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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - Episode 1.12 - To Catch a Thief - Review

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has aged like a fine wine. As the series progressed the stakes have gotten higher and the story has grown richer. This is a series that I think would benefit from being a single sitting marathon. That way, one could really appreciate just how the story unfolds and grows darker. With only one episode left in the series, many events occurred this week with quite a few surprises. And yet, this episode didn't feel particularly rushed. I enjoyed how the flashbacks in this episode brought the story of Alice's past in Wonderland full circle. I was also pleased at the return of more humorous bits and definitely surprised more than once while watching. It's odd to think how far we've come in only twelve episodes, but let's leave the retrospective review until next week and the finale. For now, on to the action!

This episode begins with a despondent Knave of Hearts being taunted by Jafar through his jail cell. Jafar has so thoughtfully decided to place a glass coffin containing the now deceased Red Queen right outside the cell. Way to twist the knife there Jafar, oh wait, you already did that. By the way, the guy who makes glass coffins must be making bank, between Snow White and Daniel's tombs on Once Upon a Time, and the coffin we seen here. Jafar continues to pick at the Knave, causing an explosive outburst from his prisoner. Even the Sultan is over in his cell like, "Damn, that's cold, man", but Jafar is quick to remind his father that mercy is not a family trait. The sorcerer has taken a liking to how passionate the Knave is now that he has been reunited with his heart and offers the prisoner a deal. There's a small shout out to Jefferson here as the Knave of Hearts claims Jafar is "madder than the Hatter" if he think he is going to get any help. However, Jafar presses on, dangling the possibility of bringing the Red Queen back in front of the Knave. What role will the Knave play in Jafar's latest scheme?

Flashback to sometime in the past, where we see the Knave of Hearts with an entourage of soldiers, tromping through the Wonderland woods. The soldiers don't take much kindness to the Knave's incessant sass, though he proves useful in their mission. This cadre of soldiers is out on the Queen of Hearts's orders to catch Public Enemy Number One in Wonderland, an outlaw ruthless enough to slaughter men, women, and children. Thanks the Knave's sharp eyes they stumble onto a recent campfire and spot their enemy. The soldiers rush off in hot pursuit, while the Knave sets off on his own path to find the outlaw. Unfortunately, gallivanting through the woods in not the Knave of Hearts's strong suit and he promptly takes a tumble, landing right in his quarry's lap. And who is this murderous outlaw, but none other that Alice. Our heroine is surprised at the bad rap the Queen of Hearts has given her and demands to know who her would-be captor is. The Knave introduces himself with his title and goes on to say he is a "jack of all trades" at the service of the queen. Oh how I've missed you, playing card puns. The word "knave" is usually associated with a rouge or rascal, which fits the Knave of Hearts to a T, but this word can also be attributed to a male servant or journeyman, so perhaps his more flattering description is also apt. Alice runs off into the woods as the Knave of Hearts assures her that this shan't be their last encounter. How right you are.

In present day Wonderland, Alice and Cyrus are once again regrouping in their hidden love nest. They are having a bit of an argument. Cyrus recaps that in order to defeat Jafar, they must free the other genies from their bottles. But in order to do so, the water from the Well of Wonders must be returned. That water, Cyrus believes, rests with his mother who in turn rests in Jafar staff, now in their possession. Alice is keen on freeing Amara from the staff, but Cyrus is hesitant as he knows the consequences of defying magic first hand. Alice finally agrees to follow Cyrus's plan and return to the Well of Wonders, but before they can set out, the Knave of Hearts makes an appearance. As happy as Alice and Cyrus are to see their friend, this reunion is not filled with joy as the Knave tells them what Jafar did to the Red Queen. Alice assures the Knave that his friends are here for him, which brings the Knave to the purpose of his visit. There is a way to bring the Red Queen back, but to do so they have to let Jafar win. I have to say, Jafar was really taking a gamble on releasing the Knave of Hearts and trusting that his love for the Red Queen would be enough motivation for the Knave to turn to his friends and even turn on them. All the characters in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland have very personally known loss so it makes sense that Jafar would know at what lengths a man would go to see a loved one again.

