Posted by Ashley B at Friday, October 11, 2013 6 Comments
Jump to present day, we see a young man stroll down Storybrooke’s main strip, while a storm rumbles in the distance. He is almost sideswiped by that infamous yellow bug and continues to head toward Granny’s as Cinderella and Grumpy lock up for the night. Or rather Ashley and Leroy, as they address each other by their curse names. The pair warn the young man that a storm is coming and he should seek shelter, but this guy is invested only in himself and brushes the them off, not before lifting the diner keys from Cinderella’s pocket. He enters Granny's, helps himself to a cup of joe, and thinks twice before leaving a few bills in the till. No avocado for you then. With just a few actions we already learn that this character sees to himself first and has a distinct disdain for the rules.
Cut to the dankest asylum this side of a Dickens’ novel. The location sets the mood to be drab, dire, and despondent. Think Return to Oz, though this setting would make even Fairuza Balk, well, baulk. Here, an older Alice is being interviewed by her doctors, quintessential in their disapproving and Victorian demeanors. She seems to be in her own world and it takes a minute for the doctors to get her attention, questioning Alice if she remembers why she is even in the asylum. She insists she doesn’t, so the doctor rattles off a few Wonderland essentials to jog her memory; hookah smoking caterpillars, food and drink that cause you to change size, the like. This also serves as a way for the audience to re-acclimate themselves with the weird and wonderful Wonderland of our stories.
The doctor calls Alice back to reality, banging on the table to get her attention. Contrary to that flashback, Alice insists that Wonderland and her adventures there did not happen. She's either very smart or very traumatized by whatever brought her back to Victorian London because her expression during the flashbacks is one of excitement and joy, completely opposite of her current state. That Alice was having an adventure, while the Alice present in front of the doctors is subdued and broken. The doctor demands to know the real Alice; was it the one who engaged in tea parties and fought "barbaric queens" (another sly nod to Once Upon a Time) or the one sitting next to comatose before them.
Back in Wonderland, Alice is confronted by the bottle’s occupant, a genie named Cyrus, whose pad has one up on I Dream of Jeannie with its many rugs and lavish cushions. Alice threatens to blow the top off the thing, literally and figuratively, brandishing a "Drink Me" bottle, though how this would harm a genie with magical powers is beyond me. Perhaps a genie has a closer bond to his bottle than just that of real estate.
Back at the asylum, we really start to get some life back into Alice at the mention of her genie. Alice insists she did not wish for anything. It might be that to take wishes from Cyrus would put him in a position of servitude and obviously their relationship is and was much more. In fact, the doctor mentions that Alice set the genie free and they had all sorts of OUaT-esque adventures involving mermaids and pirates. They seem to really be setting up the fact that this story is going to take place over many realms, not just Wonderland, and these implications would serve as perfect points to engage in Once Upon A Time and Wonderland crossovers.
Alice and Cyrus stand at the edge of a cliff (not a good place to be since we know one half of the pair is thought to be lost) in a shot silhouetting them in the eternal sunset. That is something I noticed that was prevalent throughout this episode, the number of shots from behind the character, almost forcing the viewer to take in the surroundings as that character would. This may be a way of making the land itself a presence, of making Wonderland a character emphasizing its importance to the quests ahead.
The couple express their amorous feelings for one another and Cyrus awkwardly takes a knee, but before he can propose, Alice immediately says yes. Not one to mince words at this point, Alice pulls Cyrus into a kiss and twinkly happy fairytale music plays. Cyrus shows Alice a plot point, I mean pendant that knows when true love is near. It signifies that their hearts are entwined. Apparently when you truly love someone, your jewelry feels it too. Since this is a Once Upon a Time affiliated show this happiness is guaranteed to be short-lived and sure enough the other shoe, or rather red stiletto heel, courtesy of the Red Queen, drops as she shows up with a cadre of guards.
