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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - Episode 1.09 - Nothing to Fear - Review


By God, it's good to be back in Wonderland. I'm sure the hiatus has been torture for you as well, dear readers, but I'm pleased that episodes are back and we'll be able to see how the story of Wonderland and all of its heroes and villains comes to a close in these final five episodes.

Tonight's episode opens with a brief recap, re-acclimating viewers to the twists, turns, broken alliances, and new found friends Alice's adventures on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland have brought us. This is a wise move; it refreshes the audience to where our story left off. This episode also benefits from having no flashbacks. Most of our heroes and main players are together in the same place, which limits the jumping around that usually occurs when the story cuts from one set of characters to another, and then to a flashback. Given the long hiatus, this is ideal as it doesn't overload the viewer right off the bat.

And we pick right up where we left off, with the Knave of Sass, I mean Hearts, careening around his newly appointed bottle as it floats downstream, washing ashore at the feet of Elizabeth, or Lizard as her friends call her, last seen helping Alice on her journey, now seen wrapped in the latest towel from Bed Bath and Beyond the Rabbit Hole. She releases the Knave from his tchotchke prison and in her delight to see him alive and no longer the Red Queen's lawn ornament, she wraps him in a hug, losing her towel in the process.

The Knave, grateful for Lizard's help but determined, sets off to find Cyrus, Alice and the Red Queen, only to be forcibly and magically called back when Lizard demands that he "wait". In dusting himself off from his rough landing the Knave finds three wish gems in his pocket and presents them to Lizard, anointing in a very Stepfordian manner, "Mistress mine, my will is thine, tell me your wishes three". My face mirrored Lizard's at this chipper declaration of servitude, which like the magical leash she invoked on him, seems to be a compulsion. I enjoy this demonstration of the hold the bottle has on its genie and causes me to wonder if now that Cyrus is free, how will he react to no longer having to bend to the bottle's whim? What's especially troubling is how eager Lizard is to be the Knave's master. What wishes will she have in store for him?

Elsewhere in Wonderland, Alice is snoozing in her and Cyrus's invisible love shack. She is awoken by the former genie and marvels at how their reunion is actually a reality. I'm also surprised that the two lovers are reunited before the end of the series. This isn't a bad thing, but since one of the main themes of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is that True Love conquers all, I hope that this early reunion will provide a chance for the writers to explore what happens after a couple such as Alice and Cyrus, one changed and formed by their individual struggles, will cope now that their main goal is achieved. The two have a heartfelt fairytale moment, only to be interrupted but a grunt of disgust in the corner. It seems the Red Queen has also been camping with the pair and has vocal opinions of their PDA.

Alice, due to her trauma, does not remember much of what happened at the end of episode eight and is immediately distrustful of the former monarch. I would be too if I was suddenly forced to team up with the person responsible for my troubles. Alice is reminded that "magic always comes with a price" (ABC why haven't you printed this on numerous pieces of merchandise yet?) and the price of Cyrus's freedom was the loss of the Knave. There is much tension in the group with Cyrus playing referee to Alice and the Red Queen's pending cat fight, but in the end the trio agrees that they must find and rescue the Knave of Hearts before Jafar gets ahold of him, then everyone can get the hell out of Wonderland.

Over in the Red Queen's former palace, Jafar is making himself right at home. He's even begun to redecorate the place, bringing his father the sultan up from the dungeons. Jafar's gloat-fest is cut short as daddy issues regarding the sorcerer's worthiness to sit upon the throne are stirred up. Jafar dismisses the prisoner and entertains the company of the Caterpillar instead, who it seems is now on the sorcerer's payroll, having sent all his men to scour the kingdom looking for the missing genie. If having the Godfather of Wonderland working for Jafar isn't enough bad news, the sorcerer forces a very reluctant Caterpillar to reveal a terrifying ally that can help him reach his goals. The monster in question is the Jabberwockey.

Now, I'm going to address this because it irks me so, but I promise I won't harp on it in every review. The name of the creature is the Jabberwock. The word "Jabberwocky" refers to the title of the nonsensical poem Alice reads in Through the Looking Glass. It's a piece of work that literary scholars attribute to Lewis Carroll's lampooning of the over analyzation of poems and verse, which is amusing since it became victim to over-interpretation itself. It bothers me that the Jabberwock is going to consistently be referred to by the piece of work that describes it, especially since such a monster was correctly named in the second season episode of Once Upon a Time titled "Tiny" (which I noted in my review over at GottaWatchIt.com) but I understand the use of a more familiar term for the sake of the general audience that doesn't salivate over the works of Lewis Carroll as I do.

