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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland - Episode 1.11 - Heart of the Matter - Review

Readers, can we pretend the last five minutes of that episode didn't happen? I'm not saying they were bad, they were actually extremely well done and quite the wham ending to this episode which I enjoyed, but wow, talk about your emotional roller coaster. The writers have a story to tell and it certainly isn't over yet, but when they pull stunts like this, you can't help but to sit and stare at your television and reflect on how attached you've grown to your favorite characters. Aside from having my heart ripped from my chest, it's good to see Cora back on our screens. Still as manipulative and cunning as ever, the Queen of Hearts cranked her pageant mom routine up to eleven in this episode. We'll discuss her motivations for snooping and meddling a bit later.

The episode begins as Cyrus waltzes into everyone's favorite drunken garden party, on a mission to bargain with the Caterpillar. The former genie wants to retrieve is Lost and Found aka the enchanted compass that will point the way to what you are looking for. Have you tried asking Jack Sparrow where it is? The Caterpillar is wise enough to realize the value in this item and offers to barter it for Alice and the Knave of Hearts, who still have a debt unpaid with the hookah enthusiast. As Cyrus haggles, not wanting to resort in bounty hunting, a wee version of Alice sneaks out from behind his boot. Their plan was to never reclaim the Lost and Found fairly. She scurries under where the Caterpillar sits and finds the compass among many trinkets. I do like how we see Alice using one of Wonderland's most famous bits of magic to her advantage. For a while, we tend to forget that we are even in Wonderland considering so much has changed now that Jafar is rising in power.

Also, the audience gets to see more of the cocky risk-taker Cyrus was before his bondage as a genie. He swipes another patron's drink and cheekily refuses to pay, starting a scrum among the Caterpillar's guests in order to distract as he casually picks up both his minute girlfriend and the compass. Cyrus swaggers out of the Caterpillar's lair with no one the wiser. The blending of Cyrus's former arrogance and the care brought on by his time as a genie is a pleasant direction for his character to take. With only two episodes left in the season, it would be difficult to finish telling the story had Cyrus completely reverted back to the man he once was. I think Alice's presence and belief in him as well as her acceptance of his past, has helped the former genie make peace with that part of himself and use it to his advantage. I don't think Genie!Cyrus would have had the nerve to hoodwink the Caterpillar in such a manner.

Over at the palace, Jafar is thumbing through his book o' spells, working on harnessing the three genies' power to break the laws of magic. His gratuitous use of latin is a bit too hard to translate (Dammit Jim, I'm a reviewer not a linguist), but one thing is for sure, one of the "tres genies in neutres" is not responding to the spell. Two of the genie bottles shake as Jafar utters the incantation, causing the castle to shutter all the way down to the dungeons where the Sultan and the Red Queen are held, but the third bottle, the Knave's bottle, shows no sign of magic. During this spell casting, the Jabberwocky lounges on a nearby chaise. He mannerisms, I've decided, are remarkable feline. She's like a cat that only cares to play with her meal before eating it.

Deciding to get to the root of his frustrations, Jafar releases the Knave from his bottle. Sassy as ever, the Knave of Hearts has no time for Jafar's questions and no answers as to how he is able to resist the spell. The Jabberwocky offers to read his fear and decipher how this is achieved. There is an emphasis put on the monster only being able to read fear, not minds, which I find interesting because this explicitly states that the Jabberwocky has limitations. This may prove to be helpful should Cyrus and Alice have a confrontation with her. The Jabberwocky practically presses her nose up against the Knave, searching his mind. The Knave of Hearts must believe he has nothing left to lose because he continues to ramp up the sarcasm even has his mind is under attack. But the Jabberwocky's expression betrays confusion. She is unable to sort out what is going on inside the Knave. The audience can even hear for the first time what is inside someone's head when the Jabberwocky does her stuff and for the Knave it appears to be nothing but intelligible whispers. Jafar deduces that this is the Red Queen's doing, explaining to the Jaberwocky that she and the Knave have a history together and the sorcerer decided to pay the queen a visit in the dungeons.

