TV Pilots in Review: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

We're reviewing six new 2013 pilots this Fall TV season! We'll be dishing about the good, the bad, and the hotties on the small screen. Twin Takedown style, of course ;) 

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Network: ABC
Premiere Date: October 10th
Air Date: Thursdays 8/7c


In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole.


Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a spin-off of ABC's Once Upon a Time, but you really don't need to watch the latter show to enjoy the former. I'm not the biggest fan of OUAT but I still tune in for the show (call it a guilty pleasure).

Becca: Same, same. The characters on OUAT aren't all that compelling to me (except the Peter Pan lore), but Wonderland, I love. And I was hoping the characters would be a lot better than OUAT. So let's see how the pilot panned out!

Initial Response

Krista: Clearly this isn't going to be just a Wonderland retelling. With the introduction of the genie, we're definitely seeing a mash-up of Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin. You know what, I kind of like it.

Becca: Same! I like how it's stayed trued to Alice for the most part but it's added much needed twists and turns. I was giddy during the beginning (and I'm not the biggest fan of "true love" plots, mind you, but this worked for me.)

Plot/Story Arc

Krista: The basic plot is this: Alice returns to Wonderland when the rabbit and Knave show up telling her that her true-love (Cyrus - the genie) is still alive. She searches for them, but it's clear that there is something sinister going on in Wonderland. And most of the villains are after Alice's three wishes. Out of the pilots this season, this is one of the few that I literally was interested from start to finish. The plot hooked me, and it's really not even because it takes place in Wonderland. It's interesting on its own accord.

Becca: Totally agree! I love the idea that you have to be "granted" the three wishes (which look like gems). You can't steal them. I think the plot has lots of promise, especially Alice trying to find her true love. Even if it was more of an insta-love connection, I feel so badly for Alice that I want her to find Cyrus as quickly as possible!  

Krista: Yes! You definitely feel for Alice from the beginning. All the normal people in England thinks she's crazy, but you know it isn't true. You want something good to go her way. 

The Characters

Krista: We're going to start with our lead: Alice. 

I love fresh faces on TV, and this cast is littered with them. Alice's character is badass and daring, and romantic. I loved her from start to finish. 

Becca: Her badass scene in the asylum was awesome. She used her boots to knock out her opponents. And I agree 100% the fresh face is refreshing and I love that she's not stereotypically pretty. On comment boards, people have been kind of mean towards the actress because they think she's not beautiful enough. To all of those people, I give you a big fat side glare. 

Krista: Ugh. I hate how cruel comment boards (on TV recaps) can become. I also side glare all those people. 

Now to the fan-favorite: Knave aka The Knave of Hearts. 

He's the heart and humor of the show, and will be the reason why I'm going to keep watching. He's a brilliant actor, and I'm wondering why I've never seen him before Wonderland. 

Becca: I ALREADY SHIP HIM AND ALICE! I know Alice loves Cyrus and all, but please, he's magnetic on screen, and Alice has such great friendship chemistry. The pair of them together seriously upstage every single cast member on the original OUAT. Case in point: the marshmallow scene. Somehow Knave makes every corny line brilliant and hilarious. And Alice is just so genuine and lovely. Together, they are perfection. (Can you tell I'm obsessed already?)

Also: Knave is a lot like Hook in OUAT in that both are slightly evil. You never know if Knave is going to choose the moral road or the immoral one, and that's always fun to watch. 

Krista: Yes! Hook and Knave are both a lot a like, which is maybe why I've already fallen for Knave as well :)

And then there's Cyrus. The genie. 

His character is basically introduced with insta-love, but I'm curious to see how his character develops without centering around loving Alice. 

Becca: I like him as a plot device -- he's the reason that Alice is on this journey and completely empathize with her broken heart. As far as Cyrus as a standalone character, we need to see more of him. Right now, his personality is just Alice's love interest, and that's not enough to connect to him. 

Krista: And now to the villain. The Queen of Hearts. 

She's pretty chilly and has a new blonde look for the Queen. If you're a Once Upon a Time fan then you know the Queen of Hearts was introduced as Regina's mother last season, so I'm curious about this change in terms of consistency in the OUAT world. Other than that, I think she could prove to be pretty evil. 

Becca: And her voice? How cool is her voice? Can she narrate my life? She has this silky, "I will cut you will doing my nails and sipping a martini" tone that is just so casual evilness. I love it! 

Krista: I so agree! Her voice is pure silk. Again, why have I never seen this actress anywhere else before? 

The second villain is from the Aladdin mash-up of the show. Jafar. 

I find him much creepier than the Queen of Hearts, but I love that OUATIW chose to go with two villains. It makes things way more complicated and interesting. 

Becca: I'm not the biggest fan of Jafar. He seems like a villain that would be in OUAT (the original) because he's super corny. And I like that Wonderland has nailed down the fairytales without turning them into a joke. Jafar missed the mark a little. 

