Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Series Finale Review: And They Lived... On, in Once Upon a Time, If They Possibly Could

By Lily Sparks

Apr 04, 2014

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland S01E13: "And They Lived..."

To be blunt, I’m relieved that Once Upon a Time Wonderland never found the loyal audience and lasting success of its predecessor. It would have said some disturbing things about the viewing public and the collective unconscious if it had been embraced en masse. Whether read as pure whimsical fantasy or a collection of deep ideas that'd been over-simplified into incoherent psychological symbols, Wonderland was a hot mess. It was an Irish stew of tongue-in-cheek puns, laughable CGI, and campy melodrama not seen on television since the days of Flash Gordon. It was big, beautiful ideas dumbed down into baffling platitudes. It was terrible! But it had the courage, at least, to be terrible. The world has an overabundance of mediocre television—shows that play it safe by sticking to a formula and presenting us with absolutely nothing new, shows that are created by a committee that grinds out 30-minute chunks of uneventful brain Velveeta with the aim of providing a restful soundtrack for fans making dinner after a long day of work. Wonderland is innocent at least of the dishonor of playing it safe.

At least Wonderland was a spectacular failure in the literal sense of the word spectacular: a glittering, glamorous, larger-than-life showcase of failure. It was bravely bad. Heroically horrible. Ambitiously awful. Terrifically terrible. And as someone who once got through a truly difficult week by watching a solid 24 hours' worth of Paradise Hotel 2, I can say with confidence there will always be hearts and minds that need terrible entertainment. Terrible entertainment is the most entertaining kind, next to good entertainment. One day, some struggling person is going to lay flat on their bed and watch all 13 episodes of Wonderland on a laptop, screaming with hysterical laughter and rolling their eyes and weeping a little at the unblushing sentimentality of it all, and they're going to feel a lot better. And even though the series must end, Michael Socha is joining OUAT! So it’s even sort of a happy ending.

The finale was as slapdash, needlessly complicated, and confounding as the rest of the season. Alice donned golden armor to give a five-minute battle speech and was captured 30 seconds into the first fight. Jafar killed the Jabberwocky because why not? Jafar tantalizingly promised to destroy Alice’s memories of Cyrus (perhaps they thought they would get a Season 2; this was intended as a game-changing cliffhanger), but she sort of mad-dogged him out of it. The white rabbit was hilariously drop-kicked into the jungle. Jafar was enslaved as a genie by the high/low pitch-shifted Lady of the Lake. A gigantic purple pulse, because why not? The Red Queen was brought back to life because the Well of Wonders Lady of the Lake bought her a shot. Sure. I like happy endings, so why not?

Thanks to this finale, Wonderland's future fans will have an emotionally satisfying, classic happy ending to look forward to at the end of the rusty laser-tag game that was the season—an ending so complete and composed that I’m sure the production team had a big heads-up they wouldn't be getting a second season well before they wrote the finale script. No storylines were left unsewn, there was no signature Kitsis & Horowitz cliffhanger; instead, we saw a very All’s Well That End’s Well, every-character-reunited wedding, presided over by a CGI rabbit, no less.

John Lithgow later imparted the lesson of what Wonderland is all about (finding yourself, which you can’t do on Earth. There aren't nearly enough close calls with father-obsessed magicians in this dimension).

Weirdly, the finale’s wedding, which seemed like a consolatory gift to the cast from the writers, finally had the element that perhaps kept Wonderland from ever connecting to OUAT: Original’s wider audience: naturalism. Just as OUAT finds favor with its viewers by exploring what Snow White would be like as a roommate, or what the Evil Queen would be like as a girlfriend, so too was it highly enjoyable to see what the Red Queen would really be like as a friend when we saw her as a guest at the wedding (awesome, hilarious, would always bring her own wine) and how much Alice and the Knave sort of depended on each other. The characters’ relationships were better illustrated in the last five minutes of the series than in the several spotlight episodes devoted to making the same points, because they simply got to stand around and breathe together. 

And we even got a sort of epilogue, Alice’s wrapping up or the story with a literal bow after reading it to her future daughter and concretely putting a pin in that universe. So for the untold thousands who stumble upon Wonderland while seeking an escape hatch from sorrow in future years, you can look forward to a supremely satisfying ending.


... Are you psyched for Socha to arrive on OUAT?

... What other Wonderland alumni would you like to see cross over?

... What other OUAT spin-offs would you like to see pursued?

... What lessons can future OUAT spin-offs take from Wonderland?

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  • ijlevinson Sep 06, 2014

    I loved this show and am sad to see it end! The acting was 10 times better than OUAT. The only great actress on that show is Emma.

  • IrishPrincess23 May 19, 2014

    Wow I can't believe how much hate your getting for this review, This show was TERRIBLE seriously shameful production value for a prime time abc show, the CGI looks a good 10 years old, nothing was interesting and was a total way to mooch off the other show. THANK YOU for calling them out on this crap!!! The only good moments were some of the acting, that has little to do with the actual production of the show. Television will never get better if reviewers Like Lily don't call them out on BS like this.

