Saturday, November 23, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Season 1, Episode 6: Who's Alice

The White Rabbit has dug his portal to Jafar so he can find someone Alice cares about – and he emerges in London. Old timey London anyway. He asks a witness to this emerging from the ground with an animated bunny the direction to Bethlem – after a moment of stuttering, good manners takes over and the man gives Jafar directions. Followed by Jafar assaulting him for his clothes.

Jafar, newly attired arrives in Bethlem posing as a doctor to consult with Dr. Lydgate – Alice’s doctor. He brings up Alice and Dr. Lydgate claims ignorance and becomes agitated (since he saw a lot when Alice escaped) and he certainly wishes to deny seeing a talking rabbit. Especially when Jafar opens his bag and shows him – the White Rabbit. Poor Dr. Lydgate, he’s tried so hard to deny the impossible. Jafar wants to know everything Dr. Lydgate knows about Alice – and as a man trained to get inside heads, that should be a lot.

In Wonderland, the Red Queen arrives at Jafar’s tower to find everyone gone – the guards, Jafar and the genie. Only the other prisoner remains – she batters him around a bit to get him to talk and he claims that Jafar took Cyrus with him. The Red Queen is no fool, Cyrus’s cage has been cut open, Jafar would have opened the door. Thwarted in his lies, the prisoner resorts to sappiness – Cyrus has the power of True Love! The greatest power of all….. Yeah, I kind of think a 12 gauge could make pretty short work of even the truest love, personally.

Cyrus has climbed down the tower and uses his genie powers to hone in on Alice’s necklace – and heads towards her. Alice, of course, isn’t standing still and is making her way towards the tower though is accosted by two bandits who exposition that she’s heading for the Black Forest before she beats them both up.

We flash back to a year before in Victorian England with Alice returning from Wonderland crying over having lost Cyrus. She is found by a little girl called Millie and her father, who is rather shocked to see her. Shocked to see her alive as well after years of her absence – while she’s been gone he has remarried and Millie is her new little sister.

Present! And Alice enters the Black Forest, walking past numerous warning signs and remarking “seems like an awful waste of wood when one sign would do.” This may be the most perfect line ever and had me cackling for quite a long time afterwards. She comes to a wall of liquid darkness that ripples like water when she touches it – she goes through.

Poor Knave staggers around until he finds someone to borrow water from (he says he’s been stoned, the old man remarks that he has been at the wrong stuff. This episode is really hitting the one liners). He runs into the two bandits Alice just beat up and they direct him towards the Black Forest.

Alice, walking through the Black Forest, grows increasingly more nervous and afraid, surrounded by ominous sounds – until her torch gutters and go outs. But the blackness is pierced by a bright, white light. Think it’s the exit, Alice runs towards it and emerges into a beautiful flowered grove filled with purple scents. There is the Carpenter who tells her she’s in the Borrow Grove. He encourages her to stay in the beautiful grove and bask in the sun – she becomes very confused trying to think of a reason why she shouldn’t. She forgets, drops her sword and is mesmerised by the beautiful grove.

Flashback to when Alice returned to her father – and her father’s new wife isn’t pleased with Alice hanging around and pushes her father to ask how long she’s staying. When she says forever he worries what influence she will have, with her talk of genies and Wonderland, on Millie and tells her to forget all about it. She points out he did the same with memories of her and her mother but he doesn’t get angry and just tells her he carried around a lot of painful memories and let them go so he could be happy again. He asks her to at least pretend and try to fit in to stay in his home.

To the present and the Queen is following Cyrus’s trail, followed by one of her servants (a Tweedle) who is scandalised at her outfit (she has dispensed with the long skirts for the sake of movement). She hits him for his presumption and refuses to be underestimated – she wasn’t always Queen, she knows how to get her hands dirty. She wants to catch the genie and the bottle – giving her all the cards and Jafar nothing.

The Knave finds the shiny grove where Alice is and is less impressed by the pretty colours and pleasant perfume. And is bemused and horrified by Alice taking off her necklace and turning it and her sword into a pretty flower arrangement – and by the Carpenter’s creepy grin.

FLASHBACK! And Alice tries so hard to fit in with her family, but her stepmother is already planning on having Alice married off and out of her hair and she’s already made plans, supported by Alice’s father of course. Stressed and horrified at the idea, Alice shatters her glass in her grip – she’s not ready to meet a new young man so soon after losing Cyrus.