Krista: You're right that he is a little cheesier than the rest of the cast, but I'm hoping that's because there wasn't much time for characterization in the pilot. 

And lastly...THE RABBIT! 

I was really surprised that the creators chose to go a CGI route for the rabbit. Even though the rabbit is a animal (obviously) they've had humans play animal roles (like the Wolf in OUAT). John Lithgow voices the rabbit and I think it's an okay character. Not really that interesting but not terrible either. 

Becca: I'm interested to see whether or not the rabbit is evil. I do think they should have went with an actual person to cut down on the CGI usage, but I got used to it over time. 


Krista: The whole series centers around the love between Alice and Cyrus. Like I mentioned before, it's insta-love. But that's okay because fans have already started shipping a new couple: Alice and Knave. Seriously, if these two don't hook up by the end of show I'll be shocked.

I mean, it's only been one episode and I am already starting to ship them. The leads are definitely great actors and their chemistry on screen (even if it's only friendly right now) is amazing. 

Becca: Yes, Yes, Yes! One episode in and these two are the reason to watch. Swoon worthy boy (who used to be a bad boy and may still be) and a girl that you can relate too. So much love here. 

Production Value

This is where the show might seriously tank. I've said it before and I will continue to say it again. The less CGI on television, the better. Are you listening Once Upon a Time? I can tell when your living room sets are CGI. Seriously, how hard is it to build a living room set for the Queen of Hearts?

Becca: I know! Build a dang living room. Throw in some couches and a table and do some close-ups. Cut back on the CGI, please. It's a huge reason why fans of OUAT hate Wonderland after the pilot. They thought the CGI was hokey, even though we all knew it was coming. I think they should minimize as much as possible.

Krista: And if Star Wars was able to make mini-models that look f*cking amazing, you can do better with your wide-shots of Wonderland. There is no need for this to look even cheaper than a SyFy show.

I will give props to the Cheshire Cat, which you could tell wasn't all done with CGI. It was what I hoped the sets looked like.

Becca: The Cheshire Cat was probably the best thing. But they just don't have time (because it's a TV show) to do great CGI. So they really do need to build some sets to use repeatedly. But unless more people tune in next week, I don't know if ABC is going to invest in anything Wonderland related. 

The Ending

Krista: The ending wasn't too big of a shocker, but it was cool enough to have me excited for the next episode. 

Becca: Yeah, it was predictable, but unlike the OUAT, I'll be returning to Wonderland for the characters not necessarily because of the plot. And for me, characters are literally everything. 


Obviously, any fans of Once Upon a Time should tune into the Wonderland spin-off. If you like romance and English accents, then this will also be your cup of tea.

Becca: Yes, fans of English accents will fall in love with Knave. I'd also say anyone who likes CW shows. We're big fans of the CW, and we both went giddy over Wonderland.


Krista: I enjoyed it a thousand times more than Once Upon a Time. It has better acting and an overall better plot. The only problem I really had with the pilot was the awful CGI. If the execs can somehow rectify that without making every episode look cheesy than this will be a great season. A-

Becca: One of the best pilots I've seen yet. I'm curious to see what lovers of OUAT think of Wonderland. So far, I haven't been hearing good things, which makes me nervous. I concur, this is by far better acted and has better scripts than OUAT. And so far the only downside I can spot is the CGI too. Get on that ABC. I give Wonderland an A-


It premiered incredibly low in its time-slot, and so I think this one may be on the bubble. While it has a fanbase since it's a spin-off, it may not help it in the end. It's going to have to be cult-ish to remain around. I'll be really upset if this show doesn't get a full-season pick up, since it's one of my favorite pilots this year.

Becca: Definitely has the most promise out of all the shows I've watched, including The Originals. But the ratings did not reflect how great of a pilot it was. This better not be like Last Resort from last year. That brilliant show was in the same bad time-slot and met a grim fate. Wonderland will only stay around if it draws in a bigger crowd and garners a higher rating. So people, start watching! I have to know what happens to Knave and Alice! 


It's time for your voices to be heard! Have you watched the episode? Are you planning on seeing it? Sound off below!


  1. This looked really cheesy but it's great to hear that it was pretty kick ass and entertaining!

    Thanks for sharing <33

    1. It's definitely not as cheesy as Once Upon a Time. I think the actors did a much better job to ground the show!

  2. Oh, I watched this one! I'm definitely a fan on OUaT and was really excited, though I don't think I liked this one as much as you girls. LOVE the Alice casting and everything about her. And yeah, I think I am seeing chemistry between her and the Knave. Poor Cyrus and the insta-love. lol I think everything else I will jut have to give some time to see what I think. I admit a huge reason I am watching is for Jafar (aka Sayid from LOST). Not sure how I feel about him here yet. Or how I feel about the Queen. We'll see!

    1. After watching the second episode, not sure if I like Alice as much as I did. She's a little pushy. The insta-love was not resolved either, so my hopes for this show are tanking. Jafar is doing a better job, I think! Yeah, I'm starting to be undecided about the queen. I think this was a good pilot, not sure if the show can hold up.

