Credit: ABC

Is it just us, or did Once Upon a Time in Wonderland just deliver the best episode yet? Tonight’s ep — Season 1, Episode 5: “Heart of Stone” — delved into the Red Queen’s rags-to-riches backstory, showing us how sweet Anastasia came to be the villainous Queen of Wonderland. A harrowing tale filled with bandits, balls, and broken hearts! In present-day Wonderland, Alice and Red team up in search of magic dust. Trust us, it’s spookier than it sounds.

Flashback — Anastasia, Princess of Thieves

What is it with Once Upon a Time villainesses and their disapproving mothers? Like OUAT’s Cora, Anastasia’s mother is a woman who wants what’s “best” for her daughter: a rich, royal husband whose hand in marriage will give her the chance to rule. At first, it seems that Ana has more noble pursuits on her mind, like love. Despite her mother’s complaints, she and Will jump through The Looking Glass and into Wonderland, where they aim to make something of themselves.

Unfortunately, the two have different opinions of what that might mean. For Will, it is having enough food to eat — and one another, obvi. For Ana, it means status, wealth, and power. It seems the apple does not fall far from the tree and even a world away from her mother’s disapproving scowl, Ana can’t help but be influenced by mother’s lessons.

Ana and Will start their adventures in Wonderland by attending a fancy ball in the finest of stolen clothes. While Will feels uncomfortable at the shindig, Ana is in wonder of the wealth and glamour that surrounds her. This where she wants to be. She accidentally strikes up conversation with the king, adopting a posh accent she has overheard the ladies of the court judging each other in. The king seems to admire Ana’s mystery and boldness, but their convo is interrupted by Will’s capture for thievery. The two are thrown out of the ball. While Ana laments the ending of their evening, Will proudly produces two warm loaves of bread he managed to smuggle out. Score!

Later, at their Merry Men-style camp in the forest, Ana tells Will she wants to go home. Life in Wonderland isn’t as glamorous as she suspected — at least not for them. Will wants to stay. Besides, he argues, Ana’s mother will never let her live it down if she returns. Ana tells him they won’t be returning empty-handed. Whilst in the palace, she noticed the crown jewels. She proposes they steal them, jump through The Looking Glass back to the Enchanted Forest, and sell the riches there where Wonderland’s king won’t be able to find them. Will wonders why they need such wealth, but Ana just gives him the crazy eyes, and he agrees.

Ana’s plan is for her to do the actual pilfering. Then, she will drop the booty down to Will, and they will somehow make their escape. Yeah, not very detail-oriented, this one. Fortunately, it turns out she doesn’t need details past “break into the palace” because the king catches her red-crown-handed. Ana’s reaction is awesome because she doesn’t apologize. She just asks why the king needs such wealth. The king is a total snob, telling her: “My world [is] filled with wealth. Your world [is] filled with longing.” Jerk.

Ana asks what her fate is to be, and he gives her a choice. They never get past the first option, which is for her to marry him. His marriage pitch: he wants someone driven to be more than she is at his side, and she fits the bill. Ana asks if being in love with another dude is a deal breaker. He tells her, “Love is a noble thing, but how far will it get you?” Obviously, he hasn’t read any of the taglines for this television show.

Outside, Will is anxiously awaiting his girlfriend’s return when the king comes out on his balcony to make an announcement. Wonderland must have a Vegas-style quick wedding industry because he and Ana have already been married. The king presents Ana to those gathered, including Will and it is so sad. He stares up at the love of his life, the woman he stole and crossed worlds for hand-in-hand with another man. Ana makes eye contact with him, but it is too late. She has already made her choice. She is the Red Queen.

Present-Day — Red and Alice

In the aftermath of Will’s stoning — Jafar literally turned the Knave into a stone statue in last week’s ep — Alice and the Red Queen team up. The Red Queen needs Alice to retrieve some magic dust. In exchange for her help, she agrees to help Alice find Cyrus. The two travel to a ravine. Legend has it that the magic dust lies on the other side, but it can only be retrieved by the pure of heart. This is where Alice comes in because, as Red humorously observes, “Between the two of us, I like your chances better than mine.”

Red’s instinct are pretty good. Alice makes it a few steps across the ravine on an invisible bridge of faith before plummeting to the ravine below. She lands next to a skeleton, but the fossilized corpse is far from the creepiest thing in this cave. That honor would belong to the spookiest version of a young Alice in Wonderland we have ever seen. The girl is dressed in Alice’s iconic blue dress and white apron, but instead of innocent curiosity, she is filled with rageful taunts. She tells Alice, “Kill [the Red Queen] and I will tell you where Cyrus is.” And asks her, “What has being a good person ever gotten us?”

