No one believes Alice’s tales of a fantastic world where she has adventures and meets a genie who she falls in love with, and her father puts her in a mental asylum, hoping the man in white coats can take care of her. Alice agrees to a procedure that will make her forget Wonderland, and the love of her life, but the night before she is due to have it, a man turns up in her room to tell her Cyrus, the genie, is still alive. Alice flees with him, and heads back to Wonderland.
Some elements of this – the whole asylum thing, for example – aren’t original. But the show works with it, and the added elements, along the lines of what makes Once Upon A Time so fun to watch, really bring this to life. We have a genie in Wonderland, we have a Wonderland character living in Storybrooke (possibly pre-breaking of the curse), who fled Wonderland after doing some bad things. (Does this mean he fled to the Enchanted Forest, if he was transported to our world?) There’s also Jafar, played by the brilliant Naveen Andrews, who wants the genie.
I really do love reimagining’s, especially if/when done well. And this show does seem to be doing it well. It has enough of a unique storyline to make it stand out, but still retains elements of the story of Alice we know and love. It feels like a bit of a mix between the Disney cartoon version and the more recent live action film version, with Alice returning when she’s older. The characters bounce off each other, and the actors really bring them to life, especially the Knave of Hearts, played by Michael Socha. There’s a charm to the character that draws you in, the same sort of charm, yet in a totally different character, that Socha used in the UK’s Being Human (and no, I have not nor will watch the US version).
To be honest, the love story between Alice and Cyrus feels like the weakest part of the story, even if it is the driving force. It’s everything around it that makes the story and show interesting, with Jafar and The Red Queen conspiring together, the White Rabbit not being all he seems, and the land around the characters being a whole character in its own right.
The pilot episode sets up the show quite well, giving enough for viewers to really get their teeth into. It has the same sort of feel and charm as Once Upon A Time, but manages to stand strong in its own right. Fingers crossed it can keep it up through the first season and, hopefully, beyond.