  • renzanity2008 May 19, 2014

    Hey! You know what's FUN? Realizing the person who wrote this article didn't do enough research before knocking the show. It wasn't CANCELLED. It was intended to be a one-season "mini series" show FROM THE BEGINNING.

    Proof, September 2013: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1032435

    That's not the only evidence out there - I know there is a written interview as I've read it, but can't locate it - but there it is, spelled out for all to see, eight months ago.

    Sure, this show was cheesy and campy. But its intent all along was to tie it to the original series (which is also cheesy and campy).

    My issue is this "reporter" can't do the job properly. Laziness is not a good quality for anyone in media.

  • IrishPrincess23 May 19, 2014

    It was written to be one season but if it was succesful THEN they would have done another season, it was not, and was cancelled, try getting your facts straight

  • fleur-de-lune May 14, 2014

    After hearing that Will would be joining the main show I decided I should binge watch this spin off. Pretty good/cute story.

    I would love to see the Jabberwocky again in OUAT. She was a neat character that I started rooting for, even though she's a baddie.

    How is Will going to come to OUAT when he's happy with Ana in Wonderland? I hope the writer don't break them up or kill her off.

    Another spin-off should be Pan's Adventures in Neverland. Robbie Kay is AMAZING. And there's so much to explore. Tiger Lily, the mermaids, the pirates, learning more about the Lost Boys. Seeing Bae as a lost boy.... that would be so cool. That or I liked the idea of someone who travels between the worlds, like Rabbit did. That would be really cool too.

  • O-H May 13, 2014

    To be blunt....this is the worst review I have ever had the misfortune to lay eyes upon,... Not only does the writer not critizize anything but furthermore she just throws a bunch of her impressions - not even in a chronological order - to the reader,...well yes, we get it: You did not like the show.

    But obviously you didn't get it at all. So please stop writing about things you do not understand and just want to bash,...for whatever reason,...probably because you were in a bad mood while writing the review...

    At least there were more than 3 million viewers who loved the show,...and I also believe it is much better than OuaT (which I also like a lot).

    Just to keep your "critique" (I think we should better call it a bashing) in scope: The program has a 61/100 score on Metacritic based on 21 reviews.

    ...so there are more people to appreciate the show around as you obviously believe and may be able to comprehend.

    ...I am sad that there is no second season, and I hope, that - apart from the Knave - also Alice gets an appearance in OuaT Season 4...

  • nachnick May 04, 2014

    Since the Knave of Hearts is going to be in OUAT, I'd love to see Alice too.

  • kurtalexander1291 Apr 29, 2014

    'Wonderland' started out slow and arkward, and was a GCI overload, but got much, much better by the fourth or fifth episode. I was satisfied how it ended and not upset there will not be a season 2.

    • As far as other spinnoffs, I think, with the current arc, a trip to OZ is in order. Actually, if they do another spin off, my suggestion would be one not set in one particular land, but rather a show that jumps between many worlds, introducing a main character who (like the white rabbit) has unlimited capabilities of creating portals to new lands. Think of it as "Dr Who" meets OUAT.
    • As far as what other character to bring over to OUAT, I would like to see a show down between the two queens (Anastasia and Regina). But OUAT needs more baddies (after turning Rump, Regina, and Hook to the good side), so I would definately want to see Jafar in Storybrooke.

  • samroush11 Apr 29, 2014

    TO BE BLUNT... I thought that Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was far better than Once Upon a Time. The spin off show was at least interesting and captivating unlike the original show that is lack luster and very predictable. At the end of the spin off I wanted there to be another season unlike when I reached the end of the original show I just wanted to shoot my self from boredom. Also, who does this reviewer even think she is for basically saying people are stupid for liking it. I think she's stupid for having such a lowly job as writing on-line reviews.

  • CharlieS2014 Apr 28, 2014

    Hi Lily, I like your reviews and find them hilarious for the most part, and while I respect your right to your own opinions about the Wonderland spin off, the only thing that bothered me is how you kind of looked down your nose at those of us to did like it. I really enjoyed the Wonderland spin off, I was aware of it's flaws but if I can handle OUAT then I can handle whatever it's spin off will throw at me too. I'm not some uncultured incompetent swine for liking this show and I'd appreciate it if you didn't go out your way to make me and others feel that way.

  • jasontilley31 Apr 27, 2014

    I actually liked the show, but hey I'm a fan of the humorous shows such as Merlin, Atlantis, and this one. But this review was absolutely crap (and not because the reviewer disagrees with me). She is a blathering idiot who tries way too hard be intelligent by using big fancy words and ridiculous writing. Plus she bagged a tv show because it was humorous and had people laughing. Seriously?

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