Well! This show is going to be fun! Let’s hope ABC gives it a chance. “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” not only already has a good spin-off association with “Once Upon a Time,” but it also has the most important thing of all – girl power!
Sophie Lowe’s Alice is not the timid Alice in Wonderland we know from our childhood fairy tales. She’s a fierce warrior who can beat up several insane asylum guards all at the same time, if need be.
So far, I love everything about this show (official site here), from the handsome male characters – including Peter Gadiot (Cyrus), Naveen Andrews (Jafar) and Michael Socha (Knave of Hearts) – to Emma Rigby as The Red Queen to John Lithgow voicing the part of the CG-animated White Rabbit. Clearly, the role of the well-dressed, pink-bespectacled Rabbit has been waiting for him his whole life.
The pilot episode opens in Victorian England – in a garden where young Alice climbs out of the ground. “Home,” she says. She runs down a road to a gorgeous cottage in the forest, but when her dad opens the door, he seems less than enthusiastic to see her. “You’ve been gone for a very long time,” he says. “We thought you were … dead.”
Alice ends up in an insane asylum, where doctors in white coats all think she’s delusional. Tea parties, smoking caterpillars, a murderous red queen, falling down a rabbit hole … what is all this nonsense?
In fact, they want to try out a “new procedure” to make her forget all of those silly thoughts. As the doc is prepping a very scary-looking drill, with an even scarier missive – “Fetch the girl. It’s time” – who opens the door to her padded cell but the boyishly charming Knave of Hearts. He and the White Rabbit, each with their own reasons, have been plotting her escape.
Previously in Wonderland, Alice had fallen in love with the handsome Cyrus, who’s been tethered to a bottle for 100 years. She’s got the rabbit in her bag, as proof for her father that she’s not lying.
“Really?” says Cyrus. “You’re risking your life for someone who doesn’t believe in you. You know, when you really love someone, you don’t need proof. You can feel it.”
Awww … He proposes and gives her a glowing red locket that will let her know when he’s near. But before a happy ending can take place, the Red Queen pushes him over the cliff into a boiling vat of fire.
Back to the asylum, where the Knave of Hearts is busting Alice out of there. She doesn’t want to leave at first – says none of it’s true. But when he says “the rabbit’s alive,” she goes all fight club on the guards and gets the heck out of there. But not before one of the white-coated docs sees the rabbit. “Seeing things, doctor?” says Rabbit. “I hear there’s a procedure for that.” Ha!
The trio of misfits – Alice, Knave of Hearts and Rabbit – run through an open market causing chaos everywhere, and then Rabbit opens a portal back into Wonderland. Knave doesn’t want to go at first. “I didn’t exactly leave that place on good terms,” he tells Alice.
She counters with, “Once, long ago, I got you back your heart. Now, you need to help me get back mine. Or you could take a chance with them..,” and nods towards the guys chasing them.
Knave jumps through with her and Rabbit, and they land in a mallow marsh – a giant, super-bouncy, super-pliable swamp of marshmallow fluff! As they begin to sink, Knave says, “I’m gonna die like a bloody s’more!” Alice doesn’t know what that is.
The swamp is also filled with very large dragonflies, which Alice uses to toast their way to a nearby dock after Rabbit runs off without them, promising to return, of course (sure he will – not).
Knave wants nothing to do with any of it, because he’s a wanted man in this land. But Alice lures his help by opening the heel of her shoe and digging out three wishes. She can’t use a wish to find Cyrus, but she can give them to Knave in return for his help.
Meanwhile, Rabbit is with the Red Queen. “You’re late,” she says. It’s a common theme with him. She needs him to report everything that Alice does. Also, the Queen and the genie Jafar have a little meeting. Now that Alice is back, the Queen is no longer useful to him. He steps on his magical flying carpet and flies away.
Alice and Knave are on their way through Tulgey Woods to find Cyrus at the Mad Hatter’s house, where the door mouse said he’d be. It’s dangerous, but no worries. “The doctor said I’m a danger to myself and others,” says Alice. Yeah!
But when she climbs a tree to see better, Knave makes off with her shoe and the three wishes. Curses! That’s when we get our first glimpse of the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Keith David). A magnificent very-large cat with spectacular teeth.
“You wouldn’t want to eat a friend, now would you?” asks Alice.
“Hmmm … certainly not without pepper,” the cat replies.
Knave shows up in the nick of time and throws a chunk of mushroom into the cat’s mouth, which shrinks him down to non-scary feline size.
Alice and Knave find the Mad Hatter’s house, and she bursts gleefully in the door, calling for Cyrus. It’s filled with hats … and nothing else. You can just feel her despair, but things seem a little more hopeful when she goes outside and finds the glowing-red tracker-locket on the ground at her feet. If IT survived the boiling sea, then Cyrus can too.
Knave is skeptical, but Alice says, “He’s here. When you really love someone, you don’t need proof. You can feel it. He’s here, and I’ll find him. The only question is, are you coming with me?”
“Bloody hell,” he says, and off they go.
The end scene: We see Cyrus in a cage suspended from a ceiling. When the Queen tossed him into the boiling sea, Jafar’s carpet caught him.
I’ll end with this fun fact: The voice of the Smoking Caterpillar is Iggy Pop!
Who’s watching “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”? Are you as excited about this show as I am? Leave thoughts below!