Once Upon a Time in Wonderland S01E04: "The Serpent"

At what point did you know that Jafar’s tutor/adoptive mother/lusty lover was going to turn into a serpent? Was it when she first appeared onscreen, wearing a serpent necklace? Or was it when you first heard that this episode was called "The Serpent" and you were like, "Oooh cool guest star! Bet she's a serpent somehow." Either way, congratulations. P.S. I don’t think I’ve seen a lady on TV as beautiful as Zuleikha Robinson in literally decades. It was like the people in the marketplace were scurrying away from her and hiding their faces so as not to be blinded by her beauty. Like WTF?! You got this kind of charisma on tap and you don’t make her a series regular?

Not that a series regular on this show would mean much at this point, it’s not doing so hot in the ratings. Will ABC continue to air all 18 episodes of Wonderland? That remains to be seen (or unseen, by the majority of primetime viewers). Still, there is something fundamentally wrong about a woman taking on an eight-year-old apprentice and then later making him her lover. 

Edgy choices. Edgy choices. This week we got the backstory of Jafar, a Sultan’s bastard who went from being a sweet young man who enjoyed a hilarious goat story as much as anyone else...

...to becoming a ruthless, murderous Sorcerer, trained by a powerful and beautiful Sorceress. And then he picked up some weird fetish for leather collars and genie wishes, I guess? There is a super special spell Jafar can do when he as ALL the wishes, although he seems pretty capable of making anything happen/materialize as is. But this Master Spell is the reason Jafar has been madly hunting genie bottles, and why he's willing to put a CGI knife through a hand to get one! 

Sure! Also, poor Peter Gadiot spent another week of filming alone in a green room. In "The Serpent" he slipped further into insanity by figuring out how to use a WISHBONE to cut through his solid silver cage. Apparently wishbones always magically rejoin when they break apart, but they don’t grant wishes! That was a story started by genies, who love to lie to people! If you are ever wondering where story ideas come from on this show, ask yourself what Adam Horowitz has possibly eaten lately. A rotisserie chicken, in this case, perhaps. However, I'd much rather read the genie's arc as him going slowly insane, scrubbing bones on the floor of his cage. WHOA: Will he wake up in the Victorian asylum and we'll learn that this whole season has just been in HIS head?! 

Anyway, Jafar’s backstory was important insofar as it mirrored how he learned to casually murder people in his search for self-fulfillment, a skill the Red Queen and Alice apparently lack. We got another long, drawn-out scene between him and the Red Queen with him really hammering home that she needed to PROVE she was STRONG enough to KILL someone AFTER SOMEONE BULLIED HER INTO IT. Please, can we never have a scene with just the Red Queen and Jafar ever again? Every week they get into some green room in their horrible costumes and yell and wince at each other and it’s so... tedious. And repetitive. And very "acting workshop." And the costumes are wearing them, okay? And who keeps approving the David Bowie face paint guys?

No. Just no. Anyway, the Knave got snatched up this week, and Jafar made a point of insisting that the Red Queen must publicly execute him. Alice met Lizard, a character previously known as Bill the Lizard in Alice in Wonderland but who's now been transmogrified into Lync from Zelda. (Wonderland u finally getting some lesbian subtext?! PRAIZE BE!!!!) 

Alice and Lizard found out about the impending public execution of Will as mandated by Jafar (and to be carried out by the Red Queen, albeit unwillingly), and decided to attend. After the executioner warmed up on a few watermelons (because that makes sense), we learned that the people of Wonderland dress like assholes.

Sunflowers on a top hat with a masquerade mask. Exactly what you put on right before you join a vegan co-op that generates its own electricity by burning hobo crap. Don’t ask, I practically lived in one. Suffice it to say that based on this clothing aesthetic, the 48 people who live in Wonderland should be pushed with a backhoe into a lake of fire. Anyway, the axe swung but ALICE WAS THE EXECUTIONER! Ohmigosh how did she do that, that must have been an exciting adventure swapping clothes with the executioner behind the big gates wow exciting too bad it all happened offscreen. O well. Then Alice and the Knave of Hearts catapulted themselves onto what logically should have been a large pile of all the heads ever beheaded.

But no, instead of ending up on the Bonestripper via Nothin’ But Trouble, they just landed on some CGI grass, as usual. I hate to harp on this, I know I go off about this every week, but how expensive is it to buy some astroturf and a single sidewalk made of Nerf? The post-production folks could copy and paste that again and again, but having the practical reality of a sidewalk underfoot for one shot out of 20 would make the others seem more real. How is this terrible CGI allowed week after week?! I am only a simple woman who lives for the heart of Peron, but the CGI on this show is simply distracting! I’m sorry. I appreciate what they are trying to do here, I certainly couldn’t do any better, and I appreciate the overall inventiveness, but would it be so hard to draft an actual art department? There are super skilled people out there who fabricate beautiful sets and who have been waiting for YEARS for a show like this to make it to air, but we're still stuck watching an endless parade of MYST background. The showrunners are betting hard that we will find the characters SO COMPELLING that we will forgive unconvincing CGI. Well, my patience this episode, much like Alice’s body, was stretched awful thin.

For a moment I thought Alice was going to literally pop apart and the series would be like "We’re canceled, F all of U, True Love loses! YAAAHAHHAHA" which actually could have generated some word-of-mouth buzz. What to do with Wonderland? It’s great hate-watching if you have that kind of time to kill and love raggin’ on sloppy green screen edge-feathering, but otherwise it is not exactly pushing me to the edge of my seat. The writers probably envisioned that audiences would respond to their characters the same way we've gotten attached to OUAT Original Seasoning. But OUAT Original spent a good year laying groundwork, letting us get to know the characters before making them pull laughable stunts in 100 percent CGI environments. And not once has someone worn a top hat bedazzled with a sunflower and paired it with a masquerade mask on OUAT. OUAT has done many unforgivable things to me, but no, never that.

The wholesale torture of Alice by Jafar was meant to coerce her into making a wish for Jafar to stop. She did link her life to the Knave’s, using ONE WISH, but then she withstood oh so much bone-creaking without using the other two. Good job, Alice. Unfortunately the show immediately negated Alice’s ingenious "Link my life to the Knave’s life" wish by turning him into stone.

Sigh. Wonderland, you had one compelling character. ONE. And you turned him to stone? Fantastic. Even before he got stoned tho, my beloved Michael Socha couldn’t ignite the reunion with Red Queen/Anastasia. The scene did not exactly sparkle with electricity, maybe it was because the Knave kept yelling at the Queen to kill him already, maybe because they were never completely in the same shot. I wish there had been more clutching of bars and whispering of sweet nothings.

Next week, Red Queen will have an opportunity to look on aghast as her former boyfriend is in mortal peril. Is anyone really convinced she’ll respond any differently? Is anyone really concerned? Are y’all worried about Alice and her genie ever meeting up, or have you forgotten why she’s looking for him in the first place? Will True Love prevail, or are people more interested in relationships that happen with both actors in-frame? Do you love-watch or hate-watch Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? Y’all know I’m passionate about OUAT. How do I get invested in Wonderland?


... On the timeline, is all this before or after Aladdin? (Lamp suggests after, but then what happened to Aladdin and Jasmine?)

... Red Queen and Knave reuniting: missed opportunity or emotionally overwrought?

... Dave Bowie face paint guys: WHAT.

... Are you watching this "for realsies" or for laughs?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 4/3/2014

Season 1 : Episode 13

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