While Jafar is scheming to unleash an ultimate evil to do his bidding, our heroes three are mucking about in the mud, having traced the Knave's bottle to the river. The Red Queen seems to be having the most trouble with the terrain, those scarlet stilettos not doing much good on a practical journey. This is a great bit of physical comedy on Emma Rigby's part. As the group moves down river, Cyrus and Alice take advantage of the Red Queen's falling behind to have a bit of an awkward moment together. I really appreciate this interaction as it reads like a couple in a long distance or online relationship combating with the inevitable awkwardness that comes from finally meeting in person after so long. They both address each others' journey to reunite, though Alice doesn't go into detail or even mention where the Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit rescued her from. I hope the fact that she was declared insane and committed, yet still insisted that Wonderland was real, is brought up to Cyrus in the future, as Alice's determination is one of her defining qualities.

As the couple decide to address their need to catch up at a later time, they realize the Red Queen hasn't caught up to them. In fact, she has vanished completely. Alice, still distrustful of their alliance, immediately believes they have been ditched and that the queen is off searching for the Knave on her own. Little do they know that the monarch has been captured by her own subjects; poverty-stricken villagers looking for revenge on their neglectful ruler.

Jump over to Lizard and the Knave, who have wandered into a town, discussing what Lizard's wishes should be. The Knave of Hearts, ever laissez-faire, does not remember the provisos that come with granting wishes. Looks like someone needs to re-watch Aladdin. He does succeed in remembering that a genie can not make anyone fall in love with anyone else, which seems to deflate Lizard a bit. I see where this is going and we all know it won't end well for the thief. Instead of making a wish for herself, Lizard bids the Knave to make one for himself instead. Carefully acknowledging the caveats that come with magic, the Knave of Hearts does what I would probably do in the situation and wishes for a beer. In fact, he magically buys a round for the entire village. The only price a wish like this could come with is a massive hangover.

Over in the palace, Jafar unwraps his loyal Tweedle's head from its festive box and places it on a pedestal. This forcibly reminds me of the busts in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World, but before the Tweedle can break out into a rendition of "Grim Grinning Ghosts", the sorcerer entices the disembodied head to reveal the location of the Jabberwockey (it is going to bother me to write that, I can tell) with the promise of a body. I wonder where the other Tweedle, the one loyal to the Red Queen, has gone off to. I hope he makes a return appearance in aid of his mistress and her new allies.

Back at the village, the Knave's kegger is in full swing. He revels in the fact that he is no longer Wonderland's public enemy number one. He might even be public enemy number thirteen at this point (Cole Porter jokes for everyone!). I enjoy that a reference is made, however briefly, to the stealing of the tarts. Though one has to wonder what tarts Cora, the Mother of All Evil, had that the Knave would have been interested in. The Knave seems to be enjoying his phenomenal cosmic powers (and has forgotten about his itty bitty living space), so much so that is his oblivious to the longing looks Lizard has been shooting him all day. She assures the Knave that she still needs time to decide on her wish.

Alice and Cyrus are still wandering around the river bank, searching for signs of the Red Queen. While Alice is keen to forget about their ally and continue the search for the Knave of Hearts, CSI Wonderland kicks into effect as Cyrus finds broken branches and a scrap of cloth, signs of a struggle. He performs some voodoo of his own, a homing spell he learned from his mother, and he and Alice set off in search of the Red Queen. Now that we know Cyrus's mother was well-versed in the magic, I don't think it would be a stretch to theorize that she might be the same person as Jafar's former teacher and lover, the one who helped the villain learn his dark arts. Given the Once Upon a Time franchise's affinity for crazy family trees, this wouldn't be a stretch in my mind.

Speaking of Jafar, we find him at a tower somewhere in Wonderland,dealing with the prison's gruff sentry. Jafar easily disposes of this adversary, ignoring his warnings that whatever is housed there in is bad news and should not be disturbed. Upon entering the Watertower of Woe (I think the tower is supposed to look like a chess pawn, but to me it looks as though Leonardo DiCaprio should be climbing it, What's Eating Gilbert Grape-style), Jafar comes across several bodies of dead knights and warriors. Some are corpses, others skeletons. Are these the remains of those foolish enough to seek the Jabberwockey or are these leftovers from the monster's brunch? As Jafar examines his surrounds, he uses a spell to produce flames from his staff. Confirmed on twitter, what was said was "fiat lux" which is latin for "let there be light". Very nice writers, very nice. As Jafar snoops, a sultry, ethereal voice comes out of the shadows, taunting the sorcerer about his "jabber".

