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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - Episode 1.02 - Trust Me - Review

My expectations were rather high this week. I hoped now that we got the majority of the establishing business taken care of in the pilot, we could really dive into the meat of the story. I wasn't disappointed. This week we open on a castle surrounded by a village with the caption of "many years ago". I'm not sure how I feel with the vagueness of the timeline established, but I'll let it slide for now. Currently, the point of view is that of a magic carpet ride, though the accompanying music isn't Steppenwolf, it's something with a Middle Eastern twang, signifying we are in Agrabah.

We see a merchant relaxing comfortably in some pretty nice digs, when a dark and sinister man with a dark and sinister purpose blots the light from his doorway. It's Jafar and he seems to be on the hunt for something. He remarks on the merchant's low income but high quality of life, mentioning the two camels he owns. That kind of property makes this guy Agrabah's Donald Trump. Jafar drops the word "wish" about nine hundred times, so there's no mistaking what his real purpose is. A convenient kettle draws the merchant to his kitchen, where he panics and pulls the genie's bottle from hiding, summoning Cyrus. It seems Cyrus knows that Jafar has been seeking him and tries to calm his master but the merchant panics and uses his last wish to sent Cyrus and his bottle as far away as possible.

Right as Cyrus disappears, Jafar bursts into the kitchen. Infuriated that the genie has literally escaped his grasp, he turns on Cyrus's former master and force chokes him, showing no mercy. After a bit of a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride as Cyrus's bottle spins out of control, we see he finally settles in the Queen of Heart's hedge maze where Alice discovered him. I'm glad they included this tidbit as to how Cyrus traveled from Agrabah to Wonderland, what with portals and realm jumping being tenuous subjects in the Once Upon a Time universe. It does raise the question as to how Jafar makes his way there, though perhaps magic carpets also are capable of realm jumping as well.

After the title card, we see Alice in new adventuring duds, practicing her sword skills, waking the Knave with bits of flying foliage as she hacks at a tree. Alice claims that a "clothes horse" came by, which conjures images of an equine composed of apparel, an ungulate of uniforms, lumbering in the woods. Given they're in Wonderland, the beast is probably just that. Alice speaks of thwarting enemies by staying on the move, but she admits she doesn't know who they are. I wonder if she's aware that the White Rabbit is not to be trusted or if she is speaking of Jafar's presence in Wonderland. The Knave loves his java as he inquires if a cup of coffee is possible. Throughout the episode he makes references to objects, cartoons, comfort items, and so forth that are found in the real world. I find this very captivating, as it is obvious the Knave preferred modern life and it had a lasting effect on him. It will prove to be interesting should the offer of returning to the realm be dangled in front of him, if he will choose these modern conveniences over his loyalty to Alice.

While the Knave took a snooze, Alice concocted a plan. She knows where Cyrus's bottle is hidden and plans on using it to summon the genie from wherever he is captured or hiding. She needs the Knave to make the wishes to summon him, however, putting him in control as Cyrus's master. Alice is putting a lot of trust in someone who has been a nay-sayer so far on their quest. I hope they flesh out the reason for this trust when they reveal how the Knave and Alice met. We know Alice rescued his heart, but why did she even go out of her way to do that in the first place? The bottle is hidden in the Mimsy Meadows, under the TumTum Tree and before I get diabetes from both of these whimsical, though canon, names Alice and the Knave are off, leaving the White Rabbit, who appears to be sleeping, behind. Again, I'm not sure Alice trusts the Rabbit as he is in fact dropping more eaves than Dorothy did on the Wicked Witch of the East.

The focus quickly shifts to the Red Queen's court, where the maroon monarch, complete with Ziggy Stardust attendants, is entertaining the complaints of the peasantry. She quickly grows bored with their problems and the queen's subjects are silenced, though not by her. Jafar is lurking somewhere in the shadows and makes his presence known. The Red Queen makes mention of taking both her throne and Wonderland, which strengthens my thought that she usurped her reign from the White Queen and took advantage of the Queen of Hearts's absence. However, I don't know how much the Red Queen wanted to be a ruler as opposed to a figurehead. She comes off as a girl playing a game more than someone genuinely wanting to be in charge. True, she speaks of responsibility to her subjects, but makes no protest as Jafar poofs her problematic peasants away.

