Friday, April 4, 2014

In Which I Review Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (1x13)

And they lived happily ever after. 

How else do fairy tales end? All in all, while this was by no means the strongest episode of the series, it was exactly what I thought it would be. Evil is defeated, wrongs are righted, forgiveness is granted, and everyone gets their happily ever after. There was nothing overly shocking in this episode, though there is one incident that does anger me in light of last weeks Once Upon a Time. This week's Once Wonderland, "And They Lived..." put everything in a box, wrapped it with a bow and then placed it on a shelf as a complete story. 

 The final episode picks up mere moments after the previous; Jafar and Amara are finishing the spell to break the laws of magic, making them the two most powerful sorceress in all the lands, capable of doing anything they desire. I have to admire the lightening storm here, it was well done, and Mark Isham's background music for this scene was deeply eery and foreboding. Jafar is in perfect horrible villain form, uttering "it is done" in wonderment as the spell finishes. Meanwhile, Alice is trying to tell Cyrus to hold on, who apparently didn't die but was only wounded. Keep that in mind, it'll be important later. Jafar is now set on getting everything he wanted: his father's love (or so I was lead to believe for 12 episodes).

With a simple flick of his wrist, Jafar has the love of his father, who goes from sadistic to gushing his undying love to his son in a matter of seconds. Now, when we saw "Bad Blood," where we learned the history between Jafar and the Sultan, I had a ton of sympathy for Jafar. It was something ONCE does well; they give sympathetic backstories to their bad guys, trying to live up to the idea that evil isn't born, but made. Jafar's quest to earn the love of his parent was--misguided to be sure--but somewhat heartwarming. My sympathy for Jafar began to wain when he kept doing acts that I simple could not condone. But now that Jafar has magicked his father into loving him, Jafar's true intentions are laid bare: he never wanted his father's love in the first place. He wanted his father to die at the hands of someone he loved, just like Jafar had. The Sultan tried to drown Jafar, so Jafar magically drowns the Sultan, watching his father fight for air, just like he did as a ten year old boy. It was a violent, messy end, and if there was one genuine surprise, it was this one. I really did think Jafar wanted his father's love.

While Jafar is busy committing patricide, Alice, Amara and Cyrus manage to escape (because Jafar don't need no guards!) and fly (via carpet) to the White Rabbit's house to try and heal Cyrus before he does actually die. Hi Bunny!! Hi Mrs Bunny!! I really love Bunny with his hat and his lady bun with her head wrap. Amara heals Cyrus using her new powers and then takes the time to get to know Alice a little bit, after all--they are soon to be family. It's time to take down Jafar, once and for all. They must end it at the place where it really all began, the Well of Wonders. If Amara surrenders herself to Nyx, returns the waters, the curse is broken on her sons and Will, and without the genies, the spell cast by Jafar and Amara is undone, and balance is restored. The plan is two fold: Alice and the Bunny will gather soldiers to attack Jafar's palace at dawn, while Cyrus and Amara take the magical red door to the Well of Wonders in Wonderland and return what was taken. Raise your hand if you think this will all go according to plan!

Meanwhile, Jafar is having a bit too much fun with his new found powers. He wants to break all the laws, one at a time. I suppose he's trying to sample the buffet before deciding what his main course should be. He forced his father to love him so how about some resurrection? In a special torture to Will, whom Jafar makes watch, Jafar brings back Ana and then, because he is truly sadistic, forces Ana to love him. Part of me wonders if Jafar fancied Ana all along or if he is really a sociopath. What does Jafar want right now?--to kill Amara. Once Amara is dead, he'll be the only person with power, which I suspect is what Jafar wanted from the start. It's not a noble ambition, but I still think it's understandable, though his actions are reprehensiable. As a young boy, Jafar was robbed of his own power, specifically the power of his own life. He was kicked around, abused, unloved, and eventually killed but his anger saved him in that case. He quite literally lives off that anger. His whole life hasn't been about seeking love, but rather seeking the power that he thought was taken from him. He's an abuse victim trying to find a measure of control. Am I sympathetic enough to wash away his sins? No of course not. He messed with fate and magic; that comes with a price. But I cannot fault his anger; I think I'd be angry too if my father tried to drown me.

 Since Amara, Cyrus and Alice are on the run, Jafar decides to resurrect dead soldiers (inset rolling of eyes) and tells them to bring Wonderland to its knees!! Alice and her friends have to split up--Cyrus and Amara go to the Well, while Alice and Bunny go to Jafar's with a ragtag group of soldiers. This part dragged a bit as it was fairly obvious what was going to happen. Alice, after giving a rousing speech to her troops, is captured (irony) by the undead zombies. When cornered, Amara uses magic to make the zombies re-kill themselves--which was rather disturbing to see. This is still an 8pm show run by Mickey Mouse, right? Cyrus realizes they only have a small amount of time now, with Alice captured, and momma and son make extra haste to the Well.

