Review Of The Series Premier Of ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND
A review of the first episode of the highly anticipated spinoff, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland which premiered last night.
Tonight was the premier of highly anticipated spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. I thought I'd give all the fans and first time viewers (as well as the curious) a review of the pilot.
This episode was titled "Down the Rabbit Hole." How fitting. Any rendition of Alice always begins her journey by going down a rabbit hole.
Plot: (Warning: SPOILERS!!!!!) The plot is fairly straightforward. After returning from Wonderland, a young Alice returns to her father who thought she was dead. When she spins her wondrous yarn, her father thinks he's lost her marbles. When she overhears her father conversing with a doctor (who obviously thinks she's bonkers), Alice determines to find proof that she's perfectly sane.
Some time later, an adult (or possibly teen, it's hard to determine) Alice returns to Wonderland to find the aforementioned proof (which turns out to be the White Rabbit), only to get involved into an unseen mishap. While hiding from the Queen of Hearts' guards (in a reference to the parent series), Alice meets a genie named Cyrus. The two go on many adventures (unseen but mentioned). Sometime among their journeys, the two fall in love.
However, in true fairy tale format, their love is tested when the Red Queen (NOT the Queen of Hearts- I'll differentiate later in the article) comes for Cyrus. After a brief skirmish, the Red Queen pushes Cyrus off a cliff, destroying the two lovers.
Alice returns to her time and realm (Victorian London) some time later. She has been confined to a mental hospital because of her "delusions."
Meanwhile, in present day Storybrooke Maine (another nod to the parent series), a young man shelters himself from a storm in a coffee shop. His solitude is interrupted by the White Rabbit who tell him Alice needs his help.
On the eve of a surgery that will allow her to forgot all about Wonderland, Alice is visited by this mysterious man who is revealed to be the Knave of Hearts. At first, she refuses to believe he's real until he says "he's alive!" Alice's demeanor changes and she goes from damaged girl to ass kicking heroine. She and the Knave meet up with the White Rabbit who "digs a hole" to Wonderland. NOTE: the Knave's reluctance.
More determined than ever to find Cyrus, Alice follows the Rabbit's advice and seeks out Cyrus at the Mad Hatter's old house. (Yet another reference to the parent series. The Mad Hatter was played by Sebastian Stan, who comic book fans will recognize as Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger and will reprise his role in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
As it turns out, the Rabbit is actually working for the Red Queen, and he lured Alice back at the Queen's behest. Then there's another twist. At this point, the episode makes its first non-Alice reference. The Red Queen is working with a sorcerer named Jafar (of Aladdin fame). The lured Alice back for the role she has in their yet unknown plans.
While on her way to the Hatter's, Alice has a nasty run in with the Cheshire Cat, who sees her this time around as a tasty morsel. With the Knave's help, Alice manages to escape the cat's appetite. Continuing their journey, Alice sees a wanting poster of the Knave, who admits he parted Wonderland on bad terms.
They finally manage to reach the Hatter's, only to find it empty. The Knave is all too happy to convince Alice to give up and return home. But the girl finds Cyrus' necklace. With new hope in her heart, Alice sets out with the Knave and the Rabbit to search for her beloved Genie.
In a predictable twist, it is revealed Cyrus is alive. Flashbacks show Jafar prevented his demise and is holding him prisoner. Whether he's doing this on the Queen's orders or for his own nefarious purposes is unknown.
Rating the plot: The formula is predictable, but there's something about it that's enjoyable. In concept, I give the plot a 5.1/10 for predictability. In execution, I give it a 7.6/10.
Episode setup: From the beginning, the episode tries to set itself apart from its parent series. The setup of the original Once Upon a Time is that each episode presents two plots. The modern day, and a flashback which usually ties to the episode. While there was a flashback, it's not its own plot. It merely serves to set up what happened before the episode begins.
I give the setup of the 8.0/10 because the plot was fluid and clear. It wasn't confusing.
Effects: Once Upon a Time is a show that relies on heavily on special effects. It's spinoff is no different. However, unlike the parent series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland had slightly less enchanting effects.
The CG and effects ranged from ugh! (The Mallow Marsh that Alice and the Knave first arrive in, and many background shots) to meh (the Cheshire Cat) to good (Jafar flying away on his carpet) to stunning (The White rabbit and his interdimensional holes).
