On this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Season 1, Episode 6: “Who’s Alice”), we flashback to Victorian London to work through Alice’s daddy issues — and it’s heartbreakingly great. In present-day Wonderland, Alice wanders into a flower-drugging operation and the Knave follows; Cyrus tries to escape a floating island; and Jafar goes in search of extortion material...
Victorian London Flashback, One Year Ago — Happy Home!
Not to be too pessimistic, but if Wonderland does get canceled, someone else better give Sophie Lowe a job. We need her on our television screens every week! Even in the most CGI-ed of scenes or with the corniest of line, she is completely and utterly compelling as Alice. This week, she was amazing in both the flashback story set in Victorian London and present-day Wonderland form — both versions of herself having to make the choice between hollow contentment and true happiness.
In Victorian London, we saw an Alice just returned from Wonderland following the presumed death of Cyrus. She is heartbroken and she has nowhere else to go. She returns “home” to find that her father has remarried a controlling woman named Sarah, and that she has a little sister, Millie. Millie is welcoming and adorable. Sarah is not.
Alice’s father, Edwin, loves his daughter, but he has little patience for her “imaginary” tales of Wonderland. Sarah even less so. She believes Alice to be a corrupting influence on young Millie, who is fascinated by Alice’s stories of her one true love.
We get a great deal of backstory about Alice’s childhood. Edwin and Alice’s mother were madly in love, and her death broke him. He was sad for her entire childhood, which explains her desire to run away. In a nice parallel to the Knave, we see a man who turned away from love after his heart was broken. “Just because you married someone you do not love, doesn’t mean I have to,” Alice tells her father after he and Sarah try to force “the Darcy boy” (not Colin Firth) from down the street at her. Sing it, sister!
The real problem in Alice’s relationship with her father comes not in his decision to abandon the search for true love — that is forgivable, even on this show — but his inability to have faith in his own daughter. In a tearjerker of a scene, Edwin sarcastically asks Alice which part of her fantastical stories she expects him to believe. “Me,” says a distraught Alice. “I want you to believe in me.”
Eventually, Alice is given an ultimatum: she can pretend to be happy in her father’s new life, or she can keep her fairy tale story of love and live in the Bethlem Asylum. Guess which one Alice picks? She is picked up by the doctor who was trying to give her a lobotomy in the pilot. Alice peers out of the carriage and into her father’s home as she drives away. Edwin, Sarah, and Millie are framed in the window: the perfect, Alice-less family. This family doesn’t deserve the awesomeness of Alice!
Present-Day Wonderland — Tree People
Alice’s present-day troubles nicely mirror the flashbacks. On her continuing quest for Cyrus, Alice enters the Black Forest, a desperately melancholy place filled with, you guessed it, darkness. She wanders into a seemingly beautiful garden filled with trees and perfumed flowers where she meets a man named the Carpenter. He (along with a healthy dose of the flowers’ perfume) convinces her to forget her worries. “What could be more important than basking in the sun?” he asks her. An increasingly muddled Alice honestly can’t think of an answer.
Fresh from his de-stoning, the Knave manages to follow Alice’s trail to the wood, where he finds a hilariously delusional Alice. She gives her BFF a great, big hug and eagerly shows him an artistic arrangement she has made with her sword, some delicately-wrapped flowers, and the necklace Cyrus gave her. “You took the necklace off and just stopped everything to pick flowers … Why would you do that?” a disbelieving Knave asks her. (She’s usually the serious one in the duo.) Alice tells him: “Because it makes me happy.” Duh.
The Knave, unaffected by the perfumed flowers, soon discovers the awful truth of the wood: all of the trees were once people who lingered too long. The Carpenter is half-tree, and Alice is already tangled in vines. The Knave tries to get Alice to leave, but she pulls her sword on him. “I’m the person I always wanted to be. I’m happy,” Alice says — and the savage way Sophie Lowe yells “I’m happy” is pretty much the best part of the episode (after the Alice/Knave hug, obvi).