There is still one more law of magic that Jafar hasn't had a chance to sample--changing the past. Jafar's demands are simply, tell me where Amara is. If you don't, I'll change your past. But what part of Alice's past? Easy. The one that would cause the most pain. Jafar will make it so that Alice never came to Wonderland in the first place, never met Cyrus, never fell in love with a genie. Instead her life will be one of isolation and neglect, back in not-so-jolly England. Will, watching this whole exchange, tells Alice to do it: don't give up your memories of what makes you who you are to save Amara and Wonderland. But Alice, who has always been bold and daring and a true believer in love, tells Jafar to do his worse. She has no doubt that Jafar can change her past but she knows something he does not: true love cannot be destroyed. Take her memories if you must, but love is more powerful than any magic, and in the end, it will win the day. The memory taking is delayed as Jafar finds out (from convenient undead guards) that Amara and Cyrus are at the Well of Wonders and he decides to delay Alice's pain in order to take care of this business.

 My bunny is a hero. I want that noted for the record. My bunny is an absolute hero. With no armor, tiny as he is, he breaks into Jafar's palace in order to free his friends to save Wonderland. Ana catches him and tries to prevent the escape but Will pleads with her and gives maybe my favorite speech of the episode. Ana thinks herself in love with Jafar, but Will must convince her it's only an illusion. "Love isn’t simple. It’s messy. It’s arguing and making up. It’s laughing and crying and struggling and sometimes, it doesn’t seem worth it. But it is. Because when you’re in love, in the end, you forgive each other.” Will and Ana have been through hell and back; betrayal, heartbreak, loss and reconciliation. Will forgives Ana for what she did to him and now all that's left is to break her curse. Ah, true love's kiss. Rainbow lights and epic music. Ana's curse is broken by true love's kiss--though if I can be nitpicky, is this really a curse? It's an illusion to be sure, but not a curse. It's an illusion Jafar placed in her head with magic. I'm willing to overlook the small detail because it was a great scene but it does seem like the writers are playing fast and loose with the rules--but what else is new.

Everything converges at the Well of Wonders. Amara is trying to give up her life in order to fix the balance in the universe but Jafar kills her first. But this is where it took me watching the episode twice to really get what happened:
When Amara collapses, she reaches out her hand and touches the well, thus surrendering herself to Nyx. This is why she “dissolves” into a puddle. Therefore she has done what she said she would do–she returned the water. The debt is repaid.
Cyrus and Alice fool Jafar by making him think that the water must still be returned. Hence Cyrus picking up that little handful and then dashing to the well. Jafar grabs a small bit of that water (that has already been returned) and takes it for himself. He has now stolen water from Nyx and is in debt. Do you see where is this going?

 I think I always knew how this would end--the writers wouldn't betray the Disney version of Aladdin with Jafar. In that animated classic, Jafar is tricked into becoming a genie and it's no different here. I wanted a quirky line about itty bitty living space, but alas, that was not meant to be. With Amara's waters returned, the curse on Cyrus's brothers is lifted, meaning no more genies, meaning Jafar is no longer the most powerful sorcerer in the lands. He is trapped in his bottle and POOFed somewhere *cough* Storybrooke *cough* All the spells Jafar did as the all powerful sorcerer are now undone, meaning that Ana is once again.

I am going to try very hard not to turn this into a rant. I don't want it to come off as wishing Ana stayed dead--I really like Ana at the end of it all. But what the actual heck? "Dead is dead" is officially the biggest joke in the entire Onceiverse. Every time someone dies, there is some idiotic magical handwaving to bring them back: Henry (TLK from Emma); Blue Fairy (throw a coconut into a fire); Rumple (dark magic at the vault of eternal goo); Ana, the first time (break the laws of magic); Ana, the second time (freely given water from the Well of Wonders as thanks for returning Amara's waters and because it wasn't Ana's time to go). Maybe I'm super sensitive right now because I'm still really angry that ONCE proper killed off Neal with no hope of ever coming back, but this constant breaking of their cardinal rule has got to stop. It's becoming a joke. So EVERYONE gets to come back from death with the aid of a magical device *except* Neal. Okay then. So yeah, Ana comes back because Nyx let Cyrus and Alice have some of her waters. Let's move on before I get really upset.