  3. I was really big into Once Upon a Time in the beginning but because it came on at a time that conflicted with getting my son to bed I began missing episodes and just never caught up. I have been curious about OUaT in Wonderland and I'm glad to know it's good! Hopefully I'll be able to catch up on OUaT and begin Wonderland as well. Great review! :)

    1. I heard that Wonderland may just be a one series thing and then they'll change it to another land like Oz, which I think would be pretty cool. I hope you're able to catch up, Kelly!

  4. I really like Once Upon Time and I really like Once Upon a Time in Wonderland too! It looks like it has a lot of promise for a great season, I hope it does well in ratings so it can keep going. To answer your question about the queen- The Queen of Hearts (who is Cora from OUAT) is different from the Red Queen who shows up in this show. The Queen of Hearts is from the Alice in Wonderland novel and the Red Queen is from Through the Looking Glass novel (the sequel). Or at least that's what I've been told.

    1. Ohhhh! That makes sense. I'm not a huge Wonderland fan, so I didn't know that about that Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen. I'm wondering who Knave is loyal to in the show then, the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts.

  5. Hmmm. I've been looking for new TV shows to check out and this one looks quite interesting. I've saw the first epi of Once Upon a Time and liked it, but continued on lol I might need to do that :) Great post!

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

    1. Thanks Janina! This one is pretty good. The second episode was not nearly as good as the pilot. I would give episode 2 probably a C if I had to grade it. We'll see how the whole arc goes, but I won't be surprised if ABC pulls it from their lineup. It lost the night in ratings.

  6. Not a fan of the poster as it looks kind of badly Photoshopped, but damn, this has such an intriguing premise -- Alice in Wonderland AND Aladdin?! And what's more, Alice's true love is a genie? Wow, this TV show has a lot going on. I'm a little surprised that the both of you enjoyed this as much as you did, because it sounds like a lot to grasp in just one episode! (BTW, I love that Tom Hiddleston gif. ;D)

    "And I agree 100% the fresh face is refreshing and I love that she's not stereotypically pretty. On comment boards, people have been kind of mean towards the actress because they think she's not beautiful enough." -- Whaaaaat! Are you kidding me?! People, stop being so superficial! There are plenty of not-so-beautiful people in the world. Why should TV shows only portray the pretty ones? It makes me mad, too, because I think the actress for Alice is pretty in her own way. It's not like she's flat-out ugly or anything.

    Okay, I'll go search up a YouTube clip of the Queen of Hearts saying something so I can see what you guys are talking about. And I'm curious to know what made Jafar so cheesy? Is it because of his cheesy evilness, or because of his looks? I want to see how the romance will play out, too. True love is Cyrus, but there's tons of chemistry going on between Knave and Alice. I spy good drama! ;)

    Yeah, I kind of noticed that the CGI had something weird going on -- especially with the rabbit. CGI only works well in movies, and even then, it isn't the best either. Anyway, I'm happy that you guys enjoyed this a lot more than the original OUAT, because that one looked EVEN cheesier than this one, if that's possible.

    1. Yeah, the poster sucks! The first episode was really good. The second, not so much. I don't think the show can hold up. Everything that I thought would happen did not happen. I actually like Alice a lot less, and the insta-love is a little irritating.

      Jafar just said cheesy lines. He acted all tough but he didn't walk the walk, you know? In the second episode,he made up for a lot of that and he seemed like a bigger threat, not just some guy yapping and threatening.

      If the CGI isn't resolved soon, I'm going to be kinda pissed. It would not cost a lot to build a room. One room for the Queen. It drives me nuts!

  7. I'm a HUGE HUGE OUAT fan (surprise, surprise? :p) so of course I'm very excited about this spin off. The more series they make, the better, haha. I like how Alice looks. She isn't a standard beauty and I think it's great! :)

    1. Lol :D Not a surprise at all, Mel! I agree, Alice's look is really refreshing. I just wish she wasn't so pushy in the second episode. She was not nice at all to anyone around her.

  8. OMG this sounds awesome, and I love how there's a random Aladdin mash up in it! I really can't wait until this hits our shores, so I can join in fangirling with you all. I think I would have loved Once Upon A Time, if it wasn't for Ginny Goodwin annoying me lol.

    1. Right, Aladdin is awesome, and I'm hoping they show him soon! Hopefully Wonderland will last long enough to be in Australia :D

  9. Oooh, LOVE it. I had no intention of watching this series at all but you girls have totally convinced me. I love Wonderland (can you tell *cough*) and the gifs look so cool. Love the part where you recommend it to fans of accents and the CW, two things that I love dearly ;) I'll have to check this out!

    1. I hope you like it Alise! The true-love premise is definitely for fans of The CW. And I could listen to Knave's accent all day long. I hope he joins the regular cast of OUAT because I think Wonderland is only supposed to last one season (if it makes it that long).

  10. I just watched it and really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great opening to the series. I will for sure be watching this!