Jafar demands the queen find the genie's bottle, for with it Jafar claims he can re-write the laws of magic. If my Disney memory serves me well, the laws include being unable to create love, being unable to resurrect the dead, and being unable to kill anyone, though between Once Upon a Time and this show that last one is up for debate. So the question is, which do these villains want? Who wants to bring back the dead and who wants to make someone fall in love? Is it both or neither? Now that I know a bit more of these villain's motivations, I'm more content to see how their stories play out.Jafar also makes a reference of the Red Queen using her "tweedles", no doubt an early introduction to Tweedles Dee and Dum. Are they the queen's right hand men or beasts she has at her beck and call?

Cut back to the Knave and Alice as they continue to trek through the forests of Wonderland. The Knave, ever a ray of sunshine, references to "if" they find Cyrus, while Alice insists on using the word "when". The Knave raises an important question; what if Cyrus has moved on? But Alice insists that the Knave "wouldn't understand what they have". The Knave seems to speak from experience on the subject of lost love and one must wonder, did he have his heart broken figuratively or literally? Or, as it is entirely possible with this series, both?

The subject is quickly dropped as Alice and the Knave come to a halt at the edge of a misty, endless lake. The Knave admits he doesn't know how to swim, but is even more uncomfortable with with idea of taking the ferry. Perhaps I've been too immersed in Once Upon a Time's Neverland saga, because at first I thought Alice meant "fairy". And perhaps I'm in the right mindset as Alice and the Knave begin to clap, summoning a fairy called Silvermist to the edge of the lake. To be perfectly honest, I was half expecting the Blue Fairy to show up; that shady lady is everywhere. Turns out the Knave knows Silvermist in the biblical sense and earns a slap worthy of Captain Jack Sparrow for his indiscretions. Alice tells the fairy where they need to go, and with a flick of her wand she engulfs them in fairy dust and begins to fly them across the lake.

Jump back to the Red Queen getting a pedicure, urging her literal footman to work that pumice stone harder and harder. Mercifully, she is interrupted by the White Rabbit arriving to give a report as to where the Knave and Alice are headed. I truly hope there was a reason behind that slightly uncomfortable pedicure scene.

Back in Jafar's cave of not-so-wonders, Cyrus is examining a burn received from the silver bars of his cage. I know that iron has been traditionally used to ward off the fae folk, and silver is a common deterrent for both werewolves and vampires, but had never heard of it being used on genies. Is Wonderland trying to set up a connection between the already established OUaT fairies and wolf-folk? Perhaps all magical beings relate to each other somehow.

Cyrus's fellow prisoner tries to take his mind off the pain by continuing their chess game, though this makes me suspicious. You would think no one in Wonderland would care to play chess. And why does Jafar have this random old man captured anyway? More than likely he is on the Red Queen's payroll and is planted to gather information from Cyrus. It could be that this is one of the aforementioned Tweedles, shape-shifted into an unassuming form. Cyrus has better uses of his time than chess though. He reveals a piece of parchment hidden in his vest and begins writing in earnest.

In a flashback, we see the moments after Alice and Cyrus had their tea in his bottle. Cyrus bequeaths the three wish jewels to his new mistress and reminds Alice of the rules of magic mentioned above, though there is the interesting addition of being unable to change the past. This might be a reinforcement that time travel does not exist in the Once Upon a Time universe, though I feel more confident this is mentioned as it will come into play for both the Red Queen and Jafar. Cyrus mentions that wishing for his freedom has never worked out and also stresses that wishes come at a cost, or as we say in Storybrooke, magic always comes with a price dearie. They walk, arm in arm, as Alice tries to decide what to wish for.

In the present, Alice and The Knave buzz across the lake with Silvermist providing an example of why one should never cross a fairy. She vindictively disenchants the Knave, allowing him to belly flop into the lake below. Protesting that the Knave already foreshadowed that he couldn't swim, Alice takes a header into the lake herself to save him. I will note that she once again calls him by the name of "Will", sowing more seeds of back story for next week's installment.

