Friday, October 25, 2013

In Which I Review Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (1x3)

We all have things in our past we'd like to forget. Moments gone by, people no longer with us, events that shaped our destiny as a whole and fundamentally changed who we are as individuals. According to the Knave of Hearts in this weeks episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, "Forget Me Not," the best thing to do is move on, forget the past, forget the people you once loved. But is this really sound advice? And is it ever really possible to move on from the events or people who constitute our individuality? In the original ONCE episode "7:15 AM" Snow contemplates drinking a potion that will help her forget that she ever loved Prince Charming. Grumpy, the dwarf, tells her "I don't want my pain erased! As wretched as it is, I need my pain. It makes me who I am." Which begs the question, how do we live with our pain when it is suddenly staring at us in the face? (through an enchanted rope knot of course). 

Honor Among Thieves 

So it turns out the Knave of Heart is Will Scarlett. Who exactly is Will Scarlett? According to legend he is one of the more traditional Merry Men in Sherwood Forest; in some instances he is Robin's nephew. He is often the youngest of the Merry Men, hot tempered and most often seen in red silks. In most of the stories he is also the best swordsman, Robin being the best archer and Little John being adept at the staff. Our Will Scarlett is both alike and not at all alike to the literary version.

Our Will Scarlett is lately of the Merry Men--the opening bit of thievery being his test and initiation. Will is a bit of go-getter and suggests to Robin that they take on Maleficent's castle on the Forbidden Mountain. There they will find a huge chest full of gold that could save villages for years to come. It's too tempting for Robin to resist, naturally, and with Mal herself being out of the castle, why not? But this is where Will and Robin differ. This episode really focused on how Will can be like Robin but how he was blinded in the past by a love of something other than honor. While Robin believes that thievery is honorable, so long as its not for personal gain, Will is willing to risk Robin's ire if it means a better life.

Enter Anastasia. We learned last week that Will had a lady love who (most likely) broke his heart. I proposed at the time that this Anastasia was really the Red Queen. Anastasia and Will, from what we could tell, were deeply in love but poor and struggling with everyday life. They wanted magic and enchantment--so much so that when breaking into Mal's castle, Will steals a small looking glass. This looking glass, like so many do, creates a portal to another world, specifically Wonderland. I'm sure the reveal that the Red Queen was Anastasia was supposed to be shocking and gasp worthy, but the entire episode was laced with clues. When Will was in bed with Anastasia, you saw the blond up-do and heard the unmistakable voice of the Red Queen. When the Red Queen and Jafar learned that Alice was traveling with someone named the Knave of Hearts the camera deliberately panned to the Red Queen who had a somewhat visible reaction to the name. With him being Will SCARLETT and her being the RED Queen, it wasn't hard to put the pieces together.

What does this mean for the Red Queen's overall arc? Names in the ONCEiverse are important. They often give insight to the character and their narrative. The name Anastasia means "resurrection." I don't think it's a coincidence. I have the feeling that at some point the Red Queen will be faced with a choice--kill the Knave to carry out her plan or save the man she once loved. This show being what it is, she'll choose the latter and that will set the Red Queen on a path of redemption to being Anastasia again.

Knot Again

Puns! Puns everywhere! When the title was revealed for this episode, I originally thought it might have something to do with the flower which has its own symbolic history. Or maybe even a potion that Alice considers taking to forget Cyrus, a la Snow White. But no. This is Wonderland with Clothe Horses and Dragon Flies and Dandy Lions. Of course it's an actual knot. Tricky writers.

The main problem Alice and the Knave currently face is that Cyrus's bottle is missing, stolen from the earth. There are no clues as to who stole it (apart from the perfectly circular hole in the ground that looks like it was dug by a professional) but the Knave has a clever idea. The Forget Me Knot is a piece of magical rope that when tied together to make a type of lasso can show you the last event of any place when you hold the knot over that location. As Alice says, "where can I get this very clever item?" Clever though it may be, it is not exactly in a convienent place.

