Friday, March 21, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x11)

"I’m the ‘Queen’ of Hearts. Do you really think I’d be so careless, as to keep my heart where everyone else does?"--Cora, Queen of Hearts (Once Upon a Time, 2x09)

Ah, Cora. You can't really have a story about Alice in Wonderland without having the Queen of Hearts, she of the "off with her head!" mentality. I'm rather surprised at how happy I was to see Cora as I basically loathe her character (Barbara Hershey, on the other hand, is superb). Cora is cold, manipulative, callus, and power hungry. She mentally and emotionally and physically abused Regina; she broke Rumple's heart, and then tried to kill him to take his power. She is all kinds of bad ass, and all kinds of villain. And so when she appeared on this weeks, "The Heart of the Matter," I began to suspect that sweet but selfish Ana would slowly morph into a mini Cora. If last weeks episode built the mysteries and myth of the show, this episode was the emotional gut punch we needed after so many answers. The theme of the week is forgiveness but it's also prisons, the sort we build for ourselves be they ones of iron and bolts or ones that are dressed in pretty jewels and power. Maybe not as good as last week, this episode was still stellar, with quite the shocking ending! 

Is Your Momma A Stick?

I want to start with the B plot of the episode as the A plot (both in past and present) is very heavy and involved. Having learned that his mother is alive, Cyrus sets out to find the Caterpillar and retrieve the compass that Cyrus traded him long ago (I honestly forgot that Cyrus had traded the compass to the Caterpillar because it was back when the show was really struggling to hold my attention). The Caterpillar is willing to give Cyrus his compass back, but only if Cyrus hands over Alice and the Knave for not returning the Forget Me Knot. Side note, but I like how the smaller stories aren't being forgotten by the writers. They could have easily brushed the deal Alice and Will made the with Caterpillar back in 103 under the rug, but they didn't. Alice, shrunken down in size, is attempting to steal the compass from the Caterpillar while Cyrus distracts everyone. And in case you aren't culturally aware, there were a ton of Star Wars nods in this episode. The creators are nerds and the love Star Wars but, the Caterpillar has always been a stand in for Jabba Hut and now bar fights, calling in debts, and Cyrus got to be a bit of a Han Solo-type.

The search for Amara is abruptly cut short when Alice and Will learn (thanks to the Tweedle) that Jafar now has all three genies and Ana is locked up. But thankfully there are SECRET TUNNELS under the castle. Forgive me while I laugh myself silly. Really? More super convenient secret tunnels? Does every palace in every realm come equipped with them? Is there some sort of building company that crosses realms and installs them? Anyway, secret tunnels aside, Alice and Cyrus break into the dungeon to find Ana and figure out how to save Will. It was really heartbreaking to see Ana thank Alice for returning even though she knows Alice didn't do it for her. They are rudely interrupted by Jafar and Jabber coming to question Ana and manage to make a quick escape but not before learning one vital piece of information--because Will does not have his heart, he is not "a proper genie" and therefore Jafar's spell will not work. In order to save Will, they must first get his heart back. Enter the Bunny!!! Hi Bunny!!! I'm not sure when Will told Alice where his heart was, but all Alice needs is a portal to take her to--wait for it--Storybrooke!! We're going home.

Don't even bother asking me when this takes place in ONCE proper. I've been trying to connect some dots about the timeline of this episode and so far have nothing. Mr. Gold's car is at the Rabbit Hole (the bar) which he only frequented once in the episode Lacey which was toward the end of Season 2. The reason I'm harping on this? Because if Jafar does succeed in breaking the laws of magic, then doesn't it have repercussions for all worlds? How does it affect the parent show? Is that how Zelena managed to bring back Rumple? Timeline issues aside, I loved this portion. Finally we get some genuine fish-out-of-water moments on any ONCE show. This is what it should have been like for Hook and Belle; they've tried with Hook in 312 to do some of these moments but they were few and far between. Alice and Cyrus are genuinely surprised at everything in our world--cars, electricity, music, ice. It made for a some comic relief in the midst of a emotionally heavy episode.

I was actually rather surprised that the heart was in Storybrooke; I had predicted that it would be back in the Enchanted Forest, inside Ana and Will's old house. But instead it's in Will's house, which was rather spartan in nature. Will, during the Curse, was just living to get by. Boxes of unpacked items show that he never settled into his life. Like Ana stated last week, "I can never be comfortable. Not without you in my life." And what does Will have on his wall? A drawing of the Red Queen in all her royal glory. A picture that is littered with holes from throwing darts at it. Ouch. Alice, knowing the Knave better than anyone apart from Ana, deduces that the heart must be behind the picture of Ana. This is both sweet and sad. Will literally boxes up his heart and puts Ana's picture over it. A constant reminder that she broke him and what it cost him.

