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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - Episode 1.08 - Home - Review

Well, what a way to lead the audience into the Winter Hiatus! It took me longer than usual to pen this review since there was so much I wanted to say, particularly regarding the last few minutes of the episode. I enjoyed the way loose ends were wrapped up with this episode, though I have to say the flashbacks this week were rather, well weak. This might be due to how tight and intriguing I found the story being told in the present day setting. I personally did not see the twist at the end coming and am quite interested as to where the writers will take this new development. With our lovers united, we viewers are certainly in unfamiliar territory now. Well, onwards to the recap!

We begin this week in a flashback. Alice and Cyrus are having a lovey dovey moment where stars fall from the sky like snowflakes. It actually reminds me of that old Windows 98 screen saver where it appears that you are flying through a star field. The music here is very celestial and not something we've heard in this show before. In fact the music throughout the episode is very fitting for every scene, aiding the viewer in empathizing with the events on their screen. As Alice and her genie begin to make out, Alice discovers a trinket worn around Cyrus's neck. It's a small compass, the needle eternally spinning, never finding north. Cyrus explains that the compass was given to him by his mother and always seemed to find her, until one day it didn't. The genie leaves this sentence very open ended, but we are meant to believe she died. I'll believe that when I see it. I'm more intrigued over the fact that a genie is not born a genie, that they somehow fall into servitude.

But before the genie-fication process can be discussed further, a blade appears at Cyrus's throat. No, he didn't forget to shave; a trio of bandits in Agrabean robes has found the genie's location and desire to claim wishes from him. Cyrus buys Alice sometime to whip out her own sword and they spring into battle, the two of them fighting back to back and working together quite well. I feel as if there is much more hand-to-hand combat on this show than there is with Once Upon a Time and the choreography here is extremely visually interesting. Like jumping on guys Super Mario-style, or defending against sword swings Matrix-style. Our pair of lovers survive, with only a scratch on Alice. Too bad that scratch is of the intestinal-spilling abdominal variety, causing Alice to collapse into Cyrus's arms.

Present day Wonderland finds Alice, with yet another hair-do, my favorite so far, spying on a couple of guards, when the Knave of Hearts suddenly arrives at her side. He's been answering the call of nature, and while Alice is keen to collect the charges, the Knave refrains from explaining exactly what his metaphor meant. As they observe the guards still on the prowl for Cyrus, the Knave remarks that it's a good sign, since it means the genie hasn't been captured yet. Alice declares that she knows where Cyrus will be going, the only place in Wonderland he can hide and be safe. The Knave of Hearts is skeptical and sassy once more. Why won't you trust Alice's cleverness, Knave? They haven't failed you in the planning department yet.

Speaking of Cyrus, the genie is running head-long through the woods. I think I already made a Steve Prefontaine joke this season, so feel free to insert your own cross-country humor. Before I can dust off my entire collection of out-dated Olympics jokes, Cyrus is snared around the ankle by a vine and hoisted, not by his own petard, but the "grape vine", which aside from capturing things has the ability to transmit sound long distances. So you can literally hear something over it, as is demonstrated by one of the Tweedles, who while strolling through the royal hedge maze happens to hear Cyrus's struggle.

One of my absolute favorite things about Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is the writer's willingness to play with words. Not just with puns or chess metaphors, which make a return full force this episode, but in the very spirit of Disney version, which was full of rocking horseflies and butterflies that you could literally spread on a piece of toast. It shows a fondness and understand for the source material, for the world of Wonderland that these writers are cultivating further.

So the Tweedle, having tapped the garden gossip hotline, bustles off to inform his mistress, the Red Queen, of the excellent news. That is, until he spots is brother, the other Tweedle, delivering a box to Jafar in the most un-innocent of manners. He might as well have a neon sign that reads "SUBTERFUGE" glowing above him. I wonder what dirt Jafar has on this Tweedle, why this brother is willing to betray his alliance to the Red Queen. There is either an offer or a threat involved and with Jafar it's probably both at the same time. The loyal Tweedle quickly reports to the Red Queen that he "heard over the grapevine" (yes they actually use that phrase verbatim and I am still laughing about it) that the genie has been captured. Elated, the Red Queen is eager to have the genie in her crimson clutches, though her parade at having gained Cyrus is rained on quite severely when the Tweedle informs her of his brother's betrayal. The queen orders him out of the chamber and retrieves a red and black checked box. The last time we saw this item, the Red Queen was secreting away Cyrus's bottle in it, though this time around the box is revealed to be empty. Jafar has control of the bottle and the Red Queen is ticked right off.

