Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole has interesting start

Oct. 14, 2013

April Wefler
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4/5 stars

Wonderland’s Alice is in love with a genie. The Red Queen is teaming up with Jafar. The Knave of Hearts is interacting with Snow White’s Grumpy.

Fans of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” – or of times in general when fairytales collide – are sure to enjoy “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.”

Similar to the pilot of its predecessor, the show – which aired Oct. 10 – opens with the words “once upon a time.” The camera pans along an abandoned tea party and its stuffed animal attendees.

Suddenly, there is an explosion from the ground and a young blonde girl in her traditional Disney costume tumbles out. Alice murmurs a single word, “home,” and starts running, screaming for her father.

When she arrives home and her father opens the door, he is shocked to see her. He doesn’t believe her when she tries to tell him where she’s been and when he starts going to various doctors about Alice’s lies, Alice declares she is not lying and she will prove it.

The next scene is set in modern-day Storybrooke, the real-world home of “Once Upon a Time.” Leroy, a recurring character on “Once Upon a Time,” and Ashley, a character that was only in two episodes, close Granny’s Diner and warn a passerby (Michael Socha) of the oncoming storm.

The passerby enters Granny’s and is greeted by the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow), who reminds him that he is the Knave of Hearts and the only person who can help Alice.

The show then transitions to an older brunette Alice (Sophie Lowe), who is brought before a panel of psychiatrists at Bethlem Asylum. She attempts to deny she no longer believes her adventures in Wonderland while inwardly reminiscing about her lost genie love, Cyrus (Peter Gadiot).

“You know, when you really love someone, you don’t need proof. You can feel it,” says the genie in Alice’s memories.

Tears dripping down her face, Alice consents to a procedure to remove her painful memories. Before the procedure, the Knave breaks into the asylum, and it is here where the non-flashback action begins.

However, while Alice is feisty and strong, the Knave is the best part of the show. With his skepticism, sardonic remarks and repeated use of “bloody,” he creates comedy in an otherwise dark show.

In one scene, the White Rabbit informs Alice and the Knave that the Doormouse saw Cyrus alive.

“So we came all this way on the word of a narcoleptic rodent?” scoffs the Knave.

The audience is re-introduced to other classic Wonderland characters, such as the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, a rather large Chesire Cat and the cold and calculating Red Queen (Emma Rigby).

Socha is an excellent and endearing Knave. Lowe plays Alice with a sort of quiet desperation at first, which blossoms into headstrong feistiness when she realizes she doesn’t have to submit to the asylum doctors.

The little that is seen of Gadiot is charming and Lithgow is animated. Nothing stands out about Rigby’s performance, except she seems to play the Red Queen as the emotionless character envisioned by the original Alice creator, Lewis Caroll.

Overall, the episode was interesting, albeit slow-paced at first. Still, it has the potential to become dull before halfway into the season.

For now, Alice is trying to find Cyrus. If she finds him, what will happen then? If she doesn’t, the show could be a nonstop search for Cyrus, which could cause a loss of interest quickly.