Once Upon a Time in Wonderland poses the question: what happened to Alice when she returns from her trip to Wonderland?
The episode opens with young Alice returning from Wonderland excited to regale her family with tales of her adventures. It is never said, but it seems Alice’s jaunt to the magical place seemed a very short time to her but a very long time for her family – in fact they thought she was dead.
Here, tales of wonder, white rabbits and an evil Red Queen don’t sit well with her father and he doesn’t believe her. This propels Alice on a journey to prove her father wrong and sends her back to Wonderland numerous times as she grows up.
Since this show is a spin-off of Once Upon a Time, we then shift to see a dark figure in Storybrooke just as Emma arrives in the town. He lifts the keys to Granny’s diner, as it is closing, and seems to be making himself right at home. A storm is raging outside and then the earth begins to quake. A huge hole appears in the middle of the diner and the White Rabbit appears and, of course, he says they are late.
We learn that the White Rabbit is asking The Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) to help him rescue Alice (Sophie Lowe).
Alice’s numerous trips to Wonderland have finally forced her father to institutionalize her. Her father was at wits end, she had disappeared numerous times throughout her youth, and he didn’t believe her claims of a wondrous land full of talking cats, magical shrinking potions and a hapa-smoking caterpillar.
In one of her journeys to Wonderland, a now grown Alice shows she can navigate easily through the world of Wonderland and is currently being chased. She takes a chuck of the caterpillar’s mushroom he is sitting on and it shrinks her. As the Red Queen’s guards continue to search for her, Alice seeks shelter in a bottle – in that bottle is where she meets her destiny.
“What are you doing in my bottle,” a man asks. Alice threatens she will drink a potion that will make her big again and smash his bottle. The man says his name is Cyrus (Peter Gadiot) and he eases her concerns by saying she is welcome in his bottle.
Alice and Cyrus find a kinship in each other. She tells Cyrus she is returning to her land, England, providing proof that Wonderland is real and produces the White Rabbit out of a sack. It turns out Cyrus is a genie and he says to Alice, “Mistress mine, my will is thine. Tell me your wishes three.”
Back to the present, a doctor is speaking in the mental institution that Alice has been for the last year. The doctor asks Alice if she wishes to be released and she interrupts him to say she doesn’t wish for anything. Giving a hint that Cyrus gave Alice three wishes and showing she doesn’t want to chance wishing for anything and using up a wish.
As the story of Alice’s adventures continue to be revealed, thanks to the doctor, he says Alice told her father she released the genie, Cyrus, and they traveled from world to world and the two fell in love. Cyrus proposed to Alice and she accepted only to have the Red Queen appear and send Cyrus off the cliff, apparently killing him.
Losing Cyrus sent Alice spiraling into despair, leaving Wonderland to return to England a broken young woman. It is what led her to being institutionalized and the doctor suggests he wants to try a new procedure – a lobotomy. Alice is so distraught that she agrees to it.
Then it is the Knave of Hearts to the rescue. At first, Alice refuses to be rescued until he tells her the White Rabbit has seen Cyrus. This sends Alice into action and she fights her way out.
The White Rabbit complains about the dirt and grime of the asylum as the trio make their way out of the asylum and onto the streets of London. They run into a dead end and Alice persuades the White Rabbit to create a hole to Wonderland on the wall in front of them. She tells the Knave to come with. At first, he refuses, saying he didn’t leave Wonderland on good terms. Soon after, she coerces him to follow and they both jump down the rabbit hole that the White Rabbit has created.
Finally, Alice is back in Wonderland with marshmallow swamps and dragonflies that are actually dragons that breathe fire. Alice and the Knave get stuck in the marshmallow marsh and the White Rabbit leaves stating he is off to get help.
What the White Rabbit is really doing is going off to meet the Red Queen (Emma Rigby). His story of seeing Cyrus is only a ruse to get Alice to return to Wonderland.
After Alice and the Knave get out of the marshmallow swamp, the White Rabbit returns and says the door mouse told him he saw Cyrus at the Mad Hatter’s house – which has been abandoned since the Mad Hatter disappeared years ago. Of course, fans of Once Upon a Time know he went to Storybrooke with numerous other fairy tale characters.
The other major revelation is that the Red Queen is working with Jafar (Naveen Andrews), who needed Alice to return to Wonderland so he could get back the Cyrus’ bottle and force Alice to use her three wishes. Theirs is an uneasy alliance and the chance for turning on each other is high.
Jafar first says the Red Queen has done her job and is useless but she informs him that she is the only one who can track Alice because of the White Rabbit keeping tabs on her for the queen.
The wishes Jafar needs Alice to use are what Alice offers the Knave to continue their journey in search of Alice. When Alice climbs a tree for a better view of the Mad Hatter’s house, she takes off her boots – the same boots that hold the wishes in a secret compartment in the heel. The Knave, aka Will, steals the shoe and leaves Alice.
Alice runs into the Cheshire Cat who is grown quite large. He isn’t very nice anymore either, stating Wonderland is a very strange place and they are all strangers. The cat is set to pounce on Alice, when suddenly Will returns and forces the cat to swallow a piece of the mushroom that makes you small – rendering the cat harmless.
When Alice and Will get to the Mad Hatter’s house, meeting up with the White Rabbit, they find it empty. Cyrus isn’t there. She is in despair again – Cyrus is gone. She leaves the house and in the meadow finds the necklace Cyrus wore. It gives her hope. She repeats something Cyrus told her, “When you really love someone, you don’t need proof, you can feel it.”
Will begrudgingly agrees to continue the journey with Alice. She, Will and the White Rabbit set off to find Cyrus.
At the end of the episode we find out that Cyrus was saved by Jafar. He sent his magic carpet to catch Cyrus before he fell into the boiling sea. Jafar is holding Cyrus hostage in a huge cage – intent on using him as bait to draw Alice to him.
There are so many options for adventure and fun in this series. It is appealing because it is set up to have a set amount of characters, allowing for guest spots, of new fairytale characters to appear, yet also sticking with the story of a young woman who found adventure and love in Wonderland.