Over in the woods of Wonderland, Alice and the Knave of Hearts are seen trudging along. Alice explains that the place Cyrus would be hiding is the Outlands. Their deal was if either she or Cyrus were hurt or lost, they'd meet the other in there. But first, Alice needs to make a pit stop. The Knave is not thrilled that he has to trek all the way to the Outlands and is even less impressed when Alice tells him that they need to see the White Rabbit first. They need the Rabbit's portal making abilities so they all may leave Wonderland for good. Between the homicidal queens and sorcerers crusing around on enchanted floor coverings, things are getting a bit hairy for our protagonists. The Knave is now staunchly against this plan, citing the White Rabbit's betrayal. Alice insists that something must have made him turn on his friends, that he had no choice, and she just might be right.

Flashback to Cyrus schlepping the injured, unconscious Alice through the woods to a friend's house. It is in fact the house of the White Rabbit. Cyrus somehow fits into the tiny space (must be a genie thing) and brings Alice to be healed by the Rabbit's wife. I'm not the biggest fan of Mrs. Rabbit's character design. I love the casting of Whoopi Goldberg, but the way the character looks doesn't work for me. I actually didn't realize it until Mrs. Rabbit was standing side by side with her husband; she's just not visually interesting to me. The White Rabbit is very bright, his fur and eyes those stark white and pink hues, and he is also very expressive, particularly in the eyes. Pay close attention to how his emotions are animated in every feature. Mrs. Rabbit seems to lack that. It's also interesting that both Mrs. Rabbit and Jafar's mother were both healers. I'm not suggesting a connection between the characters but the emergence of a theme, that good motherly figures are there to heal and help their children. I'd be very intrigued if Alice's mother worked as a nurse or something of that nature before she died.

In present day Wonderland, Cyrus has been hanging from the grapevine for some time, like a piece of unfortunate mistletoe or a bad ornament. The Red Queen in a horse drawn cart drives up and cuts the genie some slack, literally, dropping him into the back of her cart. The Red Queen then snaps her reigns, telling the genie she is taking him back to his bottle. I must point out the Queen's appearance, while still regal, is much more casual. Her hair is not in its usual up-do and she is lacking the crown she usually wears, the one she gave up her love of the Knave of Hearts for. Something is afoot.

Speaking of bottle, we jump to Jafar in his cave of wonders, placing Cyrus's bottle in its place of honor with the other two genie condos he previously acquired. I believe he was expecting something mystical to happen when he joined all three vessels, but no amount of jiggling it can make his hoodoo work. Jafar examines the bottle more closely and begins to chip the finish off the surface of the object. The sorcerer realizes it's a fake and smashes the bottle in a rage. Well played Red Queen, well played.

Over in Alice and the Knave's neck of the woods, the pair make their way to the White Rabbit's house. Or what's left of it seeing as the tree trunk the portal maker lived in is in disrepair. There's even rotting carrots strewn about. Alice isn't convinced that the homestead is abandoned and bursts into the White Rabbit's tree trunk. Well, at least this time she didn't grow to an astronomical size when invading his house. Inside, they find the Rabbit beside himself with guilt at his betrayal. Alice asks for the Rabbit's help one final time, but he refuses since the Red Queen has his wife and kiddies held hostage. The Rabbit knows that quicker than you can say "hasenfeffer", his family will be done like dinner should he do anything to help Alice. So Alice suggests an alternative; rescue the family. Alice, your hero is showing. The only problem is the White Rabbit doesn't know where they are being kept, he can't find them. Here the Knave steps up to the plate, claiming he may not know where a queen would hide something, but he does know where Anastasia might.