I give the effects 6.2/10 because while some are good, many of them need a bit of improvement.
Performances: Well for this one, I have to rate them individually.
Sophie Lowe as Alice: In the first few minutes of her on screen performance, Lowe already distances herself and her character from the OUaT frontrunner, Jennifer Morrison. Lowe demonstrates a versatility and range that Morrison has yet to show. Don't get me wrong, Morrison is a good actress, but she needs improvement. While her performance is not perfect, Lowe is amazing at bringing out both the strong woman and the fragile girl in Alice.
Lowe's performance: 8.0/10
Peter Gadiot as Cyrus: There wasn't much of Gadiot to watch. But what I did see of him, it wasn't pleasant. First off, he's a pretty boy. And the pretty people are usually talentless (Megan Fox). Gadiot wasn't bad, but he wasn't all that watchable either. He was just so sickly sweet in his performance. Like I said, I haven't see much of Gadiot tonight, but if we do see more of him (which is inevitable), I hope he's better than what he gave us tonight.
Gadiot's performance: 3.0/10
Michael Socha as the Knave of Hearts: Socha was very meh as the Knave. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't extraordinary either. His overuse of the phrase, "bloody hell" reminded me of Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter franchise. And then there's the subject of the Knave's desire to depart from Wonderland. You get the idea that he did something horrible, or that he has this dark past. Socha's performance didn't give me that idea. It seemed like he was more aggrivated or annoyed to be back in Wonderland than genuinely afraid.
Socha's performance: 5.8/10
Jonny Coyne as Dr. Ludgate: Despite how he's presented in the previews,Dr. Ludgate surprisingly doesn't come off as a cold-hearted doctor. While he has an icy personality and terrible bedside manner, Coyne gives us a character who genuinely cares about Alice's well being. And the scene they shared together at the beginning of the episode was so intense, and it was great how Coyne and Lowe played off each other.
Coyne's performance: 8.2/10
John Lithgow as the voice of the White Rabbit: I'll be honest, I kind of expected Lithgow to be sort of laid back and relaxed over the years given his recent absence from the spotlight (Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the first thing I've seen him in in a long time), but I was blown away. He was the jittery, punctual white rabbit from Lewis Carrol's novel, and it was enjoyable to watch.
Lithgow's performance: 10/10
Keith David as the voice of the Cheshire Cat: This was another pleasantly surprising performance. Part of which was the way David did his voice. Keith David is known for his deep dark baritone voice. And his voice-over for the Chesire Cat was higher in pitch than his normal voice and it was also ...lighter. However, it was still threatening and terrifying.
David's performance: 10/10
Emma Rigby as the Red Queen: First off, I feel I should clarify that the Red Queen is NOT the Queen of Hearts. In the narrative of Once Upon a Time, the Queen of Hearts was Regina's (the Evil Queen from Snow White) mother Cora (played brilliantly and devilishly by Barbara Hershey). The Red Queen is a different character.
Rigby was brilliant as the tyrannical Red Queen. She was the kind of villain who was deliciously evil and wasn't sorry about it, the way villains used to be before everyone wanted a backstory and tragedy to make the villains more human. You don't get that sense from Rigby's Queen. You also see a woman who wants total power and will do anything to get it.
Rigby's performance: 8.8/10
Naveen Andrews as Jafar: Finally, my favorite performance of the night. Naveen's Jafar may play the second fiddle to the Red Queen, but he's the one pulling all the strings. Rigby and Andrews have a great on screen chemistry as well. Like Rigby's Red Queen, Naveen's Jafar is mercilessly evil and there isn't anything sad or tragic about him. I liked his performance more than Rigby's because I felt he was a little more subtle, and a lot more threatening.
Naveen's performance: 9.0/10
The Verdict: Despite all its shortcomings, the show is decent. The pilot is always a difficult episode because it has the taske of getting the show off the ground. However, at this point, the show has no where to go but up. If you are a fan of the parent series Once Upon a Time, then this spinoff is definitely for you. It's also for people who are into the fantasy genre. If you're curious about the show and have never seen the original, give it a shot and form your own opinion.
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