While Once Upon a Time has included references to Disney films such as 101 Dalmatians that don’t exactly fall under the umbrella of “fairy tales,” this episode marks the first time that the episode’s centric character came from a novel not often lumped in with these types of fantastical stories. It is fantastical, certainly; Alice in Wonderland is sheer trippiness. And I liked the way that they made Wonderland so very clearly distinct from the Fairy Tale world, accessible through a door in a strange room that reminded me of the Wood Between the Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew. I always found Wonderland a pretty sinister place, and unlike most magical realms, I never wished I could visit. Here, it most definitely has an evil quality about it.
Our hatter’s name in Jefferson, and curiously, he has that name in both incarnations. I’m not clear on exactly how it is that he knows who he is in the present day; is he just so insane by this point that he is one of the few townspeople uninhibited enough to know the truth? Is it the result of his having been displaced back in the world of Fairy Tale? He seems a decent fellow in the past, a bit surly but deeply devoted to his daughter Grace, who seems to have a very wise head on her young shoulders. In the present, he is driven by desperation to nefarious deeds. I wonder, if Emma had been as swayed by him as I thought she was, would it have made a difference? Would she have been able to create that magic hat?
Alice in Wonderland was, of course, a pretty formative text for LOST, which sprinkled references to the books throughout the series and even produced two episodes - White Rabbit and Through the Looking Glass - that specifically alluded to it. I loved the white rabbit reference in the episode, though of course, the toy turned out to be a dastardly way for Regina to get into his head. His head which, incidentally, later was removed from his body while he continued to speak freely. Weird and rather icky, but kinda cool as well. That trick with Regina’s father was interesting as well. We didn’t really see inside the box; was that his heart in there, meaning he lost his heart twice?
It was another rather dark episode. Of course, every episode has an element of that, but it seems the less focused on romance the episode is, the more it spreads out in gruesome directions. I really liked this, however, because of the emphasis on the importance of family. We saw how grimly determined Regina was to get her father back and how desperate Jefferson was to get his daughter back. Both were willing to throw others under the bus to accomplish their goals, though that’s par for the course for Regina, while Jefferson seems to be in a desperate measures sort of situation. On the other hand, he claimed he saved Mary Margaret’s life by stopping her from leaving Storybrooke, and there may have been truth in that as well, so it’s not clear how much bodily damage he would have caused either of them. Still, there were definitely times he seemed threatening.
My favorite part of the episode, though, was the focus on the depth of Emma and Mary Margaret’s friendship. Emma doesn’t quite believe yet that Mary Margaret is her mother, but it seems the thought has started to take hold of her a bit, and in any case, her most important friendship in Storybrooke has been with the sweet schoolteacher. The moment when she told Mary Margaret that she was her family was my favorite in the episode and one of my favorites in the series thus far. Mary Margaret is the first real friend Emma ever had, or so it would seem, and they complement one another so well. What a neat way to get to know your mother!