'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland': Oh No. The Flashbacks Begin
I've spent the last two weeks praising Once Upon a Time in Wonderland for boasting much cleaner storytelling than its predecessor, Once Upon a Time, but his week's installment, "Forget Me Not," might just make me eat my words (in fact, it practically comes as a little "eat me" cake, sent to make my fan feelings grow smaller).
Part of what let the original Once get so out of control, story-wise, was its flashbacks. By last season, episodes were often split between three timelines and the flashbacks, and while they were interesting, they became increasingly convoluted as the writers attempted to link all of the winding stories. Characters would double as multiple fairytale characters and cross-over freely between story worlds. Don't get me wrong: This is part of the series' charm. It's cool to see them work out how Rumpelstiltskin is also the crocodile and the beast. When the links work, they strengthen the overall plot. Unfortunately, Once has gotten a little hooked on that aha factor and those links aren't always what they once were. This is a rather long way of saying that I'm not totally into the idea that the Knave of Hearts is also one of Robin Hood's merry men.
Yep. In this week's episode, we learn via flashback that our lovable Knave began his journey in Sherwood Forest and worked for none other than Robin Hood — before he was kicked out of the "gang" for stealing (steal from the rich, but never from the hood).
Overall, I have to call week three a disappointment, which I really hate to do given my general fondness for this series, and the rumblings that ABC is going to call "off with its head" if ratings don't improve, STAT. Here's what I wasn't thrilled about:
1. The Knave's backstory. I'm more than happy to learn more about the Knave's backstory, but bringing in Robin Hood just complicates the story. The beauty of Wonderland was its decision to stick to the two worlds it established in the pilot (Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin, that is). It would have been a hard opportunity to pass up. He's a thief. It's Robin Hood. But I would have been much more interested in a Wonderland-based backstory myself. But cest la vie, right? In his other life, the Knave was named Will Scarlet and at least we learned more about that great love that's driving him.
2. The CGI. Another way Wonderland mimicked its mother show this week was in the bad CGI department. It over-extended itself. There was the caterpillar, the scenery and the bandersnatch. I would have rather seen one of these done well than all three shoddily packed into one episode.
3. Grendel. The episode's namesake comes from an artifact called the Forget Me Knot, which allows the owner to look back on a happier memory, a little like the mirror in Beauty and the Beast, but specializing in the past. Alice and the Knave are sent on a Wizard of Oz-style quest to retrieve it from Grendel, who stole it from the queen so he could relive the happier moments with his wife over and over. Grendel is a great makeup job, but little else. He does almost nothing as an antagonist or ally for the duo. In the end: Snooze.
Overall, I'm really hoping this was a one-time trip down the rabbit hole and not the direction to expect for the rest of Wonderland's run (which may be shorter than anticipated).
Image via ABC