‘Once Upon A Time’ has given us our favorite characters from the stories told to us when we were children some new light. Last week we viewed Snow White in a whole new way, without love in her heart she almost murdered the Evil Queen. Luckily, Prince James Charming came to the rescue, breaking the spell and pulling her back to reality. In Real Time, Mary is booked for the murder of Katheryn, whose heart has been found inside of Mary’s jewelry box, with a hunting knife discovered in her room.

This week we delve into one of my personal favorite worlds of Alice in Wonderland. While I’m looking forward to seeing one of my favorite characters come to life, I worry that this episode will stall the forward movement we finally started to take with this last episode.

Story Time

A young man dashes through the woods. He hides behind a tree before being found by a little girl.  It his daughter, Grace, who is playing Hide and Seek with him. He tells her that they must stop playing so that they can search for mushrooms to sell at the market the next day. As they return to their home in the woods, the Queen’s carriage awaits them. The man tells Grace to go deep in the woods, to hide from the Queen. He walks into the house, where the Queen refers to him as Jefferson. He refers to her as Regina, so they have history. The Queen tells Jefferson that she needs one last favor from him. He protests, on behalf of his daughter. The Queen tells him that if he does this one favor for her, his daughter will be set for life. Jefferson tells her that he will not abandon Grace, “Theres nothing more important than family.”

As we know, life isn’t that easy in Story Time. At the market the next day, Grace finds a white rabbit on a cart. Jefferson asks the merchant, an old lady, for the price. She tells him it’s a silver for the rabbit. He begs her to take the 8 coppers he has, while she applauds that he would give anything for his little girl, she cannot accept anything less than a silver. Grace soothes her father, telling him she didn’t need a rabbit for her tea parties as they walk away. The old lady walks to the back of the cart, where she reveals she is The Queen in disguise.

Back at the house, Jefferson sews together a white rabbit for Grace, adding it to the tea party. Delighted, Grace gives Jefferson and the rabbit some tea. Jefferson tells her she will be going over to the neighbors, that he will be doing work for the Queen. She protests, wanting to go in the woods with him, but he tells her it will be fine and promises that he will be home in time for the next tea party. After she leaves, he removes a hat box from a trunk, leaving it on the floor, staring at it for a long while. He eventually brings the box to the Queen, revealing a top hat inside. He places the hat on the floor, which begins to spin, forming a portal. The two jump in together. Inside the portal, Jefferson tells the Queen the rule of the jumping through: “The same amount of people that go through have to come back.” Inside the portal there are many doors, after selecting the right one the two walk in together, Jefferson proclaiming “I hate Wonderland.”

The two approach a maze, where the Queen says she just wants to take a quick walk through. She needs to retrieve something that the Queen of Hearts has stolen from her. Jefferson tosses a stick into the wall, which the wall eats immediately. The Queen reacts quickly, sending a fireball through the maze directly to where they need to go. They walk forward, into a chamber similar to where Regina’s hearts are kept. There, she steals a box. Guards arrive, but they manage to escape. Before leaving Wonderland, the Queen steals a bit of mushroom, putting it in the box. Her father appears, leaving Jefferson baffled. She had tricked him into coming stating “If you truly cared for your daughter, you never would have left her in the first place. You were right Jefferson. You never abandon family.” His feet become melded with the path below as the Queen and her father leave Wonderland, leaving Jefferson to deal with the Queen of Hearts’ guards.

The guards take Jefferson to the Queen of Hearts, who sits with a veil and whispers everything to her right hand man. She asks how Jefferson and Regina got to Wonderland, which he replies he will only tell her if he is able to go home to his daughter. She tells him, “Off with his head!” His head is cut off, but he is still alive. He tells her about the hat, and the portal. The Queen of Hearts tells him to make another one, but he tells her he cannot without magic. She replies that will be his task then. In the final scene of Jefferson, we see him turned completely into the Mad Hatter, making hats and being surrounded by thousands of them.

Real Time

 Mary is on the run after escaping from her jail cell. Henry sits in the sheriff’s office, congratulating Emma as she walks in with Mr. Gold. After making it clear that Mr. Gold wasn’t to be included in the conversation, Henry congratulates Emma on getting Mary out. Emma has no idea what he’s talking about, but Mr. Gold discovers this first. Emma goes out to track down Mary, with Mr. Gold reminding her that the arraignment hearing is at 8 A.M. Emma tells Mr. Gold that “I would rather lose my job then lose my friend.” In her rush to find Mary in the woods, she almost hits a man that is covered in the fog. She apologizes, noticing he is limping, offers to drive him home. He introduces himself as Jefferson.

