At Comic-Con this morning, we were treated to 19 minutes of footage from the pilot for Once Upon a Time spinoff, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. It was gorgeous, fun, and scary. This ass-kicking Alice is more like Sarah Connor than a little girl. We also got some amazing casting news.
First, the news. Naveen Andrews, the hottie from Lost, will be playing one of the series' big bads, the evil genie Jafar. Wow!
Now, for what we saw.
We were plunged into a dark, shadowy real world where Alice (Sophie Lowe) has been locked up in an insane asylum in what looks like the late nineteenth century. Her doctor/captors say Wonderland is something she made up, as is the handsome genie Cyrus whom she rescued and fell in love with. There's a flashback and we visit Wonderland, which looks fantastic. We see Cyrus (Peter Gadiot) confessing his love for Alice and telling her she is the one wish he never got to make. Kissing! Plus, a glowing red jewel that represent the strength of Cyrus' love! But then the sexy Red Queen (Emma Rigby) breaks up their smooch, there is a great swordfight with the queen's minions that ends (gasp!) with the Queen magicking Cyrus into the burning pools that churn below.
Meanwhile, in the present, the doctors are trying to get Alice to try a "new treatment" to forget everything — and she's going to do it. She's decided Wonderland is not real. She's desperate to forget Cyrus, and she signs the papers that will allow them to destroy her brain.
Luckily, before anything terrible can happen, the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) busts into Alice's cell and tells her that Cyrus is still alive and she has to come back to Wonderland. That's all it takes for her to shed her fears that Wonderland is a fantasy, and the two of them kick and punch their way out of the insane asylum. It was a terrific action scene, which reminded me a lot of a fantasy version of the asylum escape in the first act of Terminator 2, where Sarah Connor shows what an extraordinary fighter she is. It's clear this Alice has learned major fighting skills during her time in Wonderland. And she's willing to bring it to rescue the genie she loves.
The Knave and Alice race to meet the White Rabbit (John Lithgow), who gives Alice the glowing red jewel that proves Sirus is still alive. Then he scrawls a glowing green portal on the wall and jumps through. Will Alice go? Of course. But what about the Knave? He's reluctant, but Alice reminds him of a favor she did for him in the Enchanted Forest. So they jump together, to return to Wonderland and rescue Cyrus.
It was a riveting introduction to a new adventure in the Once Upon a Time universe. The show creators, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, took the stage afterwards to tell us more about what to expect. They announced the casting of Andrews as Jafar, and said we'd get flashbacks to explain Jafar's evil, as well as the Queen and the adventure that Alice and the Knave had together in the Enchanted Forest. "We'll delve a lot into genie lore," Kitsis promised. And that means major backstory on the love between Cyrus and Alice, and the story of how she rescued him from his bottle.
Horowitz said there wouldn't be much jumping between reality and Wonderland — instead "we will travel between different worlds — but they'll be different. Think post-curse Wonderland." Interesting! This series will be standalone, in the sense that you don't need to watch Once Upon a Time to appreciate it. But, as Kitsis made clear, "If you are a fan, you will be rewarded." Horowitz added that the season will be an entirely closed story, and the quest will end by the end of the season. A second season would tackle an entirely new story, but with the same cast.