In Wonderland, Cyrus cleverly dodges the guards chasing him. It works extremely well against the guards, but not against the Queen who is more intelligent and has magic. And Alice continues to happily prance around in the grove, fondling the trees. The Knave blames the Carpenter and confronts him, to find him nearly inert – and turning into a tree. Looking around he sees all the trees have faces embedded into the bark: the grove makes you want to stay then turns you into a tree. He hurries to Alice – who now no longer remembers her own name.

Flashback, and Alice’s ongoing nightmares are a problem to her family. Especially since Millie asks questions about them – including who Cyrus is who Alice keeps screaming out for and who she cannot forget.

Back to wonderland and Alice angrily attacks Knave when she tries to make her leave – she’s happy and doesn’t want to lose that. He tells her it’s fake happiness – and he can tell – when she returned his heart to him (it was literally ripped from his chest – Regina style I guess?) and he felt he didn’t use it properly after that and that he owes her (all very cryptic) so he has to help her – and grabs for her sword. She pushes him back and starts to become a tree. He tells her that she has to want a leave when it becomes apparently he can’t force her. But she says she finally found a home

Flashback! And Alice’s father and step-mother introduced her to the boy they have in mind over breakfast, springing him on her. Alice does not react well and storms out of the room. Her father chases her and demands she come back in and apologise; she refuses, he may have married someone he doesn’t love but she won’t (ouch). Her dad is outraged that she’d so such a thing, but Alice says she’s not like her mother and it’s apparent she’s struck bullseye. He tells her she can’t spend her life mourning (very true) but she counters that he spent her entire childhood in sadness, he took years to mourn, yet she is expected to move on in a few days! The crux is, her father doesn’t believe Cyrus was real. He suggests Bethlem and when she protests that she’s not insane and he should believe he asks believe what – the genie or the talking rabbit (y’know, put like that…)? She answers “me, you should believe in me.” She is forced to choose between a hospital or having her step-mother find her a husband.

Back to present and Knave presents Alice with another choice – stay and become a tree or be reunited with Cyrus. He picks up the necklace and tries to make her remember. He gives her her necklace and a wave of memories return to her and she comes back to her senses.

While Cyrus finds a cliff edge – nowhere further to go – just as the Red Queen closes in. Of course. And the camera pulls back and reveals that Jafar’s tower is actually floating above Wonderland on a floating island. It’s cliffs on every side.

Flashback! Alice goes to the hospital and her father and step-mother watch her go, her stepmother almost crowing with glee and reassuring her father that everything is good and right; even though Alice doesn’t even want her father to visit.

Back to the present and Alice feels all her troubles return which is extremely painful – but Knave is unhurt and untouched. She thanks him and he says it’s payment for getting him out of the statue – and they both realise that the Red Queen did it and she probably still has feelings for him. He says that she better not expect him to love her back because he can’t – he made sure of that. Cryptic comments like that won’t fly in front of Alice and she demands an explanation. Alice got his heart back for the Knave but he didn’t put it back in his chest, not wanting to feel the heartbreak from Anastasia/the Red Queen again.

On the island the Red Queen delivers the harsh lesson she learned last episode “the harsh reality is that sometimes love is not enough.” But he, seeing Alice’s necklace glow in the distance, jumps off the island

Flashback – or sideways – or who knows it’s time travel – to Victorian England and Jafar knocking on Alice’s father’s door.

Alice’s scenes with her father are complex and nuanced and many levelled. On the one hand, it is right to have faith in one’s loved ones – but being in denial about mental illness (and, let’s face it, if someone talked to any of us about talking rabbits and genies we would assume the same thing – and if we didn’t assume the same thing then that’s dubious) and deciding that should believe a loved one, no matter how fantastic what they say, no matter how ridiculous, just because they ARE a loved one is neither helpful nor sensible. At the flip side, especially in this period in history, shipping inconvenient, non-conformist female relatives to institutions was not unheard of. Especially since she’s committing that most grave of sins, not settling down into a nice, conformist, heterosexual union at the first possible opportunity.

And all of this could have been done without the old trope of the evil stepmother. You could even have the positive well meaning stepmother trying to marry her off because that is what the era says a young lady should do and a good, loving mother should help a young lady achieve.

There has been a few references to Alice helping the Knave get his heart back – I assume there’s a backstory coming up in a later episode.