Last night, ABC debuted its Once Upon a Time spinoff, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which will follow the adventures of Lewis Carroll heroine Alice and her genie, Cyrus, in Wonderland. H&H's Brittany Melson will be recapping the show, so be sure to check back weekly to read her thoughts on the episodes and to share your own! And now, without further ado, here's what happened in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland's pilot episode, 1.01, “Down the Rabbit Hole”:
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a spin-off series from the popular Once Upon a Time. It’s set in the same universe and may have some crossover episodes in the future. It answers the question—What happened to Alice after she emerged from the rabbit hole? Unfortunately, she didn’t live happily ever after.
The show opens with a bang—literally. There’s an explosion, a hole in the ground opens up, and a little blonde girl dressed in Victorian garbs shouts, “Home!” She’s dressed like the traditional Alice we all know and love. She runs homes to her father who is surprised—and not exactly overjoyed—to see her. He says that she’s been gone a long time. He thought she was dead.
A creepy Victorian shrink emerges from out of nowhere and talks with the father about how poor little Alice is delusional. Alice hears them and says, “I’m not a liar. It was real. And I’m going to prove it.”
That one statement sets up the premise for the next decade or so of her life as she slips back and forth between her life in Victorian England and her life in Wonderland.
The next scene jumps to a handsome, dark-eyed young man strolling through a modern American city. For the audience’s sake, it even says, “Present Day," just in case we can’t figure that out for ourselves. The aforementioned gentleman helps himself to the contents of a closed bar, establishing himself as a trickster figure. What appears to be some sort of earthquake shakes the bar before a hole in the ground opens up and a white rabbit in a suit and psychedelic sunglasses appears. The rabbit says, “We’re late. Alice needs helps,” and he refers to the dark-eyed man as the Knave of Hearts.
The next series of scenes rotates between a creepy Victorian mental hospital called the Bethlem Asylum—where a fully grown Alice is being interrogated by the evil shrink—and her memories of the many years she spent in Wonderland, trying to find a way to prove to her father that it was real. The doctor asks her about her adventures, but she keeps denying them and saying she doesn’t remember.
In Alice’s flashbacks, however, the audience sees her steal a leather satchel from a hookah-smoking caterpillar and gets chased by a giant into a bottle where she meets a handsome, dark-eyed genie named Cyrus who’s from Agrabah. He’s friendly and non-threatening and wants to know why Alice is running. She reluctantly shows him the contents of her leather satchel—one white rabbit who is loudly protesting his capture—and says that her father thinks she’s crazy but he won’t be able to deny her experiences if he sees the rabbit. Cyrus, delivering the quote of the night, says, “When you really love someone, you don’t need proof. You can feel it.” Alice—and I—swooned a little when he said that.
Cyrus gave her three wishes, but she ended up not using them. She saved them instead and freed Cyrus from his bottle. They roamed through Wonderland together, kicking butt and taking names.
They flash to a fantastic scene with Alice and Cyrus standing on the edge of a cliff next to a boiling sea. Cyrus says that in the 100 years he spent in a bottle, he had only one wish—to never be a prisoner again—but now he has two (Cue my second bout of swooning). Cyrus proposes to Alice, and she says yes. They kiss, and their hearts become entwined. He’s wearing a magic pendant that glows red and makes a swooshing sound, like a heart, whenever they’re near. They hear an ominous marching noise, and he says, “Run!” It’s too late, though; the Red Queen, a young British actress with very full lips, arrives with her hooded soldiers. She ends up using her magic to push Cyrus into the boiling sea. Alice is devastated.
Back in the asylum, the evil doctor tells Alice about a procedure that can take away her pain and make her forget everything. “Does it hurt?” she asks. “A little,” he says. Creepy. Alice knows he means her ill, but she’s in such psychological pain that she signs her life away. And the doctor, who’s delighted, says, “Tomorrow your life begins anew.” Yuck. We know this can’t end well.