Emma brings Jefferson to a huge beautiful mansion. She comments that he must have a huge family, but he shakes head and tells her he lives alone. In the mansion, Jefferson brings Emma tea and a map, explaining he is an amateur cartographer. As she sips her tea and studies the map, she begins to feel dizzy. Catching her, Jefferson drags her to the couch. Emma notices his limp is gone. Smiling, he tells her that she caught him right as she blacks out.

Some time later, she wakes up bound and gagged on the couch. Noticing her teacup still on the floor, she drops a pillow on top of it, smashes it then uses it to cut her binds. Creeping out, she sees Jefferson sharpening scissors in the next room. She creeps slowly down the hall, accidentally stepping on a loose board. She goes into the first door she sees, finding Mary bound and gagged in there. Quickly, she unties Mary, who explains that Jefferson had attacked her in the woods. She tells Emma about the key in her cell, which is how she escaped.  As the two of them creep into the hall, they are stopped by Jefferson, who is holding Emma’s gun. He has Emma tie Mary back up, telling Emma he has a task for her. He sets her down in front of a table with a hat and tools. He tells her that she has magic, that she has to make a hat with magic. Jefferson knows about the curse, has been there for 28 years, same thing day after day. He knows what Emma refuses to acknowledge. He tells her, “Open your eyes. Look around. Wake up. Isn’t it about time?” He scoffs at Emma calling him insane. She explains that she doesn’t have magic, doesn’t believe in it, to which his reply was “Everyone wants the magical solution for their problems but refuse to believe in magic!” He tells her that she and Mary cannot leave until the hat is done, meaning it works as well. Emma asks what happens then, to which he replies “Then I go home.”

Frustrated, Emma throws the hat she is working on down, demanding an explanation why she is doing this. Jefferson shows her a telescope which points to where his daughter lives in this world, where her name is Paige. He is tortured by this life that she has, not knowing who he is. He remembers the life before Storybrooke, and that is his curse. “Holding conflicting realities in your head. That will drive you mad” Emma realizes he is the Mad Hatter. He further explains that taking Paige home means bringing them to the one world where they can be together. He swears that he’s not crazy, that this is weird. Emma explains that in that reality, Mary would be her mother, bringing tears and emotion up. Tricking him while his back his turned, Emma uses the telescope to knock him unconscious and free Mary. But they don’t get very far, Jefferson walks in wielding the gun. Emma and Jefferson fight, but before things get too serious, Mary hits him with a croquet bat, kicking him out the window. When they look down, all they see is the hat, but no Jefferson.

Mary expects Emma to take her back to prison, but Emma tosses her the keys, telling her to make a choice. Mary doesn’t understand, but Emma explains with all the times that Mary had her back, she’s her only family. Emma tells her she would rather face this together than alone. Mary hands her the keys.

Regina pulls up to the sheriff’s office, where Emma’s bug is missing. But when she walks in, Mary sits in her cell with the morning paper. Mr. Gold walks in, telling her that Mary is not accepting any visitors. Walking out together, Regina reveals that she made a deal with Mr. Gold about Mary. Outside on the school grounds, Emma goes to see Henry. Paige walks by, saying hi, triggering Emma to look at Henry’s book. She finds pictures of Jefferson as the Mad Hatter inside. Finally beginning to believe, Emma asks Henry if she can hold onto the book for a little while.

So, I’m having a problem now with ‘Once Upon A Time’. This episode was cute, but it was yet another filler episode. The story didn’t move along, there were some reveals but nothing has been completely surprising. I think there was a mistake made, which is to do 22 episodes, at one hour long each. The beginning seemed like a mad dash, but now we’re in the middle and its going into a slump for me. I very much enjoy this show, when there is progression of story. But asking to write 22 hours of information for one season, with a second one coming? That is a lot of story for anyone to write, no matter how much experience you have, especially for a new show. Throw us a bone, answer some questions.

Which leads me into next week. It looks like we get more back story on Regina next week, maybe some questions will finally be answered, such as why does she hate Snow White so much. I really want to continue to enjoy this show. But I think having so many episodes with so much time was too much for a first season.

How do you feel about this episode? Is ‘Once Upon A Time’ going “All Filler No Killer” for you? What would you change about it?

If you missed the previous episode be sure to read our ‘Once Upon A Time: Heart of Darkness’ recap to catch up.