Back in the past, the Knave of Hearts spies on Alice taking a snooze. Right out in the open. Oblivious to all signs of a trap, the Knave creeps up to her and is promptly captured into a net a la Bandit Snow White. Is there a training course for young girls on the run in these realms or do these sort of skills just come naturally? The Knave continues to try and end Alice's life and gets a tree branch across his flailing arm for his troubles. I enjoy the fact that every time the Queen of Hearts is mentioned, Alice rolls her eyes. Only our heroine would have the audacity to roll her eyes at Cora Mills. Alice doesn't think to much of her trumped up charges, telling the Knave that her crime was simply trying to pick a weeping willow from the queen's garden. I bet any reader ten bucks that this plant probably actually wept real tears. The Knave of Hearts believes Alice but still has to kill her as he is controlled by the Queen of Hearts. He admits it probably wasn't the brightest idea for him to surrender his heart and absolute control to Cora. This sheds a lot of light on how Cora was able to establish a kingdom and vast control so quickly. She is known in Wonderland for her collection of hearts and it makes sense for her to have just plucked a few upon her arrival in this realm and build her kingdom from there.

Alice wishes to rid herself of the annoyance of constant murder attempts and offers to steal the Knave's heart back. He scoffs at the idea since his heart is in the queen's vault, guarded by her best men. Alice assures him that even though he says the best thieves don't work alone, she is up to the task and that every one deserves a second chance. Boom, there it is, the running theme of our show. This is also the back story I've been waiting to see since it was alluded to in the earliest of episodes. I am really enjoying watching Alice and the Knave of Hearts growing from foes into friends.

In present day Wonderland, the Knave is trying to convince Alice and Cyrus to do the exact opposite of what they have been working for this entire series. The pair refuse to hand the snake staff over to the Knave and it looks as if everyone's heart is breaking, particularly the Knave's at this tough decision. Alice reminds the Knave that on the off chance Jafar doesn't screw them over, giving a sorcerer as dark as Jafar the ability to use magic unchecked could lead to the death of hundreds. She tells the Knave she would do anything for him, but she can't do that. Aside from the Meatloaf karaoke moment, I have to agree with Alice and Cyrus on this one. The laws of magic were obviously put in place for a reason. Destroying them could have catastrophic results. The Knave of Hearts relents, a little too quickly I think, blaming his actions on thinking with his heart, a new sensation for him. He agrees to accompany Alice and Cyrus to the Well of Wonders, but one has to believe that perhaps the Knave wouldn't give up so easily, especially with how he is eyeing the staff now strapped to Cyrus's back.

Over at the palace, Jafar continues to pour over his spell book while the Jabberwocky natters on in the background about Jafar's fear having a fresh pine scent. Specifically, Jafar's fear smells of "fresh pine needles in snow" which is interesting as neither of these things are native to Agrahbah. Is this foreshadowing as to where Jafar might meet his end? I would be very amused if in the finale he lay dying in the snowy woods of Wonderland. The Jabberwocky's Yankee Candle pitch isn't without purpose as she slinks up behind Jafar, intent on reclaiming the Vorpal blade. But Jafar is too quick for her, snatching up the blade and tersely assuring his pet monster that she will get her freedom and can be on her way once he has completed the spell. However, nothing can be hidden from the fear master as she tells Jafar she knows he has his worries. He is confused at why his staff reacted the way it did to Cyrus, suspicious that this has to do with Amara, who is trapped within. He is also troubled since the spell the break the laws of magic requires the power of two sorcerers. What was Jafar going to do if the Red Queen hadn't betrayed him? And would her novice magic have been enough to complete the spell in the first place? Perhaps, and I believe this to be true, Jafar had always planned on double crossing the Red Queen and then releasing Amara and forcing her to complete the spell with him. Jafar, cocky as ever, assures the Jabberwocky that fear and curiosity are not the same thing and gives the monster a taste of her own medicine, laying her fear of his betraying her out into the open. The Jabberwocky all but admits this is true, that she is afraid she will be his slave forever. I really thing Jafar hasn't thought his relationship with the Jabberwocky through. As they say in Harry Potter, "Never poke a sleeping dragon in the eye".

