Saturday, December 14, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: Season 1, Episode 8: Home

Start with a flashback – Alice and Cyrus being all sweet and loving under the stars when her groping hands find a compass. It’s a memento of Cyrus’s mother – his human mother. Cyrus wasn’t always a genie and the compass points to his mother – as to whether that mother is alive or not, well, it stopped pointing some time ago.

All this sad and sweet musing is interrupted by men with swords wanting to catch themselves a genie who make the silly mistake of ignoring Alice. One nifty sword fight later and the swordsmen run – but Alice is injured and collapses.

In the present Alice and Knave watch the guards searching for Cyrus – which Knave calls good news because it means they haven’t found him yet. Alice thinks there’s one place Cyrus would go to be safe.

Switch to Cyrus running through the woods – and being hoisted up into the canopy by a trap. While he struggles, one of the Red Queen’s Tweedles hears the genie’s struggles through the grapevine (and then thanks said vine). But while going to report the fact to the Red Queen he sees one of his fellow Tweedles acting oddly – he follows the other and finds him meeting with Jafar, handing over something he stole from the Queen.

He hurries to report everything to the Queen, including his brother’s betrayal, then runs before she kills the messenger. Jafar has stolen the genie’s bottle.

Over to Alice and Knave and they’re heading towards the Outlands, the safe place (apparently absolutely miles away from everywhere). But first she wants to visit the White Rabbit – something Knave finds ridiculous since the Rabbit betrayed them. But Alice thinks they need to leave Wonderland to be safe, for which they need the Rabbit, besides she and the Rabbit were once good friends, there has to be a reason for his betrayal.

Flashback to Cyrus hurrying the injured Alice to the White Rabbit’s home where… Mrs. White Rabbit treats her wounds

Back to the present and the Red Queen collects Cyrus, telling him she’s taking him to his bottle. And Jafar gloats over having all three genie bottles together again before realising that the Red Queen is no fool. She’s switched Cyrus’s bottle for a fake.

Alice and Knave arrive at the Rabbit’s house and she’s surprised to find the grounds unkempt. They go into the house and talk to the Rabbit; he confesses his betrayal and how he cannot help them because the Queen has his family. They only solution is, of course, to rescue them – but that means finding them and the Rabbit has looked everywhere the Queen would hide something. Over to the Knave, he may not know where the Red Queen would hide things, but he knows where Anatasia would.

Switch to the Queen taking Cyrus to a long abandoned wagon, similar to a vardo; the wagon she and Knave lived in when they first came to Wonderland. Inside is Cyrus’s real bottle.

Back to the past and the White Rabbit, who has known Alice since she was a child, asks Cyrus if their being together is a good idea. Alice will heal but there will be a next time and a next. Yes it’s a very clichéd “if you truly love her, you’ll let her go for her own good” speech. How come no-one ever has the “if you truly love her – and respect her – you’ll let her decide whether she wants to take the risk or not” speech?

In the present, Jafar storms into the Red Queen’s palace in quite an epic strop and finds it empty – except a big red box. A present, addressed to him. Inside is the head of the Tweedle he co-opted, despite being decapitated the Tweedle tells Jafar she’s on to him. Jafar storms further into the palace – and finds one of the Queen’s hairs on her hairbrush. He flies from the palace, destroying it as he leaves.

The Queen and Cyrus notice the destroyed palace and Cyrus taunts her about how Jafar seems to be winning. But she wants him to tell her where Alice is – because either she finds her or Jafar will.

Flashback again and Cyrus goes to see the Caterpillar – where he offers his mother’s compass, the Lost and Found, if the Caterpillar will make him disappear so no-one can find him.

In the present, Knave leads Alice and the White Rabbit to the wagon. He has a sad trip down memory lane inside before finding the Rabbit’s family and returning them to the White Rabbit. From there to the Outlands!

Which is where the Red Queen and Cyrus are heading with Cyrus psychoanalysing the red Queen and all her deep, interesting wishes on the way, though she doesn’t open up and decide to share with her enemy.

Jafar casts his nefarious magic over the Red Queen’s hair, producing a black storm cloud. He takes it to the window and releases it with orders to find and kill the Queen.

Flashback - Cyrus talks to Alice about how dangerous their lives are and how Alice is at risk around him. She’s not impressed, she’s heard it before, she’s staying, she has made her choice. So Cyrus shows her what he got from the Caterpillar; an invisible tent, luxuriously appointed, where they can both disappear, together. It gives them somewhere safe to return to whenever they want

To the present and, yes, that is the safe place they’re all heading to. Alice finds the tent (Knave loves it) but Cyrus isn’t there. Alice has a bit of a freak out before Cyrus arrives outside – yes, they’re finally reunited! Yay they’re all together. Oh and the Red Queen’s there as well. But it’s ok, Cyrus says she’s there to help.


