbit Hole" that some people are going to be confused about. First off, Alice lives in Fictional London, not real Victorian London. Second, the Knave walking through Storybrooke in the beginning was right after the Curse was broken by Emma and Rumple set the Wraith after Regina. The Mad Hatter is a guy named Jefferson who is currently living in Stroybrooke (when he's not running around with Captain America). And Alice was in the Asylum for 28 years. How, you ask, when she's only 20? Oh fine. *cough* The Evil Queen Regina cursed all the people of the Enchanted Forest (and apparently other lands) to our world where their happy endings were taken away. They were "asleep" for 28 years (frozen and with amnesia) until the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming broke the Curse with True Love's Kiss (please see: season one of Once Upon a Time). Alice was frozen in the Asylum for 28 years but awoke when Emma arrived into Stroybrooke and time began to move. Thus, to her, she's only been in the Asylum a year. (It took 3 pages of forum writers who literally spend hours and hours and hours talking about ONCE to figure this out).

Another thing to be mindful of: this show loves flashbacks. When Alice is in her purple dress or in general when she is with Cyrus, it is a flashback--28 years ago, the last time she visited Wonderland. The Knave, Cyrus, The Red Queen, and Jafar will also have flashbacks over the course of the series. But the main thrust of the series is to find Cyrus and defeat Jafar/The Red Queen. Along the way, we'll see characters from Wonderland and other worlds that should be recognizable.

Miscellaneous Notes from Down the Rabbit Hole 

--This show is in what we call "the death slot." Nothing--and I do mean nothing--is going to take down The Big Bang Theory. We have to fight for every viewer.

--ABC, if you want this show to be a success, you need to funnel in some money for the CGI. The animal CGI's were great but the rest of it needs a lot of work.

--The White Rabbit (who works for the Red Queen, relcutanly) is adorable and I love him and he has a hat. I am obsessed with this rabbit and his hat.

--Cheshire Cat! Slightly demonic.

--"We don't do damsels in distress."--Adam and Eddy. Clearly. Alice is totally kick-ass.

--Mallow Marsh. Excellent

--I'm already annoyed by the overly plot device-y love necklace. Expect it to be brandished about like a sword.

Overall Verdict: Check it out. I will always encourage people to watch ANY iteration of ONCE.

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