With the heart-in-a-box safely collected, Alice and Cyrus head back to Wonderland, only to meet Jafar who was on his way to Storybrooke--my kingdom for one conversation between Jafar and Rumple! There is a bit of a magic stand off battle here in which objects are exchanged. Remember how Amara is not only a snake staff but also Cyrus's mother? Well, when Jafar goes to try and use his trusty snake against Cyrus, Amara is having none of it. She rebels against Jafar and there is a lot of bright light and magic and confusion. Jafar has never experienced this before. always obeyed him. Cyrus ends up grabbing AmaraStick and she fights all of Jafar's powers, but sadly Jafar is able to grab the box with Will's heart. So at the end of the battle, Cyrus has his MommaStick and Jafar has Will's heart. Jafar needs both, remember--only two powerful wizards can perform the spell to break the laws of magic and Will needs his heart in order to be a proper genie. Cyrus and Alice figure out, with the help of the special compass, that the Snake Staff is Amara. But how do you break a spell that has your momma trapped as an inanimate object. Quick! Kiss the snake!

But I Think It's About Forgiveness

Normally, I split the past from the present but in this case, I think the two are better talked about together. In the past, it's the night before Ana's wedding to the Red (since when?? He was dressed in all White last time) King and you can tell that she's almost content. Ana has also made a new friend--Cora, the Queen of Hearts. Cora is an intimidating figure but instantly sees a bit of herself in Ana. Side note, but there is more than a bit here. There is a whole whopping parallel, and it was deliberate. Cora takes ones look at Ana, knows her story and sees not only herself but also the daughter she should have had. Regina was a disappointment because she didn't understand how power can shape you as a person. Regina only ever wanted love, but like Cora, Ana chose power instead. This intrigues Cora and in Ana she found someone she could mold when Regina refused. And Cora plays on one of things Ana always wanted to hear--motherly love. Oh Cora, you twisted soul. Rumple taught you well. Cora offers to teach Ana magic, insisting that Queens must use everything at their disposal to rule. Ana thinks it's a bad idea but you can tell that Cora isn't finished.

I said Ana was rather content in her new life and I think that's true. There is a lot of staring into mirrors, touching her jewels, admiring herself. It's only when a surprise visitor comes along does she start to rethink her plan. Poor Will (how many times do I say that?) but he deserves an explanation from her. He wants to know why Ana would do this--how could you break my heart in such a cold manner? Now, Ana claims she was doing what was best for both of them, but that's rather hard to see. With Ana there was a bit too much "oh shiny!" in her hasty engagement to the King. And I fail to see how it benefited Will unless she thought he'd be better off without her. Will breaks into the palace and asks Ana to come away with him tomorrow morning--meet him at the wagon and leave all this behind. Will is so broken here it's hard to watch. There are some really sad lines, Will mentions naming the stars at night to fall asleep and he named them all Anastasia because it's the most beautiful name he knows. Will has the heart and soul of a poet, which is why it makes it hard during this moment to feel any sympathy for Ana who so rudely ditched him. Will tells Ana one last time to meet him at the wagon at dawn and vanishes. Oh. One more thing: guess who was listening?

Cora, you really are an evil witch, aren't you? Cora overhears the conversation between Ana and Will and probably has very intense flashbacks to Regina and Daniel. Here is a girl who Cora can mold and shape and what is she going to do--run away with a commoner? Choose love over power and magic? Not on Cora's watch! Before dawn, Cora slips out of the palace and goes to see Will. Cora claims to be there on behalf of Ana and that Ana has made her decision--she will marry the King. Will is just a distraction now, and one Ana could do without. "Is that what love is to you? A distraction" asks Will and then Cora gives probably her most famous line in the Onceiverse and a theme that Adam and Eddy have been playing with for almost three full years now, "Love is weakness." I may or may not have cheered when hearing this line--horrible as it is. I knew it was coming. It had to! The speech from Will that follows is even more heartbreaking than his moment with Ana in the palace the night before. Will is so broken on the inside, dreaming that Ana will come home today and then he goes to bed when she doesn't and wakes up the next morning hoping again that Ana will return. You can't live on hope, sometimes you need reality. He can't go on; he doesn't want to live this way. But luckily, he knows Cora's reputation. Cora, the Queen of Hearts, with a vault full to bursting of human hearts that she removes herself. Until this episode I had been predicting that Ana took Will's heart in an effort to appease Cora. I never dreamed that Will would ask for Cora to take his own heart. I was genuinely shocked at the request. Feeling nothing is better than feeling what he did feel. So Cora reaches in and takes Will's heart, boxes it up, and Will--altered now to feel nothing--packs up his stuff and leaves the wagon, not caring that Ana didn't show up.

Ready for the twist? Ana was on her way to the wagon. She chose Will, until Cora (ARG!) interfered. Catching Ana in the act of packing and fleeing, Cora shows Ana via magic mirror that Will Scarlett isn't waiting for her at the wagon. He lied, he has left her (like she left him) and now it's time for Ana to get on with her life. Cora sees so much potential in Ana and if Ana really wants to be a good queen, she will need Cora's help. And more importantly, Cora's magic. Does Cora really see potential or is she playing on Ana's insecurities and vanity? My guess is the latter. Ana's isn't a deft hand at magic but she is emotionally scarred from her mother's cold treatment towards her. Ana doesn't take to magic the way Regina did (who broke her mother's magic binds without even one magic lesson under her dress). Ana is a bit slower; her lingering feelings for Will are holding her back. Cora also takes the time to explain the rules and laws of magic to Ana. Ana's main interest is in knowing if she can break them. This displeases Cora. Greatly. Cora is pretty intelligent and if Ana wants to break the laws it's only to get Will back. Cora gives a very rousing speech (I love Barbara Hershey) about letting go of whatever is holding Ana back and believing in herself and in the magic and the power, because with it, she can have anything she wants. And just like that, Ana's magic comes into being. And even if Ana's new husband doesn't approve, it doesn't much matter--chances are Ana and Cora are about to kill him.

