Welcome to Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the spinoff that was spawned when some ABC exec apparently said to his or herself, "You know what's not wacky enough? Alice in Wonderland. Needs more genies!" And here we find ourselves with an Alice warring with not just an evil queen, but an evil (and Soul Glo'd, not that I'm complaining) Jafar as well. Basically, ABC is on an unprecedented amount of crack right now. Love it or leave it, people.
So Alice has been visiting Wonderland since childhood, a fact her wealthy father finds quite annoying and difficult to accept (understandable), so he has had her institutionalized as a young adult (mean! But also kind of understandable!) to rid her of her delusions. Trouble is, her delusions are real, and her one true love, a young, hot genie named Cyrus, is trapped in Wonderland, and once she gets word that he's still alive, she's determined to go back there to reunite with him.
After fan-servicing us a brief Storybrooke cameo, the Knave of Hearts and the CGI John Lithgow White Rabbit bust Alice out of the loony bin (she busts herself out, really – Alice is kind of a Krav Maga badass in this canon) right in the nick of time before her scheduled lobotomy, and the three set off searching for Cyrus in Wonderland.
But nothing's that easy, of course. Jafar is holding Cyrus captive as bait for Alice, who is still holding on to the three wishes Cyrus gave her. Jafar wants these wishes. He wants 'em bad. Did I mention the wishes in this story come in the form of cute little red charms? Just go to your local Michaels Craft Store, Jafar!
Oh, also? The White Rabbit is a low-down, dirty double agent. He's working for the impossibly fabulous Red Queen and her Collagen-plumped lips, who herself is working for Jafar under duress. So Alice's only ally in Wonderland right now is the Knave of Hearts, and he's not only on the run from the Wonderland law right now, he's also finding Alice's wishes very difficult to resist stealing. She can't even count on the Cheshire Cat these days – he tried to eat her in one scene. You can never go home again, guys.
All that, plus some truly awful CGI, some even worse Green Screen, and actually a fine little actress in our Alice, played by Sophie Lowe, who I think will make all this tolerable at the low points. And you know they will come. In the finale Alice will convince Abraham Lincoln (Hall of Presidents – stay with me here) to travel to Wonderland to fight a Muppet with Disney-owned ESPN anchors calling the play-by-play. You know I'm right. All hail synergy!
Hi, there! Did you watch this show? So did I! Congratulations to us! We are in an exclusive club of almost no people. Let’s try our best to enjoy this fraternity while it lasts.
We begin with a flashback to Alice’s childhood in Victorian England. (I guess? Time and space are blurred in this show, as you’ve no doubt noticed). Young Alice bursts out of a rabbit hole in the charming English countryside wearing the blue and white dress and apron famously depicted in the Disney animated feature. She runs to her father’s front door and finds him very surprised to see her. She starts to tell him all about the White Rabbit and her adventures, but he stops her to inform her that she was gone "a very long time" and that they thought she was dead. We then see Alice spying on her father talking to a nefarious bald man who tells her father she is delusional, and that he can cure her. Uh, with Victorian-era pharma? Good luck, bro.
After the credits we’re in "Present Day" (a Chyron told me so) Storybrooke, where a man is strolling down the middle of the damn street as a yellow VW Beetle (yes, yes, it’s Emma Swan’s car. I get it) honks and swerves out of his path. Whoever this guy is, he plays real fast and loose with traffic laws!
He heads straight to Granny’s, which has just closed for the night (hi, Grumpy!), but he storms on in anyway. So lawless! He pours a cup of coffee, leaves a dollar on the table, reconsiders, and takes the dollar back. I mean. He is a wild man. Suddenly the joint starts shakin' and the John Lithgow CGI White Rabbit bursts right through the floor, leaving a glowing golden rabbit hole right in the floor of the diner. Have fun dealing with the insurance company over that one, Granny.
The Rabbit reveals that the man is the Knave of Hearts. The Knave’s pretty annoyed his coffee break has been interrupted, but he softens when the Rabbit tells him they’re late to help Alice.
Cut to Bethlem Asylum in London, which is as dingy and creepy as it should be. Patients convulsing in the decrepit hallways, a lot of anonymous screaming in the background, and Alice, walking handcuffed and escorted by two large orderlies. They take her to a meeting with the nefarious bald man and his lackeys, where they discuss how she’s been there a year and has yet to recant her ludicrous stories of talking caterpillars, food and drinks that can alter one’s size, and a murderous Red Queen. Alice is withdrawn, trying to change her story and claim that she doesn’t remember any of that.