Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Season 1 Review “The Serpent”

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Episode 4 The Serpent (8)

It’s starting to feel like we’re watching the slow death of a bandersnatch. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland’s abysmal ratings are making news, so does that mean we should expect it to disappear soon? The problem is that Once Wonder adopts the style and format of Once Upon a Time, but lacks the strong characters which that show has. Frankly, I don’t know if the show is salvagable and I’m not sure how much I care. Let’s break down this week’s episode to see where the problems lie.

We got quite a bit of backstory on Jafar this week, which was helpful in rounding out his character. Until now, Jafar has been too static; his sole purpose has been to appear occasionally to deliver a menacing threat or two. We learned that Jafar was an abandoned and abused child who turned to magic to exact his revenge on those who’d harmed him. Even as a younger man, Jafar was ruthless. He conned a sorceress into helping him collect all of the genie bottles and then turned her into a snake. She believed that they were in love. Sucker.

This type of backstory should have been given to us earlier so we’d have a context for the character. While you feel some sympathy for young Jafar, it’s apparent that at this point he truly is rotten to the core. His cruelty in this episode manifested in a brutal torture scene with Alice. Jafar suspended her in the air and pulled on her limbs while she screamed in pain. It was a shocking scene, but one of the most effective so far in communicating that Jafar is a serious threat to Alice.

The Red Queen and the Knave.
This week, the Red Queen tried to keep Jafar from killing the Knave. That’s about it. She had a conversation with the Knave that showed both of them still have feelings for another, but she also stood idly by when Jafar turned the Knave into stone.

I don’t think there is any doubt that Rigby is miscast as the Red Queen. That’s no comment on her abilities as an actress – this just isn’t the right role for her. Why does she always look like she is on the verge of tears? The character of the Red Queen is also a mess. Is she cruel? We’ve seen her do some bad things – like what she did to the Grendel. Is she secretly good at heart? Maybe. We know she probably was when she and the Knave were together, and she clearly didn’t want to see him murdered by Jafar. Does she want power? Does she want revenge? What is her purpose? Herein lies a big problem. What is the motivation of the Red Queen? We don’t know and that’s a bad spot for this character. So far, she just seems to trail after Jafar, while trying not to cry.

Alice and Cyrus.
It looks like Cyrus is finally going to escape Jafar’s clutches. At the end of the episode, we see him cutting the metal of his cage with a sharpened bone. This made no sense, but we’ll go with it for the sake of argument. Again, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Cyrus was also miscast. Peter Gadiot is just not doing anything for me. I’m sure a large part of that is the fact that Cyrus as a character is fairly one dimensional. But, at this point, I can’t imagine why Alice loves this guy. He’s not charming not roguish, as we get with characters like Hook, the Huntsman and even Charming on Once Upon a Time. He’s too vanilla – and not fancy vanilla bean vanilla. We’ll have to see if his character undergoes a radical transformation once he’s free of the cage.

Alice spent most of the episode traipsing down the CGI yellow brick road. As mentioned above, she was tortured by Jafar and eventually made one of her three wishes. She used her wish to protect the Knave, which was odd. Why couldn’t she have used the wish long ago to protect Cyrus? Did she not think he was in the same level of danger as the Knave?

I know other folks may disagree with me on how this show is shaking out. But, I have to be honest, so far no bueno.