Friday, March 14, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x10)

Got a secret; can you keep it? Swear this one you'll save. Better lock it your pocket, taking this one to the grave. 

Everyone has secrets. Sometimes the secrets are mythic and world changing, and sometimes the secrets we keep are the tiny lies we tell ourselves about who we truly are. Tucked away in the recesses of our mind, we keep bits of information that if found out, could damn us. In this week's episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, "Dirty Little Secrets," secrets are revealed, answers are given, and the battle for Wonderland takes a turn for the worse. I must say, before the review, this was the best episode of the season so far. It's a shame that Once Wonderland wasn't give more of a chance with the audience. Each episode lately is better than the last and I find that watching Wonderland is more relaxing and fun than watching ONCE proper. 

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished  

It's about time we got Cyrus's backstory. For the first half of the show, Cyrus felt really under developed. He sat in his cage, made speeches about love and finding Alice and made what were often viewed as half-hearted escape attempts but had no real depth. All of those criticisms are now washed (pun!) away with this episode. Part of me wondered how they would handle Cyrus in the past. Would he be as noble and heroic as he is in the present? Turns out no! Which I suppose shouldn't surprise me; this is Once Upon a Time after all. Cyrus was a bit of scroundal, though I suppose a loveable one. He cheated at cards, drank, got into fights. He was a typical young adult male, in other words. But underneath that, he had a good heart--one that loves his brothers and his mother. And, as we can see in this episode, a heart that can become consumed by guilt.

After a card game, in which Cyrus's is accused of cheating, angry ruffians set Cyrus's house ablaze--with his mother trapped inside. Pretty harsh, if you ask me. The brothers are able to put out the flames, but not before their mother is badly burned in the process, now very near death. Thankfully magic might save the day (as it does so often). There is a legend of a special place called the Well of Wonders. The waters inside the Well are so powerful they can make a scared man brave and heal the injured and dying. If Cyrus and his brothers can get some of those waters and give them to their mother, then her burns can be healed and she could live. Cyrus's brothers, especially the eldest, seem worried that messing with deep magics might have unforeseen consequences (theme!) but Cyrus, wracked with guilt, persuades them to go along with him to the Well.

The Well of Wonders is guarded by Nyx. Oh hello, Greek mythology. Who is Nyx? Nyx in Greek means night and in myth she is the embodiment of night and darkness. She is one of the first goddesses "born" in Hesiod'd Theogony and she is normally associated with her two daughter, Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death). She has a few other daughters, one of whom I'm going to mention in a bit because I think I have a pretty solid theory. Until then, Nyx is the Guardian of the Well and she is not thrilled with the idea of Cyrus and his brothers taking her waters. Nyx tells Cyrus that the waters can only be taken for those who's destines are not yet written, but his mother's fate is sealed. If Cyrus does not return the water then he will pay the price. It's the only warning she gives before vanishing back into the depths. Nyx is rather terrifying. Put her with Jabberwocky and they could totally take over the world. Cyrus does not want to heed the warnings of Nyx; his guilt has consumed him and he is determined to right his wrong. His brothers question if he wants to save their mother or if he wants to alleviate his conscience. I suspect it is more the latter than the former, but that's what makes Cyrus a more complex character than he used to be. Cyrus only became noble in the aftermath of spending centuries in the bottle. Speaking of did he end up in the bottle? Because all magic comes with a price.

I love when I'm right. As I predicted last week, Cyrus's mother is Amara, the lady who would later seduce Jafar into helping her find the bottles and tell him about the spell to break the laws of magic. Amara is rather young to have three grown boys, isn't she? That would be clue number one that something is amiss here. Once she is healed, the boys reveal how they came to heal her. At the mention of the the Well of Wonders and its Guardian, Amara seems to freak out a bit. She is distraught that her sons would go to the Well; in fact she begins to gather their belongings and shove them out the door! This is clue number two that something isn't right with Amara. Her concern is that somehow the Guardian will come for her sons and they must flee before she finds them.

Too late. A careless mistake in which some water from the Well spills on to the floor, making a portal for Nyx, leads the Guardian straight to Amara and her sons. And Nyx is not a happy lady! Amara begs Nyx not to hurt her children but Nyx pays no heed to Amara. Instead she tells Cyrus that because he tried to circumvent the fates, he and his brothers will pay a price. And his punishment? To become a genie trapped in a bottle, "you let your desire override fate. Now it will be your fate to serve the desires of others." Cyrus and his two brothers are poofed into the nearest bottle/urn/vase and zapped out of Agrabah to the far corners of the realms to await their new masters. So, what am I getting at with Amara? In mythology, Nyx has quite the large family, but one daughter in the "Theogoy" in highlighted along side Night: Day. And what's the Greek word for "day?" Hemera. Hemera  = Amara. I think Amara is the daughter of Nyx and she somehow left the Well of Wonders to live amongst the mortals but never aging. In the "Theogony" Day leaves the house just as night is coming in, they switch places. Well, I think one of the ultimate end games is for Amara to return to the house of her mother. Why? For that we need to move into present day Cyrus's story and what Nyx demands of him.

