Posted by Ashley B at Friday, November 08, 2013 4 Comments
We open this week over a desert, with a caption informing the audience that we are in Agrabah many years ago. We see a marketplace, full of hustle and bustle and merchants touting their wares. A young boy is working at a forge, though he is not valued at his job. The boy is a mistreated, malnourished street rat and if I didn't know any better I would have guessed it was Aladdin himself.
Later on that night, we see a lone house in the desert. The boy sneaks past the gate and timidly knocks on the door. Amara answers and reminds the boy that if he knows who she is then he knows what she's capable of. And that's just the boy is after. He asks the sorceress to teach him magic, specifically asking to learn "dark magic", already setting him apart from other magic wielding characters in the Once Upon a Time universe who simple sought the mystical arts and fell to the Dark Side by accident. This boy desires to be feared like the sorceress and wants to use magic solely for revenge, a remark that grabs Amara's attention. The boy elaborates; he wishes to enact revenge on the sultan. He is the monarch's bastard son and has been cast aside to the gutter. The boy hates the sultan with "the fire of a thousand suns" a phrase I haven't heard outside internet keysmashing sessions in a long time. The boy finally reveals himself to be Jafar, and Amara agrees to being his magical tutelage in the morning.
The Red Queen dismisses Jafar's inquiry, but the sorcerer insists on learning why the queen chose the Knave to be the one to bring Alice to Wonderland. The Red Queen explains that to effectively lure Alice to their realm, the girl needed to follow a person she trusted. The Red Queen assures that the thief has already served his purpose. Jafar agrees and instructs the queen to "remove him from the playing field". More chess metaphors. I'm convinced the writer's have a quota as to how many chess and card related puns they can work into an episode and I'm not mad at all because the imagery serves to bring wonderful color to the dialogue. After making his request, Jafar leaves the queen, who looks none too happy with her latest instructions. Her obvious discomfort throughout the episode showcases that there is still a sliver of Anastasia in this monarch and that small piece of humanity still has feelings for the Knave.
Their debate is cut short when shouts are heard in the nearby treeline. It seems our heroes are being followed by none other than the Caterpillar's cadre of collection agents, aptly named Collectors. Faced with no other alternative, Alice and the Knave promptly beat feet through the underbrush, deftly leaping over tree branches along the way. As they stop to hide and formulate a plan, the Knave realizes the Collectors are only after him and suggests they split up. Any horror movie buff knows splitting up in the woods is a bad idea and Alice agrees with this sentiment. Too bad the Knave is set on this plan as he gains the Collector's attention, telling Alice they will meet up later. This is a big change to the reluctant Knave of Hearts we saw in the earlier episodes, the man who wanted nothing to do with Alice's quest. Apparently that chat with Grendel the Postmodern Prometheus had quite the effect on him.
Back to Prefontaine: Wonderland Edition, as the Knave is still on the lamb from his pursuers. He hides in a convenient tree stump, planning his next move, when he hears sounds of a scuffle. Curious as to who dispatched his would-be captors, the Knave emerges and calls for Alice. However, the wrong blonde answers and we see the Red Queen , guards in tow, waiting for him.
Amara then goes on to explain her fondness for serpent imagery. She states that just as serpents shed their skin and are reborn, so must Jafar be reborn by proving he will go about any means to achieve his ends. Jafar allows the goat-herd to die and the Amara is pleased, so much so that she gets a little touchy-feely with the sorcerer and smooches him. I'm not sure how I feel about this teacher/student relationship also being a romantic one. It makes me slightly uncomfortable as it implies Amara has been using her feminine wiles on Jafar to meet her own ends, taking advantage of her student to get what she wants. I sense a betrayal in the near future.
Cut to the Knave, who is looking about as thrilled as Garfield on a Monday at being shut in the Red Queen's dungeon. The queen taunts the Knave from the other side of the bars, telling him he should have stayed away from Wonderland and snarkly refers to Alice as the Knave's girlfriend. The thief counters that he was never attracted to nice normal women. Before anyone can fetch the Red Queen ice for that burn, she continues to goad the Knave on his thievery, which hits a sore spot as the Knave pulls no verbal punches, countering that the Red Queen has everyone fooled, but he knows who she really is and as icing on this assault he bitingly calls her Anastasia. I really desire more of this pair's back story. What could have happened to them or gone so wrong between them to transform the once earnest and loving couple from the end of the last episode to this bitter tableau? As the the Red Queen leaves, the Knave inquires as to how long he will be her captive. She simply replies forever and turns of her heel, leaving the Knave to his thoughts.
I've already speculated that perhaps Lizard is meant to be an expy for Bill the Lizard, most famously known for being the White Rabbit's handy man.
Alice thanks Liz and promptly marches off, announcing she's after the Red Queen. Again it is brought up that the queen and her army are not to be tangled with and Lizard says she's coming with, as the Knave owes her a debt. What is it about the Red Queen that has everyone so terrified.? She's not a magic user and we haven't really seen anything extraordinary regarding her influence, other than her being the ruler of this particular section of Wonderland. Could the Tweedles somehow play into her terrifying image?
Jafar once more mystically poofs his way into her chambers and congratulates the Red Queen on her capture of the Knave of Hearts, though he expresses curiosity as to why their foe is still alive. The queen waffles, stating that the Knave is out of the way and her task is complete. Jafar suddenly goes from zero to sixty, loudly demanding a public execution so everyone can see what it costs to help Alice in Wonderland. He actually says "Alice in Wonderland", which causes me to titter as he said the thing. The rest of Jafar's dialogue reflects that he knows something has or is going on between the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts. The sorcerer echos a variation on his teacher's words; is the Red Queen willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants, or is she simply a girl with a stolen crown? The biggest question, for me at least, is who did she steal the crown from? Not putting too fine a point on the subject, Jafar demands that the Red Queen kill the Knave.