Elsewhere in Wonderland, night has fallen and our three heroes are catching a snooze on their way to the Well of Wonders. Well, attempting to snooze at least, for the Knave of Hearts is up and about, sleathly trying to snag the snake staff for himself. Of course he is caught by Cyrus, who tries very hard to give the Knave a way out and preserve Alice's perception of him. He insists the Knave go back to bed and that they pretend he never tried to betray them, but surprisingly the Knave doesn't back down and proceeds to cold cock the former genie. We never really saw much interaction between Cyrus and the Knave of Hearts alone, but this short scene is very telling. Cyrus flat out doesn't trust the Knave, but tolerates his treachery for the sake of Alice and her faith in her friend. It's possible Cyrus is empathizing with the Knave, knowing the lengths a man will go to to reclaim a lost love. After all, the first half of this series was in part about Cyrus doing just that.

The Knave of Hearts's punch sends us back to another flashback, where we see Alice creeping around in the Queen of Heart's hedge maze. Remember, as we saw in the Once Upon a Time episode "Hat Trick" those hedges are hungry and deadly to the touch. Alice has really done her homework, counting off the seconds it takes for the guards of the vault to change, boldly sneaking right up behind them to pickpocket the keys. I feel as if I've played this level on Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Using their efficiency against them, Alice continues to countdown the spaces between their movements and succeeds in entering the vault undetected. Cora, however, has her own unique filing system, so at first Alice is stymied. Our heroine quickly realizes that the designations on the drawers correspond to a deck of cards. Yes, yes more card metaphors please. Remembering that the Knave referred to himself as a "jack of all trades", Alice deduces that his heart lies in the "J-H" box.

Back at the camp, Cyrus is recovering from the blow dealt by the Knave. He wakes Alice, who is disappointed by this turn of events, though Cyrus assures her that all is not lost and there is still time to correct the Knave's "mistake". The former genie produces the Lost and Found and the pair allow the enchanted compass to lead them to the staff and the Knave. The Knave of Hearts, however, is still terrible at navigating in the brush, zig-zagging this way and that, giving Alice and Cyrus a real run for their money as they try to decipher his movements with the Lost and Found. Soon, the Knave is spotted and chase is given, with Alice and Cyrus splitting up. Our heroine shortly finds herself at the edge of a cliff with a rushing river below, when the Knave pops up behind her, knife at her throat. The dull way they greet each other, "Hi Alice... Hi Will..." shows that neither relishes this predicament, showing how far they've come from that first encounter years ago. They truly are friends and this conflict pleases neither of them.

The Knave lashes out a bit here, telling Alice that he risked life and limb for her to reclaim her True Love, so why can't he go to great lengths to restore his? Alice tries to tell the Knave the that circumstances are different, but he cuts her off and brashly tells her that her problem is that she thinks her love story is the only one worth fighting for. Wow, I have to say that is a bold move for show to actually take one of its core themes, the thing thousands of dollars of advertising money went to promoting, that this love between Cyrus and Alice is the end all be all, and then put it down here. The Knave of Hearts just flat out said what some of us were thinking in regards to our main couple. I like this, it's refreshing. I know a million years ago, when I started writing these reviews, I said I wasn't very invested in the main love story, that romantic, sappy story lines weren't my cup of tea. This show hasn't really gone in that direction and I think that's why I've grown to love it. It abandoned the overly saccharine image of just "True Love conquering all" for more harsh realities. That people mess up, are imperfect, and can be selfish. That True Love doesn't just happen, it has to be worked towards and cultivated. And that with all these mistakes and imperfections, second chances are possible and that's how love conquers conflict.

Meanwhile, Jafar is strutting about the palace. His mind seems to be in overdrive as he releases the other two genies from their bottles. The younger brother is pleased to be out and immediately grabs his brother's arm, but the eldest is wary. Rightfully so, as he points out that never once did Jafar let them out of their bottles in all the years the sorcerer had them in his possession. Jafar brushes this off and quizzes the brothers on whether or not the name "Amara" means anything to them. At first I thought the youngest would give their identities away, but wisely he lies and claims the name has no meaning. His poker face isn't perfect and I believe Jafar might be slowly putting two and two together at this point. He makes a point of telling the genies all he really wanted was to get a good look at them. Searching for a family resemblance I see.