I'll Take What is Behind Door Number Two

In the present day, Cyrus, Alice, Ana, and Will are finally altogether and planning what to do next. Ana insists that they are no match for Jafar and his magics. They need an army but Ana knows she will have trouble convincing the people of Wonderland to follow her into battle because she was a wretched Queen. The two couples have different ideas about how to solve their problems. Cyrus points out that if they can release the genies from their prisons, then Jafar can't perform the spell to break the laws of magic but in order to do that he must go to the place where the Curse on his brothers began--the Well of Wonders. Ana provides a map to a shortcut to get to where Nyx resides in Wonderland and Cyrus and Alice set off.

It's not an easy journey for the two. Cyrus seems to be keeping a lot from Alice and it turns out he never told her how he ended up in the bottle. It's not something he likes to dwell on because he knows it was his fault. As the two walk along, they come to a point in the woods where two red doors and a Knight reside. The Knight gives them a riddle--one door will lead you to the Well, the other door will drown you. You must make a choice (if you were watching closely, though, the Knight kept indicating with his eyes which door was which). This bit went on a tad longer than it needed to and while Cyrus snapping at Alice was understandable and made them feel more real, but it was still hard to watch. Alice (being ever so clever) figures out that the Knight speaks only in lies when asked a direct question. So when Alice asks if Door A will take them to the Well and the Knight says yes, she knows to go through Door B. Nice job, Alice. It's also a nice callback to the actual book by Carrol where Alice did have to solve riddles while in Wonderland and in the Mirror Universe. Cyrus doesn't want Alice to come with him because it is something he must do on his own.

Cyrus summons the Guardian and begs Nyx for mercy. After centuries of serving others desires, he now knows that you can't cheat the fates. Sometimes, you have to play the hand you are dealt. Nyx, on the other hand, isn't having it. Oh sure, she'll release his brothers from their binds, but only if Cyrus returns the waters to the Well. Cyrus tells Nyx this is impossible because his mother is long dead. NOPE, says Nyx. Your mother lives and if you want your brothers freed, then return the waters. So going along with my theory above that Amara is the daughter of Nyx, I think the mother will sacrifice herself for her sons. For centuries she has been searching for them, in order to break their binds. If all she has to do is return to the Well, then I think she will. So the big question I have right now is: is there an actual spell to break the laws of magic? Or was it all a clever ruse to get Jafar to help Amara? Amara recognized in Jafar a little boy who would go to the ends of the earth and back to get the Sultan's love. I think Amara made a plan in her head the second she brought Jafar into the household to teach him magic, but held off on the big stuff; then once he was hungry enough for knowledge, she placed a feast in front of him: breaking the laws of magic by collecting three genie bottles. I don't think there is a spell to break the laws of magic; I believe Amara wanted Jafar to help her collect the bottles and then planned on double crossing him once her sons were free. So when Jafar goes to try the spell, nothing is going to happen.

Of course, Alice doesn't listen to Cyrus and follows him to the Well (good girl) where she over hears everything Cyrus has to say to Nyx. Cyrus is scared that his secrets--that he is responsible for all this--will drive Alice away. If Cyrus had listened in the first place and not stolen the waters, then he and his three brothers would not be cursed and Jafar would not be looking for three genies to break the laws of magic. Alice would not have gone through all the pain she went through if not for Cyrus and his arrogance. Alice is very understanding though and tells Cyrus that we cannot live in the past and that she has made mistakes too. This was a really tenderly beautiful moment between the two. Alice confesses that she gave up on Cyrus and their love and was ready to undergo the procedure to erase Wonderland and Cyrus from her memory. Cyrus is also worried that the bottle made him a better man and now that he's lost it, he'll revert and Alice gives one of my favorite lines from the show, "I'll be your bottle." Such a cute scene!

The Creepy Hour 

While Alice and Cyrus are off finding the Well of Wonders, Ana and Will go in search of help to take down Jafar when the time comes. Their first stop is the White Rabbit's (hi Bunny!!) Poor Bunny. He is so scared when Ana shows up at his door, as he should be. She did capture his wife and children after all. But Ana wants forgiveness--she seems really sorry for what she did. I must admit, Ana is growing on me with each passing episode. Ana wants the Rabbit to portal to each corner of the realm and convince the people to come to her aid--Wonderland is their home, they can't let Jafar over take it! But the Rabbit delivers some startling news: Jafar has released the (super creepy) Jabberwocky. Ana does not take this news well.