Alice is duly sceptical, but the Red Queen points to the lethal storm cloud approaching – Jafar is after all of them. The Red Queen explains she was working with him but as it became clear he was no longer playing by the rules she had second thoughts – of course Knave isn’t quick to trust her. Red Queen wants them to argue later – but now they need to dig and escape and tells Alcie to trust her – yeah because the Red Queen is so trusthworthy. Alice needs a reason – why did the Red Queen do all this?

Because it would get the Red Queen what she wanted – the Knave scoffs at that – she has everything. Except him, of course. She doesn’t have the Knave/Will. She wants him back. He doesn’t buy it, she had him and tossed it aside for a crown. She says she made a mistake – and her accent slips from her carefully constructed aristocratic accents back to the common accents of her origin. She wanted to change the laws of magic so she could change the past and undo what she did, she tearfully tells him she will give up everything to go back to when Will loves her. Will, especially Will without his heart, isn’t moved by her appeal. He rejects her.

The storm gets closer and the Red Queen changes track – don’t accept her apology but do accept her warning. They need to leave – they have the genie, the wishes and the bottle, Jafar will arrive soon, they have to run. Alice threatens to take the bottle from her at swordpoint and the Queen holds her with magic – but protests that they have no time to fight (the Red Queen’s acting here is excellent). Neither Alice nor Knave trust her – but Cyrus does. Alice tells the Rabbit to dig.

A lightning bolt hits the queen but she deflects it with the genie’s bottle – and it hits Knave. The bottle goes flying and the Queen rushes to the Knaves side as he lies, severely hurt by the bolt. Alice collapses – her first wish was “if the Knave dies then I die too”. Cyrus begs Alice to use her last wish to save herself but she refuses but Knave speaks up – that’s his wish. She promised him a wish if he helped her; he wishes to end Alice’s suffering (what?! That is the worst wish ever! At very least because it could be reinterpreted to have her killed since the dead don’t suffer! Or make her numb and emotionless, no suffering then!)

Thankfully by very very very very loose interpretation, the wish has not only saved Alice’s life but freed Cyrus, he’s no longer a genie (at the granting of the third wish, Cyrus would have been returned to his bottle which would have caused further suffering). But the Knave has disappeared – not died, disappeared.

The Knave wakes up inside the bottle. You free the genie, you become the genie. A bottle that fell into a river when the lightening bolt hit – and is now going over a waterfall.

The Red Queen is probably the most compelling character on this show. Her story, her past, her journey and the acting showing these different sides of her are really well done to create a very complex character.

That was the mid-season hiatus and I generally like the show – but I don’t love it. It has great moments and great concepts and really fun moments, but it never consistently shines. Alice is kind of fun and strong as a character but she’s also pretty flat – I don’t think that’s the actor’s fault nor even the character per se, but Cyrus and Alice are both pretty dull and been done before – with nothing really new except some extra swashbuckling added on top. Perhaps if Alice had continued to be kick arse and awesome like she was in the first episode with lots of craftiness and skills from her travels it would have, but she was just angry and frustrated and sad and prone to bouts of weepiness and beyond her sword skills didn’t have a lot to recommend them. I think it suffers further because the Knave and Red Queen ARE compelling characters with interesting histories and nuanced portrayals. The protagonists are overshadowed.

In terms of inclusion, it’s not great. Jafar is villainous and every depiction of Agrabah is of this cruel, exotic and brutal land with nothing good to recommend it. We have Cyrus, who may be a POC though he only became an active character in the latter episodes – perhaps if he continues to be a strong character and more involved in the future there is more hope.

We have some strong women – Alice, of course (though her entire motivation is dominated by a love interest) and the Red Queen (though her entire motivation is dominated by a love interest) and the capable Mrs. Rabbit (who exists to control her love interest) and Jafar’s mentor (who was manipulated and killed by her love interest)… at least we had Lizard, briefly (though even she may have been motivated by unrequited love for the Knave). I’m not saying these characters are wrong, because they’re not – they’ve all got a number of strengths and qualities – but there’s a lot of their stories that are overshadowed by their love interests – making their primary purpose or overwhelming (or only!) motive.

There are no GBLT characters – in another broad cast and not even a token attempt at inclusion.