One Upon a Time (in Wonderland): Intriguing but Shaky

The promos for this show looked absolutely amazing. The twenty minute preview of the first episode was really good–too good, because the actual first episode didn’t flow quite as well. It’s still a promising series, but it’s shakier than I would have preferred. A little more subtlety would have also been nice. Check out that 20 minute preview, though, because it’s put together better–although ABC unfortunately took down the high quality version, probably because the first episode came out.

First, good things:

I love that pre-Cyrus Alice has traveled all over Wonderland and mostly protected herself by being clever. Hopefully, we get to see more of how she manages when back before she could use the sword as a last resort.

Will, as the Knave of Hearts, is fantastic. He’s pretty much the only character who isn’t saying exactly what he’s thinking. He’s hiding his past, and he’s hiding his emotions, and I just find that realistic–he’s probably the best written character on the show at this point.

There’s something endearing about Alice. Especially flashbacks Alice, who wanted to travel and see the world. She was so sweet, despite being very capable. As a character, she’s a lot of fun pretty much anytime when she isn’t talking about Cyrus.

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And the acting is wonderful. Sophie Lowe is fantastic, managing to pull off both sweet and hardcore and making all of it feel like Alice. I have no problems with any of the acting in this series, everyone is great.

I love the setting, too, but it’s Wonderland, and it’s fantasy, so that’s almost expected.

I feel like I shouldn’t complain, because it’s a promising show, but there are issues that grate a little.

I understand that they need to build up Alice and Cyrus’ relationship early, and establish its significance. The entire plot line of the series rides on them. We need to see why Alice is willing to go so far for him.

And a good amount of talking about her boyfriend is understandable because of the situation–he’s priority one, because he’s in trouble. This means that overdoing it should be hard, because a lot of it will be excusable to the audience.

But my god, it’s like the Cyrus channel.

Doesn’t Alice have anything else to talk about, ever? In all the time that she spends traveling with Will, there has to be some other topic they broach that is not mission or Cyrus-related. In fact, that would have been a great time to hint at their past dynamic or something about their history. But no, all they ever talk about is Cyrus, unless something from Will’s past is literally shoved in Alice’s face so she can’t ignore it.

And then changing that dynamic to, “maybe Cyrus had moved on” later in the same episode? I’m getting whiplash.

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There’s nothing wrong with exploring Alice’s uncertainty, but having that be triggered by a missing bottle? So, what, he supposedly threw himself off a cliff, removed the only thing Alice could have used to contact him, and didn’t even leave a note? Yes, obviously that’s a break up.

They did this for literally three minutes of drama before they cleared everything up. Seriously. Weirdly enough, those three minutes gave us an interesting insight to Alice’s character, which I really wish had been brought up in a context more worthy of it.

And our villains. Jafar and the Queen had almost the same interaction three times in the span of two episodes. She tries to bargain with him, he proves that he’s more powerful and threatens/harms her, she gets scared. Yeah, okay, we got it the first time.

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And this isn’t even the most creepy he gets…

And also, Jafar is seriously creepy. Absolutely no respect for her personal space, and there is a lot of weird touching, usually around her face and neck. Yeah, he did that in the Disney movies, and it was creepy then, too.

There were also a few things that didn’t make sense. Why did Alice let the rabbit go before showing him to her father? And seriously, Will might be a jerk for dumping the fairy in a rather rude way, but why is everyone acting like killing him in retribution is normal? I don’t know, maybe it’s just a Wonderland thing that they’ll explain later.

All of the characterization is just a little bit off, with the exception of Will. Some of the things which are said out loud are things that might perhaps be better left to subtext–yes, maybe the characters are thinking it, but that doesn’t mean they should say it. We can get that they’re thinking it through body language, or inference based on what they actually say. A lot of the characters–Alice, Jafar, the Queen–might hide information, but don’t bother hiding any of their emotions.

I really want to like this show, and I do like it despite some mildly irritating flaws, so I’m hoping it’s just a little shaky in the beginning before settling in. There are a lot of good, compelling things about it, too.

And I’m a sucker for adventure fantasy, so I’m definitely going to keep watching.

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2 Responses to One Upon a Time (in Wonderland): Intriguing but Shaky

  1. Psycho Gecko says:

    I just love that gif, by the way. Especially watching her eyes. Damn, now I’m coming across as the creepy one.

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