We will never look at Jafar’s serpent staff in the same way again! In this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time in WonderlandSeason 1, Episode 4: “The Serpent” — Jafar garnered some much-needed depth as we learn about his childhood in Agrabah and his rise to power. Also on the agenda: a public execution, the Knave immortalized, and a lesson in wishboning.

Flashback to Agrabah — Riffraff, Street Rat

We first meet pint-sized Jafar on the streets of the grand city, a young gutter rat (a la Aladdin) who also happens to be the bastard and cast aside son of the Sultan. Jafar seeks out a mysterious woman he sees practicing magic in the market and convinces her to teach him black magic so that he can enact revenge against his father. This isn’t going to end well.

Grown up Jafar is a dark force to be reckoned with. Still in cahoots with the mysterious woman, a well-preserved witch known as Amara, they seek to gain the power of the three genies. According to Amara, the combined magic of the three genies will allow them to change the very laws of magic, allowing Jafar his ultimate revenge. Because, apparently, non-magical forms of revenge just aren’t cool anymore.

Jafar visits a bar/brothel in Agrabah, and it soon becomes clear that the owner of the establishment is also the owner of one of the three genies Jafar is seeking. Made brave (read: foolish) by the possession of a genie, the man points out that Jafar cannot kill him because then he will never have the genie for himself. Instead, Jafar pulls a Katherine Pierce and takes his knife to the dude’s hands, convincing him to cast his final wish. The man wishes that Jafar cause him no harm, and Jafar snatches up the genie’s lamp for himself. As for the man? Well, he gets turned to stone.

We totally thought that Jafar would lose Amara, aka the one person who has ever loved him, in some epic tragedy. This is partially true, but it is a tragedy of his own making. Jafar drugs his mentor with a poison cocktail, then turns her into a serpent. The final step in his three-pronged betrayal? Transform Serpent Amara into the staff he carries with him wherever he goes. Now, her magic is also his. If this is what Jafar does to his friends, we can only imagine the lengths he will go to punish his enemies...

Present-day Wonderland — Don’t Lose Your Head!

Fresh off last episode’s reveal that the Red Queen is the Anastasia who broke the Knave’s heart, Red manages to capture the Knave and throw him into her dungeon. Jafar tells her to have Alice’s right-hand man executed as he will only get in the way of them accomplishing their goal. Ignoring Jafar’s “request,” Red visits the Knave in the dungeon. She tells him that she will send the White Rabbit later that day to help him escape from Wonderland, but the Knave isn’t having any of it. Either he hasn’t completely given up on his Anastasia or he wants to stick around for BFF Alice’s sake. We’re guessing it’s probably a bit of both.

Meanwhile, Alice is on a mission to rescue her snarky sidekick from his well-publicized execution. She runs into the Lizard, an old friend of the Knave’s — and, by “old friend,” we mean someone else to whom the Knave owes money. The Lizard tells Alice that she and Will ran together shortly after his breakup with The Mysterious Anastasia, and that Will taught her everything she knows. The Lizard agrees to go with Alice to save the Knave.

The Knave’s execution gets a pretty good turnout. Smarmy Jafar and the conflicted Red Queen are there, of course. Team Knave, aka Alice and the Lizard, are present amongst a crowd of overly-festive, well-dressed peasants. (They’re there for the free meal that goes to whoever catches the executionee's head when it is launched off of a catapult.) And, of course, the guest of honor makes it, strutting to the chopping block with his signature scowl firmly in place. Things aren’t looking good for our Knave. The executioner swings the axe — and chops through the Knave’s restraints. Phew! The executioner rips off her hood and reveals herself as Alice. Yeah, she’s pretty much the best friend ever. The Knave and Alice escape via the catapult that was intended for Will’s head, flying over the palace walls and into the garden maze on the other side. We’re just going to assume they landed on some sort of flower bed…

Jafar and the Red Queen manage to catch up to the Knave, Alice, and the Lizard in the maze, and we get our first Villain vs. Hero confrontation. Spoiler: it doesn’t go well for our heroes. Jafar gets Alice to use her first wish by choking the Knave a la Darth Vadar’s one-handed force chokehold. With the wish, Alice links her life to Will’s. If Jafar kills him, then he will kill Alice and lose the chance to get Cyrus’ wishes forever. Temporarily outsmarted, Jafar turns his torture techniques on Alice, but she doesn’t wish again. She vows never to let Cyrus fall into Jafar’s hands. Weirdly, Jafar stops torturing her, seemingly willing to let Alice use her wishes on her own schedule. Before he flies away on his magic carpet, however, he makes one last move: turning the Knave into stone. (Not cool, Jafar. Now he can’t deliver witty one-liners for our viewing enjoyment!) Jafar tells Alice that her weakness is that she has a heart. We suppose a guy who turned his loved one into a serpent staff would think that.

Jafar gone, Alice turns on the Red Queen, who stood idly by while the Knave was getting stoned. She awesomely slaps Red across the face. Red is not impressed. She tells Alice to grow up and use her wishes so everyone can get on with their lives. We liked her better when she was wearing floral crowns rather than bejeweled ones.

Present-day Wonderland — Cyrus and His Wishbone

Meanwhile, in Jafar’s super secret hideout, Cyrus is hanging in his silver-barred cage. We feel bad for the genie as his present-day story arcs are confined to a space no larger than an airplane bathroom. There’s only so much narrative opportunity when one’s stuck in a cage.

But Cyrus will not be left out of the story, or his own rescue! He spends the ep whittling a wishbone from his chicken dinner into a weapon. (Yeah, even prison shanks are more whimsical in Wonderland.) The guard catches him, and tosses the broken wishbone into the trash, which turns out to be exactly what Cyrus was hoping for. He gives the old prisoner hanging in a nearby cage a lesson on wishbones. Turns out their magic doesn’t lie in breaking the bigger half for yourself, but in the parts’ desire to be reunited. Cyrus pulls out the smaller half of the wishbone, and its partner comes tearing from the trash. Operation Prison Break underway!

Thoughts

  • Is the old man prisoner hanging with Cyrus Jafar’s father, aka the Sultan?! What could Jafar possibly be planning to do to him? Hopefully, it involves that gigantic hourglass Jasmine gets trapped in in the animated film. That thing is scary.

  • Speaking of Jasmine, we really hope this show doesn’t go the Disney root with its narrative in terms of family dynamics, or Jafar’s campaign for Jasmine’s hand in marriage is going to take an uncomfortable turn.

  • Alice literally put the “cut” into “cutting” in tonight’s ep. When trying to get to the front of a line, she pulled out her sword and politely announced, “Pardon me. Pardon me. I have a blade.” We’re going to try that next time we’re in a rush at Starbucks.

  • The Knave better be un-transformed fast. Watching Alice and him banter back and forth may be our favorite part of this show.

  • What is the deal with the backstory between Alice and the Red Queen? They have known one another since Alice was a young girl. Were they friends once?

What did you think of tonight’s episode? Sound off below, and catch Once Upon a Time in Wonderland on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.