Apparently that place is her and the Knave's old wagon, as the Red Queen and Cyrus pull up to the dilapidated structure. The Red Queen rushes off to the cart and behind the closed doors of her former home we see her briefly stroke the pink dress she wore as a commoner, before mentally and almost physically shaking herself and retrieving the bottle. I knew there was a remorse this character felt regarding her upgraded status. She presents herself as a queen, but as I've said, in reality she's just play acting at the lonely, regal life style.

Flashback to the White Rabbit's house with Cyrus pacing nervously out in front of it like a father-to-be waiting for his baby to be delivered. The White Rabbit emerges and assures the genie that Alice will be alright. He also adds that this is no thanks to Cyrus. Find me a neck brace for my mood whiplash. The White Rabbit tells the genie he was lucky that they were there to help. But what happens next time? What kind of vagabond life is this for Alice, always having to look over her shoulder. Cyrus explains to the Rabbit that the risks of such a life are something his love is well aware of, that within each other they found a home.

That sentiment has to be one of my favorite things regarding Alice and Cyrus. They may come off as single minded, their only goal finding each other, but in reality what they found in each other was someone who would always care. Both Cyrus and Alice have led lonely, solitary lives and finding a person who loves you for you was a relief for both of them. While Cyrus firmly believes that he and Alice will be fine, it seems a seed of doubt has been planted by the White Rabbit, who stresses that perhaps the best way Cyrus can protect Alice is by letting her go. No, don't do that, this entire season is about you two finding each other!

In present day Wonderland, the Red Queen's chess castle to be precise, Jafar purposefully strides into the main hall, shouting for "her majesty". It appears the castle has been abandoned, with only a box addressed to Jafar left. He opens it and has a Se7en moment as the head of his loyal Tweedle manages to squeak out that the queen is on to them. Man, what is with my favorite television shows and putting character's heads in boxes? First American Horror Story, now this. And how, pray tell, does one remove a head and leave its owner alive enough to spout dry quips? We know the Queen of Hearts can perform this feat, we saw Cora remove and reattach the Mad Hatter's head in the Once Upon a Time episode "Hat Trick". The question is now, when did the Queen of Hearts find the time to tutor the Red Queen?

The sorcerer stomps into the Red Queen's boudoir and after scanning her vanity with magic, selects a hairbrush. Oh but Jafar, your feathered floofy look is so fabulous. It's not a quick primp the sorcerer is after, but a strand of the Red Queen's hair. "CSI Agrabah" takes the hair, which causes me some worry. Nothing good can come from combining DNA and magic. Jafar surfs away in disgust from the castle on his magic carpet, flicking his wrist over his should back at the structure causing various parts of it to begin combusting. I am forcibly reminded of when you defeat a boss in Super Mario 3. Sorry Jafar, your genie is in another castle.

As their cart jauntily makes its way, the flaming wreckage of the Red Queen's palace in the background, Cyrus wastes no time informing the queen through a flurry of chess metaphors (how I've missed you!) that Jafar is gaining the upper hand. The Red Queen assures her captive that she is in control and irritatedly asks where they can find Alice. The queen raises a good point to counteract Cyrus's suspicion, that Alice will be found eventually, but by who, them or the crazed sorcerer currently setting fire to the Red Queen's garage?

In a flashback, Cyrus makes his way to Underland to have a word with the Caterpillar. Remember, this sinister insect likes to make deals, and a deal is what Cyrus is after. He wants to disappear and in exchange for that feat being performed Cyrus offers the compass, calling it a Lost and Found and explaining how it will point the way to something you've lost and wish to find again. I believe this exposition will come in handy for future episodes. I was surprised that Cyrus would so willingly disappear from Alice's life, though later on in the episode was relieved at the true nature of "not being found" that the genie was bargaining for. The writers were very clever in their word choice, something I'm going to have to be more sharp about listening for.

