Take a trip down the rabbit hole in “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”!! Premiere Recap!!

CAREFUL, THESE SPOILERS WILL DRIVE YOU MAD!!

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” Morpheus ~ The Matrix

wonderland_title cardIn Victorian London, the young and beautiful Alice tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah-smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she’s seen during this impossible adventure. Surely this girl must be insane. Her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything. Alice seems ready to put it all behind her – especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever, the handsome and mysterious Cyrus – but deep down she knows this world is real. Just in the nick of time, the sardonic Knave of Hearts and the irrepressible White Rabbit save her from a doomed fate. Now Alice is determined to find Cyrus while evading the plots of Jafar and the Red Queen.

If there is any fairytale that I have enjoyed thoroughly it is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This story of wonderment and imagination has been told and adapted through the years in films, shows, plays, and comics. Following its parent series “Once Upon a Time”, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland shines new light on the classic inhabitants of Wonderland such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts and most likely characters from other stories as well. From the start, Wonderland opens with Alice in a psychiatric institution where she is convinced that Wonderland is not real. Fans of American Magee’s “Alice: Madness Returns” will recall that game starting out in the same manner. The Knave of Hearts enters her room and tells her that Cyrus is still alive and that she has to return to Wonderland. Upon hearing this, Alice follows the Knave of Hearts to meet with the White Rabbit who opens a portal to Wonderland. Alice notices that Wonderland is slightly different than she remembers it. Wonderland is a darker version of itself similar to Tim Burton’s take on the tale in the 2010 Disney film. The center piece of the “Once” spin-off is Alice’s search for her lost love who is presumed alive somewhere in Wonderland. She sets off with an exiled Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit as she once again explores the wondrous and dangerous place.

wonderland_1-1_alice-knaveSophie Lowe portrays Alice, the young girl who traveled to Wonderland as a child and returned home afterward. Her father has her committed after she tells him about her adventure. Now grown, she tries to forget that place and the strange people who inhabit it. However, she returns to Wonderland with the Knave of Hearts in search of her lost love. Alice is this take on the classic tale is shown to be fierce fighter as she takes out the orderlies when they try to stop her from leaving. In a flashback, she likely learned these skills during her time with Cyrus who was shoved off a cliff by the Red Queen. Alice has returned to Wonderland to find him and no one is going to stand in her way.

Michael Socha is a young Knave of Hearts. He is a sardonic adventurer, a loner, heartbreaker and man of action. He finds Alice and brings her back to Wonderland though he was more than reluctant upon returning himself as he is in exile for reasons yet to be revealed. The Knave consistently banters with Alice, approaching each situation with a light-hearted flare. His constant sarcasm will serve to keep the humor factor present in the series. Basically, he’s a young Captain Hook, who is portrayed in similar fashion in original series.

Emma Rigby is the Red Queen, the Ruler of Wonderland and the Kingdom of Hearts. Arrogant and presumptuous, she plots with Jafar against Alice. She and her army track her and Cyrus to the cliffs overlooking the Roiling Sea. Cyrus fights off her army but she knocks his over the edge of the cliff. Emma does a fine job of channeling the sinister nature the Red Queen is known for. And it is this audaciousness that has made her ruler of Wonderland. No one can tell what to do, not the Agrabahn sorcerer Jafar. When he decides to take over in dealing with Alice, the Red Queen defies him, stating she rules all in Wonderland. She remains ever defiant even when Jafar chokes her Darth Vader style. After he releases her, she waves him away as if he were a bothersome pest. Clearly, the Evil Queen Regina was the inspiration for this character.

wonderland_1-1_jafar“Lost” alumnus Naveen Andrews is wickedly delicious as Jafar. Just like in Disney’s 1992 film “Aladdin”, he is very manipulative and cunning. He plots with the Red Queen to capture Cyrus, a genie from their home of Agrabah. It seems he will be working from the shadows, plotting against Alice and, possibly, the Red Queen. There is little doubt that he will also influence the other denizens of Wonderland, much like Rumplestiltskin did in the Enchanted Forest. Jafar is joined by another Agrabahn native Cryus, a genie portrayed by Peter Gadiot, who serves as Alice’s love interest. “Once” fans will recall a previous Genie played by Giancarlo Esposito who became the Magic Mirror. With Jafar and Cyrus, expect other characters from “Aladdin” to be referenced as the series progresses.

Oscar winning actor John Lithgow voices the White Rabbit. He replaces Paul Reubens, better known by his child-like persona Pee-Wee Herman. The White Rabbit has the ability to create portals or “rabbit holes” as they are called in the series. He opens one to transport Alice and the Knave of Hearts to Wonderland. Whether he uses them to travel throughout Wonderland is not known as of yet but there is little doubt that this is a possibility. The White Rabbit is properly dressed in a white suit and top hat with red sunglasses.

In the series premiere, we are introduced to one of the most iconic creatures of Wonderland the Cheshire Cat. His ability to turn invisible at will remain. Rather than offer meaningless riddles, he actively hunts for food and targets Alice as his next meal. His likeness and personality is a mixture of his appearance in the Tim Burton film and depiction in Zenescope Entertainment’s “Wonderland” series where he sees all who encounter him as prey. Keith David provides Cheshire’s voice. If you grew up in the nineties, you will remember him as the voice of Goliath in the Disney animated series “Gargoyles”. But don’t expect Cheshire to have Goliath’s gravelly voice.

wonderland_1-1_red queen
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is shaping up to be as entertaining as its parent series with the modern twist it puts on these familiar characters. Like in “Once”, Wonderland will use flashbacks to tell the relationship of the currently introduced and upcoming characters. It was hinted that Barbara Hershey may reprise her role of the Queen of Hearts later in the series. Her story might likely be told through flashback. The spin-off is set in a modern Wonderland, with flashbacks to a pre-curse Wonderland. It will have crossover episodes with “Once Upon a Time” as it tell the connections to the characters trapped in Storybrooke. This sets up for the possible revival of the only other Wonderland character living in Storybrooke—the Mad Hatter. The Knave of Hearts was shown to be living in Storybrooke when the White Rabbit tells him about Alice. I was really impressed with the first episode as it already sets up for what will be a wondrous series full of adventure, humor, and just a little touch of madness.

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