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Episode 1.17: Hat Trick

Pop quiz: like or dislike OUaT's Mad Hatter? Some people find him too depressive. Me, I like him. He's the Mad Hatter through and through, and at the same time, he's totally different than the Mad Hatter we meet in Carroll's book. Like many familiar story book characters on OUaT, he's a homage and a fresh take. Which makes me bummed that he has so far not appeared in Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. What's Wonderland without the Mad Hatter?

Jefferson is a classic Trickster, who not only is not all he seems and with a (literal) hat full of tricks and ploys and manipulations, but whose role in a story is to force the hero to see things in a new way.

(1) OUaT's Mad Hatter is a portal-weilding, dimension-hopping wizard from the Enchanted Forest named Jefferson. Regina the queen, already acquainted with him (in part from the event with Dr. Frankenstein, which happened early in her apprenticeship with Rumplestiltskin), comes to him because she wants his help getting to Wonderland. Jefferson does not trust deals with Regina. His daughter Grace is his priority. Grace has a certain Alice-like quality, a young blond with a stuffed rabbit who likes to play tea party. Jefferson does not have enough money to care for Grace the way he wants, however, and is forced to accept Regina's job.

(2) Storybrooke Jefferson is unique among all the victims of the Curse in that his memory of his old life is in tact. But he has been separated from his daughter, cannot escape Storybrooke, and has been watching the same day repeat over and over for 28 years. One presumes he also still has his heart in his chest, which makes his misery understandable.

Since Regina could get just-another-minion by removing Jefferson's memories and his heart, there must be a reason he has both intact. Perhaps Regina's saving his unique expertise as a wizard for a rainy day, and coerces him by dangling his daughter in front of him.

And he is clearly under Regina's thumb: he helps Regina hide a runaway fugitive Mary Margaret, and intercepts Emma during her search for Mary Margaret. Mary Margaret's escape was engineered by Regina in cahoots with Mr. Gold. Best case scenario, Mary Margaret is charged with being a fugitive from justice and escapes the charge murder. Worst case, she suceeds in leaving town and suffers the same bad luck everyone else who has attempted to leave has encountered.

(3) Reason #839 Emma Swan is awesome: she wakes up from being drugged and easily escapes from her bonds using the very tea cup that drugged her in the first place.

(4) Back in FTL, Regina and Jefferson head to Wonderland. We will not see what Regina's connection to the Queen of Hearts is until episode 2.9, so you know the writers of this show have many story threads mapped out in advance they plan to unpeel over time. Regina retrieves her father, whose presence as a prisoner is left unexplained. Then, because the same number of travelers that go through a portal must also return, she abandons Jefferson in Wonderland.

A betrayed Jefferson is distraught that he has broken a promise to Grace to return to her. At the time, Regina's retort, "If you truly loved your daughter, you would not have left her in the first place," seemed mostly defensive. But you can clearly see a rather tortured look on her face, upon which we can unwrap layers of meaning, including Regina's possible plans for her father, and Regina's pain over her mother's treatment of her.

Jefferson's only hope of leaving Wonderland is to make another hat, which he attempts to do obsessively, but without success. The Mad Hatter is born.

(5) Storybrooke Jefferson talks freely to Emma about the Curse, which up until now, Emma has been able to write off as Henry's fantasy. And even though Emma would like to (and has good reason to) think Jefferson is a Nut, the fact that his delusions are so close to Henry's clearly disturbs her. There are two logical conclusions she can draw: (a) Jefferson has spent a lot of time with Henry, and has somehow come to believe a child's stories about the Enchanted Forest, the Curse, and Emma being the Savior, and incorporate those beliefs into his perceptions of his own life or (b) there is some truth to Henry's claims.

Emma, ever rational, decides (a), no matter how weird, is a more likely scenario than (b). But this is a turning point for her, a point where she finally begins to consider the absurd conclusion that Henry's story may be true. In order to gain her captor's trust, Emma plays along with Jefferson's delusion. This is a ploy, but at the same time, it forces Emma to wear the possibilities like truths, including the possibility that Mary Margaret is her mother. Later, she checks Henry's story book, and sees characters similar to Jefferson and Paige in the story of the Mad Hatter.

(6) Of course Emma has chemistry with Jefferson. Because (a) she has chemistry with every male character in her age bracket except David, and (b) the actors were dating, for a while.

(7) Jefferson believes Emma to be the Savior, and knows the Savior has magic. He wants her to build a hat he can use a portal to go back to the Enchanted Forest. I am not sure if this is the first time it is explicitly stated that part of being the Savior is having Magic that can be used for purposes other than curse-breaking.

(8) Emma gets the drop on Jefferson, but the one who actually defeats him is Mary Margaret, and this is a key character moment for her, because up until now Mary Margaret has been pretty meek and, well, anti-Snow White. Finally, we begin to see that part of her we've admired in Snow White that seems to have been lost and isn't lost after all. The characters have their old selves inside them, but they require the right circumstances to show it.

