Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, ABC’s spin-off of Once Upon a Time, has a quick scene in Storybrooke to show that it does exist in the same universe, but quickly departs from that world.
Wonderland follows Alice (Sophie Lowe) years after her adventures in the books. The first episode has a lot of exposition to slog through, but they do so very well, switching to flashbacks in Wonderland frequently to keep it from getting boring. But, once Alice gets back to Wonderland, the adventure really takes off.
After Alice’s initial return to the real world as a child- which took so long her father believed she was dead- she returns to Wonderland several times. On one of these trips, she kidnapped the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow) to show him to her father as proof of her sanity. She shrinks herself while trying to sneak out of Wonderland with the rabbit and ends up hiding in the bottle of a genie named Cyrus (Peter Gadiot). She quickly falls in love with him- can’t blame her, he’s cute- frees him from his bottle, and goes on adventures throughout Wonderland with him. (And- I’m assuming- she freed the rabbit and didn’t go back to the real world.) During an adventure to the boiling sea, Cyrus proposes and Alice accepts. But they’re happiness is short-lived when the Red Queen (Emma Rigby, Hollyoaks) shows up and throws Cyrus off a cliff into the boiling sea. (Ouch!) After the love of her life is dead, Wonderland has lost its luster and she returns, only to be placed into an insane asylum.
Next, we see the Knave of Hearts (paying a dollar for a cup of coffee!) at Granny’s Diner in Storybrooke, thus establishing that this story is concurrent to the storyline of Once Upon a Time. The White Rabbit comes and recruits him to help save Alice from the insane asylum where she’s about to have a procedure to make her forget everything. Alice initially refuses to go with the Knave (Michael Socha, Being Human UK)- wanting to forget the painful memory of Cyrus’ death- but is convinced to go with him when he tells her that Cyrus is alive. She then fights and takes down at least five grown men single-handedly, grabs her boots, and heads off to Wonderland with the Knave and the White Rabbit. Once in Wonderland, the White Rabbit confesses that he didn’t see Cyrus alive. But, he has it on good authority from the Door Mouse that he’s at the Mad Hatter’s house. The Knave is ready to abandon the mission on such shoddy intel, but Alice offers to pay him in little, ruby-shaped wishes, so he heads off with her.
On their way, Alice takes off her boots so that she can climb up and get a better idea of where they are. Only to have the Knave decide to steal her boots- which contain the wishes- and run off while she is attacked by the overgrown Cheshire Cat. In a change of heart, the Knave comes back for her, shrinks the cat with a bit of mushroom, and returns the boots and wishes. Upon which we learn that wishes can’t be stolen, they must be granted.
When they get to the Hatter’s house, it’s empty. But outside in the grass, they find Cyrus’ necklace with its glowing gem. Seeing this renews Alice’s hope and she decides to continue her search.
Meanwhile, we learn that Jafar (Naveen Andrews, Lost) is the one that wants Alice back in Wonderland and that he and the Red Queen are- begrudgingly- in cahoots. We also learn that Cyrus is, in fact, alive in a cage. When he was thrown off the cliff, Jafar had his flying carpet there to catch him.
So we’re left with many questions, but mostly these: Why are Jafar and the Red Queen working together? What does Jafar want with Alice? How long is it going to take to get Cyrus out of that cage? And why did they need to fake Cyrus death in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been much simpler just to grab Alice?
There are several things I really like. Such as how Alice knows how to fight and is very resourceful. Also, that the “damsel in distress” locked in the castle is Cyrus. And I like that the Knave is a reluctant ally with a shady past, rather than an obedient, saintly side-kick. We’ll see if the show can keep up its momentum next week.
So what did you think? Are you going to keep watching Alice? Are you team Cyrus or team Knave? (Totally not a thing.) Are you also secretly hoping for scenes with the Mad Hatter (Sebastian Stan)?
If you missed it, you can view the episode on ABC’s site.