Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

 
(i)

 

TV spin-off takes dark fantasy drama to another dimension.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

It's often difficult to differentiate between good and evil, as many characters' loyalties seem to shift as the show progresses. Friends turn out to be foes, and putting your faith in an enemy may become your saving grace. Power is won by force rather than by fairness, and many in that position misuse their influence. On the other hand, the unwavering power of true love has the potential to conquer all. The show encourages viewers to imagine beyond the traditional parameters of well-known fairy tales.

Positive role models

Alice is single-minded in her quest to save Cyrus, and she will risk everything, including her own life, to rescue him. Her courage is matched only by her resourcefulness, and she keeps a level head even in the face of danger. Other characters aren't so reliable; loyalties change often and can be bought, and would-be enemies join forces to undermine Alice's altruistic quest.

Violence

A pervasive aura of danger surrounds the characters, who often encounter enemies wanting to do them in. On any given day, they battle giant beasts, defend themselves with swords and knives, and narrowly escape death more than once. For some characters, magic is a powerful weapon they use to harm their foes by strangulation or brute force.

Sex

Alice often recalls times spent in her intended's arms, kissing, embracing, or just gazing into each other's eyes. Some female characters (particularly the Red Queen) wear outfits designed to show off their curves and accentuate their breasts.

Language

Rarely "hell."

Consumerism

The series is a companion to Once Upon a Time, but there's little crossover between the two.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A hookah-smoking caterpillar makes appearances.

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?

QUALITY
 

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?

TV details

Cast:Emma Rigby, John Lithgow, Sophie Lowe
Network:ABC
Genre:Drama
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Book characters, Fairy tales
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:Streaming

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Quality

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written bymcashd55 December 16, 2013
 

Mother Vs Spinoff

This show is amazing. The way the tales are retold is just so unique. It is good friendly for the most part. This is better than Once Upon a Time, the mother. The characters are much more bearable. But both shows couldn't be more different from each other. Amazing acting and drama. Love the fairytale twists.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent Written bygideongirl1 October 25, 2013
 

great for kids fifth grade and up the others should be in bed by this time!

just love it! !!! and my fifteen year old daughter loves it too we hate to miss it....
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written byblackbeltgirl November 28, 2013
 

My new favorite show!

I began watching this show the night it aired, and have watched every episode since. It's my new favorite show! I am a "sheltered" kid but my sister and I have found no reason to turn off the show. The only pause for younger children would be the violence as there is quite a bit. The worst I can think of at the moment is a man getting knives driven through his hands and the use of magic to strangle a person. However, most of the violence takes place in the form of sword fights (with little blood), fist fights, etc. Overall, this is an exciting and enjoyable show you can watch with your whole family.
What other families should know
Too much violence

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