The Knave realizes he can’t make her leave, she has to want to, so he begins to tell her the story of her love for Cyrus. He throws the necklace to her and, upon touching it, she remembers everything. Huzzah! The Knave and Alice leave the wood, and continue on their merry way. Kinda. Now that she is no longer numb to love, Alice physically feels the pain that comes with such intense living and emotion. The Knave admits that the reason he was not affected by the flowers was because his heart is safely outside of his chest. Wait, what…?
Remember in the pilot when Alice convinced the Knave to help her save Cyrus by saying, “Once, long ago, I got you back your heart. Now, you need to help me get back mine”? Well, it turns out she wasn’t just stringing together some stirring rhetoric. One time, she literally retrieved his heart for him. And, apparently, the Knave just hasn’t gotten around to putting it back in yet. He doesn’t want to feel the pain that will come back with the broken heart. Aww.
Present-Day Wonderland — Cyrus, Uncaged
Elsewhere in Wonderland, Cyrus is not in a cage. Which is pretty much all we need from his storyline at this point. Yeah, we’ve set the bar low after episodes of watching Cyrus whittle through his cage. First, Cyrus mountain-climbs down Jafar’s Tower of Terror because he can do that. Then, he leads Jafar’s imbecile guards away by pulling the old “footprints into the river trick.” While they continue through the river and into the woods, he doubles back. Ha!
Unfortunately, the Red Queen is exceedingly clever and she is also on his trail. She sees the “footprints into the water” trick for the ruse that it is (probably because she’s used it before herself), and uses a spell to follow Cyrus’ trail. In what is kind of an epic reveal, Cyrus discovers that Jafar’s tower is actually on a floating island. Damn.
Red corners him on the edge of said island, a la the pilot. She is pretty psyched about a) eventually having the genie’s power for herself and b) having her life decisions validated by Cyrus’ misfortunes. “Darling, the harsh reality is, sometimes, love is not enough.” But Cyrus isn’t having any of that. He’s Team Optimism, remember? “I’m afraid you’re wrong,” he tells her, then he jumps off of the island and into the waters far, far, far below. Where’s Jafar’s magic carpet when you need it?
“Present-Day” Victorian London — Jafar Finds a Loved One
Not his own loved one, of course. He’s on the hunt for one of Alice’s! He can’t use Cyrus or the Knave against her, so he takes a field trip to Victorian London to find a fresh loved one to extort. (With a little digging help from the White Rabbit, of course.)
After borrowing a snazzy new suit and top hat, Jafar heads to Bethlem Asylum to interrogate Alice’s former doctor (i.e. the one we hate). Seeing the doctor who wanted to cut “the madness” out of Alice struggling with his own “insanity” (i.e. the memories of having seen the White Rabbit) was fittingly karmic. Unfortunately for Alice’s father, Dr. Lobotomy’s practice when divulging patient information is just as lax as his use of laudanum. The episode ends with Jafar knocking at the door of Alice’s house, and offering to take Edwin to Alice. Yes. We can definitely get on board with this storyline.
“And I must compliment you. That is a very nice suit.”
“Sometimes, the maddest stories are the truest ones.”
“He carries with him the greatest power of all” – wait for it – “true love.”
“I’m not going to abandon anything, certainly not hope.”
“You ever been stoned? Feels like death when you come out of it.”
“Of course you don’t. You Tweedles never do. Each one dumber than the last.”
“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do. Everyone keeps underestimating me. I was not always queen. I know how to get my hands dirty.”
“Right. Don’t worry about the man with the sword and the scary grin.”
“I think some troubles take a bit longer to forget.”
“I don’t want to feel the bloody bark. I want you to snap out of it.”
- “We don’t need you to be sorry, Alice. We need you to be better.”
What did you think of this episode? Let is know in the comments below.