Once Upon a Time in Wonderland "Heart of Stone" Review: All You Could Wish For

By Lily Sparks

Nov 15, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland S01E05: "Heart of Stone"

You have to feel your heart wrench a little watching Once Upon a Time Wonderland. Since the series was originally conceived as a winter-hiatus replacement for the original OUAT and then became a primetime series, ABC had to have had high hopes that it would catch the same audience and ignite the same passionate fan base as its parent show. But despite dealing in many of the same tropes of OUAT Classic Spice (disapproving moms, snooty evil queens, sappy star-crossed lovers), Wonderland's failure to shoehorn in recognizable references and characters, not to mention its over-reliance on lackluster CGI, have put it on the chopping block, and now I'm feeling a tinge of melancholy whenever I tune in to see the show's extremely talented cast try to act over their garish costumes. This episode, in particular, was quite good, and featured two of my favorite Wonderland elements to date: the Knave and the Red Queen’s backstory, and the darker side of fantasy.

So: Turns out that just like OUAT's Regina, Anastasia had an over-controlling, literally strait-laced mom (like did you see that corset?! nuts!) who dreamed of her daughter marrying into royalty. Or, failing that, at least into wealth. Realizing that her kid was about to go hopping into another realm with Will Scarlet, she sneered at her not to come back without a bucket, because the only reason she’d be allowed back into her mother’s home would be to empty her chamberpot! With that highly inappropriate image, the lovers embarked on two weeks of being homeless in Wonderland, eating fish bones and foraging in the underbrush.

In the present day (I guess?! Or Victorian times?! Or also Storybrooke times?!), the Red Queen had tapped Alice as an unlikely partner to retrieve the Magical MacGuffin Dust that would protect her from Jafar’s dark magic. Alice was pretty leery of being besties with a woman who almost killed her lover and who surrounds herself with mute fops, but agreed. (P.S. does David Bowie know about this weird tribute make up they all wear? Is that trademarked? Should he send ABC a cease-and-desist notice?)

The Queen took her to the edge of a huge CGI chasm and told her that only the pure of heart could leap over it. I'm taking that to mean a figurative leap of faith, because after all they’re in a green room, but regardless, Alice strolled out three feet into thin air and then fell approximately 300 miles. 

Luckily she landed in about three inches of ash, so she was fine. Hahahaha no she’d be beyond dead if any sort of physics were being acknowledged in this show, but no matter, because a fate worse than death awaited her: a creepy child self in a cavern.

It should legit be illegal to paint dark circles under a kid’s eyes. It is ALWAYS TOO DISTURBING! While Once Upon a Time in Wonderland fails at being magical, transcendent, entrancing, or full of childlike wonder, it knows how to do disturbing and unsettling. And this was seriously a fantastically unsettling moment, not just because the little kid was creepy, but because she summoned the Red Queen down into the abyss with them and started DEMANDING THAT ALICE KILL HER! I mean, I was enjoying myself so much at this point that I wasn’t sure what show I was watching.

What was especially successful here was the suggestion that the former child devil self was actually just in Alice’s head: OH, so maybe she actually IS insane and maybe a lobotomy and lifelong imprisonment shouldn’t have been swept aside so cavalierly as legitimate options? Alice, egged on by her little creepy self, eventually took a swing at the Red Queen to scare her a little, but ultimately revealed she was no killer. At which point baby Alice’s dress magically became clean and she dissolved into a pile of cocaine. Or whatever this was. Magic Dust, right.

So to return to the backstory with the Red Queen and the Knave, they were living in a wagon (LOL) and scrounging for food when they heard there was going to be a royal ball, so they forged an invitation and stole some evening clothes and crashed it, giving ingenue Anastasia the chance to meet a real silver fox.

Although they were summarily booted out of the palace, Anastasia decided to return to filch those royal jewels before they went back to Fairy Tale Land, so she wouldn’t have to rely on waste-managing her mother’s bedroom for their living. Although the two were so strapped for cash that they had subsisted on bread crusts for two weeks, Anastasia put together an AMAZING ensemble for the jewelry theft she was planning. I mean bespoke gloves, a jaunty neck tie, little boots—how the heck did she get this stuff?! And then she made Will Scarlet/the Knave French-braid her hair, I guess? It's very hard to French braid your own hair, so he had to have helped her out.

Obviously instead of stealing the jewels she ran into the aging Don Juan Red King who offered to make her his Queen! Will, who’d been waiting outside for her to throw down the jewels, was instead greeted by the announcement that she was the new Queen of Wonderland.

And she’d taken down his French braid and let another man craft her a new updo. Very rude. How long do you think Will was waiting down there? Hours? To contract a royal marriage it might have been days. Anyway, ta-da: That’s why they hate each other. But to be fair, why didn’t Will marry her when he had the chance? She left her home to camp with him full-time, and as far as I know they weren’t even engaged. If he loved her then he should have put a ring on it.