Alright, present day. While Jafar is off searching for a way to Storybrooke to get Will's heart, he leaves Will and Ana in adjoining cells which provide the two the chance to talk. Or rather, Ana does a lot of talking and Will responds the way a man without a heart would. You know, it's interesting. Despite not having his heart, Will clearly still feels something for Ana. He stopped Jafar from killing Ana by telling him where his heart was and when Ana notes that Will will never love her again, there is a flash of agony. Ana didn't know Will gave up his heart for her and she is clearly disturbed and bothered. She knows how much pain she caused and now that pain is sitting in the cell next to her. Ana asks if Will can ever forgive her and Will says that nothing is impossible in Wonderland. Time for the storylines to converge. Jafar has Will's heart and wants to test it.

Jafar forcibly puts Will's heart back inside his chest and in an instant, Will feels again. And the first word out of his mouth? Ana. And no hesitation, no thinking, he reaches for her and they share THE TRUE LOVE KISS OF EPICNESS. Now, I've seen some true love kisses on ONCE before but this one had the swelling orchestra and the overly cheesy camera spins and happy lights. And it was gorgeous. That's how true loves kiss should work. The title for this episode is "The Heart of the Matter" and it comes from a song which states, "I’ve been tryin’ to get down/ To the heart of the matter/ But my will gets weak/ And my thoughts seem to scatter/ But I think it’s about…forgiveness." I think Will forgives her instantly. Forgiveness isn't forgetting but he loves her. He always had and he always will. But what's a heart for if not to be broken?
As Jafar says, "must make sure that your heart still works" and out comes the dagger. As Will is forced to watch from his prision, Jafar stabs Ana in the back and we watch as she falls to the ground, clearly dead. There was an interesting line in this episode that I think works thematically here as well, "we create our own prisons." Ana's prison was her selfish act that had repercussions down the road for everyone; Will's prison was his decision not to feel anything and lock away his heart behind a literal wall (he and Emma Swan should go out for a drink sometime--they can discus literal and metaphorical walls.) Jafar's prison is his obsessive need for his father's love, even if it's fake and false and probably won't be what he thought it would be. Ana's laments before her death that she wishes she and Will had never left Sherwood; coming to Wonderland was the start of it all because "Anastasia and Will, we already had all the magic we needed." And now she's lost for good and Jafar is closer than ever to his dreams.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Heart of the Matter

--Is Ana dead for good? Hard to say. Her name does mean "resurrection" so it's possible that she might come back if Jafar succeeds in breaking the laws of magic.

--How do you revive Amara? I don't know if they'd be as cliche as true love's kiss from her son, but neither Cyrus nor Alice have that sort of magic to break her curse.

--Really loved seeing Cora, even if she is an evil soul. But the question still remains, how did Will and Alice get his heart back from Cora?

--Only two episodes to go! Now I wish it had a second season. Wonderland has now surpassed my expectations. Sorry to see it go.


  1. I too was trying to figure out when in Storybrooke Cyrus and Alice had fallen, and I'm a touch surprised that they didn't bump into any other characters.
    I'm pleased that AmaraStick is aware and helping.
    Question: Does Amara need to be Amara to help Jafar work the spell, or can he just use her in staff form? Also, is it possible that Will/Will's bottle wasn't working because he is not the original genie? Does it need to be Cyrus in there?
    I need these questions answered before I can make a prediction, or at least a hopeful accurate one.
    Personally, I don't think Zelena took advantage of Jafar's magic. I think Jafar will fail. My theory on Rumple will be on the other post, however.
    Cora = Bitch.
    Ana dying = ow.
    Though life cannot be returned based on the laws of magic, can they be exchanged? For instance, I can see the Tweedle agreeing to sacrifice his life if it meant his queen could live again. Can the laws be bent?

    1. I was surprised they didn't bump into anyone as well. Even a secondary character--like a dwarf. No one knows for certain when Alice and Cyrus arrived in Storybrooke. My only guess would be 209 "Queen of Hearts" to tie in Cora more.
      I think Amara can be in stick form--she seems to be more magical than just Jafar. Uses that stick a lot.
      I think it might be a combo--no heart and not an original genie that is causing the mishaps. I also think Jafar will fail because I'm still suspicious that there is even a spell to begin with. Cora even says that you can't break the laws of magic.
      I think laws can be bent and Ana's resurrection might be a life for a life. But I have this horrible feeling it might be Will that sacrifices himself. How else do you undo a genie?