Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013)

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Review

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Review

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a 2013 fantasy series that is a spin-off of Once Upon a Time which is its parent series. It had only one season due to mediocre ratings and although uneven and weaker than the original, it is still a solid, entertaining show.

I find this series to be very uneven. It started off really strong and the first episode Down the Rabbit Hole is just spectacular. It was set in Wonderland, but different. And it had a different tone than Once Upon a Time and moved at a much brisker pace. I loved that first episode as it hooked me up instantly. Also, the couple of episodes after it were pretty good as well and it really started to develop in some interesting ways.

Unfortunately, the middle section of the season ruined it all for me as it was so disappointing and weak, at times even boring. They started focusing on some boring backstories, dull action and the overall tone was different and the pacing got progressively slower leading to many honestly tedious moments.

The last couple of episodes fixed that, but the finale, although pretty good, still left me unsatisfied as it felt incredibly rushed and even abrupt at some points. But I still liked that it ended the whole story and the happy ending was earned and really satisfying with the wedding and especially the hug between the two friends being so heartwarming and just perfect.

The characters are a mixed bag, some are boring, but most of them are very good. Let’s start with Alice. She is one of the highlights. I liked her character quite a bit. She was too badass in my opinion and they made her like that to appeal to modern audiences, but her personality is true to the character in the original book and she is such a charming, likable girl. Will Scarlet is mostly great. He can be annoying at times, but I really liked his story and the relationship between him and Alice is just fantastic and the show’s major highlight for sure.

I really liked Anastasia, but she had a rough start and finish. She was really annoying at first and she became useless near the end and basically a plot device. But in the middle, she was great, she is such a sympathetic character and the relationship between her and Will is really sweet and I rooted for them. Cyrus is a bit boring and a typically heroic character, but their relationship, although typical and old-fashioned, is still pretty good and I liked that it was traditional for a change.

Jafar is a worthy villain. He was too theatrical at times and stupid near the end, but he is for the most part a tough villain that posed some genuine threat and he played dirty which I loved. I also loved how they made him a real villain and not some antihero and that was so refreshing and immensely satisfying.

The supporting characters are a bit forgettable. The father is solid and I liked that backstory quite a bit. Cheshire Cat was very good, albeit underused. And White Rabbit, although useless, still proved somewhat useful to the team near the end and I overall liked him despite him being tortured by Jafar way too much. Sultan was a good, if typical father character. Amara was interesting, Lizard’s subplot was so rushed and Caterpillar was disappointing. I liked Kora’s inclusion very much and I loved that she played such a crucial part in Anastasia’s road to becoming the Red Queen. But Jabberwocky is the worst character without a doubt. She started off strong, but proved so weak near the end and her powers and over-the-top nature really got on my nerves.

The score in this show is good, albeit quite repetitive. The character development is mostly quite good and the backstories are mostly satisfying. The relationships and character interactions are excellent and the tone I liked as it was lightweight and very comedic at times with solid humor, but also very dark at other times with some unexpectedly brutal sequences. Jafar torturing Rabbit is some pretty dark stuff indeed. I did not expect that as the parent series never had such scenes, but they played it off really well and it was necessary for the villain to be taken seriously.

The show is also quite charming at times with the relationship between Will and Alice being just wonderful and so playful and a lot of fun. They carried this series on their shoulders. Michael Socha is good, but it is Sophie Lowe who is the finest actress here as she really delivered with her performance and basically became Alice. She is also very pretty and has such a great charm and charisma to her. Peter Gadiot is solid and handsome and John Lithgow’s voice acting is also good. Naveen Andrews was too over-the-top, but okay. As for Emma Rigby, she is pretty to look at and she was very likable in her role. However, her acting abilities aren’t that great as there were many times where I could see she was acting and her performance was for the most time subpar.

The special effects are admittedly poor. The Rabbit is the highlight as he does look great, especially for a TV show. But the colors and backgrounds are very game-like and the whole world is too much for a TV series to handle. But I get annoyed when people bash the series for it. It is a TV show and of course it can’t look particularly great given their smaller budget and I never took issue with it. There were some moments that looked bad and took me out of it, but the story and the characters are much more important to me and the fact that the world building is quite good makes up for it.

In the end, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is lacking in comparison to its parent series, it is at times pretty boring and it is very uneven in the quality of its episodes, but the show is for the most time fun, the characters are likable and their relationships are really well realized and it has a lot of charm.

Worst Episodes: Who’s Alice, Home and Nothing to Fear.
Best Episodes: Down the Rabbit Hole, Forget Me Not and The Serpent.

My Rating – 3.9

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