'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland' Wins with Three Ws: Wishes, Wooing and Wickedness
All Once Upon a Time in Wonderland really needed to do to win me over was be as creative as its predecessor, but more focused. So far, it's managing the feat. Of course, we're only two episodes in, but as of "Trust Me," Wonderland has retained its focus. This week's episode promptly explained some of the pilot's bigger mysteries (like how Cyrus' lamp ended up in Wonderland in the first place) and defined the dynamic of the series' villains, Jafar and the Red Queen. For their part, Alice and the Knave make for a great buddy comedy duo. If you missed this week's episode though, here are three W's to catch you up.
When she finds the lamp (magicked to Wonderland when its previous owner wished it "as far from Agrabah as the sun from the earth" to hide the genie from Jafar), Alice becomes Cyrus' master. He recounts her with the basic wishing rules Robin Williams first clued us in on in Disney's Aladdin, with one extra rule added: Wishes cannot change the past. Since the Once universe rarely deviates from the Disney machine's mythology, we have to assume this is going to come into play later in the season. She hoards the wishes in order to keep Cyrus out of the lamp. Where it was very easy for Al to wish Genie free in Aladdin, the same is not so in Once's Wonderland. Instead, the series takes the more traditional approach to geniedom — that wishes are tricky business. Cyrus explains that wishing for his freedom is not as simple as it would seem; many have tried, but the wish never quite works because the bigger the wish, the bigger the consequence. This explains nicely why Alice hadn't already freed him, negating the entire plot of the season.
The episode also delves deeper into Alice and Cyrus' romance. He tried to talk her out of it, explaining that people always decide they want the wishes, and, as soon as she does, their time will be over. Alice goes full throttle with her sweet nothings and counters with a firm "I have everything I could ever wish for if I have you" and they immediately kiss and plot to bury the lamp and secure Cyrus' freedom. The plan would have worked better if the yellow-bellied White Rabbit hadn't followed them to the oh-so-secret location of the lamp burial, priming him to later reveal it to the Red Queen.
Even more important (and impressive) than the wooing and the wishes, is sheer wickedness of Wonderland's villains. One of the original Once's greatest strengths is in its ambiguous villains. Wonderland decided to take the opposite track, imbuing its villains with a level of wickedness rarely seen in the family hour of primetime. Jafar uses what can only be compared to The Force to Jedi Cyrus' former master to death, Darth Vader style, choking him without actually laying a hand on him. He obliterates the Red Queen's entire court, reducing them to piles of dust in order to "clear her schedule" for lamp searching. He's not above torturing his captives, manipulating his allies and straight up killing anyone who gets in his way. It's nice to see the Red Queen standing up for herself, even if she is also a bad guy. She retrieves the lamp and keeps it to balance the power between Jafar and herself.
Did you tune in for the second episode of Wonderland? What did you think?