I'm not sure what Ana's history is with the Jabberwocky, but she seems incredibly horrified at the idea that the Jabberwocky might be coming for her. According to Ana, the Jabberwocky can smell your fear; she feeds on it. When it becomes apparent that the Jabberwocky is following the duo, Ana orders Will back into his bottle and then prepares to face the Jabberwocky. It's quite a creepy (creepy is the word of the day when it comes to Jabberwocky) battle, with the Jabberwocky appearing at random and taunting Ana. The Jabberwocky can taste Ana's fear and dread and she only adds to Ana's fear. At one point Ana tries to impale the Jabberwocky with a sword, but there is only one blade that can kill the Jabber: the Vorpal blade (and it was watch the Jabberwocky pull herself off the sword. This actress is phenomenal. More of her, please). In the end, the Jabber gets the upper hand, knocks out Ana and takes the bottle.

What is with Jafar and cages? He has like a fetish for them or something. Will and Ana are placed inside a cage and left to the Jabber's devices. Jafar has a problem, you see. Ana is the master of the bottle so Jafar can't kill her or he'll never be in possession of Will. He can't kill Will because he's a genie and thus has no leverage over Ana. But Jafar always gets what he wants. The Jabberwocky uses a very interesting (horrifying) form of torture--mind torture. She can get inside your mind and pick out your secrets, reveal who you really are to those you love. I was very impressed with Ana, holding on as long as possible. It was only when Jafar started hurting Will that she broke and gave into the Jabber's demands, spending her three wishes in a matter of seconds. The Jabberwocky, at her cruelest, makes Ana wish for her crown, her jewels, and for the Jabber to stop the torture. And POOF! Will is back in his bottle and now Jafar is the master of all three genies. But will the spell work? That remains to be seen.

Miscellaneous Notes on Dirty Little Secrets

--Fantastic episode all around. I was impressed with the acting, the writing, and even the CGI which is often very wonky.

--"Jabber jabber jabber. All you people do is jabber." The Jabberwocky is just so terrifying. And when she cut out Liz's eyes, my stomach turned. That was really unexpected.

--What happens to Ana now? Will Jafar kill her or will Cyrus and Alice rescue her? I have a feeling she might die, but her name does mean Resurrection, so it's possible she won't stay dead for long.

--I won't spoil anything, but next week someone from the ONCEiverse is making an appearance. Someone we've wanted to see for a long time. I am really excited.

--Only three episodes left. Wonderland is getting better each episode. And while I'm sorry that Adam and Eddy aren't getting their second show renewed, the concise and intricate and *tight* storytelling of Wonderland is really refreshing.


  1. First of all, gold star for predicting Amara and Cyrus' connection.
    Secondly, I like your theory about Amara being the deserting daughter of Nyx and it would explain how she has magic in the first place and why her children can perform at least minuscule magics.
    I also like your theory regarding the fake break-laws-of-magic spell. It would be ingenious if Amara came up with this plan; however I find it odd that such a cunning woman would fall prey to Jafar's tricks and be locked away. Then again, maybe she anticipated his treachery and knew that he wouldn't kill her and only trap her so that if need be he could use her when the time came. *brain pain*

    Though I can only imagine the terror brought upon by Jabber, I'm a bit disappointed in Ana. I honestly expected her last wish to be something akin to: I wish Will and the bottle to Alice. It was a touch disappointing, though the cut away scene with blood coming out of Ana's ear does make me sympathetic.

    I too an immensely enjoying Jabber; she is such a wonderfully terrifying character and it would have been nice to see her more had the show been renewed.

    And as I side note, I hope you know that, "I'll be your bottle" line made me giggle as I did not find it to be cute so much as egregiously erotic.

    And before I ask a question, can you answer me this…our current timeline in Wonderland is late 19th century or early 20th, yes? Again, I imagine time works differently in comparison to other realms. So my question: Who is making the appearance? Is it Cora freshly banished here by Regina and Rumple, and then she starts to take over catching us up to last season? Or will it be the Hatter which will someone tie the two shows together?

    1. Gods tend to exhibit hubris. I can see Amara believing herself so cunning that she missed all the warning signs about Jafar.
      When it comes to the timeline, remember this: Alice's London is *fictional* London,not real London. Fictional London is the 19th C so it houses all the classic characters like Alice and Mr. Darcy (from a few episodes back).
      I shall not tell you who is coming except that it's someone we've been waiting for.