Read our thoughts on ABC’s ‘Wonder’-ful new series, then give us your review: Did you enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole?
To say that Once Upon A Time In Wonderland is merely a spin-off of ABC’s Sunday night staple would be an understatement. This show is Once Upon A Time on steroids, as evidenced by the Oct. 10 series premiere, which not only introduced us to Alice (Sophie Lowe), but also showed her grow up, fall in love, lose her love, lose her mind, find her mind and embark on a quest to find her love again — all in the first episode.
It’s a lot to handle, I know, so let’s take the premiere piece-by-piece and figure it out together.
Down The Rabbit Hole We Go
We first met Alice as a young girl, fresh off her original trip to Wonderland. It was pretty much where the Disney movie left off, and it turns out there’s a reason Mickey Mouse never gifted us with a sequel: When Alice told everybody what she’d seen — a stoner caterpillar, a queen with a penchant for chopping off heads, etc. — they declared her a nut-job and shipped her off to an insane asylum!
Enter the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow), who helped our heroine return to the psychedelic fantasy land once again. This time around, she met a dreamy genie named Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), and the two instantly fell in love. Unfortunately, not everyone was eager to celebrate their magical connection, namely the Red Queen (Emma Rigby), who’s essentially Wonderland‘s answer to Once‘s Regina — only with way more duck-face.
Anyhoo, Queen Duck Face made it her personal mission to separate Alice from her one true love, sending Cyrus flying off a cliff to his death… or so we thought! Following Alice’s return to the human world — yeah, there was a lot of world-jumping — she was greeted by the White Rabbit and the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha), who informed her that Cyrus is actually alive.
This inspired Alice, with the rabbit and the dreamy knave in tow, to return to Wonderland for the ___th time. (Yes, I intentionally left that blank because I completely lost count at this point.)
So Close, Yet So Jafar
This wouldn’t be a Once Upon A Time spin-off without a few other-worldly characters popping in to say hi — or in this case, popping in to say, “die!” Aladdin‘s mustachio’d villain Jafar (Naveen Andrews) also made his presence known on the Wonderland pilot, doing some dirty dealing with Queen Duck Face.
Apparently Jafar was putting pressure on the Queen to make Alice use up all her wishes, thereby releasing Cyrus from her charge and enabling Jafar to gobble up the genie’s wishes all for himself. Little did we know that when Cyrus was knocked off the cliff — seemingly to his death — Jafar actually nabbed him, and he’s now being held prisoner in Jafar’s lair… which is, for some reason, also in Wonderland.
For long-time fans of Once Upon A Time, how great was it to see Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) and Cinderella (Jessy Schram) during the Knave of Heart’s brief romp through Storybrooke? Not only was it nice just to see a few familiar faces, but it really helped to remind us that — despite all the new characters being introduced — this was happening in the same universe as the show we’ve been obsessing over for two seasons.
I will admit I was a little bummed that we didn’t see Sebastian Stan as the Mad Hatter, but we all know he’s really busy — the executive producers recently mentioned he had to film a little movie called Captain America: The Winter Soldier — and it was nice that they at least mentioned his character. And it goes without saying that I’m thrilled they didn’t recast him.
As for all the regular Disney fans, even those who have never seen the spin-off’s parent series, don’t tell me you didn’t light up — at least a little bit — at the mention of Agrabah, or at the sight of the Flying Carpet. (Now if only they’d take my suggestion and cast Avan Jogia as Aladdin, we’d be all set.)
WATCH: ‘Once Upon A Time In Wonderland’ Trailer
— Andy Swift