Spoiler Alert! If you didn't catch the premiere, don't worry; you can go watch it on ABC's website before reading this. Or not. Your call.
First off, there's Alice (of course). In the original novel by Lewis Carroll, Alice is a child, but in OUATIW, she's only a child for the first visit to Wonderland (presumably). The opening scene shows her climbing out of the rabbit hole and running to tell her father all about the magical realm she visited. But when we next see her, Alice is grown-up (well, a teenager anyway) and locked away in an asylum for continuing to believe in Wonderland. In flashbacks, we get the CliffNotes version of a romance between Alice and a genie named Cyrus, whom she met and traveled with in Wonderland. (The asylum doctor's statement that Alice claimed they had been "fighting pirates [and] swimming with mermaids" also hinted that she and Cyrus may have traveled to Neverland at some point.
Played by Sophie Lowe, Alice herself is adorable but spunky, stubborn (but in a good way), with much more fire than the traditional Alice character. The show's creators have stated that they didn't want to do the "damsel in distress" thing with her, and they avoided it fairly well, although some fight scenes ended in one male character or another helping her out of a tight spot. But Alice does fend for herself fairly well, with some pretty sweet martial arts moves and swordplay. It just makes me wonder, where did she learn how to fight?
I've been wondering other things about Alice too, such as: When was she first admitted to asylum? How did she get back to Wonderland when she decided to get proof? What's her history with the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat (since both "friendships" seem shaky at best)? I'm hoping these and more will be answered over the course of the series through backstory flashbacks.
Cyrus is a genie - and given his connection to Jafar, I'd venture to guess he's The Genie. But - as with many characters in the OUAT universe, he's very different from his Disney-animation counterpart. Instead of blue and funny, he's handsome and charming (although he did seem to come on a little strong upon his first meeting with Alice).
But more importantly (to me anyway) is the question of how a genie came to be in Wonderland to begin with. He and Jafar are both natives of the land of Agrabah (the same land where OUAT's previous genie/magic mirror, a.k.a. Sidney Glass, hailed from). And if they made it to Wonderland, where are Jasmine and Aladdin?
Cyrus has the power to grant wishes, and he gives Alice three of them - in their physical form, looking like rubies (which I thought was actually a really neat touch). What other powers could he have? When he proposes to Alice, he says, "I think the people in your world do this on one knee." How does he know what the people in her world do? I doubt that topic just happened to come up in conversation with Alice, which leads me to believe that either he's traveled to other worlds or he has some magical knowledge of other worlds. That actually would be in keeping with the animated Disney Genie, since he was a bit of a "meta-gamer," so to speak.
The Knave of Hearts is also handsome and charming, as well as clever and funny. You can bet there are going to be a lot of Knave/Alice (Knalice?) shippers, despite the billing of the show as an epic love story between Alice and Cyrus.
The first scene shows the Knave in Storybrooke, before meeting up with the White Rabbit and traveling to Victorian England to break Alice out of the asylum. For me this brings up a lot of questions about his backstory, which I'm itching to see revealed. For example, if he's originally from Wonderland, how did he end up in Storybrooke? He would've had to be in the Enchanted Forest when the curse hit, wouldn't he? (Also, how do all these different worlds' timelines line up? 'Cause that's really been confusing me.) He also keeps going on about the new life he's been building in Storybrooke, so I'd like to find out what's in Storybrooke that he's so keen on.
Bonus: Was that Emma's yellow Beetle that almost ran over him in the street? Making me wonder, was that scene supposed to have happened before Emma and the gang left for Neverland?
Given the name "Knave of Hearts," I can almost guarantee he has some connection to the Queen of Hearts - a.k.a. Cora from OUAT. But what connection? Alice tells him, "Once long ago I helped you get back your heart." That has Cora written all over it, what with her MO of ripping out people's hearts to control them, and I can't wait to hear that story.
Oh, and the Knave may be charming and witty and all that, but he's also a little devious. In one scene, Alice carelessly leaves her shoes (with wishes hidden in the heel) with him while she climbs a tree to have a look aroud. The wishes prove too much temptation for him, and he attempts to steal them, casting doubt as to whether he will be a friend or foe to Alice in the future. "But can we focus on the part where I came back and saved your life?" Oh, okay, Knave... but only because you asked with that adorable accent.
The time has come for me to address the bad CGI on this show. Yes, it's bad. But personally I didn't think it was bad enough to be distracting, most of the time. Then again, I have a very low threshold for suspension of disbelief. And for me, the CGI faults in the White Rabbit were more than made up for by his voice - John Lithgow!
But the really interesting part about the Rabbit is how he "digs a hole." Instead of an ordinary looking rabbit hole, the White Rabbit seems to have the ability to create a vortex that allows not only travel between worlds (like the magic beans of OUAT) but also time/space travel within a particular world. For example, he meets the Knave in present-day Storybrooke, Maine, and takes him to pick up Alice in Victorian England, and then together they travel to Wonderland.
The White Rabbit also has a dark side: He's secretly working for the Red Queen, one of the villains. But he does seem legitimately concerned about Cyrus during his conversation with her. Where do his loyalties really lie? How is the Red Queen coercing him into betraying Alice and the Knave?
Not to be confused with the Queen of Hearts. The Queen of Hearts is associated with playing cards, while the Red Queen is associated with chess. I loved the idea of her castle being shaped like chess pieces, as well as the chess analogy she uses with the White Rabbit: "I said we'd settle up when the game was complete; we are still setting up the board." She also has some really great outfits!
However, she hasn't been well-developed as a character just yet. We don't know her background or motivation. We know she has magic, but we don't know how much. When/how did she come to power? What does she have against Alice? Why is she working with Jafar? So many questions that only have one solution: backstory!
Like I've mentioned already, it's a little odd to see the inhabitants of Agrabah in Wonderland. But Jafar is powerful enough to make himself right at home. We don't yet know just how powerful, but it's been made clear that he's more powerful than the Red Queen, considering how scared and helpless she seemed when he threatened her.
Also, why does Jafar have the magic carpet? In the animated movie, the Carpet was sentient, and a friend of Aladdin's. Is this a different carpet, or the same one? Is it sentient? Am I weird for wondering about the personality of a (traditionally) inanimate object? XD
My Three Wishes
Alice is wisely careful about using the wishes Cyrus granted her. I know from experience (well... D&D experience) that carelessly worded wishes can be turned against the wisher. However, since my wishes aren't being granted by a genie (or a vindictive DM), I think I can safely lay out my top three wishes for the future of this show:
1) I wish for lots and lots of character backstory! (As if anyone couldn't have guessed that'd be the first one!)
2) I wish for the Mad Hatter (played by the same actor, of course) to enter the story and become a regular character.
3) I wish for Jasmine and Aladdin to become part of the story somehow as well.
How about you? If you could have three wishes about this show, what would they be?