In theory, ABC’s “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” is the perfect fantasy/drama spinoff of the network’s hit “Once Upon a Time,” but Oct. 10 premiere shows it is clearly missing elements that make it a true spinoff. “OUATIN” is more of an expansion of the original brand than a followup to it.
In the pilot, Alice, played by Sophie Lowe, is love stricken by the genie Cyrus, played by Peter Gadiot, as a little girl. But, as with any primetime drama, a love story is never simple; when she returns multiple times as a teenager and tells her father about her adventures, he puts her in an insane asylum.
After one of Alice’s returns to Wonderland as a teenager, her father sends his doctors to lobotomize her to make her forget about the mystical escape. She does not try to fight because she has heard the news that the Red Queen killed Cyrus. But, with the help of the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha), who convinces her that Cyrus is not dead, Alice returns to Wonderland to find the genie.
Unlike most spinoffs, sequels, etc., “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” manages to maintain its own identity while still playing homage to its “Alice in Wonderland” roots. As fans of the original “OUAT” know, the show is loosely based on the Lewis Carroll novel, but the new series adds other fantasy-based characters to the mix such as “Aladdin’s” Jafar.
Also, “OUATIW’s” real world is set in Victorian England, giving the show a much different vibe overall than “Once Upon a Time.” The series almost feels as if it is more of a “Downton Abbey” spinoff than anything else.
People who are not fans of “OUAT” will be happy to know that while “Wonderland” is definitely similar to its precursor, the storylines are simpler and much easier to follow. While the pilot was able to derail critics’ skepticism that the show would be a glorified way for “OUAT” to air another episode each week, its general theme does poses questions about whether there is room on the same network for two highly mystical series.
Alexandra D’Aluisio can be reached at email@example.com