After dropping his truth bomb, the Knave stalks off, with Alice in hot pursuit. Or rather, she would be if the cliff's edge she so precariously perched upon didn't crumble at that moment, sending her into the icy rapids below. After a moment's hesitation, the Knave of Hearts turns back. Cut to a crackling fire where the soggy pair are attempting to dry themselves. Alice remarks with a touch of surprise that the Knave saved her and he replies that she would and has done the same, referencing all the way back to their adventure on the Mock Turtle. Alice recalls that the Knave doesn't know how to swim, something I had forgotten, so plus one for the show's continuity. The Knave brushes this off, making light of the fact that a man can do anything with the proper motivation. Alice admits that the Knave was right, that no matter what he was by her side until she found Cyrus and that he has the right to fight for his happily ever after. Only helping evil to win isn't the way. One thing that can be said for Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is its willingness to paint its protagonists in a not-so-flattering light. We see our heroine admitting to being single-minded in her goal to the point where she takes advantage of her traveling companion, and that same companion desperately trying to throw the heroine under the bus for his own cause, a cause he sees as noble, even though it has its negative qualities. After all, a villain is always the hero of his own tale. And yet, we still root for these characters because as the episodes have progressed they have become less like fairy tales and more like relate-able, real people.

In a flashback, we are back with the Knave, still hanging out in Alice's net. He is unceremoniously cut down by Alice, returning with his reclaimed heart. However, the Knave still has the urge to end Alice and gets shoved head first into a tree for his trouble. Alice, holding the heart, wishes in exasperation that the Knave of Hearts knock it off with the whole "trying to kill her" business and it works. Realizing the power she holds over him, Alice amuses herself briefly with a bit of Simon Says, making the Knave do a variety of goofy things. Then things turn serious as Alice makes a final request. She wants the Knave to help her find proof to show her father that Wonderland exists, that she's not crazy. It's unclear whether the Knave agrees because Alice still controls his heart or because he feels for her plight, but I like to think it's more of the latter.

In the present day, well night, The Knave, Cyrus, and Alice are trudging by torchlight through the woods. Seems that the Knave and the former genie have made peace. They are halted by Alice, who senses something is not right as the woods have gone silent. She guesses the Jabberwocky is near and when Cyrus asks if Alice is sure, their torches are doused by a mysterious breeze. Ok, now the Jabberwocky just screwing with them, though that is in line with her personality. Alice bravely calls the monster out, and the fear master appears, generously allowing the torches to relight. Surprisingly, the Jabberwocky is there of her own accord. She has grown tired of Jafar and wishes for her freedom. Alice and company are obviously less than eager to help, but the Jabberwocky suavely points out that she feeds on fear and if Jafar is eliminated, the fear in this realm will dissipate and she will have to move on. So everyone gets what they want. Unfortunately, our heroes want more than to defeat Jafar, they want to restore the Red Queen. And if the Jabberwocky can't do that then she is of no use. The Jabberwocky concedes that she can't help them with this task, but gestures to the snake staff, claiming "she" can. We know that two sorcerers are needed to complete the spell and change the laws of magic. Perhaps if Amara is in control of the spell, she alone can wield it's power and use it for nobler purposes than Jafar.

There is also a very interesting moment where the Knave calls the Jabberwocky what she is, a monster, and the Jabberwocky simply replies that monsters are not born, they are made. This reminds me of a line from Once Upon a Time where Regina says "Evil isn't born, it's made". Well, Regina would know. There is sadness in the Jabberwocky's eyes as she says this, as if she knows how terrible her deeds are and regrets them but she can't help it, it's how she lives and survives now. She even refers to her feeding on fear as "eating". At first I was less than impressed with this character, but the more we see of her the more she is becoming one of my favorites. Though it comes on reather uickly, given the relish with which she performed her evil deeds, this added layer to her character and the whisper of back story give the Jabberwocky delightful development and make her seem more well rounded than just an enforcer for Jafar.

