Sunday, April 6, 2014

Departing Wonderland

As I suspected, the spin-off of Once Upon a Time, by name Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, has finished off after only one thirteen episode season. There will be no more episodes, and I don't think there need to be any more episodes. While Wonderland went off to a good start, it always had a much shorter scope than Once, and I did find its power over me waning as the season went on. Once has good and mediocre episodes, but it's those good episodes or scenes that keep me going.

I just started to get a little bored by Wonderland. Part of the beauty of Once is the game: trying to make connections, guess what's happening next, figure out character motives, and such. Because Wonderland had many fewer characters and many fewer plot points, there was less to ponder. And while I love to analyze the way in which Once interacts with fairy tale themes, Wonderland hardly ever seemed to interact in this way. In the final episode, the White Rabbit says that Wonderland is about finding yourself--which is completely true, if you've studied the book at all. Wonderland is all about the internal coming to have an external and physical representation. But just because the show threw in that idea at the end doesn't mean they fully explored it. (Sorry, I'm still quite partial to Nick Willing's Alice and can never seem to find anyone's interpretation of Wonderland quite as compelling.)

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was essentially just a love story. Alice and Cyrus, and Will and Anastasia, stand in as the happy lovers who get to be together in the end. Jafar and Amara are the pair who just used each other. And then there are also other types of love. There is paternal love. While Alice is able to repair her relationship with her father, Jafar isn't, and so there is some interesting contrast there. There is friendship, most notably between Alice and Will. There is a brief bit in there with Cyrus and his brothers--although I think they introduced them rather too randomly and suddenly.

And love stories are good and all--that's one of the reasons why Once has been so successful. But why use Wonderland, with a hint of Agrabah, as the setting for this story? There has to be a specific reason why this story takes place in this world, and I'm not sure the show gave us one. Did we really see Alice learning about herself and becoming more herself as a result of her time in Wonderland? We only very briefly saw Alice without hope in the pilot. Otherwise, she has been optimistic, strong, quick-thinking, and kind. We're essentially told she has a character arc, but we don't actually see that development. And that's the only thing that pulls us specifically to Wonderland.

I ramble. I don't mean to say that the show was terrible. It was a nice thirteen episodes to watch for some Thursday night entertainment. Jafar and the Jabberwocky were great. Anastasia was also pretty good. Cora made a great couple of re-entrances. But this show just didn't have that spark of special something that the main show has; I didn't feel as invested in it all. Wonderland has been a nice little diversion, but now I'm looking forward to focusing on Once again (the second half of Once's season has been generally great so far, by the way).

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