Tonight we went down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, a land of true wuv, evil queens, and really bad special effects.
We start the episode with a man in a leather jacket walking down the middle of the street and getting honked at by cars. As he goes into a shop, he bumps into some characters from the original Once Upon a Time. Once that fan-service is achieved, a rabbit comes out of portal in the floor and tells the man “Come with me if you want to live.”
Sorry, kidding, the rabbit told him that Alice is in trouble and they need to help her.
Of course the man, the Knave of Hearts, has to go with the rabbit. We predict that the Knave will become the third point on a love triangle between Alice, the genie (revealed later), and the Knave. Also of note, the Knave is the same actor who played Tom the werewolf on Being Human, British edition.
The next scene is of Alice in an insane asylum being grilled by a panel of psychiatrists. She is trying to convince them that she doesn’t believe in Wonderland anymore, but they don’t believe her. While telling her they don’t believe, they repeat all the “delusions” that she has been telling them for years.
As the interrogation goes on, Alice flashes back to her first meeting with her true love, Cyrus, the genie. They have a conversation laden with sexual tension, in which we find out that Cyrus is from Agrabah. You can guess what other Disney movie is going to play a role in this series.
Nevertheless, a beautiful relationship was born. Alice frees Cyrus soon after and they travel through the multiverse together. Then, on the edge of a cliff overlooking something called the “Boiling Sea,” Cyrus proposes to Alice and she says yes.
Their happiness lasts for about ten seconds before the Queen appears, they fight, and she pushes him off the cliff and into the Boiling Sea in what is the slowest fall in history.
When we return to Alice in the asylum, she is in tears, declaring that she doesn’t believe in anything anymore. The head psychiatrist still doesn’t believe her, saying that she calls out for Cyrus in her sleep. He offers her a procedure that will let her forget everything. Alice signs a waiver allowing him to do it.
So Alice is about to be lobotomized. You get one guess as to whether this procedure actually occurs. Did you guess no? Good, because the Knave comes to rescue Alice just in time. As soon as he tells her Cyrus is alive, Alice is raring to go with him. She immediately goes into badass mode and kicks the ass of all the doctors coming to restrain the Knave.
Jaunty music plays during this display of awesomeness, and when Alice and the Knave meet up with the rabbit, she has the opportunity to deliver a cool one-liner to the head psychiatrist: “Seeing things, Doctor? I hear there’s a procedure for that.”
Needless to say, this Alice is pretty cool when she’s not getting all sappy on us.
Once out of the hospital, the trio run through the streets until they are cornered with no apparent way out. The rabbit makes a quick portal to Wonderland and everyone jumps into the bad special effect that appears.
But they’re not out of danger yet! They land in a pond filled with marshmallow with literal, fire-breathing dragonflies flying around. Based on the Knave’s reaction to this, he is going to be the sarcastic, cynical foil to Alice’s love-fueled assurance.
Alice and the Knave soon start to drown in sugary goodness. The rabbit runs off to find help, but Alice doesn’t need it; she gets them out herself. Having successfully escaped the marshmallow lagoon, Alice successfully convinces the Knave to help her (despite his wanted in wonderland status) in exchange for one of three wishes Cyrus gave her. Apparently wishes are red gems that come with evil, evil strings if you don’t wish really carefully.
Meanwhile, the rabbit is stopped by armed guards! The Queen is there! The rabbit is actually spying for the Queen! But don’t worry; he is crying as he leaves under threats of death from the Queen. So it’s pretty obvious he is still pro-Alice.
Having threatened the rabbit sufficiently, the Queen goes out to the balcony to meet her secret evil partner, Jafar.
Jafar immediately rips a page out of Darth Vader’s book by standing within arm’s reach of the Queen and choking her with his mind. Before he can actually kill her, the Queen explains that she is the only one who can track Alice, and he lets her go. The evil masterminds are at a stalemate for now, but we do find out that Jafar wants Alice’s wishes.
Afterwards, Jafar flies off on his magic carpet. No one can be badass while floating on a magic carpet, but Naveen Andrews (of Lost fame) does his very best.
This is the last we see of our nefarious plotters as the show cuts back to Alice and the Knave wandering through a forest. They are going to the Mad Hatter’s house because this is supposedly where Cyrus is. Eventually, Alice figures out that wandering randomly ain’t working, and she climbs a tree to figure out where the house is.
Her climbing abilities net her the house’s location but also an encounter with the Cheshire Cat. The cat attempts to eat Alice, but only after telling her Wonderland has “become stranger” since she left.
Sidenote: we were really disappointed with the Cheshire Cat apparently being purely evil in this version. The Cheshire Cat is cool because he’s amoral, acting for his own ends with maniacal humor. This Cheshire is basically just hungry. However, this is just the first episode and there was some hinting that Alice and the Cheshire were friends before, so perhaps they’ll make better use of this character.
Needless to say, the Cheshire Cat doesn’t eat Alice. His feeding frenzy is interrupted by the Knave, conveniently reappearing to save Alice from becoming a hairball. He had considered running off with the wishes she had left in her discarded shoes when she climbed the tree, but he comes back (obviously). However, we do learn from this scene that wishes can’t be stolen, they can only be granted (we guess that’s why Jafar hasn’t just killed Alice and taken the wishes) and that there is some Alice/Knave sexual tension on slow burn.
Alice and the Knave then quickly make it to the Hatter’s house. Shockingly, Cyrus is nowhere to be found. However, Alice does manage to ignore the Rabbit’s sudden reappearance and shifty manner in order to locate Cyrus’s glowing red necklace outside. This is a sign from heaven (or rabbit) that Alice must continue on her quest for a least a few seasons. She knows that Cyrus is alive because “with love, you don’t need proof. You just know.”
Her blind faith is justified in the next scene where we see Cyrus trapped in a cage suspended in a tower built with bad special effects. Apparently, Jafar saved him with his magical carpet and jazz hands. The camera zooms out for the final shot, showing a REALLY bad special effects landscape with Alice and the Knave getting ever closer to Cyrus in his tower.
Overall, we think this was a pretty good start to a series that could be really good if it keeps Alice as a badass and doesn’t let the romantic aspects of her character turn her into a overly-dramatic damsel in distress (we’re looking at you, Snow). We can put up with some crappy effects if we get a cool female lead in return.
So, will our fears be realized? Will Alice be forced to choose between the Knave and Cyrus? Will the Cheshire Cat become the maniacal, amoral awesome he was always meant to be? We’ll all just have to watch and see.