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Once... in Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole

“...because a pond made out of dessert topping makes perfect sense.”

Two years ago we started a journey that was centralized around the one main goal of breaking the Evil Queen’s curse. Now, since that story has evolved and developed into something more complex, we start a new one, a fruition of that growing and evolving world. Wonderland’s opening episode isn’t as streamlined as its parent series’ phenomenal debut, but it boasts the same appeal and kookiness that drew me in back then.

Of course, those looking for something a bit grimmer than Once Upon a Time will probably be a bit disappointed. There were a number of hints at the show crossing over into a more deadly and disturbing world - with Alice’s time in the asylum and her proposed “procedure”- but those opportunities were forgone in favor of something a bit more fantasized and camp.

That’s not to say that this show is all about mallow ponds and talking cats. The central plot revolving around Alice’s lost love Cyrus bears all the same angst and lovelorn tendencies that we grew accustomed to during Once’s opening stretch. So far, I’m not all that taken in by it, since his and Alice’s shared screen time was limited, but the chemistry was definitely there.

There was an altogether different chemistry between Alice and her second male companion, the Knave, who is by far the show’s strongest character, and the main source of the show’s wit and charm. I’m actually all for him being the show’s big male lead. Where the producers decide to take his character will be important in keeping viewers invested in all of the absurdity and wacky CGI, too, considering how self aware his dialogue is.

Though Sophie Lowe is likable and relatable and John Lithgow was a fun choice for the rabbit, the rest of the cast don’t jump out of the screen. The Red Queen is weaker than I would have liked her to be, which is unfortunate considering how much attention Regina commands in Once. As for Jafar, Naveen Andrews was fairly wooden and standard, giving us next to nothing to work with alongside someone as bright and over the top as Robert Carlyle.

One of the most common fears of this series is that there won’t be much to fuel things week-to-week, but there was enough sly references to past indiscretions being thrown around to negate that worry for me. Personally, I think the show needs to work overtime justifying its existence outside of Once’s umbrella, but aside from the understandable side effect of having to fluff out an already completed 20 minute pilot, I’m perfectly happy to stick around Wonderland indefinitely.

3.5 out of 5 smoking caterpillars


I liked the Storybrooke cameos, but I’m a little confused by this show’s timeline. Alice was alive in Victorian times, yet the Knave was around in modern day Storybrooke?

I like how British the cast is.

He Said, She Said

White Rabbit: “You’re late. What a surprise.”
Alice: “To you, everybody’s late.”

Alice: “Careful Knave, we’ve landed in the mallow marsh.”
Knave: “Of course we did. Because a pond made out of dessert topping makes perfect sense.”

Alice: “When you really love someone, you don’t need proof. You can feel it.”

Originally posted at PandaTV.


  1. Great review, Panda, and I totally agree with your points. I'm a big Alice fan -- it's probably my favorite book in the world -- and I liked some stuff about this pilot. I mostly liked that the story was based around one person and one place (or maybe two), instead of an ensemble. I liked the actress who plays Alice, and you're right that the Knave might be even stronger -- I liked him a lot, too. But the Queen was particularly weak, and Naveen Andrews came across as somewhat wooden. He was my favorite actor in Lost, though, so I'm hoping for good things from him.

    I also thought that the story was a bit more juvenile than I'd hoped. I want darker. But the show definitely has potential.

  2. That was painful, to say the least. I'm not talking about Queen and Jafar — they are so one-dimensional they can actually get away with it. The good guys were OK on average — Alice a bit better, Knave a bit worse, Rabbit quite good, but not completely a good guy. Story was lame, but that can be tolerated if they promise to advance it. But something was really really bad. It's stunts.

    I mean, I don't say that good stunts are a requirement. "12 Angry Men" don't use any stunts, and it's one of the greatest movies in the world. But if stunts are here, they have to be good, or at least decent. If a character falls down, xe better hit the floor pretty hard. Even I can fall down in a believable fashion, and I'm no actor. If there is a fight — it doesn't have to be all kung-fu a la Matrix, but at least some real punches are required. Et cetera.

    I'll try the next episode, but I'm very close to dropping this series.

  3. It struck me as very uneven. It went from "This show is awesome" (Alice ass-kicking her way out of the asylum) to "This show is ridiculous." (Bouncing on marshmallow). Plus the acting seemed weak and the CGI work was even worse than regular OUAT. I may head back down the rabbit hole from time to time, but it won't be a weekly visit...

  4. I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland and am waning on Once Upon a Time so I went into this show with fairly low expectations. On the whole, they were met.

    I really like the Knave and thought he was, by far, the strongest character. The others, not so much. The CGI was laughable and the story was so what.

    Not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but I don't see this becoming a weekly event.

  5. I love Alice in Wonderland..this was just kinda ok..Naveen Andrews can and hopefully will do better..for some reason his hair looked odd. The red queen just isn't happening..She's no Regina that's for sure.
    The Knave was adorable..so glad to see Tom Socha after Being Human got cancelled. Alice herself was good. I would prefer for her and the Knave to be an item..
    The cgi looked silly but I'll be back.

  6. I meant Michael Socha..gah. Tom was his name in Being Human.

  7. Agreed with the unevenness of it all, it was a little scattered, but Seeing as how this was built off a 20 minute pilot with extra scenes added in, I'm trying to be a bit more understanding of that.

    I'm glad that everyone is liking the Knave, too. :)

  8. Not convinced, but liked it enough to give it a second or third chance. Liked Alice and the Knave a lot! Specially his winks to "our" world (comments, asides etc.). But I really hope people don't start 'shipping them! I like the idea of them just being friends!!!


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