Speaking of history, we are treated to a flashback of the soon-to-be Red Queen preparing for her wedding day. As an obvious sign of her innocent state and her impending nuptials, the queen is seen garbed all in white. It is here when she is first introduced to her Tweedles, her personal servants during her reign. They only go by their title and have no other name than "Tweedle", because, as they state, a servant should only be addressed by their function. The word "tweedle" means to "sing in modulation". Does this mean that this pair's job is to modulate the queen, to bring her from her humble station to the airs and graces of a ruler?

It seems that the Red Queen has a visitor during her preparation as Cora Mills (dun dun DUN) swans into the room. Oh, how I have missed the Mother of All Evil. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if there is something that the Once Upon a Time franchise does extremely well, it's a villain. Cora was surprised to receive an invitation to the wedding as she and the Red Queen's future husband don't generally see eye to eye. Perhaps there's one too many monarchs in Wonderland for his taste. Cora refers to the Red Queen's future husband as "the Red King", which is interesting considering their castle is composed of chess pieces that are lily white. If you are familiar with Lewis Carroll lore, you'll know the Red King makes his appearance in the second book, Alice Through the Looking Glass. He is found slumbering by the heroine and the Tweedles in this story speculate that Alice is part of his dream and should he wake, she would go out like a light. Is Once Upon a Time in Wonderland's version of the Red King as significant as this or was he simply named out of convenience?

Cora quickly does what she does best and twists the situation to her advantage, showing off her magic and stating that perhaps the King finds it "threatening". Cora, there are a whole slew of fairy tale characters back in Storybrooke who would have to agree with this assessment. Seeing as the Red Queen knows nothing of Cora's history, this scene is like watching a shark circle an unsuspecting beach-goer. We know she will strike, but when and with how much force are still a mystery. Cora goes on to state that magic, despite the king's disapproval, is a tool to help queens rule their subjects. The Queen of Hearts lays on the flattery pretty thick, going so far as to state that her own daughter was a disappointment and the Red Queen was more of the type of woman she would have chosen for a daughter, seeing as how they share similar stories. Run as far as you can queenie, we can see Cora tightening her grip on you and the episode isn't even halfway over. Showing some common sense, the Red Queen declines Cora's invitation to magic lessons, but rest assured, this is not the last we see of Cora Mills.

In present day Wonderland, Cyrus and Alice are in their hidden love nest home base, struggling to get the Lost and Found to work. So far, it has decided to point to nothing in particular. They are interrupted by the Red Queen's loyal Tweedle, bearing the message that they should leave Wonderland while they still have the chance. He also fills them in on the Knave's capture and the release of the Jabberwocky. Cyrus is unfamiliar with the beast, but Alice is struck by this news. So far, only the Red Queen and Alice seem to be familiar with how dangerous the Jabberwocky is. This must be alluding to their shared history in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Despite being in grave danger themselves, Cyrus and Alice choose to attempt a rescue and ask the loyal Tweedle to show them a way into the palace.

The pair sneak in through a set of tunnels and find the Red Queen in the dungeons. She is quite grateful that they are willing to even give her a second thought, believing that Alice and the former genie are there to save the Knave. Before they can spring the Red Queen loose, however, Jafar enters the dungeon with his pet Jabberwocky in tow. Alice and Cyrus have just enough time to get out of sight when the sorcerer begins to question the queen as to what is so different about the Knave of Hearts that the spell isn't working. And by question I mean force choke the life out of her when the Red Queen claims to not know. Before Jafar can get too far with his fact-finding torture, the Jabberwocky pipes up. She knows why she can't read the Knave's fears and why Jafar's spell is a dud. The Jabberwocky reveals that the Knave has no heart and it wasn't the Red Queen's fears that told her that. Alice and Cyrus can only stare wide-eyed as the villains realize they aren't alone in the dungeon. The pair escape, only just in time, with Alice's regretting that the Jabberwocky could read her fear.

Despite the Red Queen's ignorance to the Knave's heart situation, Jafar knows she is still of some use to him a threatens to slit the the Red Queen's throat in from of the Knave of Hearts if he doesn't reveal where he stashed his ticker. Jafar means business, drawing blood as he demands information from the Knave. The Red Queen warns the Knave that Jafar will kill her whether or not he spills his secret (this is the worst kind of foreshadowing) and all this does is to motivate the Knave into relenting, claiming that his heart has done him enough damage, there's no need for it to cause others suffering as well.

