What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, similar to its parent series, Once Upon a Time, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland extrapolates on familiar fairy tales and stories in creative and often mature ways. This one has its roots in Lewis Carroll's classic tale Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but it incorporates other fantasy characters from unrelated stories as well. Despite its relationship to stories synonymous with childhood, this isn't a show for young kids, thanks to plenty of violence of both the traditional kind (knives, swordplay, and fistfights) and the magical kind. Danger lurks around every corner, and the characters' double-crossing and changing loyalties are part of the fun, but they will be confusing for some young viewers. Sex is less of an issue, although some female characters' attire –- the voluptuous Red Queen's in particular –- is designed to draw attention to certain curvy areas. The bottom line? Even though the cast of characters seems to contradict this dark show's target at an older audience, it's a tantalizing blend of action and drama with ties to stories you and your teens will have fun recalling from your own childhood.
What's the story?
ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND opens with a grown-up Alice (Sophie Lowe) as a patient in a mental hospital, declared insane by her father and doctor for telling tales of falling down a rabbit's hole and visiting a magical place called Wonderland. On the verge of an extreme procedure that will make her forget the pain of losing her true love –- a genie named Cyrus (Peter Gadiot) –- Alice is rescued by the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha), who tells her that Cyrus is alive. With the help of the White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow), they journey back to Wonderland to save him from the clutches of the Red Queen (Emma Rigby) and her associate Jafar (Naveen Andrews).
Is it any good?
The creative team behind Once Upon a Time opens a new can of proverbial worms in this companion series that boasts the same level of curiosity and drama as does the first but with an entirely new cast. The show's best assets are its scintillating characters -– from lovelorn Alice to the malicious Red Queen -– and, as with its predecessor, the writers' ability to manufacture connections between traditionally unrelated players. It's like walking through a haunted house: You never know who might be lurking around the next corner or how their presence will affect what happens next.
There's very little plot crossover between the two shows, which makes it easy to jump into this one and not feel like you've missed anything by skipping the first. Existing Once Upon a Time fans will notice similarities in the cinematography, music, and plot development, but, all in all, this is a wondrous new adventure set against the backdrop of the creators' fresh (and very grown-up) take on Lewis Carroll's Wonderland.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the appeal of throwback concepts like this one. How well do you think this series will stand up to other prime-time options? Does the advent of fairy-tale-based series mark a shift in viewers' interest away from the longstanding presence of police dramas, for instance?
Teens: Do shows like this one make you think more in-depth about well-worn characters from books or movies? If you could write a backstory for a favorite character, who would it be?
How is the issue of violence treated in the media? Is it portrayed differently in comedies than it is in dramas? Do a show's roots in fantasy forgive or lessen the impact of violence? What rules should exist for "acceptable" content of this sort?