Friday, March 28, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x12)

And then there was one. 

Penultimate episodes of series set up the final conflict of the season (or in our case, series) and thankfully Wonderland did it well. This week's episode "To Catch a Thief" pulled all the strings together, gave us one final peek into the past for the story we knew we were missing and set up what has to be some sort of epic battle next week. After this episode, I am even more disappointed that we aren't getting a second season. If this is the kind of storytelling of which the writers are capable, then I want more. I want another 13 episodes to explore more of Alice's past, more of the Knave's adventures, more of Cyrus's life as a genie and more Jafar (love to hate him). But, at the same time, I worry that the writers couldn't recreate the magic that has happened these last few episodes. For all I know, some terrible love triangle would overtake the show and it would descend into madness. So maybe this is for the best. But as of right now, I have no doubt that the finale of Wonderland is going to go out with a major bang. 

Band Of Thieves    

It's very appropriate that this is our final (probably) flashback for Wonderland. While the show was touted as an epic love story for Cyrus and Alice, the real drive for the first half was the friendship between Alice and Will. For almost 8 full episodes, we watched them race against time, fight monsters, snark at each other, and be generally awesome together. While the two love stories being told side by side are wonderful, the best friendship between Will and Alice is almost more endearing because it is somehow fresher. Love stories are everywhere, but how often do you see best friends working together like this, their respective love interests nowhere to be found. Thus, I am thrilled that our last flashback takes us back to where we began. We knew that Alice and Will had rescued Will's heart from the clutches of Cora (who was sadly absent for this episode) but this story was the missing piece and the fact that it brought us full circle made it even more important.

Alice is on the run. Like in the classic book, Alice has angered the Queen of Hearts and is now trying to escape her wrath. Let's take a second to remember why Alice is in Wonderland in the first place--to prove to her father that she is not insane. As a little girl, when Alice returned from Wonderland for the very first time, her father was convinced his daughter had lost her marbles. Forever seeking proof for a disappointed and neglectful father, Alice set back out to Wonderland to gather proof (hence the bunny in the bag), but before she could get back to Fictional London, she met Cyrus and they spent a lovely time together before she lost him. This flashback takes place before she met Cyrus, though, as I said above, we come full circle this episode.  After Will gave up his heart to Cora, she in turn "enlisted" him into her service as her Knave and now has ordered him to bring Alice to her. There were so many hilarious one liners and quick witted responses. You can tell that Sophie and Michael love playing off each other. They spark in that unique best friend way that is hard to find in this world, unless you are very lucky.

Will is not so much determined to kill Alice as he has no choice. Once someone has your heart they can do whatever they choose. Even after Alice tries to warn him off, Will follows her anyway...and ends up in a net. What I loved most about this flashback was how light it was. Some flashbacks are tortured and angst ridden, and often they should be. Those types of flashbacks help us understand the character and create sympathy. But by this point in the show, we already love Alice and Will, so instead of this flashback being gut wrenching, we got to have some fun. Will in a net trying to cut Alice with a tiny dagger while she stood there looking unamused was fantastic. The word play and the snark made it enjoyable but then we get to the theme of the night: the best thieves never work alone. Once Alice learns that Will is heartless (literally) she offers to strike up a bargain: I'll steal back your heart and you stop trying to kill me.

Ah, Cora's heart vault. This thing has intrigued ONCERs since we first saw it in season of ONCE. I like that Alice doesn't use brute strength to get into the vault but rather her brains. By careful planning and precision timing, she manages to sneak into the vault where she finds way too many boxes of hearts. Seriously, Cora. You have problems, you insane woman. Alice is a smart cookie and figures out which box belongs to Will (the JH--jack of hearts) and sneaks back to Will where she promptly decides that she wants a Will puppet for herself. I don't begrudge Alice this, and I don't think Will does either. Given the choice, I think Will would have followed her and helped her anyway. Alice's price for getting Will his heart back: help me find proof for my father that I'm not insane.