I'm usually not one to rag on a television show for its CGI. I understand the time frame to render scenes is a lot shorter than with feature films, along with the budget being much smaller, but something about the lighting in this scene really shows that it was filmed in a tank. I can't place my finger on what, perhaps the harshness of the white light, but it reminds me of a YMCA pool. On the other hand, my favorite shots from the episode are in the flashbacks, with the Queen of Hearts's hedge maze endlessly curving up into the sky, Inception-style.

Alice hauls the soggy sass master on to a rock in the middle of nowhere, but instead of a caucus race to get them dry, they have a heart to heart. Here we get both the Knave and Alice's polarized views on love, with the Knave in the mindset that physical attraction is equivalent to to romantic love and partners can be cast aside at the drop of a hat, while Alice stresses that a person can not help who they fall in love with. We see a discussion between one who abandons and who has been abandoned. The Knave questions if Cyrus really did share his love with Alice and reminds her that he has no stake in her quest, he's only there for the wish.

The Knave is a selfish character, but out of necessity. He guards himself and does right by himself alone, as a result one might imagine, of his experiences. His mention that a wish is all anyone wants from a genie raises an intriguing point regarding Alice's feelings for Cyrus. She is the only person who ever wanted Cyrus just for himself, with no strings attached, which is likely why their bond runs so deep.

Flashback to a very aloof Cyrus and Alice sharing a drink. He tells her of Jafar and his pursuit, reiterating what the Knave has already expressed, that Cyrus is only desired for his ability to grant what others don't have. Cyrus tells Alice he can show her the world (I see what you did there writers) and recounts some of his tales from all the lands he's visited. He promises to teach Alice how to use a sword, as Wonderland has forced her to be more "creative" in her defense. We've seen a bit of her ingenuity, though I'd like to see more of how she uses an enemy's weakness to her advantage. Cyrus shows Alice a prize from his travels, the Origami of Love, folded out of magic paper that enchants itself into a rose. Cyrus remarks that most people make their wishes and then move on and he and Alice bond over their magic paper and mutual experiences of abandonment.

Back in Casa de Chess Set, Jafar once again harasses the Red Queen, impatient that their plans are not moving as quickly as he'd like. Jafar claims to be a busy man, while the Red Queen claims to be doing all the work. She's skeptical that Jafar will hold up his end of their bargain and before you can say "double entendre", the queen drops about fifty of them into the conversation. Fed up with her wordplay, Jafar turns his voodoo on her, freezing her into place. I have to say, one thing I love about Emma Rigby is her ability to act with her eyes. She is stock still in the scene and yet you can see the wheels turning in her head. Jafar reminds the Red Queen that they are barely allies and certainly aren't partners before releasing her.

As Alice and the Knave are still stranded on the rock, Alice stamps her foot in impatience and the rock shutters and moves. It turns out that the "island" is actually the Mock Turtle. Alice climbs astride his head and quicker than you can say "turtle soup", coerces the floating behemoth to take them ashore.

Flashback to Cyrus keeping his promise and teaching Alice to sword fight. She's quite a quick study, though ends up disarmed by the genie. Not to be outdone, Alice thinks creatively indeed and does her own disarming by planting a kiss on the genie. As they spend time together, Alice want to see more of the fantastic places Cyrus talks about. However, Cyrus cuts her off and bids her to make her wishes. He's fallen for her but knows that everyone eventually makes their wishes and leaves him, so the sooner they get it over with the easier it will be. Alice, however, protests, claiming all she has ever wanted is right in front of her.

In present day Wonderland, Alice and the Knave stumble onto shore, where they find Silvermist waiting for them. It seems there is a hefty bounty on the Knave's head thanks to the resident hookah enthusiast, the Caterpillar. So, is the Knave Han Solo to the Caterpillar's Jabba the Hut? I wonder who Greedo is in this situation. Star Wars parallels aside, the Knave offers a sincere plead on behalf of Alice to the fairy after she calls him heartless (his expression to Alice there is priceless) and mentions his precious "Anastasia". Whatever the Caterpillar is capable of, it's not something the Knave wants them to tangle with on their quest. Now, the only Anastasia in Disney lore that comes to my mind is one of Cinderella's step-sisters. We did see Cinderella in the previous episode, so it's not entirely impossible that the sister and the Knave were an item, though an item Alice wasn't aware of as she has to ask who Anastasia is.