The next scene flashes to some extremely creepy drilling tools that look like they’re going to end up in Alice’s skull. I’m not sure what exactly the implements were used for, but I’m thinking lobotomy. And she reclines in a prison cell, resigned to her fate. She’s wearing what looks like a corset over a skimpy white knee length night shift. It’s a cute outfit, but it doesn’t exactly look comfortable.
The Knave of Hearts shows up in the prison to rescue Alice, but she refuses to go with him because she’s depressed and wants to wallow in her misery. The Knave is forced to fight the guards, and it looks like he’s going to lose, but then he tells Alice that Cyrus is alive. She thinks it’s impossible, but, as we are all starting to realize, nothing is impossible in Wonderland. Alice goes into her kick-ass warrior mode and beats up a bunch of guards. I particularly enjoyed watching her grab her Victorian-style boots and slam a bunch of guards in the head. She’s awake now, and she’s not playing.
The Knave and Alice go on the run, and they meet up with the rabbit, who tells them they’re late, of course. They encounter the evil doctor, who finally sees the rabbit for himself. His eyes get big, and Alice says, “Seeing things, Doctor? I hear there’s a procedure for that.” Alice’s new spunky attitude makes me like her so much more.
They escape from the doctor and the rabbit “digs” a hole to Wonderland—in other words, he unleashes some sort of magical explosive power that creates a weird psychedelic tunnel. The Knave doesn’t want to follow Alice back to Wonderland, but she reminds him that she gave him back his heart once (which indicates some sort of interesting back story) and he needs to help her get back hers.
Alice and the Knave land in a gooey white lake, which traps them like quicksand. Alice says, “Careful, we’ve landed in the Mallow Marsh,” and the Knave replies, “Of course we did. Because a pond made out of dessert topping makes perfect sense.” The Knave is hilarious, and I start to fall in love with him and his reluctant form of heroism.
Alice and the Knave start to sink, and the rabbit—being not at all helpful but very rabbit-like—runs off. Before he leaves, however, he tells Alice that Cyrus was last spotted at the Mad Hatter’s house, which was beyond the Tulgey Woods. So Alice has a destination, but first, she and the Knave have to escape from the Mallow Marsh. The Knave says, “This is humiliating. I’m going to die like a bloody s’more.” Isn’t he adorable?
Alice, being a Victorian lady, doesn’t get the time-traveling Knave’s modern day reference, but when he explains it to her, she grabs a dragonfly—which breathes fire like a real dragon—and uses it to scorch and harden the mallow. They pull themselves out.
The Knave balks at helping Alice through the Tulgey Woods because he did a lot of bad things in his past, he says, and a lot of people want him dead. Alice tempts him by telling him she can pay him in wishes, and she shows him where she has them—in the form of three red gems—hiding in the heel of her boot. She offers to give him one if he’ll help her find Cyrus. He asks her why she can’t just use one to bring Cyrus to her, but she says that wishes can go awry and Cyrus might show up dead at her feet with a rope around his neck—so there might, literally, be strings attached. The Knave reluctantly agrees to help her.
In the next scene, the rabbit is sitting with the Red Queen in her castle. We realize that he’s working for her and that he lured Alice back to Wonderland at her bidding. The Red Queen says she wants the rabbit to eavesdrop on Alice and tell her everything she says, or she’ll chop off the rabbit’s ears. The rabbit—whose true loyalty and moral character is rather ambiguous at this point—agrees.
In the next scene, Alice and the Knave are working their way through the forest and Alice talks about wanting to assault the Red Queen. I’m right there with her on that one. So far the Red Queen is a one-dimensional type of villain right out of a storybook.