Alice and Will stop for a pint and we learn a bit more about Will. I must admit this part felt a little off. I don't like learning about random family members in the last possible second. Will has a sister, now? One who died? Why does this feel like information they stuck in only to elicit sympathy from Alice to motivate her to give back Will's heart? I'm glad she gives Will back his heart before their deal is over and done with, but I'm not sure a random heretofore unmentioned sibling was the best way to bring that about. It felt forced but I'm willing to overlook it in light of how well Alice and Will get along. Alice, feeling guilty, gives Will back his heart and instead of taking it and running, he still helps Alice. They capture the bunny and Alice sticks him in her bag and Will tells her to go live her life. I'm glad Alice was worried about Will and didn't want to leave him, but Will assures her that she won't be along for long. And she won't. We've come full circle--Alice, having said goodbye to Will, run away from the guards where she will shrink herself, stumble, and fall right in the path of Cyrus's bottle, which was zapped from Agrabah a short time before.

Fate. Destiny. Whatever you want to call it, these lives are inter-meshed and interwoven.  And I kind of love it. If Cyrus had listened to the Nyx, the guardian of the well of waters, he'd have never been turned into a genie but then he'd never have met Alice. And if Alice's father had just believed her, she'd never have needed proof and never met Will or Cyrus. Perhaps Nyx got it wrong--maybe fate wasn't subverted that fateful day in Agrabah when Cyrus chose his mother over prophecy. And perhaps Nyx knew more than she let on and all of this was a design of fate and destiny anyway. Whatever happened, happened. And that's what Jafar cannot stomach--surely there must be a way to make it un-happen. He is the real antagonist of fate, not Cyrus. Oh, speaking of Jafar and Cyrus....

I Did Not See This Coming 

Jafar is keeping Ana in a glass coffin in front of Will's cell. Well, that's a whole new level of creepy and deranged. Jafar, get thee to Storybrooke and seek out a man turned cricket named Archie. He'll help you out, you poor sod.  Jafar knows all about desperate souls and he knows how to pray on Will; "there is a way to bring her back." If Jafar can break the laws of magic, then he can bring back Ana for Will. To what lengths wouldn't you go to bring back the one person you loved more than anything? For Will, that means seeking out his friends and asking for their help. If Alice and Cyrus hand over the serpent staff, Jafar can break the laws of magic and make what happened, un-happen. "We have to let Jafar win." But as sorry as Cyrus and Alice are that Ana is dead, they can't stomach the idea of Jafar winning. They are thinking of the greater good, after all. They want to take Amara to the well of wonders and return the waters so that Cyrus's brothers might be freed from their genie-hood. But fools in love....

This episode was billed as a betrayal from Will to Alice, but of course it wouldn't last. Will and Alice love each other too much to ever betray each other that way. So even after Will stole the AmaraStick and tried to escape, he would never let Alice die or be harmed. "I don't know how to loose you, Alice." (my heart just shattered, by the way). Alice again assures Will that he is not alone, but Will has some harsher words for Alice, "you think your love story is the only one worth fighting for." It's true. Alice is a bit myopic sometimes. It has always been about saving Cyrus, being reunited with Cyrus, her happy ending with Cyrus. To Alice, Ana is the Red Queen and old habits die hard; it has been hard to trust her and she frankly doesn't like the idea of Will and Ana together, her Will deserves better. But that's not up to Alice, is it? This is Will and Ana's story as much as Alice and Cyrus's, and if Will wants to fight for it, then she needs to help him, not detract him.

However, there is still the small problem of Ana being dead. Enter the unlikely foe turned friend--or at least turned into a helpmate, cause I'm pretty sure I don't consider Jabberwocky a friend. Jabber is no longer happy with her arrangement with Jafar--she wants freedom, not to be his little pet, kept on a leash known as the Vorpal blade. I am now incredibly intrigued by the Jabberwocky and her past. WHAT is she? And if she wasn't born a monster, then how did she become like this. I suspect we'll never know but her speech that monsters are made in a cruel world by cruel people has piqued my interest. There are quite a few similarities between her and the Dark One's curse that infects Rumple on ONCE and now I'm seeing theories that the two blades are connected and that Jabber was cursed. Could we please have her over on ONCE proper? Jabberwocky vs Regina and Rumple. Just picture that for a few moments.