We flashforward to some indeterminate future where Alice and Cyrus are preparing to get married. If I had to bet, I'd say that this wedding will somehow align with the end of season 3 of ONCE so that if they want to do a cross over now, they can without fear of timeline contamination. The wedding is lovely and sentimental and I loved the Rabbit's little speech about, "At this point, I’m supposed to say something about for better or worse, richer or poorer. But I don’t have to. You’ve already had all that. Not even death could keep you apart.” It's exactly how we thought it would wrap up--Will and Ana are together (and apparently the White Queen and King?) and Alice and Cyrus have their lovely little life together. Happily ever after, indeed.

Miscellaneous Notes on And They Lived...

--Love the Rabbit complaining about the blood stains.

--I need to erase Jafar and Ana kissing from my brain.

--So is the Jabberwocky pinned to the jail wall for the rest of time? Did Alice free her? After all, Jabber was somewhat helpful.

--Overall rating of series: B
The second half was miles ahead of the first but some episodes from the first half of the season are lackluster to the point where I don't really want to rewatch them ever. The CGI did get better toward the end, and I enjoyed that it was one complete story. Random note, but I want Alice's entire wardrobe. If you missed this show while it was airing, wait for it to be on Netflix, then marathon it. I think, overall, it was worth it and I'm glad I watched it from start to finish. Overall episode ranking:
Dirty Little Secrets
Bad Blood
Heart of the Matter
The Serpent
To Catch a Thief
And they Lived
Nothing to Fear
Who’s Alice?
Down The Rabbit Hole
Forget Me Knot
Trust Me
Heart of Stone


  1. The limitation of one's magical ability has always confounded me in both this and Once proper. What Amara did to save Cyrus I thought was well within her magical abilities prior Magic-Rules-No-Longer-Matter-Lightning-Storm. I wasn't aware that anyone became more powerful with the exception that these two were now allowed to break the three rules. I always took Amara as being the most powerful.
    I agree that the finite rules of death, even in a magical realm of thinking, are beginning to irritate me. I agree about Ana, glad she could come back but WTH. Are we to assume that only mortals with magic have limitations, but God/Goddesses with abilities do not? So Nyx is easily the most powerful being we have ever encountered because she has law-defying magic water?
    I am probably most irritated though with Jabber. I'm doubting Alice even knew to look for her. I would have assumed that Alice would figure Jabber ran first chance she got. But then again, if Ana and Will became the White Royalties should they not have found the Jabber in the dungeon. Would either one free her? Though I enjoyed some of the characters and how they developed, the show just didn't quite do it for me. Similar to where Once proper is headed…it's becoming more uncomfortable to watch than pleasurable.

    1. "More uncomfortable" seems to be really accurate right now. I'm beginning to think that the writers don't have an overall story arc but rather are taking it half season by half season, and in some cases, episode by episode. I don't mind theorizing and filling in gaps but I do mind huge mythic unanswered questions (What IS Nyx??) and magical handwaving that reduces their (poorly built) worlds to places of no consequence so long as you have some heretofore unmentioned magical item.

      For the past few episodes, I've actually been enjoying WL a bit more than ONCE proper, but this last episode, while perfectly acceptable, does raise questions about the ending of ONCE. How much are they going to sweep under the rug?

  2. Great review.

    I agree about death no longer being final in ONCE as a universe. I don't understand why they brought Rumplestiltskin back. His story was complete, he had at last made amends and his death was a perfect ending. Then they killed Neal and frankly I don't see why. The entire plot of him reverting to magic, in a history repeating itself motif, was ridiculous.

    I also dislike the fact that these "heroes" somehow survive every attack on their lives. There's no real sense of danger or urgency anymore, not since season one. I think Wonderland captured that spirit much better, but as you said in the end everyone lived happily ever after apart from the villain. I like to see the villain lose but when there are no real losses in the process, what's even the point of creating a fantasy show?

    1. Thanks for reading!

      While I love Ana, I do think that she should have stayed dead. We had an all powerful sorcerer who broke the laws of magic--there should be some sort of loss for that, or else the message become "it doesn't matter how powerful or evil someone goes, everything will be alright in the end." Which is what I suspect the writers were trying to do with Neal's death in ONCE proper, but they had no idea how to kill him off (to show that their big bad was really a BIG BAD) without assassinating his entire character and giving poor magical plot devices (which we will never see again). Graham's death in S1 of ONCE was the perfect example of how to kill a good guy--it was clean and elegant. In a fit of rage, jealous, and fear, the Evil Queen crushes his heart. It showed that magic is real and so are the consequences. It pushed Emma closer to believing she's the Savior. That's how you go about killing a good guy.