Welcome to the Underland, a seedy slightly BDSM night club run by Jabba the Hutt. Er...the Caterpillar. It's run by the Caterpillar. (No seriously, the Star Wars references in this episode were far from subtle). The Caterpillar has a claim on the Knave's head as Will is highly indebted to the JabbaPillar but sadly the JabbaPillar no longer has the Knot in his possession.  But lucky for them, the JabbaPillar likes to make deals: JabbaPillarStiltskin! The Knot is currently under the "care" of the Grendel (more on him in a second) and if the Knave can get the Knot, bring it back to the JabbaPillarStiltskin, then the debt is clear.

Here is one of the big problems this show is having thus far. It's trying to be too much. Last night we had Maleficent, the Grendel, the Bandersnatch, and the Jabbapiller. The beauty of Once Upon a Time was that in the beginning the show opened with "every storybook character you've ever loved" who all live together in an enchanted forest. This is why we don't blink when Snow's castle is next to Cinderella's both of whom have made deals with Rumplestiltskin who is the true love of Belle. These stories have no specific location and therefore can be lumped in one place. One of the complaints I see is when the show take characters who are tied to a specific land and move them to the Enchanted Forest for plot sake. So, people complained that Hook should never have been Fairy Tale Land because of his ties with Neverland. To some extent I agree and disagree, but Wonderland is really taking the cake on this. Jafar is acceptable because they established that he's not FROM Wonderland, but Agrabah and is simply in Wonderland to meet his end goal. However I have issues with the Grendel being in Wonderland. How did he, a mythic monster (and very very old) from England get to Wonderland? If he was just a guy who was disfigured by the Red Queen, fine. But why go and call him the Grendel thereby invoking his mythology--especially when the Grendel you are presenting to me is nothing like the story one? Now I wonder if Beowulf is running around Wonderland as well.

The Grendel is a parallel to the Knave, because this show adores their parallels. The Grendel has lost the woman he loves, his wife, and then was magically transformed into the misshapen creature we see now. Like Will who became the Knave, the kind husband became the Grendel who uses the Forget Me Knot to watch his final day with his wife over supper.

And then a Bandersnatch shows up to kill Alice. There is a lot of heroics and fighting and in the end, the Bandersnatch is killed and the Grendel gives Alice and the Knave the Knot. Of course later the Grendel sells them out to Jafar and the Red Queen before Jafar kills him with his serpent staff, but hey. They got the knot? Honestly the whole Bandersnatch part felt heavy handed. They could have saved it for later.

And Will gets to prove that he's an honorable man. After using the Knot to see that the poor Rabbit is working for the Red Queen, the Knave burns the rope instead of giving it to the JabbaPillar because if he gave it to the Jabbapillar it would be in his own self-interest. But if he doesn't, then the whole adventure was for Alice and he has proved himself a worthy and honorable man. But now all parties have been made aware of each other: The Red Queen and Jafar know the Knave is working with Alice; Alice and the Knave know the Red Queen and the Rabbit are working with Jafar.

Miscellaneous Notes from Forget Me Not

--The Knave is really the breakout star of the show. He gets the best lines.
""Don't pleasure me!"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
And Alice and the Knave continue to have a chemistry that is currently lacking with Cyrus and Alice. They need to fix this if they don't want people to suddenly ship Knave and Alice (which of course is already happening)

--I passed over the whole Bandersnatch episode but I do like that Cyrus knew just want to send Alice that she could easily defeat without needing to use a wish--I just wish this would have happened later so we could have avoided the whole Bandersnatch vs Grendel deathmatch. But I do wonder if soon Alice will be forced to use a wish.

--They need to stop using the CGI screen of doom. It's very distracting and is so bad and cheap looking that it takes me out of the moment every time.

--Things are progressing quite rapidly but I suspect that is because Once Wonderland is only 13 episodes.

--Doctor Who references along with the Star Wars ones. Underland is bigger on the inside and the Caterpillar was wearing a fez. My two fandoms have collided.

--No Once Wonderland next week but when it returns, I suspect wars break out between the factions. Jafar will accuse the Red Queen of caring too much about Will; Alice will confront the Rabbit; and the Knave will have to face his ex.

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