Flashback to a lighter scene as we see Alice and the Knave of Hearts sharing a pint in a tavern. Actually, this is more of a chugging contest, with Alice whomping the Knave. Between this and the Knave always going on about a cold beer, these protagonists are my kind of people. Alice feels guilty about holding onto the Knave's heart, but the Knave assures her that treating him to a cold one and fighting for the love of her family certainly makes her less that terrible. The Knave tells a story of his sister, Penelope, who he lost in an accident involving thin ice. He likes to think that she would have turned out much like Alice, cementing the brother-sister relationship we've seen between these two characters and perhaps giving a reason as to why the Knave has agreed to help Alice in this and future endeavors. The name Penelope may have no significance as the only Penelope in literature I can think of is that of The Odyssey, which doesn't fit into the present story much, only perhaps to reference the fact that this sibling, like bond between the Knave of Hearts and Alice is what set the Knave off on his journey in the series.

Cut to the present, where the rest of the episode finishes in a whirlwind of action. Try to keep up with me on this one. Alice and the Knave are once again using the palace tunnels to gain entry. Alice has their movements planned out like clockwork, counting in a similar fashion as she did to gain entry into the Queen of Hearts's vault. While Alice is pacing her and the Knave's entrance, the Jabberwocky saunters into Jafar's work space with Cyrus as her "prisoner". Jafar is disappointed that it's Cyrus and not the staff that the Jabberwocky has retrieved, but she tries using him as a bargaining tool to get the Vorpal blade. Jafar sees the wisdom in this move and demands to know the location of his staff. Cyrus fibs that it and the others are long gone, with the Jabberwocky falsely backing up this claim. Jafar is nonplussed, however, as he still has the Knave's bottle. I almost forgot at this point that the Knave was a genie and can be summoned via this vessel. Cyrus is taken away and Jafar bids the Jabberwocky to cool her heels, she isn't getting the Vorpal blade yet. Really you'd think the sorcerer would be smarter than to taunt a being with that much power who can turn on him in an instant. We've seen her put the mental whammy on him before. Such hubris.

Meanwhile in the dungeons, Alice is still counting. She and the Knave have a brief moment where they acknowledge that there is no turning back in this plan, that anything can happen. Foreshadowing is casting its shadow on this operation. She then directs the Knave to where he will be most likely spotted by the guards. The Knave of Hearts leads them off in a chase, clearing the way for Alice to free the Sultan. Knowing the Sultan means much to Jafar, she resons having another ally on their team won't hurt. Man, all of Jafar's ghosts are going to come back and haunt him at the same time.

In another part of the palace, Jafar has Cyrus in his workspace. Jafar retrieves the bottle attached to the Knave and with some subtle persuasion from Cyrus, calls the genie to his side, right as the Knave was cornered and in big trouble with the guards. This is quite the gambit on Alice's part, but Jafar's confidence that he holds all the cards seems to have made him predictable. With the Knave of Hearts in the throne room, Jafar puts a force choke on him, determined to squeeze out the location of his staff. And the sorcerer has to look no further than right behind him though, as Amara, restored into her body, steps into the room. The dumbfounded look on the Jafar's face has made my week. To be honest, I thought at first that it would be Alice and the Sultan who stepped up behind Jafar, ready to use his staff against him. I really would like to know how Amara was freed from her imprisonment. With a snap of her fingers, Amara releases the Knave from the force choke hold. What follows next can be best described as a wizard's duel. The two sorcerers try to eliminate each other using everything and anything surrounding them. Amara of course, employes the use of snakes, much to Jafar's sarcastic amusement. All the while, Cyrus has been melting into the wallpaper, trying to remove the ropes that bind him.

In Jafar's dungeon, Alice and the Sultan are making their escape, only to be confronted by a slew of guards. The Sultan is taken aback, telling Alice there are too many enemies. But here, here is where our heroine shines as she draws her blade and opens an entire case of whoop ass. I've missed seeing Action Alice and the viewer gets a healthy reminder that this Alice in Wonderland is no damsel in distress. This has to be one of her best action scenes as she defeats the guards with ease. When asked by the Sultan where she learned her skills, Alice replies that Cyrus taught her and it wasn't by luck that she stumbled upon his bottle.