Present day Wonderland and The Knave of Hearts, the White Rabbit, and Alice have arrived at the wagon the Knave and his love lived in during a simpler time. The Knave comments that the wagon was the perfect hiding place since it's run down appearance didn't encourage anyone to investigate further than the front door. As the Knave checks inside for the White Rabbit's family, he pauses, just as the Red Queen did, to take moment and clutch the gown the queen wore when she was simply Anastasia. The Knave snaps himself out of his memories and begins rooting through the debris collected in the wagon, noting the case that formerly held Cyrus's bottle and commenting on the queen's cleverness. I enjoy the fact that both the Knave and the Red Queen had the same reaction to their shared former life. Even without a heart, you can see that the Knave misses what once was, while the Red Queen knows what a terrible mistake she made and is now trying to correct it. Eventually, the Knave frees the White Rabbit's family. The Rabbit, grateful for their return to safety, agrees to keep his promise and sets off with Alice and the Knave of Hearts to the Outlands.

The Outlands are also the Red Queen and Cyrus's destination as they continue along on their cart. I guess the genie realized that the queen was a better alternative than the sorcerer. Cyrus answers the Red Queen's questions with cryptic answers concerning love and faith. The Red Queen retorts with snippy observations of their great love affair, but ultimately seems irritated with the genie's constant talk of love. You'd think Cyrus was doing something heinous while she was driving, like playing with the radio or something. The genie realizes that the queen has a secret. Years of experience as a genie have given Cyrus a minor in behavioral psychology and her recognizes that the Red Queen has a wish buried deep within her. At this point in the road trip though all the Red Queen wishes is that the genie puts a lid on the psychobabble.

Over in Jafar's cave of wonders, the sorcerer is putting the DNA he lifted from the Red Queen to good use. A little or this, a dash of that and poof! a self contained, seek and destroy storm tailored to search out and eliminate the Red Queen. Jafar releases his new pet and this not-so-little black rain cloud speeds off. The developing storm reminded me of two different monsters. First, the rhinoceros from the Disney version of James and the Giant Peach. This beast is accompanied by his own billowing black storm clouds. Another influence that hits closer to home is the Jabberwock from the 1985 Irwin Allen version of Alice Through the Looking Glass. That's the one where Carol Channing turns into a sheep. Anyway, the Jabberwock, whenever he appears is accompanied by thunder, lightning, and dark storm clouds. So naturally I got very excited that we would finally be seeing the Jabberwock. However, all we got was thunder and lighting, very very less than frightening.

In a flashback, Cyrus and Alice stroll along as Alice recovers from her injury. Cyrus seems distracted and finally admits that it's not safe for them to be together. This scene, more than any other flashback has read as a break up to me, and while the logical side of me knew that obviously this paradigm of True Love would remain together, the emotional side of me was slightly distraught at the idea that Cyrus would leave Alice. Luckily this is not the case, as Cyrus reveals how he is going to disappear and that is literally. He bargained for a secret love nest, furnished better and actually bigger than my first apartment and completely hidden from the rest of the world. If the pair ever gets lost or in trouble, they only have to return to this spot, their home.

Present day finds us at the same spot, with Alice frantically searching for Cyrus. She enters their home, with the Knave right behind. Not finding her genie in their secret space, she becomes more irritated and irrational. The Knave tries to console her, but Alice lashes out. This is a side of her we haven't seen yet, but it doesn't last for long as she peers through the entrance of their hiding space and spots the genie wandering through the Outlands. Like she was shot out of a cannon, Alice runs to meet her lover across the grassy plain. Think of those slow motion reunions where the couple comes running from opposite sides of the meadow to meet in the middle, only without the slo-mo.

As our shining example of True Love finally reunite, they are interrupted by the Red Queen. Maybe she was parking the car, I mean cart. Cyrus assures the Knave, who would be more pleased to see Jafar in a bikini, and a skeptical Alice that the Red Queen is there to help. The queen references to the growing storm, warning our heroes that Jafar is coming for all of them, even her since she no longer aligns herself with his cause and stresses that she is not like him. Apparently according the the Red Queen, Jafar no longer was playing by the rules of the "game". I want to know what happened to instill such a compulsion towards chess and game imagery in the queen. Was it just her time in Wonderland, or is there another story there?

