Saturday, October 19, 2013

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 2: Trust Me

We start with a flashback, many years ago in Agrabah with Jaffar confronting a scarf-seller, Farseem Shamid in the marketplace. A man who, he points out, earns a very modest income but has wonderful trappings of wealth far beyond his means. Why, he has everything any man “could wish for”.  Shamid excuses himself to check his boiling kettle and quickly grabs the genie’s lamp (the source of his prosperity) in desperation and against Cyrus’s wishes, he uses his third wish to wish the genie gone – as far from Agrabah as the Earth from the Sun.

Jaffar is not happy. But he’s cool and stunningly menacing in his anger. And that is how Cyrus ended up in Wonderland.

To Wonderland present and Alice practicing her sword skills while the Knave of Hearts is witty and snarky. And snarky about Wonderland as well (Alice has a change of outfit thanks to the Clotheshorse. He wants a coffee horse). Alice has a plan. She knows where Cyrus’s bottle is so if she grabs the bottle and makes 3 minor wishes (big wishes tend to go Awry) then Cyrus will be drawn back to the bottle the minute Knave picks it up. Which does involve trusting Knave to free Cyrus.

The bottle is buried in the Mimsy Meadow under the town Tumtum tree (snark follows from Knave at those names). They decide to leave the Rabbit behind because he’s tired (or, as Knave puts it, Alice thinks he’s slowing them down) but he’s only pretending to sleep – he’s spying on them and listening to every word as a spy for the Red Queen.

At the Red Queen’s castle there’s a huge noisy crowd of desperate peasants with problems demanding her attention – and she announces that their problems bore her. Jafar also finds them annoying, as he freezes the whole room but the Queen. He thinks she’s weak trying to earn her people’s respect by listening to their problems and they both talk about how they’re not satisfied with what they have. The plan is, apparently, for Jaffar to use the genie’s bottle to change the laws of magic. He again demands she find the bottle and kills the waiting peasants “clearing her day” and backing it up with a not very subtle threat.

Later, the White Rabbit joins her, interrupting her beauty regime, with news of where the bottle is. He’s a very reluctant spy.

Alice and Knave continue through the forest and Knave broaches the possibility that maybe Cyrus has changed – after all, all these years with him alive and he hasn’t tried to get in touch with Alice at all. Alice is very touchy at the suggestion and says the Knave can’t possibly understand what they have (right that’s definite foreshadowing of a tragic love interest on his part). And they come to a lake to cross – and the Knave can’t swim, because he’s afraid of water. She refuses to walk round the Lake and insists they take the ferry (she has a very insistent face). Poor Knave. Awww he looks so woebegone, I wanna hug him.

They clap and summon a fairy, the fairy Silvermist. Who Knave greets as “Silv” and she promptly slaps him. Awww, now you make me wanna hug him more! She also reminds the Knave of his many enemies but she will take them across the lake because she’s a professional and she will do her job. And she’s not going to let feelings – old feelings she’s totally moved on from (ouch) – get in the way of that

Meanwhile, Cyrus is still in his cage with another prisoner in a neighbouring cage. Cyrus’s cage is made of silver because it burns genies (he has a burn on his arm from it) and stops him even thinking of escape. With sudden energy he starts to write a letter and we have a flashback

To Cyrus declaring Alice his mistress and giving her 3 wishes and the rules of them: he can’t kill anyone, can’t change the past, can’t raise the dead and can’t make anyone fall in love. She considers his freedom but he says it never goes well – every wish has a cost, the bigger the wish, the bigger the consequence.

They walk along together, time passes and they sit and talk in a cafĂ©. Cyrus is always on edge – worrying about Jafar or someone else claiming the genie. They talk about their homes being prisons and Cyrus’s many travels.

