|Down the Rabbit Hole|
|Season 1, Episode 1|
|Airdate||October 10, 2013|
|Written by|| Edward Kitsis|
|Directed by||Ralph Hemecker|
The premiere received generally positive reviews from critics, despite low ratings; the episode was watched by 5.8 million viewers.
A title card which states "Once Upon a Time..."
In the Characters' Past
Alice (Sophie Lowe) returns home to her father (Shaun Smyth), who tells her that everyone thought she was dead. Her imaginative stories about a talking White Rabbit (John Lithgow) and a mystical place called Wonderland end up get the attention of Dr. Lydgate (Jonny Coyne), a psychologist from an asylum. She is admitted into an asylum, where it is revealed that she continued frequent visits to Wonderland in search of proof of its reality. After capturing her proof in the form of the White Rabbit, she encounters Cyrus (Peter Gadiot), a genie with whom she falls in love. The two lovers have several adventures, leading to a fateful day on the cliff of the Boiling Sea, where Cyrus proposes to Alice. They are interrupted by the Red Queen (Emma Rigby), who has her henchmen attack them. In the end, the Red Queen throws Cyrus off the cliff into the sea, where Alice looks into the mist of where he's fallen. In a final flashback, it is revealed that Cyrus actually survived the fall into the Boiling Sea, as Jafar saved him with his flying carpet.
In present day, the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) resides in Storybrooke, Maine, stealing coffee in the dead of night from Granny's diner, until the White Rabbit interrupts him via bursting through a newly made rabbit hole. He convinces the Knave to help him save Alice, who is in Victorian England.
In Victorian England
Dr. Lydgate tells Alice that there is a new treatment that will take away all of her memories of Wonderland, which she agrees to allow them to use on her. The morning of the procedure, the Knave and White Rabbit come to save Alice, and the three of them escape the asylum and journey through a rabbit hole back to Wonderland, after convincing Alice that Cyrus has been seen alive.
Upon arriving, the three land in a Mallow Marsh. The Rabbit recounts that he himself did not see Cyrus, rather he was told that the Dormouse told him that he saw Cyrus at the Mad Hatter's house, which has been abandoned for some time. Alice and the Knave find themselves stuck in quicksand (made of marshmallow), and the Rabbit runs ahead to go find help. Alice and the Knave manage to escape, while ahead of them, the Rabbit is ambushed by the Red Queen. He is taken back to her palace, where it turns out that he was forced by her to bring Alice back to Wonderland. The Red Queen tells the Rabbit that he will be her eyes and ears in all of this, lest he be killed. The Rabbit complies and sadly walks away, when the Agrabahian sorcerer Jafar (Naveen Andrews) begins to talk to her. Jafar was the one who wanted Alice back in Wonderland. He tells the Queen she is no longer needed, but she convinces him not to kill her when she reminds him that she is the only one who knows of Alice's whereabouts. Back at the marsh, the Knave tells Alice that he never wished to return to Wonderland, and he would rather not continue on this journey. She takes off her heel, where it turns out she keeps three glowing gems that are actually wishes that Cyrus gave her long ago. She offers one to the Knave if he helps her see this adventure through. When asked why she doesn't use them to wish Cyrus back, Alice tells the Knave that wishes are far too unpredictable, and that wishing Cyrus back could likely teleport him to them as a hung corpse. The two begin to search for the Hatter's house, and Alice climbs a tree to get a better view of the forest, leaving her shoes with the Knave. At the top, she spies the Hatter's house. She is attacked by the Cheshire Cat (Keith David), who has become much more violent since she was last in Wonderland. She manages to get to ground level, noticing the Knave and her shoes are gone. Before she is killed, the Knave returns, throwing a piece of size-altering mushroom into the Cheshire Cat's mouth. It shrinks to kitten size, and scurries off. The Knave returns Alice's wishes, Alice assuring him that wishes will not work unless they are granted, not stolen. The two then make it to the Hatter's house, where they find only an empty home filled with hundreds of hats. The Rabbit appears again, telling them he searched all over for them. The Knave tells Alice it's likely all this was untrue, and Cyrus is still dead. Alice runs from the house, crying until she finds an amulet belonging to Cyrus on the ground. She takes this as proof that he is still alive and tells the two she will not stop on her quest to find her true love. Meanwhile, Cyrus is held captive by Jafar within a castle somewhere in Wonderland. Alice, the Knave and the White Rabbit continue their search, walking through a field in the distance.
In April 2013, Paul Reubens was cast as the voice of the White Rabbit and Emma Rigby was cast as the Red Queen.
On May 10, 2013, ABC announced that it had greenlit the spin-off, as well as also announcing that John Lithgow would replace Reubens as the voice of the White Rabbit. On May 14, 2013, ABC announced that the spin-off will air in the Thursday night timeslot instead of making it a fill-in for the parent series. Originally picked up for a standard 13-episode season, in late June 2013, ABC ordered an undisclosed amount of additional episodes because creators Kitsis and Horowitz had already planned out the entire first season. "We really want to tell the story without having to worry about how to stretch it for five years," said Edward Kitsis. "This is not meant to be a 22-episode season. Whatever it ends up being, we'll have told a complete story ..."
- This episode takes its name from the first chapter of the novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
- The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on August 8, 2013.
- The "procedure" Dr. Lydgate prepares to perform on Alice is mostly likely a removal of parts of the cerebral cortex. This form of psychosurgery was first performed by Gottlieb Burckhardt in December, 1881.
- The title card has no special feature, unlike the title cards for the rest of the series.