As if to prove that point, the next scene shows the Red Queen meeting with a swarthy, evil-looking fellow named Jafar—a.k.a. the villain from Disney’s Aladdin. He’s hunting Alice as well, and he says they have to find Cyrus’s bottle and Alice has to use her three wishes—otherwise, Alice still has power of some sort. Since Alice is in Wonderland, Jafar doesn’t need the Red Queen’s help anymore and tries to kill her, but she points out that she’s the only one who knows where Alice is. “You’re not in Agrabah anymore, darling,” she says.
The Red Queen’s reference to Agrabah lets us know that Jafar and Cyrus are from the same place. Are they relatives of some sort? Father or son? Brothers maybe? We don’t know. We can only guess at this point.
The Red Queen tells Jafar to get on his “raggedy” carpet and “fly away,” which was pretty funny. There’s nothing better than seeing two villains duke it out.
Back in the Tulgey Woods, Alice pulls off her boots and climbs a tree to try and spot the Mad Hatter’s House. She’s wearing lace-trimmed socks, which are kind of cute. Meanwhile, the Knave runs away with her boots. He saw a “wanted” poster with his face on it and got spooked.
While Alice is in the tree, the Cheshire cat appears, and he’s huge and menacing. Alice says, “Now that we’re friends again, you wouldn’t want to eat a friend, now would you?”
Cheshire replies, “Certainly not without pepper.”
I loved that line—the way it was delivered, everything. I can imagine my own cat saying that if he could speak.
The cat attacks Alice. He puts his big paw on her chest and drools on her. The visuals are fascinating. The Knave finally reappears and tricks the cat into swallowing a mushroom which shrinks him. Cheshire runs away, the size of a normal housecat again.
Alice yells at the Knave for abandoning her, but he claims he was just “protecting” the wishes. She doesn’t believe him, of course, and informs him that wishes can’t be stolen—only granted.
Alice and the Knave finally reach the Mad Hatter’s house. She runs to the door, expecting to find Cyrus, but she doesn’t. It’s empty, and her hopes are dashed. “He’s really gone,” she says.
Outside of the house, however, Alice finds her and Cyrus’s magical love pendant, which is red and throbbing and making a swooshing sound. She’s elated because she believes her love is still alive—and nearby. The Knave cautions her by pointing out that the magic pendant might have survived the fall into the boiling sea while the more fragile flesh-and-blood Cyrus might not have.
Alice—quoting Cyrus from when she first met him—says to the Knave, “When you really love someone, you don’t need proof. You can feel it.” I sighed a little when she said that because it was so sweet and poetic. It really tied the episode together in a neat little bow.
Alice asks the Knave if he’s going to help her. He says, “Bloody hell. Come on,” and the three of them—the rabbit, the Knave, and Alice, with her artfully-mussed ponytail—head off to find Cyrus, her one true love.
The final scene of the night shows Cyrus (yay, he’s alive!) in a huge birdcage suspended over a chasm being held prisoner by Jafar, who can only access the cage on his flying rug. Crazy, right? How is Alice ever going to rescue him? And how awesome is it that it’s the kick-ass heroine setting off to rescue her one true love instead of the hero? I just wish she wasn’t stuck wearing a corset and skimpy nightclothes the whole time. Couldn’t they give the poor girl a shirt and a pair of pants? Or a more substantial Victorian-style dress? I am in love with her boots, however.
My only major problem? I’m falling in love with the Knave. He’s funny. He’s a bad boy. And he might make some questionable decisions, but he has a good heart. Am I going to be able to find room in my heart for Cyrus? I hope so. He seems sweet. But right now he’s still a one-dimensional (albeit swoon-worthy) character.
Oh, I do have one other problem. The Red Queen. Evil queens shouldn’t have such plump lips. Plus, I need to know why she hates Alice so much and wants to destroy her life. What’s her motivation, aside from their sordid storybook history? I’m hoping for some character development in future episodes.
So who do you love more? Cyrus or the Knave?
Brittany is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist and small business owner who hopes that heaven will be like a bookstore with an endless supply of free books, free coffee and super comfy chairs.