Anyway, obviously the Red Queen did not honor her promises once she was out of the void; she stole the magic glitter and flitted away. Alice had kept a little herself, and so she was able to use it to see Jafar’s palace and set out in the right direction. But—BIG EMOTIONAL REVEAL—the Red Queen DID use the magic to turn Will back into a real boy. Okay, she still loves him, nice. Meanwhile, Cyrus the genie had finally finished welding metal with a chicken bone and had escaped his giant birdcage, so he and Alice have nothing between them now except for 300 miles of CGI jungle. Hurrah!

All in all, this was a pleasant, simple episode that added a few layers of emotional complexity to one of the series’ most cartoonish characters. The Red Queen definitely needed some characteristics beyond "evil" and "sexy," and we got them. I do wish that this episode had been front-loaded to air earlier in the season—it would've been nice to see more of the Knave and the Red Queen’s backstory in the pilot, and the classically styled Alice and the general creepiness would've been a lot more engaging than the marshmallow swamp and terrible animated caterpillar and all that foolishness we endured in the first two episodes.

I think it's likely that Wonderland will continue to unspool its truncated tale, if only because of the continued success of its mother franchise. And after this episode I’m a lot less bored by that prospect. I want to find out whether Red and Knave ever make up. I want to know where Silver Fox went. (Body of Evidence-style murder by SEX?!) And it'll be a tinier bit easier to root for Cyrus when he’s going to be doing something other than sitting around. Hurrah!


... Have you ever fallen in love with a burglar who broke into your house?

... Have you ever spent two weeks foraging in the woods with your true love?

... Why can’t Cyrus do any kind of magic for himself?

... Does Alice’s reluctance to wish for Cyrus to be by her side make less and less sense as both of them continue to veer toward mortal peril? (a.k.a., Can the "consequences" of making a big wish really be worse than dying while crossing a rift in the Earth's crust?)

... Pretty obvious, right, that the guy in the cage next to Cyrus was the Sultan who fathered Jafar and that Jafar wants him to make Jafar his official heir?

... Should ABC try other OUAT franchises? Do you think it's likely they will, given the dismal performance of Wonderland?

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  • SDGoth1 Jun 10, 2014

    I enjoyed both series Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. That world is better than this piece of crap world mankind has set up here in reality. I mean come on, banks, landlords, rent, car payments, jobs we hate police that tow cars, unwanted health care debacles? Where's the magic in this world we live in? Humans are small, pathetic creatures with no magical powers, nothing that makes us great, and nothing to redeem us but banks, landlords and car payments?
    I am glad that we have fantasy shows that take me to a world where people have powers and honor is still in style. Wonderland and Storybrook are far better worlds than this "money" world humans have created

  • marya2682 Dec 10, 2013

    I wonder if Anastasia is supposed to be one of Cinderella's stepsisters? Her mom's getup looked very much like the stepmother's from the Disney movie. Plus I think that was the name of the stepsisters in the movie as well (Anastasia and Drusila).

  • ravynjensen Nov 20, 2013

    I think they upped their CGI budget for this episode, it was much less terrible than in earlier episodes.

    I've been thinking that Cyrus' fellow inmate was the Sultan for a while now, too (cuz, yeah, who else could it really be).

    I found it quite telling that Alice used all of her magic dust to find Cyrus, while it was The Red Queen used some of hers to reverse the spell on Will. And on top of that she fled before he was fully de-petrified, so she didn't even take credit for it.

    It should be interesting to see Will's reunion with Alice, I wonder if it'll even occur to them that it was the Queen that saved him, and how they'll react if & when they find out.

    I'm also thrilled that Cyrus is no longer just sitting around, it was getting a little hard to think of him as the romantic lead if all he did episode after episode was sit around waiting to be rescued, especially after he tried to get that message to Alice telling her NOT to come for him (which she promptly ignored).

    I enjoy both versions of OUaT, and I've been watching 'original flavor' since the beginning. But then again, I'm just in it for the escapism & entertainment value, it's not my job to critique TV, I just watch what I like, so I'm not stuck watching something I'm not enjoying because I have to, which means if it gets to the point where I'm bordering on being a hater I don't have to watch or post about it anymore.

    I do feel bad for staff reviewers that are stuck covering shows they don't personally enjoy week after week, but that's the thing with doing something for work reasons, it's not always stuff you'd do if you had the choice... I think in this case movie reviewers have it easier, if they are stuck reviewing a movie they didn't enjoy at least they only had to sit through it once for about 2 hours, TV reviewers have to watch the show week after week.

    I guess all we can ask is that they be unbiased about it, if only not to annoy the fans of he show too much (and, yes, I understand that reviews are by nature subjective, so it's hard to keep all bias out of it, but then again, we don't live in a perfect world, do we...).

    ... I'm gonna stop rambling now ... sorry :-)

  • chrelle66 Nov 19, 2013

    Wow! You really hate this show, don't you. Is it because you love 'original flavor' so much that you can't stand that this is different?

    I hadn't seen OUaT before comming across Wonderland, and I enjoy Wonderland very much. I've since started watching the original. And while it is entertaining, Jennifer Morrison is always a treat, I don't think it is nearly as engaging as Wonderland.