Cut to a flashback, the Knave of Hearts had snuck onto the Red Queen's balcony in the night, begging to know why she chose to abandon him for the king. While she claims she is doing what's best for the both of them, the Red Queen is moved as the Knave begs her to remember the good times they had. The Knave of Hearts tells the Red Queen if she wishes to leave Wonderland with him she should meet him tomorrow at their old caravan. Their meeting is cut short when palace guards arrive to investigate the break in. While all this is happening, Cora Mills lurks in the shadows. The one thing I don't understand after all these episodes is the real motivation behind the Red Queen's ascent to the throne. We know she originally went down this path when she was fed up with always scraping by to survive, yearning for more. But in this scene, we see she clearly still has feeling for the Knave, even at this moment. Though she claims she is doing what she can for the both of them, is trapping herself in a loveless marriage the best solution for their woes?

We soon find out why the Red Queen remained with her throne as we cut to the next day and the Knave of Hearts, waiting outside the caravan. He hears someone approach, but instead of his love he finds Cora, on the lurk once again. The Queen of Hearts explains that she is there on the Red Queen's behalf, that the Knave's former love has made her decision. Funny, I don't remember that scene Cora, what's your game? It seems that history is set to repeat itself as she informs the Knave of Hearts that love is weakness and tell him her surrogate daughter doesn't need some lovesick fool holding her back. Gotta say, I did giggle when Cora explained to the Knave that "hearts are much more trouble than they are worth". Considering her affinity for removing them, that line is worth a giggle, but if we look closer, Cora is more than likely speaking from experience, having removed her own heart on Once Upon a Time, believing love was holding her back from her ambitions.

The Queen of Hearts's reputation proceeds her sine the Knave, knowing he can not go on living with such pain, asks the Mother of All Evil to remove his heart so he can move on and allow the Red Queen to do the same. Cora gleefully obliges, after all that is her thing, it's in her title, and the Knave immediately sobers up, taking his things and leaving the area. This entire scene plays out as I would imagine Regina and Daniel's confrontation with Mommie Dearest would if they had been more compliant. We have the mother disapproving of her daughter's (or pseudo-daughter in this case) relationship, stating it will hold her back from greatness, and we have the removal of the male lover's heart as a solution to this "problem". I hope this was the writers' intent to parallel these scenes, showing how a person's choices can radially affect the outcome of a similar situation.

In present day Wonderland, Cyrus and Alice arrive at the White Rabbit's home as two palace guards leave. At first they are shocked, only to learn of the Red Queen's plan for the rabbit to gather up reserves for the coming battle against Jafar. Unfortunately, things aren't going so well as most Wonderland residents approached do not seem to keen with helping in La Resistance. Alice offers the White Rabbit a new task. She helped the Knave reclaim his heart, a story I was hoping we'd see but alas I think not, and knows where he hid it. And it wasn't in this realm, but a place called Storybrooke. Cut to Canada, I mean Maine, as the White Rabbit, Cyrus, and Alice emerge from a crater in the ground. I wonder why no one noticed that the next day, but considering the events of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland are supposed to take place during season two of OUaT, they could have just blamed in on a giant attack. Yeah, Storybrooke is weird.

Alice and Cyrus are fascinated with the modern world, even when they are almost side-swiped by a car cruising down main street, bass thumping. The White Rabbit, momentarily distracted by the local dive, The Rabbit Hole, proceeds to take them to the Knave of Hearts's apartment. And I have to say, the Knave has a very nice apartment. Channeling the spirit of Ichabod Crane in television version of Sleepy Hollow, Cyrus is fascinated by light switches, turning their search into a mini-light switch rave, while Alice is shocked that the fridge can produce ice. The Knave of Hearts, ever a pillar of maturity, also has a drawing of the Red Queen on his wall, riddled with darts. the trio begin tearing through the boxes and debris in the Knave's apartment, coming up with nothing. With all of his things boxed up, was the Knave moving? Or did he simply not care enough to settle in when he came to Storybrooke. My money's on the later, especially after Cyrus, comforting Alice who regrets her role in the Knave's troubles, points out that this dwelling, while full of modern sorcery, was not the home of a happy man. The Knave returned to Wonderland for a reason.