The quartet, that now becomes a quintet, strikes up a plan to break into the palace and free Cyrus's brothers and save the Red Queen. It all revolves around freeing Amara from that staff. And this is where I do have a major complaint. How the blazes did she get free???? One second she's a stick and the next she saunters in, in a killer red dress and serpent necklace without even a bit of warning. How was this achieved? She says that she didn't teach Jafar everything she knows but I am seriously confused. If she could free herself this whole time through her own magic, was she just waiting for the right moment to strike? Until Jafar had all her sons gathered in one place? The fact there is no explanation is a little disconcerting, but what follows Amara's appearance is SO EPIC that I'm not going to dwell too much. So the plan? In several parts, the first of which was to get Cyrus into Jafar's chamber where is brothers are and wait. Will creates a distraction until Jafar summons him back to his bottle; Alice frees the Sultan who agrees to stop Jafar before he can hurt anyone else. Like Alice's plan to break into Cora's heart vault so long ago, this one is built on precise timing. Yay for Alice being an epic strategist (and freakishly good at counting...)

So now things converge. Cyrus and his brothers are in the same room; Will is in his bottle, Amara is free from her former status as a stick and Alice is racing, and kicking ass, to get to the room to take down Jafar once and for all. I have been waiting for an epic magic battle on ONCE for a very long time. Any kind of magic battle!! We seem to always bypass them--Cora died before there could be any sort of battle; Pan was killed with a knife to the heart; Regina and Rumple have settled their differences. On a show built around magic, the fact that there is a dearth of magic battles just makes me sad. So finally I got my wish. Snakes! Poofs of smoke!! Broken mirrors!! Taunting!! Sorceress being sorceress!! It was wonderful. Jafar and Amara are really matched against each other, each one managing to counter the others spells. But as Jafar says, "it always comes back to one thing when it comes to us sorceress. Family."


I did not see this coming. I figured Ana would bite it because of the name thing, but it never occurred to me that Cyrus might die as well. It just seemed so...out of the realm of possibility. But of course, Jafar is right: it all comes back to family. Killing Ana was the perfect motivation for Will; but what about Amara? What do you do to ensure that she helps you with your "break the laws of magic spell?" Kill one of her sons, of course. And now that Cyrus is no longer a genie, Jafar can hurt him all he wants with no fear of what it means for his magic spell. One tiny flick of his finger, and a shard of glass lodges in Cyrus's heart; a pain that even Alice can feel. Their hearts are entwined, forever linked in love. And Alice can't get there fast enough.

Jafar has gotten everything he wants. And now the final battle begins.

Miscellaneous Notes On To Catch A Thief

--Jafar becomes a genie. That's my series end prediction. Genie and trapped in a bottle.

--Will Jafar go back on his word to bring back Ana and Cyrus?

--Will Alice fight against Jafar even if it means loosing Cyrus?

--"I won't sacrifice a life with you."

--Really wish I knew more about the Jabberwocky now. She's so fascinating.

--Cyrus carried the Snake on his back almost the whole episode. Given Momma a piggy back ride!


  1. For some reason I thought this was supposed to be the last episode, so I was super confused with the ending.
    I liked Jabber being a "not-bad-guy" and agreeing to help. But her last line before the screen cut about Amara being able to help sparked a few thoughts. Do Jabber and Amara know each other from the past? Did Amara help Jabber before she was Jabber; did Amara curse her? Did Jabber release her? Does Jabber have magic? Did we just break the staff open? HOW?!?
    Also, I agree that more on Jabber would have been nice and I would like to see her over in SB or the EF if only for a few episodes.
    So, does the fact that Amara agreed to help mean that there is such a thing as breaking the laws of magic? Or is it still just a trick to end Jafar's wrath and trap him like in the Disney movie?
    This show has always seemed rushed and plot devicey, and this episode was no different.
    Out of curiosity, what exactly does Jafar want? What is his one desire? Having his mother back? Changing his father's mind about wanting Jafar all those years ago?

    1. I'd love to know more about Amara and Jabber; part of me thinks they do know each other (if I go with the theory that Amara is the daughter of Nyx and is much older than we think).
      I think there probably is a thing to break the laws of magic, but I don't think that's what Amara wanted when she recruited Jafar. She wanted to get her sons back and then she'd double cross Jafar and sleep easy again. However, I do think Jafar is going to wind up in a bottle. They want to keep the door open for his character, should they ever decide to do Aladdin/Jasmine over on ONCE.
      Jafar wants his father's love. The law he is seeking to break is "not making anyone fall in love." He wants his father to love him. Which is why, at the end of the day, I want him defeated but I can't fully hate him. He's too complex for me to hate outright.