  • SesseKitty Nov 18, 2013

    I would never choose a silver fox over Knave! (At least he's back.)

    I thought about the sultan in the cage too, who else could it be really?

    The CGI was almost bearable in this episode.

    The show is not beyond all hope. What I really hope though is that they pick up Jefferson from Storybrooke for some more eye candy, the Knave and Jaffaah! can't do it alone.

  • fan1983 Nov 21, 2013

    Yeah, where IS Jefferson? He's not in Storybrook anymore, he jumped out of a window and into his hat, so we have no idea where he is. I think. Unless I missed something in "original flavour".

  • SesseKitty Nov 21, 2013

    I actually meant that I am hoping Jefferson is the one White Rabbit and Jafar went to pick up from another world, though I would welcome him back anywhere for any reason :)

  • vcivi Nov 17, 2013

    I had told myelf that i wouldn;t watch this series anymore. Somehow i had nothing else to watch, so i downloaded it...
    Still not liking it...liked this episode a bit more, because of the flashbacks...i see rather anastacia then the queen..
    The whole Jafar and Rabbit thing was ridicilious...besides...what the hell is Jafar doing anyway in Alice in Wonderland...why can't he stay in Aladdin world..??
    The only nice thing about this whole episode was the little girl...she acted the best of all them...!! Good job scary little girl...You ruled this episode..

  • Aeidail Nov 16, 2013

    Three (kinda) main points here:

    1. Rabbit. Seriously Rabbit. How come he can just make portals. That is supposed to be really hard. And if there was this magic portal making Bunny in wonderland, why didn't Rumple kidnap the hatter a long time ago. Seriously. Also, Jafar making rabbit foot. Not cool. We have already established Jafar is evil. Black and White kind of evil (which is actually rare in this show, probabaly won't last). Cutting off the poor rabbits foot was not necessary. Also, much more disturbing than scary Alice.

    2. I feel like Will and Ana are like Charming and Snow if Snow was replaced by a female Charming. Lots of good intention, but very little actual action going on. Which is nice, because Snow was a Princess and Charming never really seemed to suffer, not matter how 'poor' they made him out (doubt he ever stole food to live). Sure they had all those family issues, and parental problems, but never anything as basic as no friends, no home, no food. So it's interesting to see "True Love" being looked at from this perspective (apparently you can't live on it).

    3. Say what you will about the Red Queen and her acting/makeup/face etc. Those accents were pretty cool. Switching like that is hard. I know cause I tried. But I also like the really obvious switch between the broad 'lower class' accent she had to the really snooty one she's got now.

  • WoundedWolfgirl Nov 16, 2013

    Oh thank God I'm not the only one who found the King attractive. Wonder what happened to him? I mean, I'm assuming Anastasia killed him, but how? And why? He seemed to understand her, was kind to her, and not to mention was damn fine. I get that Will is her true love, but it seems like Silver Fox King would be a decent second choice. At least he wasn't boring and bursting with incorruptible pure pureness like Regina's husband.

  • reinrose Nov 16, 2013

    Glad to see Will back, I was hoping he wouldn't be stone for long, and call me crazy but I'm really hoping he turns out to be Aladdin. Come on, the thief who's secretly a diamond in the rough? And I'm looking forward to Alice's backstory in the next ep. I really want a richer backstory for her.
    Now, we know Cora took over Wonderland as Queen of Hearts, but who'd she take it from? What if that's the reason Alice's father wants her to forget Wonderland, because they originally came from there, making Alice the lost princess of Wonderland, and also, maybe, the Jasmine to Will's Aladdin?
    Cyrus is going to have to be pretty impressive next week to win me back to his camp, cause him and Alice? Haven't been feeling it. Alice and Will? Nice.

  • WoundedWolfgirl Nov 16, 2013

    NO NO NO! Enough white washing already goes on in the entertainment industry without turning the only two Arab Disney Prince and Princess into white people.

  • reinrose Nov 16, 2013

    Sorry, hadn't thought of it that way. Just trying to liven up the cast we already had. But yes, new characters would be more than welcome.

  • KateSullivan Nov 16, 2013

    I think I totally blame ABC and greed for this show. This was probably like episode six? What if this story all had to end with Cyrus and Alice coming together tonight and they could have just left the telegraphing that we know Anastasia still loves Will and that could be the crumb that OUAT overlords left for ABC to renew again or even run as a summer series.

    Yes I figure the guy in the cage is the sultan to which I roll my eyes ( I had a brief thought maybe I am totally wrong that clearly this is pre Aladdin because Jafar is unsuccessful and gets driven out of Wonderland and so this dude was Aladdin). I was desperatly hoping Jafar was going to Storybrooke to find Hatter if the Rabbit ia actually thinking of a good adversary but he's probably just bringing him to her father.

    You know a big story telling issue? I am not super rooting for Alice and Cyrus because I have no idea what they are really like together. There was one episode where we saw like a day or two. Right now they are just two people who we want to win.

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