Jefferson knows about the curse. Emma’s wall of disbelief starts to crack. Mr. Gold plays both sides of the fence. The Evil Queen again demonstrates her evilness. Wonderland looks wonderful.
Fairy Tale Land and Wonderland
Jefferson loves his daughter Grace. Just like Rumpelstiltskin, he’s a single father who cannot provide for his child the way he wishes he could. Like Rumpel, he treasures his child above all else. Both men make a tragic mistake while acting with the best intentions — each takes an action, meant to protect his child, that backfires and separates him from his child instead.
The name Jefferson is almost certainly a homage to the Jefferson Airplane, who famously performed the song White Rabbit. And Grace, the name of Jefferson’s daughter, must be a homage to Grace Slick, the Jefferson Airplane’s lead singer (hat tip [ahem] to a TWoP poster for catching all that).
I think it’s significant that Jefferson had the same name in FTL and Storybrooke. Maybe that had something to do with his knowing about the curse. As far as I can remember, Regina is the only other person who has the same name in both worlds.
Speaking of Regina, she shows up at Jefferson’s cottage one day out of the blue, wanting Jefferson to use his magical hat to get her into Wonderland. We aren’t told exactly what their relationship was in the past — other than that Jefferson worked for Regina before, that he lost his wife, in some unspecified way, because of that work, and that he never wanted to work for Regina again. But she plays on his guilt at not being able to buy his daughter a stuffed white rabbit, and he consents to take Regina to Wonderland one last time.
The hat creates a CGI vortex that looks like … well, like a CGI vortex. After that, though, the special effects are wonderful (pun intended). When they land in a huge round room, the walls covered with red drapes, with brightly colored doors all around, it looks both surreal and oddly familiar, as if it were something seen before in a dream.
At Jefferson’s touch, the looking glass liquifies and ripples, and they go through, and the landscape looks just right. Even the yellow brick-ish road that seems borrowed from Oz looks right.
There’s a funny moment when the caterpillar blows smoke rings in their faces, and Jefferson says, “I hate Wonderland.”
They make it through a carnivorous-shrubbery maze and enter a room that looks very much like the Evil Queen’s vault of hearts that we’ve seen before. Filing people, or pieces of people, in walls made of wooden (metal?) boxes must have been the fashion of the day.
Her father’s in the box. (Remember the father-in-the box in the LOST episode The Man From Tallahassee?) He springs up to full size with a bite of a magic mushroom, and now we see that Regina has double-crossed Jefferson. Only two people can get back — and one of them isn’t going to be him. She blames Jefferson, tells him if he were a better father, he wouldn’t have come, when, of course, he came because he was a good father. Blaming the victim — that’s just how evil Regina is.
Jefferson gets captured and dragged off to see the Queen of Hearts, across a narrow bridge over a dry moat in a fantastical castle — another dreamscape that is surreal, yet also oddly familiar. The Queen’s face is covered, as are the faces of many of the members of her court. Would we recognize them if we saw their faces?
Poor Jefferson gets the “off with his head” treatment, but in this version of Wonderland, it’s not fatal. I’m glad this is a family show so we don’t have to see blood and other bits dripping out of his neck.
He ends up trying, in vain, to make a hat that has the magic that will let him go home. (Is his quest to go home another nod to The Wizard of Oz?) Was he still in that room in Wonderland, still trying to get home, at the time of the curse? If so, is that why he can remember his past in Storybrooke when the other characters can’t?
Jefferson pops up in the middle of the road, a ruse to get Emma inside his mansion, drugged, and tied up. He’s already got Mary Margaret bound and gagged in another room, and when he sharpens a pair of scissors, over and over, he sure looks like a psychokiller. But he really just wants Emma to make him a magic hat.
The most amazing thing about Jefferson (besides the chemistry he has with both Emma in Storybrooke and the Evil Queen in FTL) is that he knows about the curse. In order to escape, Emma humors him by pretending she believes in the curse too. He tries to choke her — he really is crazy, after all — but Emma and Mary Margaret (channeling her inner badass Snow) chuck him out the window — where he disappears, leaving only his hat.
Emma gives Mary Margaret the option of escaping, but Mary M decides not to run. Regina shows up at the jail and is shocked to see that Mary M is in the cell. Turns out she and Mr. Gold had made a deal, had planned for Mary M to escape.
Emma, sitting with Henry in front of the school, sees Paige/Grace go by, and something clicks in Emma’s mind. She asks Henry if she can look at his book. For the first time, she is looking at it as if its stories could be real. She leafs through the pages and sees Jefferson and Grace.
Emma knows the truth. There is no turning back for her now.
What we didn’t see
We didn’t see Snow, though we saw a lot of Mary Margaret. We didn’t see Rumpelstiltskin, though we had a brief, but significant, scene with Mr. Gold. No Red, no Granny, no cafe, no Belle, no August W. Booth (but did you notice that Eion Bailey was listed with the main cast in the credits?). And neither David nor Prince Charming showed up.
Jefferson, in response to Emma saying that stories, unlike history books, are not real: “Story books are based on what? Imagination? Where does that come from? It has to come from somewhere.”
Jefferson, summing up the problems of the world: “Everyone wants a magical solution to their problems, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.”
Emma, to Mary Margaret: “Nobody’s ever been there for me except for you. And I can’t lose that. I cannot lose my family.” Mary Margaret: “Family?” Emma: “Friends. Whatever. You know what I mean. Wouldn’t you rather face this together than alone?”
Best answer by the writers directly addressing viewers’ previously expressed questions about the show
Emma asks Jefferson why he says he is living under a curse, when he is living in such a beautiful place. He says that like everyone else there, he has had everything he loved ripped away from him.
Best use, by another character, of one of Rumpelstiltskin’s favorite words
Jefferson, to Emma: “I know what you refuse to acknowledge, Emma. You’re special. You brought something PRECIOUS to Storybrooke. Magic.”
Family sticks together, or at least yearns to: Jefferson and Grace, Regina and her father, Emma and Mary Margaret/Snow.
I was a bit apprehensive about this episode, before I saw it, because Alice in Wonderland is not a fairy tale, and I thought the Wonderland sets and characters might either clash with the rest of the story, be a watered-down version of the inimitable John Tenniel illustrations, or be too treacly and Disney-fied. But I needn’t have worried. It worked beautifully. Wonderland and Fairy Tale Land were seamlessly integrated, and the design of Wonderland was imaginative and fresh.
Why mad hatters are mad
Lewis Carrol, author of the Alice books, didn’t invent the expression “mad as a hatter,” according to The Straight Dope site. Hat makers used mercury to cure felt, and prolonged exposure to the toxic mercury vapors made their limbs twist and their speech become confused. In severe cases, the hatters hallucinated and had other symptoms of psychosis.
Sebastian Stan played Jefferson. Ali Skovbye played Grace/Paige. Roger Daltry of The Who was the voice of the caterpillar, a performance that was ridiculously over-hyped considering he only said about five words. But maybe he’ll be back.
The writers are Vladimir Cvetko, in his OUAT debut, and David H. Goodman, who previously wrote The Price of Gold, True North, and What Happened to Frederick. The director was Ralph Hemecker, who previously directed 7:15 A.M.
A special (ahem) hat tip to all the people working on this episode’s amazing set design and the costumes for the Evil Queen, Jefferson, Grace, and the Wonderland inhabitants.
Is Jefferson hot, or what? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
Is it significant that Jefferson has the same name in both worlds?
How relieved are you that Emma finally seems to be open to the idea that Henry’s book could be true?
Whose side do you think Mr. Gold is on? Emma’s? Regina’s? Neither? Both?