Saturday, December 7, 2013

Once Upon a Time In Wonderland, Season 1, Episode 7: Bad Blood

Flashback start – Agrabah, many many years ago and Jafar as a boy stands by his mother’s deathbed. She’s dying and even as a healer she can’t stop it – she tells him to go to the palace, to the Sultan, his real father who will take him in. As proof she gives him a ring to return to the Sultan

To the present and adult Jafar (wearing the ring) is speaking with Alice’s father talking about how well cared for and wonderful Alice is – oh and here’s a white Rabbit. Yes, he shows the White Rabbit to Alice’s dad who, surprisingly, doesn’t have an instant “ALICE WAS TELLING THE TRUTH!” moment. He gets the rabbit to portal him to Wonderland and plans to use her father to “talk sense” into Alice and leave the dangers of Wonderland. Plan is somewhat scuppered by her father telling Jafar that she’s probably not going to listen to him since he never believed in her.

Alice and the Knave are approaching Jafar’s tower and Knave is desperately trying to get Alice to make some kind of plan or strategy but she doesn’t need any of that – which is when that she sees that Jafar’s tower is on a giant, floating island. Time to take an inventory of their resources (not much – and Knave still has the key to Grannie’s he stole – yes she is going to be pissed about that) finding little – but they do hear an odd chirping. It’s not, as Knave thinks, “a bird”, but a birdbark tree. Yes a tree that chirps, it’s Wonderland, anything goes – and it’s wood is lighter than air.

At the Red Queen’s, she’s looking for the genie because he couldn’t have just disappeared (well, as her Tweedle says, isn’t that what Genies do>?) she expositions about how she has the upper hand over Jafar – and he appears behind her. She gets to break the news about the genie escaping and he turns to order the guards – she stops him. They’re her men. They answer to her and she’s already given them their orders.

Jafar storms back to his tower and tries to question the old prisoner - who is not co-operative. He also has Alice’s father tied to a chair and draws blood from him. He mixes it into a potion and keeps asking questions her father refuses to answer – like whether he’s right or left handed. Jafar tells him he’s going to steal Alice’s blood and lets her father good – he tries to punch Jafar and gets put back in his seat (confirming that he’s left handed. Very efficient).

Flashback! Jafar is taken to the palace of the Sultan for thieving – apparently he tried to steal the dagger of one of the guards which is… not very sensible. The Sultan informs him the law says he has to have his hand cut off and Jafar holds up his hand with the ring. He arranged the theft to be taken to the Sultan – who offers his condolences. But he has a son – an heir – and has no wish for another or competition. But he will take Jafar in as a servant – and not to call him father.

Back to the present and Jafar watches Alice and Knave argue about creating a basket to fly up to the island before drinking his potion – he turns into Alice’s father. He gives her the excuse that he went looking for her and found a full length mirror that led him to Wonderland (which seems credible because Knave and Red Queen entered Wonderland through a mirror as well) and how curious it all seemed (love that little shout out). While talking he cleans his glasses and Alice notices (he does it right handedly). Alice isn’t interested in her father’s redemption – a father who always treated her as something to tolerate – like the creaky step in the hall – not a daughter. It’s too little, too late.

It strikes a nerve and gives us a flashback – of Jafar serving at a meeting with merchants and the Sultan and the Sultan’s son being tested and not remembering his lessons. Jafar speaks up with the answer and the Sultan quickly brushes over the faux pas (“the servants are educated, but not discreet) – and shoos him from the room. Later the young prince hits Jafar, hitting him, demanding he lower his eyes and say how low he is. The Sultan arrives and approves – urging him to hit Jafar more; to be Sultan one day, he must be feared.

In the present Fake!father talks to Knave about Alice and Kave tells him it takes time to heal a rift, that Alice will always help people who are hurting – it’s in her nature. Advice Knave makes clear is not for the father – who he thinks has been an awful person – but for Alice, since him stepping up and actually acting like a decent father may make Alice happy. Alice asks Knave about the conversation and whether she should forgive her father – Knave says no, but she will anyway because it’s the “right thing to do.”

The disguised Jafar casts a spell – and a dragon arrives. They ducks it’s flame for a while but when it goes for her father, Alice attacks it and slays it with a single blow from her sword. They don’t make dragons like they used to. Her fake!father’s peril brings down the barriers between them

Agrabah flashback – and the Sultan drowns Jafar and has his unconscious body thrown out with the rubbish (if he had guards for body disposal, I’m surprised he didn’t have them do the drowning – delegation and all that).

In the present, Alice’s real father is in a cage next to the old prisoner - and saying grace over his food to which the old prisoner comments with a wry “I hope your gods have better hearing than mine.” They learn about each other and Cyrus and generally recap.

In the present, everyone’s all friends and Alice makes an excuse for her and Knave to step aside from the fire: Alice knows something’s up. They’ve just eaten and her father hasn’t said grace – this isn’t her father

We have a flashback of Jafar waking in the junk pile, possibly aided by his dead mother – while present Jafar checks on Alice’s real father.

Alice apologises to Will for letting her guard down and wanting to believe it were true – and Jafar, holding her father, flies in on a magic carpet. He holds her father over the cliff and threatens to drop him if she doesn’t use a wish. She sneers that he needs a new trick and doesn’t believe the man is her father (oh Jafar, your imposter act has backfired). Only her real father actually has a real confession of guilt for he, an actual, real apology – and he doesn’t want her mercy, compassion or help – he wants to give her hope. He tells her Cyrus has escaped – and Jafar drops him off the cliff. Alice wishes him back home (wouldn’t it be hilarious if he teleports back home still falling at the same speed he was when he vanished?)

Jafar leaves, all smug. But Alice has had her father believe her and knows Cyrus is free. She considers it a victory. But Knave reminds her, wishes come with a cost (like your father being splattered over his living room).

In England. Her father wakes in his chair, all confused – he and his wife decide he must have dozed off and had a very vivid dream.

Jafar confronts the old prisoner and we have a flashback – an old Jafar attacking the palace, knocking the guards aside with his magic while we hear screaming in the background. The old prisoner is the Sultan, Jafar’s father (anyone not predict this?). The prince arrives and Jafar offers to fight him for their father’s life – the prince turns and runs and Jafar kills him. Jafar points out he had been willing to die for his father, but the prince wouldn’t fight for him – the Sultan, again, refuses to acknowledge Jafar as his son – even when Jafar threatens him with unending pain.

And in the present it seems this is Jafar’s ultimate goal, change the laws of magic so he can make his father love him. The prisoner responds by throwing himself down the pit – only to be caught by Jafar’s magic carpet.

Can we get away from this Disney depiction of the Middle East as a savage and barbaric place? In Wonderland we see… well, wonders, even if it is frightening and terrifying. In Agrabah we do not – we see cruelty and evil – sorceress causing market traders to hide, cruel blacksmiths, draconian laws – and no wonders.

One wish Alice “I wish Jafar can never again use magic in any way shape or form”.  Just saying

We do have some texture to Jafar’s ambition – making his father love him. It’s tragic and more human… but… really? I think I could almost respect “MUAHAHAH! BECAUSE I WILL BE THE MOST POWERFUL ONE OF THEM ALL!” or even “I WILL REDUCE HIS KINGDOM TO ASH!” more than “waaah I have epic daddy issues” as motivation..