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Saturday, October 12, 2013

PILOT REVIEW: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland


Starring: Sophie Lowe, Michael Socha, Peter Gadiot, Emma Rigby, with Naveen Andrews, and John Lithgow

Created by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Zack Estrin, and Jane Espenson
Written by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Zack Estrin & Jane Espenson, Directed by Ralph Hemecker

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a new spinoff of ABC's fantasy drama Once Upon a Time that focuses exclusively on the story of, you guessed it, "Alice in Wonderland." In this darker but still trippy re-imagining, Alice (Sophie Lowe) is locked up in London because of her visions of Wonderland that she still believes and her love there, the genie Cyrus (Peter Gadiot). She is ready to give up when she is visited by the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) and the (CGI) White Rabbit (John Lithgow). They return to Wonderland to find Cyrus but they also must deal with two villains, the Red Queen (Emma Rigby), and Jafar (Naveen Andrews).

THE GOOD: I don't watch Once Upon a Time anymore but some of the elements of that show that made me initially drawn to it are present here. The weaving and re-telling of a classic tale is interesting and even with some bad effects, they've created a wildly imaginative Wonderland. I'm mixed on whether the more focused plot than the mothership will be good or bad. On the plus side, it can keep it from getting too convoluted. On the negative side, it may run out of stories to tell. Still, it's an interesting setup and, not counting the original Once, unlike anything else on broadcast TV. Sophie Lowe is solid as Alice while Michael Socha and John Lithgow are very entertaining as the Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit.

THE BAD: Well my biggest issue is what I already said - how far can this show really go? Fairy tales are awfully short to base an entire series on just one. That's why Once Upon a Time can sustain itself for the most part but Once Upon a Time in Wonderland? I'm not so sure. It can't really add too many characters without stretching it thematically or becoming like the original show. An entirely different problem I have with the problem is Emma Rigby as the Red Queen. We'll see how she pans out but what a missed opportunity in the pilot to really make a statement as the villain. She was highly unmemorable and underplayed everything. It's a shame for a part that could be so delightfully evil. Finally, the CGI effects left a lot to be desired as things looked very cheesy at times.

BOTTOM LINE: I was very into Once Upon a Time at first then I gave up. Then I tried again in season two after catching up over the summer, and gave up again. I also tried hard with Grimm but had the same result which makes me think there's something with me and fairy tales. They pull me in strong initially and then I lose it after awhile. The problem with Wonderland is it only pulled me in somewhat. I'll probably give it another week but I'm not sure I'll be hopping into the rabbit hole regularly. If I'm going to get into a show like this, I may as well give Once Upon a Time or Grimm another whirl.

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