Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Premiere Recap: Welcome to Wonderland!
Credit: Jeff Weddell/ABC Television Group © 2013 Disney    
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Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Premiere Recap: Welcome to Wonderland!

The Once Upon a Time universe got curiouser and curiouser with tonight’s premiere of the series’ spin-off, Once Upon a Time — wait for it in Wonderland. The pilot episode was full of the best of what we’ve come to expect from the original OUAT - romance, adventure, and nods to our favorite Disney characters - but with its own distinctive tone. Here’s what went down in Season 1, Episode 1 of Wonderland.

When we meet Alice, she is just a little girl returned from an adventure to a far-off and magical land. Though admitting the young girl has been gone from Victorian England for a quite a long time (whatever that means), Alice’s father is unwilling to believe his daughter’s tall tales. Worst. Father. Ever. Unperturbed, the young girl vows to bring back proof of this fantastical world, effectively beginning what — as far as we can tell — seems to be Alice’s epic campaign of stubborn badassery.

Fast forward to present-day Storybrooke, where The White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow) recruits a wonderfully sarcastic young man known as The Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) to rescue their mutual friend Alice (Sophie Lowe). What trouble has befallen our feisty young heroine? Well, Alice — now a young woman — seems to have been committed to a mental institution by dear old dad (guess that whole proof thing didn’t work out as well as she’d planned…) The fine doctors of Bethlem Asylum are doing their darndest to convince a teary yet defiant Alice that everything she experienced in Wonderland — from the size-changing cuisine to the hookah-smoking ‘pillars — was in her head. Fools!

Alice tries on the company line, but still remembers her adventures in Wonderland. Notably, the handsome young genie, Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), whose bottle she stumbled into when evading from the palace guards. Cyrus is from a place called Agrabah (aka the setting of Disney’s Aladdin), and doesn’t understand Alice’s quest to bring proof to her father because, “When you really love someone, you don’t need proof.” Oh, he’s good. The two travel from world to world together, and — surprise! — fall madly in love. However, Cyrus’ seaside cliff proposal is rudely ruined by The Red Queen, a scantily-dressed blonde with some kind of grudge against our young lovers. With the wave of her hand, she sends Cyrus off of the cliff and seemingly to his death a la lobster in the Boiling Sea below.

Rather than deal with the heartache caused by Cyrus’ death, Alice chooses to undergo a lobotomy to forget. But, just as Dr. Lobotomizer is testing his drill, The Knave breaks into Alice’s cell to rescue her. Alice is initially unimpressed...until The Knave mentions that Cyrus is alive. Then, Alice decides to rescue herself, more-or-less taking out most of the orderlies in an epic display of that badassery we mentioned before. The Knave and Alice follow The White Rabbit through a portal back to Wonderland…

Alice and The Knave land in something called The Mallow Marsh which is pretty much what it sounds like: a swamp composed completely of marshmallow. While trying to dislodge, The White Rabbit informs them that he may have been stretching the truth when he told The Knave that he himself saw Cyrus. Actually, The Dormouse told The White Rabbit that he saw Cyrus alive at The Hatter’s house (yeah, there are a lot of names that begin with definite articles on this show).

Before the trio has ample time to discuss, The Knave and Alice realize that they are sinking further and further into the ‘mallow! The White Rabbit runs off to find help while Alice uses flames from the fire-breathing dragonflies to burn their way out. (We are seriously digging Alice’s quick-thinking independence.) Once free, The Knave decides to quit Team Cyrus, skeptical that the genie is still alive. Apparently, he didn’t exactly leave Wonderland on the best of terms and would quite like to live out the rest of his natural life, thank you very much. Clever Alice offers The Knave one of the three wishes (in the form of small gems) she keeps hidden in her trick boot heel. She will grant The Knave a wish once they have found Cyrus.

Elsewhere in Wonderland at The Red Queen’s chess piece-encrusted castle, The White Rabbit is meeting with her majesty. It turns out the punctual rodent isn’t as moral as he appears. He brought Alice here on orders from The Red Queen herself, to whom he seems to owe some sort of debt, which means Cyrus really might not be alive. She tells The White Rabbit to keep an eye (and ear) on Alice and to report everything back to her. Dastardly rabbit!

The White Rabbit may be The Red Queen’s minion, but she has a full-on partner in crime...Jafar, of Aladdin fame, is skulking around the castle. It seems he is the one who wants Alice, and has commandeered the help of The Red Queen to get her. When The Red Queen tells him that Alice is back in Wonderland, Jafar helpfully outlines his Villain’s To-Do List for us: 1) Find the genie’s bottle and 2) Get Alice to make her three wishes. Oh yes, and kill The Red Queen now that she’s no longer useful. But her majesty manages to convince Jafar of her continued worth, pointing out that Wonderland is a big place and only she knows exactly where Alice is. A disgruntled Jafar flies off on his Magic Carpet (really), and we try our hardest not to break out into “A Whole New World."

Apparently, the Hatter’s house is in a dark, shroom-infested forest called the Tulgey Woods. The Knave and Alice enter to find it, running across a “Wanted, with or without his head” poster for The Knave. Yikes! What exactly did he do after Alice left Wonderland? she asks. The Knave’s not telling. Tired of wandering, Alice takes navigation into her own hands and decides to climb a nearby tree to gain their bearing. She leaves her wish-enhanced boots on the ground, and The Knave nabs them and takes off. At the top of the tree, Alice spots the Hatter’s house….and The Cheshire Cat, who happens to perched in the very same tree Alice chose to climb.

Now, The Cheshire Cat has always been a bit off-putting, but Wonderland’s version is seriously scary, with pointy, pointy teeth and phrases like “sweet meat.” He manages to knock Alice to the ground before pinning her. Just as he is about to chow down on her, The Knave returns, using a magic mushroom to shrink Cheshire to a more manageable sign. The cat runs off, and The Knave asks Alice to focus on his returning and rescuing rather than his stealing and leaving. She does, though not without pointing out that wishes cannot be stolen; they must be granted. Duh, Will (which is apparently The Knave’s other name.)

Finally, The Knave and Alice make it to The Hatter’s house and they rush in to find...The White Rabbit — but no sign of Cyrus anywhere. The Knave tries to reason with Alice, telling her that there’s no reason to believe Cyrus is still alive. But Alice throws Cyrus’ line back at him: “When you really love someone, you don’t need proof.” Alice runs outside, looking for clues that Cyrus has been there, while The Knave scolds The White Rabbit for making Alice lose Cyrus twice. (We really like him.) Joining Alice outside, The Knave tries to convince Alice to leave Wonderland, but she is having none of it — she has found Cyrus’ necklace, the one he was wearing when he fell. Will The Knave help her? You bet! The game is on...

The episode ends with a sneak peek into Jafar’s super secret lair, some sort of massive tower hidden in the mists of Wonderland. And hanging locked in a cage in the center of it? Cyrus! Yep, he’s alive. Apparently, Jafar caught him with the Magic Carpet before he fell into the Boiling Sea. Which means Alice’s quest is not for naught. It seems that True Love will always find a way, even in Wonderland...

What did you think of the premiere? Sound off in the comments below!

10.10.2013 / 12:00 AM EDT by Kayti Burt
Related: Once Upon a Time, Features, Recaps, Wonderland

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