Back to Alice and half way across the lake, Silvermist drops Knave into it. Alice diving after him to save him from drowning. They come to shore on a very small, shell-looking island with Alice blaming Knave because he clearly deserved it. She blames him for breaking Silvermist’s heart but he snarks at how she shouldn’t have given it away and shows some very cynical opinions about love which, again, he turns on Alice’s love of Cyrus, saying she has no way of knowing if he really felt the same way.

Back in the Red Queen’s palace, the Queen again tries to make Jafar prove he can do what he claims. He freezes her with his magic, threatens her and terrifies her and makes it clear that they are not equal partners and he expects her to obey.

On the lake the curiously shell-like island turns out to be a shell of a turtle (surprised? I certainly wasn’t.) Which Alice promptly threatens into taking her to the shore while we have a flashback of Cyrus teaching Alice how to use a sword where it’s also emphasised how very intelligent Alice is and how her primary weapon isn’t her swordplay – but her smarts and creativity. She also disarms Cyrus with a kiss

In the present they get to the otherside where Silvermist laughs at the bounty on Knave’s head – he’s in deep to the Caterpillar – and talks about someone called Anastasia who used up the Knave’s heart. This clearly touches a nerve and he admits he doesn't’feel terrible for how he treated Silvermist because he doesn’t feel much of anything any more and adds that Silvermist was wrong to hurt Alice for his wrongdoing. Alice and Knave set off again and we have another flashback

Cyrus and Alice clearly in love and Cyrus asking Alice to make her wishes – because he’s falling in love and then it will hurt him even more to be separated from her. Alice says she doesn’t want to make any wishes – Cyrus is everything she wishes for. She promises never to move on from him if he never moves on from her and they decide to bury the lamp.

 Jafar on his carpet arrives at the tree, conjuring and army of bugs to find the bottle. Alice and Knave spy on him from a careful distance. She now knows what she’s up against – Jafar, because the bottle was never under the tree in the first place. That’s why she’s been so chatty about where she was heading because she knew she would be spied on by someone. Knave has a brief sadness that she didn’t trust him – but she says she does now.

They go to where the bottle is really buried –and find a hole. Someone has dug it up already. She thinks that maybe Knave is right, maybe Cyrus moved on. But Cyrus, in his prison, forces his arm painfully out of the bars holding the letter he wrote Alice – he releases an origami swan that flies away to find her.

A frustrated Jafar storms into the prison to demand Cyrus tell him where the bottle is. Cyrus refuses – and the Red Queen appears to say she has it. And she’s taken Jafar’s advice – earning respect doesn’t work. Taking respect does. She isn’t giving him the bottle – because Jafar has always held all the cards. Now Jafar has the genie and she has the bottle – and he can stop talking down to her as well.

Back in her own palace, she breaks her own promises to the White Rabbit and continues to threaten him. He knew where the bottle was really hidden because he saw Alice and Cyrus bury it in the first place.

Byt the fire that night, Alice succumbs to despair and brooding and the Knave apologises for even giving her the idea that Cyrus has moved on – and that he knows nothing. She asks about Anastasia and he calls it a tale of heartbreak but won’t say any more. Alice brings up her father – he loved her and he moved on as well.

Which is when Cyrus’s origami swan arrives. A love letter declaring his love for her and begging her to leave Wonderland because he can’t be saved and he’d hate for her to die for him. She sends the letter back with “I’m coming for you” written on it.

Another episode and much of what I said in episode 1 applies. I really like the characters (especially the Knave – poor Knave) and I think Alice and Cyrus have some excellent chemistry. The setting isn’t quite as trippy as I’d expect – it is Wonderland, go all out! But it’s still pretty shiny. I like the plot, I’m invested and I really love the characters (yes, especially the Knave. I may have said that before, I will be saying it again).

And I still have concerns about the white female protagonist (who is kick arse and awesome) facing off against an insidiously evil collection of Middle Eastern stereotypes – especially when the insidiously evil collection of Middle Eastern stereotypes is also creepy, abusive and, well, insidiously evil to his co-conspirator, the white, female Red Queen.