The Knave of Hearts cuts off the Red Queen's explanation, he wants no part in helping her, knowing she is a master at manipulation. The queen stresses that she, along with the rest of them need to get the heck out of Wonderland now and bids the White Rabbit to dig. The group is still at odds, with Alice vowing to never trust the Red Queen , even though she brought the girl her genie back. Alice is quick to remind the queen who was the one to take him in the first place. Alice refuses to budge until she learns why the Red Queen did what she did and why the Red Queen aligned herself with Jafar. The queen explains that Jafar could get her the only thing she wanted, which was the Knave of Hearts. She was going to help Jafar break the laws of magic in order to change the past and undo the biggest mistake of her life. Throughout her explaining and pleading the Red Queen has become less regal and more like the girl the Knave once knew. She even drops her queenly accent and she grows more desperate to reconcile with the fact that she shamefully cast aside her true love.

The storm continues to seethe and thunder, marking our heroes location. The Red Queen reminds the rest of the group that the bottle, the genie, and the last wish are all now in the same place, right where Jafar can scoop them up. She begs, literally begs to the point of sounding like a young child, that the group believe her and leave Wonderland via the White Rabbit's portal, but neither Alice nor the Knave are willing to trust the queen. Cyrus, however, does, figuring out her secret wish. Alice finally concedes and commands the Rabbit to dig a portal, anywhere as long as it isn't Wonderland. At the point I began chanting "Storybrooke, Storybrooke!"

But right as the White Rabbit is finishing his portal, a bolt of lighting comes streaking down from the clouds towards the group. The Red Queen uses Cyrus's bottle to deflect the blast, but unfortunately deflects the bolt from the blue right into her former boyfriend's chest, knocking the Knave down fro the count, as well as loosing the bottle in the process. As the Knave of Hearts struggles to breathe, a magical glow surrounds Alice and she collapses as well. Remember several episodes ago when Alice used her first wish, stating "if the Knave dies, I die too?" Well, the writers did, and I have to say even though I commented on the implications in that earlier review, I completely forgot about this unfortunate connection until right now. Cyrus begs Alice to use her last wish, but she refuses as she does not want to condemn him to a life back in the bottle. Before they get to saccharine with their good byes, the Knave reminds Cyrus that Alice promised him a wish should he help her be reunited with her genie. All the callbacks this episode!

The Knave takes his wish and as Cyrus bid him to think carefully as to how he will word it, he wishes for Alice's suffering to end. Now at first i was worried that this phrasing would cause Alice to be put out of her misery. Then, as her eye's fluttered open, I wondered if the Knave himself had died. It also seems that an integral part of Alice's suffering was Cyrus's imprisonment as a genie, a burden which has been magically lifted with Cyrus's metal gauntlets disappearing. The celebration for the pair is cut short when they turn to discover a shell-shocked Red Queen staring at the space where the Knave once was. Right after he made the wish, the Knave vanished. To where, you might ask? Well it seems the genie's bottle has a new resident, as the startled Knave of Hearts examines his new turbulent surroundings as the bottle goes over a waterfall. The Knave also bears the binds of a genie and with one last, "bloody hell" the episode ends.

Well my dear readers, what did you think? I love that this episode relied so heavily on callbacks, especially in the last five or so minutes. Not only was it smart writing that kept the viewer guessing until the very end, it honored the foundations that were placed earlier on in the show. I shall endeavor to keep a closer eye on everything now that I know anything can come back and have an effect on the plot.

And, as I said above, I did not see the twist of the Knave of Hearts becoming a genie coming. I would have thought in that situation they would kill the character off, but this new dynamic is going to be interesting since genies live to serve and it seems that the Knave is very resistant at helping anyone but himself. Also, how is Cyrus going to react to his new found freedom?

My biggest query is how is the show going to change now that everything we know has been thrown out the window. I shake my fist at the writers for springing this before a hiatus, but I am truly interested to see what direction the show will take now. I mean, Cyrus and Alice are reunited, Jafar and the Red Queen's alliance is dissolved, and the Knave is lost. Will a new villain be introduced? Will Jafar have to start over in procuring the genie's wishes? How will the group dynamic be now that the resident couple and the woman who tore them apart are forced to work together?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see when the show returns. The date of return has not been given yet, but keep a steady watch here on SpoilerTV for the latest news from Wonderland.

See you in the spring!

About the Author - Ashley B
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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