That reason is obviously the Red Queen, who we see in a flashback preparing to meet with the Knave. Only she is stopped by Cora, who once again is twisting others to her whim. Mommie Dearest truly must see a second chance at mentoring a daughter in the Red Queen if she is so intent on manipulating and meddling in the girl's affairs. Cora shows the queen via a mirror enchantment that the Knave is gone, making her believe that he never loved her in the first place. Cora really goes for the gold medal here, not-so-subtly luring the Red Queen closer into her thrall with talk about how special she is and her potential. It's hard to tell, knowing what we know about Cora Mills, if this is a sincere sentiment or if the Mother of All Evil is just pushing the right buttons to draw the Red Queen closer. Whatever the case, it works. We saw from her confrontation with the Jabberwocky that the Red Queen has never felt as if she belonged to anyone, particularly her own mother. Now that Cora is on the scene, giving her the maternal praise she never felt before, the Red Queen easily falls under her sway. It's interesting that Cora praises the Red Queen for choosing ambition, choosing "power over weakness". We know that for the Queen of Hearts, weakness and love are the same thing, so what Cora is essentially saying is that she is proud her new protege is choosing power over love, the same choice her own daughter, Regina, failed to make and the same choice she herself succeeded in making all those years ago.

Later on, the Red Queen, taking a few fashion tips from the Queen of Hearts and looking more as we saw her in the beginning of the season, is having magic lessons with Cora. While Cora can easily cause a brazer to burst into flames with a thought, the Red Queen is having more difficulty. The Red Queen seem bothered by the laws of magic and I'm guessing one in particular, the inability to make someone fall in love with you. She seems disappointed by this and something is clearly holding her magic making back. And Mommie Dearest can sense it. Coaching her along, Cora tells the Red Queen to forget her king, that the fear of his disapproval, of being flawed and worthless, is what can drive her power. Channeling the desire to prove anyone who made her feel that way wrong, the Red Queen uses her fears and anger to cause the brazer to burst into a magnificent tower of flames.

While Cora's message has some merit, that one should not be made to feel as if they are flawed and unworthy, we see again that the Queen of Hearts's methods, turning ambition into anger, are what skews those she takes under her wing to a dark place. Congratulating her student on her success with magic, Cora offhandedly remarks that the Red Queen need not worry about her king for very much longer. Well, now we know what happened to him. I wonder where this scence falls into the Once Upon a Time timeline, especially in relation to when Captain Hook comes to take the Queen of Hearts out of Wonderland. I feel there is another part of the Red Queen and Cora's story that we are missing here.

Back in Storybrooke and almost fed up with finding the heart, Alice takes Cyrus's words into consideration. If she were the Knave where would she keep her heart? Why with the one she loved of course. Alice pulls a dart from the wall and lets it fly right into the center of the drawing of the Red Queen. When she removes it, an eerie reddish glow emanates from the hole. The Knave has bricked up his heart inside of the wall! Returning to Wonderland, Cyrus, Alice, and the White Rabbit are stymied. With the Jabberwocky able to enter their minds, how are they going to be able to hide the heart where no one can find it? Unfortunately, they don't have to worry about that problem for very long as the Lost and Found begins spinning wildly, announcing the arrival of Jafar. Or more precisely, Jafar's snake staff, which we know is actually Cyrus's mother, the thing the former genie wishes to find the most. Jafar demands the heart and when Alice and Cyrus don't comply, he blasts them with magic, sending them flying.

Collecting the box containing the heart for himself, the sorcerer turns on his enemies, preparing to get rid of them once and for all. However, his snake staff resists, fighting his whim and refusing to to magic against Cyrus. This reaction is so strong that Jafar himself loses control of his staff and is tossed backwards. Cutting his losses, the sorcerer retreats with the heart box, leaving his signature snake staff in the hands of Cyrus. Alice and the former genie soon discover that the Lost and Found is attracted to the staff, realizing this means that Amara, Cyrus's mother, is somehow trapped inside. They vow to rescue her from this fate.