Jafar, naturally hearing this too good to be true plan, is skeptical as to why Amara is sharing this opportunity with him. No one has shown him this level of kindness before. The sorceress admits that she has waited a long time for a worthy partner, just as Jafar has waited in seeking his revenge. She adds that no one has loved Jafar as Amara has and they embrace. My spidey senses are tingling once more. There has to be betrayal on the horizon tragic back stories are a staple of the Once Upon a Time universe.
Jump to Jafar in his cave of wonders, admiring the more traditional model of magic lamp he already has in his possession. The lamp actually looks like that of the genie from Season One of OUaT, but Sidney Glass is in Storybrooke. Or is he? We haven't seen him since Regina banished him to the basement of the hospital and he was actually transformed from a genie into the Magic Mirror before that, so who knows? There is another bottle beside the first, with an obvious place left for a third genie. Jafar, it seems, was very close to his goal before he began tangling with Alice.
Elsewhere in Wonderland, Lizard explains that she learned everything she knows in the areas of thieving and skullduggery from the Knave of Hearts. Alice realizes that the debt the Knave owes isn't of the financial sort. It's actually Liz who owes the Knave, as he was her teacher and protector. Alice inquires about the possibility of romance. Lizard staunchly denies that, stating they only ran together as thieves. Liz also mentions Anastasia, stating she has no idea who the woman is, only that she did a number of the Knave and was probably the reason he left Wonderland in the first place. Raise your hand if you are craving more of the Red Queen and Knave of Heart's back story.
As Lizard and Alice continue to amble through Wonderland, they come across a small crowd of people excitedly jabbering over a public notice declaring an execution for that day like soccer moms on Black Friday, though perhaps a public execution would be less brutal. Alice can't initially get through the crown to see, but as soon as she utters the magic words, "I have a blade" the group splits like a Kardashian marriage. Discovering it is the Knave who is to be executed, Lizard and Alice step on the gas and rush to save him.
The Red Queen emerges onto a balcony above the proceedings with Jafar in tow and the crowd cheers. Either she has the hoi polloi so terrified that they would cheer at anything she does (keep in mind these are people hoping to catch the Knave of Heart's disembodied head like a bouquet at a wedding) or she's not that bad of a ruler. Jafar leans over and antagonizes the queen, implying he doesn't take kindly to her affairs impeding his. While this little exchange happens, Alice has been busy scanning the execution platform, finally coming up with a plan. Unfortunately, one of the Tweedles has spotted Alice in the crowd, but instead of taking action, Jafar commands she be left to her own devices. He want to learn just how far Alice is willing to go to achieve her task.
Alice vows to never wish for Jafar and he surprisingly gives up after a few moments. Does he believe Alice will never wish for him, does he have another plan in mind, or does her determination trigger something else deep inside? He did have a rather thoughtful expression on his face. As the Knave grabs Alice and tries to escape, Jafar unleashes that fate worse than death and turns the Knave to stone. That's right, the Knave of Hearts is now a lawn ornament. Jafar, knowing now that Alice will never use her remaining wishes on herself, vows to inflict pain and torment on everyone she loves. He hops on his carpet and flies off.
One last flashback to Agrabah and we find Jafar and Amara sharing a drink, celebrating the fact that they located the final genie. Jafar states that soon he will be ready for the spell and the use of the incorrect pronoun is not lost on Amara as she struggles to stay conscious. Jafar has cast a spell that will allow him to absorb her magic. I was actually quite surprised that it was he who played Amara and not the other way around. This also goes to show the main difference between his and most other OUaT universe antagonist's back stories. Jafar always had a spark of darkness in his heart; there wasn't a slow, accidental descent to the side of evil. He planned from his earliest days to use evil magic to reach his goals. Amara's influence surely cultivated a warped sense of priorities and values in young Jafar, teaching him to put his needs and desires above all else, but Jafar knew what he was getting into that first night he knocked on her door. Amara reminds Jafar that he can't perform the spell alone and Jafar admits that he won't be alone. As the sorceress transforms, Jafar bids that she shed her skin and be reborn. He then picks up his signature snake staff, what his former teacher has now been reborn as.
While I didn't enjoy this episode as much as the last, it was still a solid story and answered a ton of questions the audience might have, while posing a few new ones.
Cyrus and Alice are too clever for their own good. I love how each episode both characters always end up being a half step ahead of their enemies, though I'm wondering if this luck will eventually back fired or run out. And if Alice is so clever, especially with her words, why doesn't she concoct a way to wish Cyrus free? As in free him from the servitude of his genie-hood. I know Cyrus had said that in the past it never worked out, but I think with someone as determined and clever as Alice thinking up the wishes there's hope.
The past certainly plays a large role with any Once Upon a Time show, but this episode in particular highlighted that to a "t". The way Jafar echoed all of the teachings he gleaned from Amara, as well as the constant references to Alice's first visit to Wonderland. The latter is something I'd like to see on the show. They keep alluding to first meetings, so I'd like to see what first impressions were formed and how each character evolved after meeting Alice.
I honestly don't know if I care for Lizard's character though. I am instantly turned off by young, know-it-all, excel-at-everything characters, the Wesley Crushers if you will. There also seems like a slight potential between Liz, the Red Queen, and the Knave of Hearts for a love triangle, though considering the Knave seems to utterly loathe the Red Queen now, who can say. Also, I admit, we didn't get a lot of Liz's character in this episode, so perhaps with more exposure I'll feel differently about her.
What did you think of "The Serpent" dear readers?
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