Once Upon a Time in Wonderland


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To explore one of the most interesting and wonderful lands in the history of literature, the team from Once Upon a Time has delved into Alice and Wonderland to bring about a concurrent and fantastical storyline revolving around a much more grim version of the loveable girl we all know as Alice, played by Sophie Lowe. The show begins with an alternative take on how the excursions in Wonderland actually affected Alice as a young adult. She remains in an Asylum having aged likely into her twenties and with anxiety heavily saturating her state of mind. The people in her “home-realm” refuse to believe that her Adventures in Wonderland were real and she is forced to relent that she was lying in order to be released. Or suffer a lobotomy, which she seems far too willing to endure.

But we find out quickly that she only wishes to end the suffering of having lost her true love, a genie by the name of Cyrus, played by Peter Gadiot. He is presumed dead until an old friend of hers, the Knave of Hearts (played by Michael Socha), breaks into her prison to tell her that she must go back to Wonderland to free her alive and not so well lover. The two enter Wonderland with the help of the White Rabbit, voiced by John Lithgow, and set off on an adventure to find the man that she had been sure was killed before her very eyes.MICHAEL SOCHA, SOPHIE LOWE

Using appropriate and visually appealing CGI, this series brings this very special aspect of the Once Upon a Time storyline to life. Most of the scenery is easily spotted as fake but considering the fact that there is very little in reality to base the wide range of physical features of Wonderland on, it seems a perfect balance between beautifully believable and understandably false.

The writers make too much use, however, of the intrinsic pool of tropes that roam the very bed of Wonderland. There are aspects to Wonderland that are generally understood as being either incredibly convenient and incredibly inconvenient in just the right ways to deem it suitable of its title. Unfortunately, the world that the folks at Once Upon a Time have developed is one that is both less fabulous than the one in the story originally proposed by Lewis Carroll and more vested with predictable occurrences.

The first instance of this would be when Alice obtains her first change of clothing upon entering Wonderland. She lends this helpful phenomenon to a timely visit from the “outfit peddler.” While they are at least countenancing the inconsistency, it is mentioned as an afterthought when the audience is still acclimating to the idea of Wonderland as a whole. While consistent for the place and time, it seems like a cheesy way of getting Alice into something a little more visually appealing than her trashed asylum clothing.

Another aggravating trope is the writers’ continual use of cliffs as points of no return or examples of courageous action. There is no reason to keep using a theme like cliffs when there are plenty of other dangers in the world of Wonderland.

Despite the bland story-line and the cheesiness of the convenient inconveniences, the characters and dialogue are certainly standing up to their predecessors from the original series. The acting, although somewhat sketchy in the pilot episode (likely due to characters becoming comfortable with each other) is phenomenal as well. The characters’ histories are not entirely original (what is anymore?) but they stand out as all very interesting and important details of the story. One is always left guessing what connections each character has to the others in this realm or any other.

Something that I absolutely love about this series is the attention that it pays to its villains. They are people, not just victims of the hero’s quest for true love. The main villains in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland are Jafar (Naveen Andrews) and the Red Queen (Emma Rigby). They are both portrayed perfectly by their actors and actress, respectively, and carry with them what seems to be what weight there is in the plot. While their ends are somewhat meaningless and ill-developed (as far as it has been revealed), they still make sense because of the sheer force of the skill that was put into their character development and portrayal.

If you appreciate good character development, wonderful acting and the strange realms of fantasy, you will definitely love this series. It is much more than a typical love story and offers plenty in the way of humour, happiness and a whole slew of other emotions. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland provides a good hour’s worth of entertainment every Thursday at 8pm on ABC. It can be caught up on if you are not available to watch it then at watchabc.go.com.

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