While Alice and Cyrus were fetching the Knave's heart, he and the Red Queen had a lot of alone time in the dungeons. Both are convinced that the other had fallen out of love with them, but as they talk, remembering their past together and expressing their regrets on even coming to Wonderland in the first place, the pair slowly realize that they indeed have always, even after all the events that took place, shared a bond of love. This revelation is cut depressingly short as Jafar returns to the dungeon, the Knave's heart in hand and the Jabberwocky in tow. Grabbing the Knave of Hearts, the sorcerer shoves his heart back into his chest and the effect is immediate. The Knave, overwhelmed with his feelings for the Red Queen, grabs her and pulls her into an embrace. As they kiss, time seems to stop for the two lovers. It's a very flashy bit of cinematography, but it works in this scene as the audience is allowed to gasp "finally!". This is the moment we've all been waiting for, their reconciliation and it is bittersweet for as soon as they pull apart from their kiss, Jafar snatches the Red Queen away. She was right earlier, that the sorcerer would kill her anyway, and Jafar does just that, plunging his dagger into her back as the Knave of Hearts screams in agony. The episode ends on a shot of the now deceased Red Queen, finally looking peaceful after so many episodes of torture.

Well, readers, I am very interested to hear your thoughts on that final scene. I am conflicted. With only two episodes left to go in the season, I find it a little too convenient that the Red Queen could be brought back. True, the motivations of both our villains in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland were to break the laws of magic; to change the past, create love, and hopefully now to bring someone back from the dead, and I have no doubt that Jafar may succeed in his mission. The question is, what will be the price our heroes have to pay for breaking those laws and bringing the Red Queen back to life? While I am rooting for her revival, part of me feels that this may cheapen her death in someway, though the Red Queen's resurrection is definitely a way to motivate the Knave. We'll just have to wait and see.

I loved that Cyrus and Alice went to Storybrooke and hope they find their way back there by the end of the season. I'm not confident that this show will be renewed for a second season, particularly since it was conceived as a one shot story and it seems many of the writers have moved on to other projects, as indicated by their Twitter accounts. The pair's fascination with the modern world shows how they could possibly adjust well to the new surroundings and Storybrooke might offer them the peace they have been looking for in their lives. Though, if you are a fan of Once Upon a Time you know things are rarely quiet in that town in Maine. I hope at least that these characters are able to make appearances in the main show; they have been wonderfully fleshed out this past season and it would be a shame to not see them again.

Cora, oh Cora. She's just as I remembered her, as manipulative and slimy as ever. Her tactics in this episode are very reminiscent of how she won back Regina's alliance in the Once Upon a Time episode "The Cricket Game". Plant the seed of an idea and then let your mark nurture it with their own ideas, causing them to voluntarily come over to your side. So Cora Mills is the original Inception? I feel the Queen of Hearts's portrayal here, while perhaps not a subtle as it was on Once Upon a Time, still points to her desire for greatness for her offspring, or rather in this case, those she took on as surrogate offspring. This warped sense of motherly love is what defines Cora's character and this episode continued to show how at the end of all her scheming and sorcery, Cora Mills wants to give what she never had, a chance at greatness and to live through that.

These past few episodes have been much more serious in tone. We are seeing less and less of the whimsical goings on of Wonderland after the hiatus. No more grapevine calls, no more dandy lions. I miss all the chess and card metaphors and puns. Perhaps this is a way for the writers to emphasize how high the stakes are, how much trouble the land beyond the looking glass is in? This episode in particular was deathly (pardon the pun) serious. Even the Knave's sarcasm has a bitter edge to it. I miss the goofing off that occurred in the first eight episodes and perhaps when our character reach a resolution that will return, making their hopefully happy endings all the more satisfying.

What started out as a show exploring the idea of whether True Love can conquer all has evolved in to a story of second chances. Jafar's second chance with his father, the Knave of Hearts and the Red Queen trying to start over, Cyrus's attempt to save his mother. Even our core couple, Alice and Cyrus, seem to be working on a second chance after their reunion, learning how to be together after losing each other for so long. What I hope these final two episodes will bring is a blending of these two ideas, that True Love can get a second chance and through that can defeat all obstacles.

Well readers, how did you react to this week's installment? Please tell us in this comments.

Tune in next week to see if the laws of magic can be broken in "To Catch a Thief"!

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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