Elsewhere in Wonderland, Jafar has beaten our heroes to the TumTum Tree, when suddenly scarabs! He summons the creatures and commands they find the missing bottle. Alice and the Knave sneak up on Jafar, the Knave lamenting that they are too late. However, Alice has one more trick up her sleeve. The bottle is not hidden in the meadow of Ridiculous Names. It never was. Alice knew well enough to mention as many times as possible where they were going to weed out their enemies. She wanted to know who they were up against. I have to say I am actually surprised that Alice has as much forethought as she did to do this. She is proving to be much more clever than I originally thought. I'd like to see more of this subversion in future episodes.

Alice and the Knave rush off to the bottle's real hiding place, passing various landmarks such as a "dandy lion" and a windmill. I do hope that windmill is a bit of foreshadowing as to the White Knight also being Don Quixote, though that mash-up might be a bit of reaching on my part. As it were, someone else has reached the bottle's true hiding place before our heroes. This causes Alice to doubt her quest, believing that perhaps the genie has done what the Knave suspects and moved on.

Back in Jafar's dungeon, Cyrus puts the finishing touches on the Origami of Love. He forces his fist between the bars of his prison and releases a crane-shaped message, instructing it to find Alice. As he collapses from the effort of combating the silver of his cage, Jafar swoops in and demands to know where Cyrus's bottle is. "I have it" a voice rings out from the entrance way, and the Red Queen reveals herself. She demands Jafar (and perhaps the audience) to stop underestimating her. The Red Queen realized she was at a disadvantage and leveled their playing field by holding the bottle hostage. By the way, about 90 percent of her dialogue at any given time is either chess puns, card puns, or double entendres and I love it.

The Red Queen has the bottle in her possession thanks to the White Rabbit, who was conveniently lurking about the day Alice and Cyrus buried it. The Rabbit though, isn't evil for evil's sake, as it is alluded that the queen is holding something over his head. My money is on his family being held hostage until his work is complete.

As Alice and the Knave set up camp for the night, the Origami of Love flutters into their campsite, delivering Cyrus's message. The genie begs Alice to leave Wonderland since she is not safe in this realm. He doesn't want to cause Alice's death through her attempting to save him. Alice will have none of this kind of attitude. Heartened by the proof that Cyrus is not dead, sends a return crane, assuring her love that she will save him.

Well there you have it, the second installment in our Wonderland saga. I actually enjoyed this episode more than the pilot. The pace felt quicker and I was genuinely surprised by the twists of the bottle being moved and the Red Queen having it. They weren't earth-shattering revelations, but how well they were explained in the plot made me enjoy them.
The ferry/fairy situation slayed me. It's one of those things that you'd wish would happen in an episode and the writers went there and did it well. Not as much praise can be cast on the CGI, but if the audience is willing to suspend its disbelief to enjoy talking rabbits and Mock Turtles, we can relax with the harsh critique of the effects.

The Red Queen and Jafar are playing a very deadly game of one-upmanship and it's intriguing to see who will come out on top. Jafar has been bested this round, but if the magic tome he consults at the end of the episode is any indication, he is already planning his next move. I love that the Red Queen's wardrobe is crimson (obviously) and Jafar's is black, signifying the two opposing sides of a chess game. I made the connection when I noticed the box the queen placed the bottle in was not a white and red check pattern, as is tradition, but a black and red one instead. The real question is, who are the pawns and which side are they working for?

The one thing really being hammered home about Wonderland is that you do not and can not trust anyone. It's a land filled with fancy and illusions, but also denizens who have lost their trust in their fellow man through either backstabbery or heartbreak. The fact that Alice didn't even trust the Knave during her charade with the bottle puts into focus once more the idea that anyone can turn on anyone else for the right reasons and at a moment's notice. This idea alone really fuels my desire to watch the next episode.

What did you think dear readers?

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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