Flashback to the Queen of Hearts's hedge maze, we see the Knave and a less proficient Alice crossing swords with the queen's guards. They defeat their foes by tossing them into the hungry hungry hedges, a nice call back to the Once Upon a Time episode "Hat Trick". With the guards dispatched, the Knave of Hearts hands Alice her rucksack, which he alludes to containing the White Rabbit. Seeing as traditionally the White Rabbit is part of the Queen of Hearts's court, it makes sense that he was captured while within the queen's hedge maze. The Knave bids Alice to make her way home while he distracts the guards. He assures her that her happy ending is right around the corner, and how right you are Knave, as Alice runs off, presumably to enact the events of the very first flashback we saw in the pilot, with Alice escaping the guards and finding Cyrus's bottle. I see what you did there writers and I like it. Bringing the stories of Alice's past full circle help to give a finality to their events that I enjoy. It's like finishing a good book where you know it's the end but you're happy for the tale having been told in the first place.

Back in the present day, however, less happy events are transpiring. Cyrus is finally free of his bonds and goes to the bottles containing his brothers, while Amara and Jafar are at a stalemate, shattered glass suspended between them as each sorcerer tries to push the shards toward and into the other. Jafar then decides to give one of his evil monologues, telling Amara he's finally realized her goal. She never wanted power, she was only using the story of this spell to complete her own goals and find the three genies. Jafar realizes that like him, Amara's ultimate goal was family. And with that, the sorcerer sends a shard of glass whizzing into Cyrus's heart. As the glass pierces her love, Alice can physically feel his pain. This goes all the way back to the pilot when Cyrus first told Alice, "When you love someone, you can feel it". Alice can certainly feel it, as she keels over in shock. She knows that something is very very wrong.

Amara cradles her dead son as Jafar stands over her triumphant. He knows now that Amara will do his bidding and help complete the spell in order to bring Cyrus back. They only need the bottles, not the genies inside for this magic, and the two begin to weave their spell. Alice rushes in and sees Cyrus lying on the floor. She goes to him while the throne room shakes with the power of the magic being created and in a final shot we see Jafar's eyes glow with power. It seems this time evil has won.

Wow, readers, what did you think of tonight's episode? I was surprised a few times, with Amara's sudden appearance and Cyrus's supposed death. How do you suppose the sorceress escaped from Jafar's staff? She brushes off the questioning this, saying she has more power than Jafar knows, but if this is the case, then couldn't she have reverted back to her true form at any time? Where did the Jabberwocky go during the climax of this episode? Her character got some interesting development and I'd hate to see her disappear now that she's served her purpose. I hope for the final episode she, as well as the Chesire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar, and all the rest of the Wonderland characters we've grown accustomed to seeing come back and play a role in the finale.

Do you think, now that the laws of magic seem to be broken, that both the Red Queen and Cyrus can be resurrected? I believe in the end all our heroes will get their happy endings. I'm thinking that considering everything everyone went through goes back to the moment Cyrus decided to cheat at cards, there's a possibility the magical fix could be a time do over, where Cyrus never played that hand, which would mean the three brothers were never turned into genies, meaning Amara would never take on Jafar as a student. Would the Knave of Hearts and the Red Queen decide to remain in the Enchanted Forest, never going to Wonderland in the first place? And what would this mean for Cyrus and Alice? Would True Love still find a way for these two to be together if the events of Once Upon a Time In Wonderland never happened?

Actually, the more I think about this scenario, the more I don't care for it. Every character, though bearing loss and hardship through the course of these events, has also grown from their experiences. They've been brought together by fate and this is perhaps why a magical law forbidding tampering with the past is in place. I could go on all day about time paradoxes, but in the end I am leaning more towards a non-past altering happy ending for our heroes.

According to the preview, next week is the series finale and final episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. This has been an amazing journey and I hope that you tune in with me for episode thirteen, entitled "And They Lived..." and see if our favorite characters do live happily ever after.

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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