I really enjoyed this type of introduction, the minimalist approach of establishing what this beast is all about. The best horror movies operate under the maxim of "less is more". Let the audience's imagination build your monster, because whatever is in their heads is sure to be far scarier than what the writers could cook up. Also, the fact that the Jabberwockey seems to use a person's own fears is extremely intriguing. The idea that it can get inside your head is an interesting spin on a foe that has traditionally be represented by a hulking beast or dragon. The title of this episode is "Nothing to Fear" and the rest of that saying goes "...but fear itself". Is this a clue to the true nature of the Jabberwockey? I really did get a chill when the Jabberwockey told Jafar that it was "already inside his head".

While Jafar is getting his mind melded by the Jabberwockey, the Red Queen is dealing with her own set of psychological problems, specifically a confrontation with her subjects, who are all demanding to know why she didn't care about them and left them to fend for themselves when the beasts of Wonderland attacked. I have already mentioned in past reviews that the Red Queen was simply a girl playing at being a ruler and this confrontation solidifies that fact. She wanted all of the glory and none of the responsibility and now she is paying for it, which is refreshing since the viewer doesn't often see a neglectful monarch having to literally explain themselves to their subjects. As the queen is being tied to the stake American Horror Story-style, she attempts to bargain for her life, pointing out the ransom for a queen would surely be high. However, her subjects scoff at the idea that anyone would be willing to pay for her. The face the Red Queen makes when she realizes she can name no one willing to save her is heart breaking, though the moment is too short as Cyrus and Alice emerge from the bushes, claiming they will pay the queen's ransom. Except neither of them have any money. So with the peaceful resolution out of the question, Alice unsheathes her blade and the pair prepare to fight for the Red Queen's life.

Cut to our three heroes tied to stakes. This was a bit unexpected considering Alice usually wins all her hand to hand battles and we've seen her and Cyrus's prowess as a tag team. Night has fallen and torches have been left out to attract the beast of the Wonderland wild, the mom raths. These certainly aren't akin to their Disney counterparts as the mom raths of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland are aggressive, wolf-like animals. Alice, the Red Queen, and Cyrus struggle with their bonds, resulting in an impromptu can-can dance as they try to snuff out the torches attracting the animals, but that isn't what is drawing them nearer. It's Alice's pendant, the one Cyrus gave to her at the edge of the Boiling Sea, the symbol of their bond. She is forced to chuck it away to save them all, though it is obvious that Alice has enormous regret in doing so. She is effectively throwing away her past to save her future, which is interesting in that this could be a way for Alice and Cyrus to put their struggle behind them and start new. As the three flee from the howling mom raths, they are drawn to a dazzling display of fireworks shooting up in the night sky. Since we know the inhabitants of this area are dirt poor, the only explanation is magic. The Knave must be near.

Deciding the trio should split up and find the Knave and his bottle, Cyrus lingers back, pulling Alice with him. He finishes what they started long ago at the edge of the Boiling Sea and produces a ring, asking for Alice's hand in marriage. He explains that he had a whole speech prepared for that day, one that went on about how they would fight to the death for each other, but since they've already done that, he pledges that he will always love Alice, that everyday will be an adventure because they are together, addressing Alice's fears that the fighting will never stop and they will never find peace. The former genie assures his True Love that they will find peace in each other. While this is a beautiful speech, I hope that Alice and Cyrus's adjustment to almost achieving their Happily Ever After isn't as simple or sweet. It's true they've both been to hell and back, but as I said before, that can change a person. What I desire for this couple is that they fall in love with the people they are now, not just the people they were.

Over in the poorest village in the land, another couple is struggling with declarations of love. The Knave of Hearts has finally noticed that Lizard has been withdrawn the entire night. He figures out she is love sick over someone, but is oblivious to the fact that he is the object of his friend's desire. Lizard, in one last effort to get the Knave to see her as more than a friend, asks the new-found genie what he wants in a woman. He lists off traits, such as confidence, a sense of adventure, looking killer in a dress, and stresses that above all, when he sees the one he loves, there have to be fireworks. So that is what Lizard wishes for, and as she is magically transformed into a beautiful gown, literal fireworks can be heard booming in the distance. The Knave is excited, though for the wrong reason, and insists they go out and find the man she fancies. Lizard finally has to come clean and admit to the Knave that the man she loves is standing right before her.

