This review contains spoilers.
The winter finale of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a lot like a regular episode until the last ten minutes or so. In the end, a lot happens and the plot takes huge steps forward, but it doesn’t have quite the stakes or emotional impact I would hope to see in a finale. Also, pretty much the entire episode makes no sense whatsoever.
In flashbacks, we see lots of sugary-sweet Alice/Cyrus scenes (with a mortal wound thrown in there for good measure) and learn that Cyrus sacrificed a compass from his mother to get a magical desert love tent—I mean, home—for him and Alice. There’s a bit of conflict thrown in: the aforementioned mortal wound, the aforementioned compass which is apparently supposed to make us feel bad for Cyrus (it doesn’t), and Cyrus almost deciding to leave Alice because that is what’s “good for her,” which as we all know is a perfectly good reason for ditching people you care about in TV land. All of this feels artificial.
In the present, Alice and the Knave reconcile with the White Rabbit and free his captive family—who are in an abandoned cart, not under guard, apparently trapped under a bed sheet. But that’s okay, it doesn’t have to make sense because Whoopi Goldberg voices the White Rabbit’s wife. Alice, the Knave, and the White Rabbit head to the love tent to look for Cyrus.
Cyrus escaped Jafar but is captured by the Red Queen, who has his bottle. For a guy who wants his freedom so bad, Cyrus sure sucks at avoiding getting caught by baddies. Luckily the Red Queen is in good-girl mode this week, and after getting Cyrus to confess where Alice is, she takes him to see her. Meanwhile, Jafar send the Smoke Monster to go shoot lightning bolts at the Red Queen.
Alice and Cyrus’ reunion is cute enough, but after all the build-up it comes with little drama or fanfare. She’s hanging out in their love tent, she sees him walking toward it, and she runs out to greet him. Nothing really exciting happens to get us to this point, and at least in the first two minutes or so of the reunion, there is no real urgency to the situation.
Probably the biggest problem of the episode is the Red Queen’s emotional state. She has been rather inconsistent ever since we learned she is the Knave’s old flame Anastasia, but here it is worse than ever before. She reverts to full-on Anastasia mode with seemingly no provocation. If she wanted the genie so that she could get the Knave’s love back, then what was with all the head-chopping and villainous monologuing? If she regrets becoming the Red Queen, why does she still act like her? If she is doing a bad thing as a means to an end, shouldn’t she go about it in a more remorseful way? I love morally ambiguous characters (case in point, witness the Regina fangirling in my Once Upon a Time reviews), but the Red Queen simply is not convincing.
Close second for the biggest problem of the episode is the sheer stupidity of these people and their wishes. I told you that “If the Knave dies than I die too” wish was a bad idea. I must be a genius or something. Oh wait, no—that was just a really dumbass wish.
So the Knave gets hit by the Smoke Monster and starts dying, and Alice, naturally, joins him. The Knave then decides to save Alice from her dumbass wish by making his own wish to “end Alice’s suffering,” which everybody knows is a euphemism for dying. Aaaargh! Why are you all so dumb?!
Luckily, this idiotically vague wish does not understand euphemisms. It actually does save Alice’s life. It also frees Cyrus, since Cyrus being a genie causes Alice suffering. Apparently Alice will live in a state of eternal bliss from now on, and she will have lots of magic mushrooms and her farts will smell like roses. Except not really, because she immediately begins to suffer again when she learns that the Knave has disappeared.
This is the big plot twist of the episode: Cyrus is no longer a genie, but now the Knave is. I am not sure how this happened, unless having him be a genie somehow ends Alice’s suffering. That’s a stretch though, since Cyrus being a genie was so terrible and I don’t know why she’d wish that fate on her mate the Knave.
The episode is infinitely mock-able. But despite making little sense, it’s worth a mention that it did hold my interest. That interest came partially from the effort to figure out wtf was going on and partially from laughing at it, but there was some genuine interest, too. I’ve come to care about some of the characters (mostly Knave), and some long-developing plot points came to the forefront. It’s not entirely bad as fluff entertainment. You just have to be okay with random plot developments and deus ex machina.
I’m having a hard time confirming this, but I’ve heard through the grapevine (not literal) that there are supposed to be five more episodes in the series, starting in March. But for the past two months folks have been predicting the show’s cancellation, many saying it would come after the winter finale.
After that cliffhanger, I’d like to see the show continue long enough to wrap up nicely. This show doesn’t need a second, season, though. The Once staff should focus on creating a tight, fast-paced, and ideally sense-making ending to leave viewers with good memories of the show’s run. Here’s hoping we won’t be getting any bad news about Once Upon a Time in Wonderland over the next few weeks.
Read Kylie’s review of episode six, Who’s Alice?, here.
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