Alice and the Knave set off to find Cyrus's magical home -- with the Red Queen and Jafar hot on their trail
What kind of vibe, exactly, is Once Upon a Time in Wonderland going for? It may still be too early to tell for sure — but as of now, that question is nearly impossible to answer. The show’s tone seems to shift every time a different pair of characters appears onscreen: Alice and her genie’s flashback sequences are straightforward googly-eyed romance. Alice and the Knave play off one another like characters in a classic buddy cop comedy. And when the Red Queen and Jafar get together, the show turns into a hammy scenery-chewing competition. (In a contest like that, there are no winners — only indigestion.)
Perhaps Wonderland, like its television parent, is simply trying to include something for every type of viewer — the sentimental, the sarcastic, the camp lovers. Unfortunately, as is often the case on Once, attempting to please everyone necessarily means not truly satisfying anyone.
But hey, enough critiquing! There’s adventure afoot in the computer-generated island of Myst — I mean, Wonderland. After a good night’s sleep and a costume change — courtesy of a punny beast known, naturally, as the Clothes Horse — Alice has decided what her next move must be: She’s going to retrieve her genie love’s bottle. Why? Because if she uses up the three wishes he gave her, Cyrus will be sucked out of harm’s way and back into his cushy prison. Remember, she can’t just wish for his freedom, because it might have dire consequences… and because the show’s main plot would be over a whole lot sooner if she did.
So Alice sets off for the Mimsy Meadows like a raging bull as the Knave follows snarkily in her wake. (Side note — did you know Lewis Carroll invented the word “snark”?) Nothing can stop them now! Well, except for the ginormous lake that Alice didn’t anticipate. She announces that they’ll just have to take an alternate mode of transportation… and though you think Alice means a ferry with an “e,” she’s actually talking about a fairy with an “a-i.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially entered the Punderdome.
Twist: The fairy is an aggressively Canadian lady named Silvermist who has an unhappy history with the Knave. Second twist: Even though she slaps the guy twice as soon as she lays eyes on him, Silvermist pledges to safely transport Alice and him across the water because “[she’s] a professional.” Third, inevitable twist: “Safe transportation” actually means “dumping the Knave into the middle of the lake.” Hell hath no fury like a grown-ass woman in a sparkly tutu scorned.
NEXT: You are cordially invited to Alice’s pity party
Good thing Silvermist chose a drop spot that’s within spitting distance of an enormous, curiously mute Mock Turtle! When Alice jumps out of Silvermist’s magic bubble to save the Knave, she quickly drags her pal onto the turtle’s back, then threatens it with a sword until it takes them to the other side of the lake. I like this girl; she gets stuff done. It will be a little difficult to believe that Wonderland is as dangerous as we keep being told it is, though, if Alice and the Knave keep getting out of (occasionally literal) sticky situations so easily.
Anywho, Alice and the Knave arrive at the Mimsy Meadows only to find that they’ve got company: the dastardly Jafar, still looking and sounding utterly ridiculous as he unleashes a horde of scarab beetles to dig for the magical bottle. He’s learned of its location from the Red Queen, who has spent all her scenes thus far pouting and purring and stopping just short of telling Mr. DeMille she’s ready for her close-up. (The queen got her intel from Rabbit John Lithgow, who’s still secretly spying for her.)
Ah, but here comes Twist the Fourth: Alice has been lying about the bottle’s whereabouts this whole time! She told the fib hoping that it would get back to any of her mysterious opponents, then hoofed it to the Mimsy Meadows to see who would show up so she’d know who she’s up against. Clever girl. Can we maybe skip the rest of these shenanigans and just watch a series about Alice being awesome and the Knave cracking jokes?
Having learned Jafar’s identity, Alice leads the Knave to where Cyrus’s bottle is truly hidden — a sculpture garden where there is of course a “dandy lion” made of dandelions in the shape of an actual big cat. But much to her surprise, the bottle has already been dug up. How? Well, turns out the Red Queen knew its actual location all along, because the Rabbit told her where it really was. And how did the Rabbit know where it really was? Because he… happened to be standing nearby when Alice and Cyrus buried it in the first place. Wait — seriously? (Yes, seriously.)
So much for steely determination. Alice reacts to the missing bottle by throwing herself a full-on pity party, complete with figurative black balloons and a Cake of Sadness. Could all really be lost, so soon after the series’ beginning?
NEXT: Don’t be silly!
Never fear: Inspiration is on the way, in the form of a paper crane that Cyrus has magically sent Alice’s way at great personal risk. (He’s being held inside a cage made of silver, which is apparently imbued with anti-genie properties; just touching it gives Cyrus a nasty burn. Presumably, he can’t magick his way out… though evidently, he can perform magic inside its bars. Huh.) The crane contains a note in which Cyrus pledges his everlasting love for Alice, then urges her to leave Wonderland for her own sake.
All that Alice can see when she reads it, though, is proof that Cyrus really is alive. (“I thought true love didn’t need proof,” the Knave comments, winning my cold, shriveled heart.) She writes her own message on the back of the crane — “I’m coming for you!” — and sends it back Cyrus’s way. Wait, Alice has finger magic too? Who cares: Her resolve has been replenished! (Update: Apparently, it’s the paper itself that’s magic. My mistake.) Can’t wait until she gets incrementally closer to Cyrus after punching a Gift Horse in the mouth next week.
– Want to know more about how Alice and Cyrus fell in love? Tonight’s flashback sequences explain it all: See, they met, and then they fell in love. That clears everything up.
– I will say, though, that I appreciated learning that Cyrus is the one who taught Alice her ninja skills — and their first kiss was very sweetly choreographed.
– Also: Cyrus was sent to Wonderland because his last pre-Alice master wished the genie far, far away from him when Jafar came calling.
– According to the episode’s official descriptions, the Red Queen’s white-wigged footmen are named Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Hee!
– Anyone else getting a “Jafar in disguise” vibe from the old man also being kept prisoner in Jafar’s dungeon? Wouldn’t be the first time, right?
– I’m sure Emma Rigby is a lovely person, but guys, I’m really not feeling the Red Queen. She acts like she’s an overenthusiastic theater kid playing Amneris in a high school production of Aida. That said, the girl knows how to rock a red velvet toga.
– Jafar’s dastardly plan evidently involves breaking The Laws of Magic. They are as follows: A genie can’t kill anyone, bring anyone back from the dead, change the past, or make anyone fall in love. Keep this in mind; there will be a test later.
– Sad Backstory Alert: The Knave grew callous after a mysterious, heart-breaking incident with someone named Anastasia. If he means this Anastasia, I will eat my hat and declare Wonderland the best thing since sliced bread.