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Peering Through The Looking Glass: Five Things I Hope To See From Once Upon a Time In Wonderland

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As an avid viewer of ABC's Once Upon a Time I was both skeptical and intrigued when it was announced that creators Kitsis and Horowitz would be undertaking a deeper exploration of the timeless and manic world know as Wonderland. Surely, I thought, the story of Alice had been done to death? I worried that the creators would be spreading themselves too thin and not enough attention would be paid to both the new series and the mothership, since Once Upon a Time had just announced it would be sailing off the Neverland for a third season. As the buzz grew and photos and short clips were released, I found myself growing more enchanted with the story of what became of Alice after her jaunt in Wonderland.

Now, a month away from the anticipated Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premiere, I feel confident that this companion series will do well to captivate an audience familiar with Kitsis and Horowitz's brand of mingling storybook worlds into a cocktail of drama, adventure, and humor. However, there are a few things I'd love to see this series deliver.

Unique takes on characters
The story of Alice and her adventures, both in Wonderland and through the looking glass, has been re-imagined through many different mediums. Scores of movies have been produced regarding her trip down the rabbit hole, not to mention mini series, television shows, and even video games. The off-the-wall, quirky, and sometimes frightening world of Wonderland inspires artists and writers to see how much of a unique spin they can give Lewis Carroll's well know characters, locales, and wondrous elements. The amount of effort put into this new shows begs the creators to make the characters their own. Yes, what would the March Hare be without his tea party and who would find a Cheshire Cat credible without his grin, but because the audience will be so familiar with these elements one hopes that Kitsis and Horowitz, as well as the design and writing staff of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, strive to flesh out original takes on these timeless characters. My hopes that the tradition of rich backstories provided in Once Upon a Time will carry over to this new work and help put a new spin on an old favorite.

A full development of storylines
It has already been stated that Once Upon a Time in Wonderland with be a close-ended adventure, a single contained season. With approximately 45 minutes per episode, every moment will count in the creation of as epic a tale as true love truly conquering all. I hope that one season will provide enough time to not only get to know these characters, but a chance to study their interactions, to appreciate their relationships, and to see a conclusion to their stories. Even if Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a smash success that begs for a second season, I believe if plans are laid for a complete story arc then perhaps well enough should be left alone and no cliffhangers or teases of second season material should be presented. Many shows fail to thrive in their second season because definitive character and plot development have been fleshed out in the first season, leaving nowhere for the story to go in the second. My Once Upon a Time in Wonderland wish list could not be complete without the honoring of what the series set out to do in the first place and that's to tell the complete story of how Alice reclaimed her lost love.

A balance of humor and love story
I understand that the crux of this portrayal of Wonderland hinges of the story I mentioned above, of how Alice lost her true love Cyrus and her journey to find him one more. I personally am not the biggest fan of strict romance, I find love stories need a balance of humor and adventure to captivate me and I hope that Once Upon a Time In Wonderland will deliver. From what we have seen in various teases and clips, there is sure to be much swashbuckling as Alice is in no way a damsel, though she may be in distress. With such whimsical setting as Wonderland, full of characters that are more than slightly left of center, I hope the opportunity for humor is not lost. That is to say, comic relief should be naturally integrated, not just thrown in to lighten a particularly heavy moment. With only a single season, a balance of heroic and humorous, love story and lightheartedness, will be difficult to achieve to prevent the adventure for taking a turn towards the saccharine.

Once Upon a Time characters being well integrated
Characters from the world of Wonderland have already been introduced in Once Upon a Time, namely the Mad Hatter and Queen of Hearts. While both fan favorites, it won't do to shoehorn them, along with other characters from Storybrooke or the Enchanted Forest, into the world being established by Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. It has been said that viewers will be able to enjoy Once Upon a Time in Wonderland without being familiar with the original Once Upon a Time, so I have confidence in the fact that the focus will be on Alice and her exploits. Just because a character is a fan favorite, I don't believe it to be proper to throw them into a storyline just because it will please the audience. Yes, I madly desire to see Barbara Hershey on my screen once more, but in a capacity supporting the main story, not taking the focus away from it. This also goes for the integration of Jafar and any other residents of Agrabah that will feed into the blending of worlds for which the Once Upon a Time franchise is know for.

A balance of tone
I mentioned about the importance of balancing a love story with more lighthearted elements. Too emotional and the story is liable to give the viewer diabetes, too wacky and the relationships and heart of the story lose power. Yet there is another element that is worth mentioning. It is often implied or outright stated that Wonderland, under its candy-coated facade, is a sinister place. Even in sneak peeks, Alice and the Knave mention that they did not leave this land on good terms. I hope that the writers do not incorporate a gritty and dark take on Wonderland just for the sake of it. Returning to an enchanted land from your childhood stories to find it in ruin has been done to the point where the audience expects to find something off about these fantastical worlds once they are revisited. Yes, there is realism in finding conflict and darkness in a land visited as a child; the shattering of nostalgia happens every day in real life. But the inherent sinister vibe of Wonderland, the unease that nothing is "quite right", should be incorporated subtly, the audience shouldn't be beaten over the head with it.

Few viewers have been privy to about 20 minutes of the series, courtesy of San Diego Comic Con and the D23 Expo, so only time will tell if this anticipated show will deliver what the audience desires. But in those 20 minutes we have seen a main character take her adventure into her own hands, supporting characters demonstrating lightheartedness in the face of insurmountable odds, and a glimpse to how Storybrooke fits into the whole equation. I feel confident that this wish list will for the most part be fulfilled, but one can only know for sure once we take that leap down the rabbit hole.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premieres October 10th 8/7c on ABC. I look forward to seeing you there!

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 She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.

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