The Knave of Hearts tries to grapple with this, expressing that he is very fond of Lizard as a friend and partner in crime, but he doesn't and can't have romantic feelings for her. In fact, the Knave admits that he is physically incapable of loving anyone, due to the lack of a heart. Lizard rashly uses the phrase "I wish" while expressing her desire that the Knave of Hearts feels something for her, and whoop there it is, the price that comes with all magic, for as the new-found genie is returned to his bottle, Lizard keels over and dies. I think that either her heart went into his chest or perhaps this tragedy was a way for the Knave to feel something for her in the form of grief. Either way, Lizard is now no more, which is disappointing considering her character only came back for this episode after a long break. It's true I didn't care much for her character at first, but her longing for the Knave gave her a calmer, more subdued characterization in this episode, which I appreciated more.

Shortly after Lizard expires, the Red Queen, having gone off on her own to search for the bottle and the Knave, comes across her body. She respectfully closes the dead girl's eyes and claims the bottle for her own, reuniting with Cyrus and Alice outside. Alice immediately believes the queen killed the Knave's former master in order to gain the bottle, but the Red Queen hilarious insists "she was dead when I got there!" Cyrus demands the bottle, but the Red Queen deviously rubs the lamp, producing the Knave who recites his "mistress mine" spiel like a chipper lobotomy patient, before reacting to the words coming out of his mouth in disgust. Honestly, the Knave of Hearts as a genie has been one of the most amusing things this episode and his reaction to compulsively saying those saccharine words is one of my favorite things.

The Red Queen is insistent they leave Wonderland since Jafar already has the other two genies and will becoming for the third. Upon hearing this, Cyrus is rocked to his core. The other genies are actually his brothers (so no Sydney Glass then), the three of them cursed at the same time. Cyrus and Alice decide they must stay in Wonderland and save the rest of Cyrus's family, and the Red Queen agrees to help, which means that the Knave of Hearts is along for the ride, her being his mistress and all. The trio, now a quartet, vow that they must stay in Wonderland and save it from the clutches of Jafar.

Speaking of Jafar, we jump back to the Watertower of Woe, where the sorcerer finally discovers where that ominous voice is coming from. The Jabberwockey has been hanging right above his head, which is actually quite creepy. I mean, honestly, how often do we really look up? She is pinned in place by a blade through her torso that Jafar magically removes. As the Jabberwockey drops down from her prison, her movements are very animalistic. One gets the idea that the form we see, that of a woman with a shock of white hair, is not her true form, but a skin she is wearing. I admit the character design is not what I expected and isn't as intimidating as I had hoped, but what the Jabberwockey does next changed my opinion of her as a threat in an instant. She tries to recover the blade that pinned her in place from Jafar, but he denies her, claiming he may need it in the future, implying he has control over her. The Jabberwockey then proceeds to put the mental whammy on Jafar, invoking the memory of his near drowning by the hand of his father, causing the sorcerer to choke and gasp for air, reliving this event. When the Jabberwockey finally lets up, releasing Jafar from her thrall, she gives this little shake, almost like an animal settling in. She then assures Jafar that he will indeed need the enchanted blade in the future and stalks out.

Well, dear readers, what did you think? I feel as if with each new episode, the story of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is getting richer and richer. I thought I would be disengaged by this episode, since the one proceeding seemed to reset the entire series, but I am more intrigued than ever as to how all this will play out.

I think the Jabberwockey, name aside, had a splendidly creepy introduction, and though her physical form leaves a bit to be desired, I do enjoy the fact that while presented as a woman, she is still a beast. She is chaos being held together by the simple promise of more carnage. The fact that she is now in charge and holds more cards than Jafar is my favorite aspect of the character and I can not wait to see what mental whammy she pulls on each of our heroes.

The exploration of relationships in the episode was fantastic. They felt very real, from Alice and Cyrus's awkward adjustment period, to Lizard's pining for a man she can never have. Lizard never felt whiny to me or entitled to the Knave's love. She never insisted that he love her and I am extremely pleased she never outright wished for it, though we all know she wanted to. Her death doesn't feel cheapened in that respect, though bringing her back to simply demonstrate how dangerous a genie's magic is was not my favorite.

We have seen so many characters from Lewis Carroll works and I don't know about you, but I do have a few I am rooting to see before the series ends. We know Barbara Hershey will be back as Cora, the Queen of Hearts, a personal favorite, but I'd also like to see the writers' take on the White Knight. Also, what about other Wonderland staples, such as the March Hare? We've seen the Carpenter, but what became of the Walrus? Do you think any of these folks are in Storybrooke?

What did you think of the latest episode, tell us in the comments!

Next week's episode is entitled "Dirty Little Secrets" and I can't wait to see what kind of secrets the Jabberwockey will dig up!

Ashley B
is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention attendee, and resident sass master, Ashley also writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time over at GottaWatchIt.com. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.

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