Another series from Lost creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a spin-off of OUAT. The promos don't keep the plot very hush hush, so I'll give you a synopsis for once (just this once…). Alice went on an adventure when she was a little girl; she fell down a rabbit hole and into Wonderland, and when she came home, her father, who had presumed her to be dead, was very concerned about where his little girl had been. For years she continued to tell him stories of caterpillars smoking hookahs and playing cards that come to life, but he could never get out of her where she really disappeared to. To make matters worse, she continued to disappear for long stretches of time throughout her adolescence, never ceasing to recount stories of her travels to Wonderland, even into adulthood. You can't really blame the guy for sending her to the loony bin.
I'm always more interested in these kinds of stories if there's a possibility that everything is happening in the crazy person's imagination. I'll just have to hold out for the next Shutter Island, because Once Upon a Time in Wonderland proposes a real fantasy land with real magic and real trouser-wearing rabbits.
I like Alice. She's spunky, occasionally has some of the childlike wonder of her storybook-self, and sometimes the naivety. Her heroism fits the character development of post-Jabberwocky Alice; she ought to be about as badass a warrior as Prince Charming or any of the rest of them.
We do get to see a little bit of Storybrook in the pilot, a few familiar friends (Grumpy and Cinderella). You think the Knave of Hearts is up to something breaking into Granny's diner, but really he just wants to steal a cup of coffee really badly. Oh wait, he paid for it…
The first time I watched it, I didn't catch John Lithgow saying, "she needs help from the Knave of Hearts," and I spent the whole episode wondering who this thief character was supposed to be — and I liked it better that way. One thing Once Upon a Time has stumbled onto accidentally a few times, at least for me, is keeping things hidden unintentionally in a way that improves the show. For example, in season 1 it felt like they assumed that the audience would know that Regina had her memories from her life in the enchanted forest; there's no sudden reveal of that, it just becomes clearer as time goes on, but I assumed she didn't know, which made the show all the more interesting from my (mistaken) point of view.
I'm certainly worried there won't be enough of a real-world connection through the rest of the show for me. What I've always liked about OUAT is the mash-up between contemporary life and the fairy-tale world.
As much as I will always and forever love Lost's Sayid, I will never be able to see Naveen Andrews as Jafar. I mean, look at him. Does he look like Jafar? Not even a little bit.
The cast are a bunch of unknowns: Sophie Lowe as Alice, Michael Socha as the Knave of Hearts, Peter Gadiot as Cyrus. Emma Rigby simmers as the Red Queen. I guess she's the queen of diamonds if Cora is the queen of hearts. In the pilot these nobodies prove themselves worthy additions to the OUAT crew. OUAT in Wonderland is better than I expected so far. That's because I expected some degree of awfulness, especially as the spin-off tries to gain its feet, but instead it was fairly consistent quality and completely enjoyable. But if you know me, you know I'll find a nitpick somewhere.
And here it is: OUAT in Wonderland is inconsistent with the expectations we've formed from OUAT. On OUAT, in season 1, none of the characters know they are Snow White or Prince Charming, Geppetto, the huntsman, Doctor Frankenstein or Jimminy Cricket, but they know all of the stories. The fairytales exist in the "real world." In OUAT in Wonderland, the situation isn't made as clear, but this is what I can gather: Alice knows who she is, but nobody seems familiar with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It's not that she realizes she's a storybook character, she just is that character, and the story doesn't seem to exist. Indeed, in the insane asylum her jailers don't accuse her for being insane because she thinks she's Alice from Alice in Wonderland, they accuse her of being insane for believing she has been to Wonderland, period. There's no mention of Carroll.
I doubt this will ever or can ever be addressed, but there you have it. I'll try not to let it ruin my enjoyment of the new series, but it is some food for thought. And hey, let me know if I've missed something or got it wrong. Drop me a comment!