The reason the doctor dragged out his Victorian Inquisition is unclear since he knows Alice is lying about not longer believing. She has been calling out in her sleep for Cyrus. A flashback to Wonderland reveals why as we see the Red Queen, for reasons yet unknown, try to capture Cyrus. He and Alice fight the guards off with much sword twirling and face kicking, but as fancy as their fighting skills are, it's no match for the Red Queen's magic. If she can’t have him, no one can and with a flick of her wrist she sends Cyrus tumbling off the cliff and into the ever-tumultuous boiling sea below. The doctor, however, has a solution to rid Alice of these painful memories. He offers her a chance to try a new procedure, something that will erase Wonderland from her mind. All she has to do is sign on the dotted line, which she does after only a few moments of hesitation.
As the Knave and Alice escape down the corridor, the doctor stops Alice and implores her to go through with the procedure, though his pleads are cut short when he sees the White Rabbit, leaving the doctor in stunned silence. Outside the asylum, the trio dodge more orderlies and use one of the Rabbit’s portals to escape, not before the Knave expresses some reservations about returning to Wonderland. He’s made quite a few enemies, but as Alice helped him retrieve his heart, he owes her help with recovering her’s. The Knave is an interesting fellow, definitely one of the more grey characters morally, and I greatly desire to see his back story, particularly if that means seeing more of the Queen of Hearts. I predict that it was he who kidnapped Regina’s father and brought him to Wonderland in the OUaT episode “Hat Trick”.
We also discover that the Rabbit wasn’t as truthful as he first appeared to be. He in fact did not see Cyrus, only heard the genie had been spotted near the Mad Hatter’s old place in the Tugly Woods. I love the references to Sebastian Stan’s character, particularly the Knave knowing that the Hatter is much happier in Storybrooke. It would be interesting to see if the two had any interaction before the Knave set off to help Alice. The Knave, now knowing that finding Cyrus isn’t a sure bet, is itching to leave Wonderland and return to our world. Alice resorts to a bribe and presents her three unused wishes from Cyrus, hidden, James Bond style, in heel of her shoe. She warns the Knave that wishes can be dangerous. It seems the trope of Be Careful What You Wish For is well and alive in Wonderland and I look forward to seeing the results of wishes gone awry.
As the Alice is pinned and primed for feline snacking, the Knave returns and saves Alice with a well-placed mushroom down the gullet, shrinking the cat down to a more manageable size. Alice, irritated that the Knave would betray her, reminds him that wishes can only be granted, not stolen. The implications for wishes gone haywire is so strong, I do hope they follow through with this vein of foreshadowing.
Finally, Alice and the Knave arrive at the Hatter’s cottage, full to the hat brim with millinery, but unfortunately Cyrus is not among the chapeaus. The White Rabbit finally shows up and the Knave seems slightly suspicious of his absence. You would have thought as someone living in Storybrooke he would have rented The Matrix at one point and known to follow the white rabbit. Alice, out in the Hatter’s front yard, finds the pendant Cyrus was wearing at the boiling seas. The Knave, convinced more than ever that the genie is a lost cause, protests that there is no proof he’s still alive, but Alice counters with the pendant and makes a callback to the beginning of the episode saying she can feel it.
I felt this was a strong start to the series. It balanced the elements of action and romance well and did not reduce the character of Alice to either a weepy damsel in distress or a full-blown action girl. She is a believer, a brand of character in the Once Upon A Time franchise that is destined to make things happen and play a world-altering role.
The Knave and the White Rabbit not being all that they seem is intriguing for both characters. I want to know why the White Rabbit jumped ship from playing cards to chess pieces. Was it the absence of the Queen of Hearts or was it something more? The same for the Knave; he had to have stolen more than tarts to get wanted posters requesting his beheading strewn about Wonderland.
The most intriguing twist on Wonderland in its entirety is the fact that all is not as it seems because no ally is who or what they seem. Everyone has their own agenda and does not seem to be terribly concerned with that of their neighbor. So it’s hard to pinpoint who will remain loyal and who will stab their companions in the back to get ahead. Things not being as they seem also apply to the very landscape of Wonderland, proven to be hostile, and since it has been established that time passes differently, how much has changed since Alice’s last visit?
I look forward to delving deeper into each character’s back story as the show continues and experiencing just how strange this journey can become. What did you think of the premiere episode of Once Upon A Time in Wonderland? Did it meet your expectations or like taking a swig out of a “Drink Me” bottle, did the show grow to exceed them? I’m enjoying the ride so far and would recommend viewers to keep tuning in to see just how deep this rabbit hole goes.
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