Young Alice tantrum-style stomps her foot, causing Red to fall into the ravine with them. Young Alice encourages Alice to finally take her revenge on Red for taking Cyrus away from her. Alice, sword drawn, approaches Red, who is pleading for her life, and… throws down her sword. She’s not like the Red Queen. And, because of that action, she has proven she is pure of heart. Yay! Young Alice turns sweet, and turns into the magic dust Red so desperately seeks. Alice gives the dust to Red, and asks for Cyrus’s location. Ha! Red refuses to hold up her end of the deal. Classic villain move. Alice and Red have an awesome exchange, highlighting their differing value systems:

Red: “Nobody ever gave me anything. Everything I have, I had to take.”

Alice: “And what about everything you lost?”

Red leaves, and Alice unfurls her hand to reveal she has kept a fistful of magic dust for herself. Ha! Classic heroine move. Red brings her bag of magic dust to the Knave, who is still immortalized in stone in the palace garden mazes. She holds her hand to his cheek, and tells him she is sorry. Then, she blows the magic dust over his stone figure, and runs. The Knave comes back to life, falls over, and peers wildly around — most likely looking for whomever freed him. But Red is long gone. Yeah, she’s totally still in love with him.

Present-Day — Jafar’s Tower of Terror

Meanwhile, in Jafar’s Tower of Terror, Cyrus is whittling a hole in the bottom of his silver-infused cage using a wishbone. Because that’s how genies roll. He and the old man in the cage hanging next to him talk prison break logistics like guard schedule and tunnel routes. Cyrus finishes his escape hatch hole and uses momentum to swing the cage towards the guard’s landing. In an impressive feat of acrobatics, he manages to swing through the hole and onto safety. Huzzah!

Happy to finally be out of a cage, he celebrates by beating up a guard, grabbing his keys, and pushing him to his death. Apparently, he has no moral qualms about that sort of thing. Cyrus throws the keys up to Old Man, who catches them — and promptly drops them. On purpose. He tells Cyrus he will just slow him down. Perhaps, he just didn’t like his chances with the old swing-and-jump. Old Man also assures Cyrus that Jafar won’t kill him, giving more credence to our speculation that Old Man is secretly Jafar’s father, the Sultan.

Elsewhere in Jafar’s Tower of Terror, Jafar is questioning the White Rabbit about Alice. He wants to know who else she loves to be used against her. He needs boyfriend Cyrus alive for his wishes and Alice has linked BFF Will’s life to hers. Girl doesn’t have a lot of loved ones. The White Rabbit’s not talking, so Jafar chops off his foot and delivers a deliciously disturbing line — “I wonder who coined the term lucky rabbit’s foot? Certainly wasn’t the rabbit!” — while dangling the White Rabbit’s foot in the air. Yeah, things just got real. Jafar tells Rabbit that, if he divulges within a minute, then he will undo the spell. So, Rabbit talks. Unfortunately, it is off screen, so we don’t know the identity of Alice’s loved one/Jafar’s next target. Whoever the person is, he or she is not in Wonderland.

Jafar tells the White Rabbit to dig a hole to the other world in which Alice’s Loved One resides. But, Rabbit’s not having any of it. Foot firmly reattached, he scurries out the door. While in the tunnels, he runs into Cyrus, who begs Rabbit not to give him up. In a moment of selflessness, Rabbit gives himself in to give Cyrus a chance to escape. You go, Rabbit. We were beginning to think you didn’t care for Team Heroine at all.

Cyrus escapes, only to discover that he is on top of a massive tower with no visible escape. This doesn’t seem to phase Cyrus, who is basically Mr. Positivity in this and all episodes no matter how dire the circumstances. Or maybe he’s just happy to finally be breathing some fresh air again. “I’m coming for you, Alice,” Cyrus says.

Miles away, Alice uses the fistful of magic dust to reveal where Cyrus is prisoner. She sees the invisible tower appear across the distance. “I’m coming for you,” Alice says. Yeah, these two are perfect for one another.

Thoughts

  • Ana’s mother was a serious wicked (step)mother. Could Ana be one of Cinderella’s not-so-ugly stepsisters?

  • Was anyone else as impressed with Emma Rigby’s performance in this episode? When we first met the Red Queen, her acting seemed wooden and one-dimensional, but since then — and especially in tonight’s ep — she showed such depth and nuance. Also, her thievery outfit was the best.
  • There was entirely too little Knave in this episode.

  • Who is Alice’s loved one Jafar is going after? She seems pretty estranged from her father, who locked her in that mental institution. Could it be him? Or is it someone else?

  • Are we fairly certain that Old Man is the Sultan at this point?

  • The White Rabbit was spying for the Red Queen because of a debt he owes her. Is this a monetary debt or something else? How did he fall into such a predicament? And will we ever get the chance to find out?

  • Did anyone else think this was the best episode of the season thus far?

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