(9) Talking to Jefferson not only forces Emma to reconsider her attitude towards fairy tales and curses, but her feelings regarding the people she's met in Storybrooke as well. Emma searches for Mary Margaret not just as the sheriff bringing back a fugitive, but as a lonely woman who wants to help out what may be one of her first real friends in 28 years. Talking to Jefferson and hearing about his loneliness and his separation from his daughter puts Emma more in touch with her own loneliness, and makes her realize consciously what people like Henry and Mary Margaret mean to her. Her walls are falling.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:38 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, while Jefferson's not my favorite character or anything, I do like him well enough. He's not exactly a nice person -- what with the kidnappings here and that nasty mind-games-on-Regina business we later discover he was involved with -- but he's interesting, and like many other not-always-nice people on this show, you can sympathize with his motives, and with his love for his kid. Also, I find the whole interdimensional magic hat thing ridiculously charming. Just thinking the phrase "interdimensional magic hat" sort of reminds me why I love this nutty, nutty show.

There are a fair number of continuity things that are moderately significant in this one, some of which have already been mentioned, including our first glimpse of Wonderland, setup for the later revelation of Cora as the Queen of Hearts, Emma getting that first indication (however crazy it seems) that this whole "cursed fairy tale characters" thing may not entirely be Henry's delusion, some more complicated and manipulative dancing around between Mr. Gold and Regina, and that rather affecting scene between Emma and Mary Margaret at the end, in which it's clear that Emma really would like to think of her as family. And, yes, I do think this is the first explicit indication we get of the idea that Emma might have magic, although I think it's still pretty ambiguous whether Jefferson knew that for sure or whether he was just making a wishful-thinking assumption about the Savior.

But mostly what I find myself fixating on at the moment is just how many loose ends and unanswered questions there are here. Namely: What happened to Grace's mother? Jefferson says he lost her because of his work, but how? There's got to be some interesting backstory there, which I sadly suspect we will never get to see. There's also got to be some on Cora imprisoning Henry, Sr., too. What was that plan about? Why does Jefferson, out of everybody, still have his memories? Did Regina do that deliberately, or was it some kind of accident? And if she did it deliberately, why him and no one else? And why does he have such an amazing house? Rumple struck a deal with Regina specifically for wealth and power in Storybrooke, and he doesn't live in a mansion like that. Did Jefferson also make some kind of deal with her? Did he ever get back to the Enchanted Forest, or did the curse somehow pull him out of Wonderland? So very, very many things I want to know!
Jan. 20th, 2014 12:53 pm (UTC)
I always thought Cora imprisoning Henry, Senior was straight out serial killer behavior - he's mine, I own him, see me own him. In a shoved-in-a-shoebox-in-the-back-of-the-closet sense of ownership.
Jan. 20th, 2014 12:57 pm (UTC)
Of course, it's entirely possible she just wants to pull the rug out from under Regina by taking away her father, the one person in the universe who actually cares for Regina unconditionally.
Jan. 20th, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC)
I think Regina sort of implies something like this, although I don't remember the actual line of dialog now. But I don't think those two motivations are at all mutually exclusive. it could have been both. And I could certainly believe that of Cora.
Jan. 20th, 2014 04:58 pm (UTC)
I agree.
Jan. 20th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
re: why is Jefferson in Storybrooke, with his memories intact, in that expensive mansion, I don't think we'll ever find out, either, but you can add: why is Grace/Paige there? Current speculation: Regina did get Jefferson out of Wonderland after her mother's presumed "death" (i.e. after Cora and Hook faked it) and before casting the curse. Why? Because Regina couldn't be 100% sure the curse would work to her satisfaction. For all she knew, it could have been a trick of Rumple's. (Well, it was, but not that way.) If it didn't, she'd be stuck in who knew what kind of world. Now we know she brought the original hat with her. Bringing Jefferson as well was, I guess a precaution in case she needed to make a getaway from the world without magic, if if the curse didn't work as advertised and gave her what she wanted. In which case, she also needed leverage to make Jefferson comply with her wishes again, and thus Grace/Paige is there as well... and the nice mansion is so he can't say she is a dishonest woman - she did improve his financial situation so he can take care of Grace/Paige in style if he wants to.

Jan. 20th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure "why is Grace/Paige there?" is a question that demands an answer, since she was left behind in the Enchanted Forest, and presumably would have automatically come over with everybody else when the curse was cast. But I like your speculation. It makes a great deal of sense, especially the rather nasty way that giant mansion fulfills Regina's bargain without actually giving Jefferson what he really wants. (Clearly she was paying attention the day Rumple taught that kind of thing in class. :))

If her plan was to have the hat as a backup gateway, though, it wasn't a particularly good one, since it didn't work at all until the curse was broken and magic restored. (And, IIRC, it was still difficult to activate the first time afterward.) But it's possible Regina might not have realized that would be the case, as she does have some magical stuff that seems to keep working even during the curse. Well, the heart trick does, at least.
Jan. 20th, 2014 05:01 pm (UTC)
That's my theory as well. Cora brought the giant with her to Storybrooke in order to have a way back to the FTL in season 2.

But I wonder if Regina could have used Jefferson's hat to escape back before Magic was brought to Storybrooke in the season finale. They could barely get an apple out of that hat before then.
Jan. 20th, 2014 05:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, right, the apple was before the curse was broken! I'd forgotten that. Not that that alters the point that if Regina regarded it as a potential way out, she may have been a little bit too confident.
Jan. 20th, 2014 07:39 am (UTC)
I must admit I don't like Jefferson. Not the way I dislike August/Pinnocchio, where half my problem is that I'm not sure the show realizes how skeevy the character is; Jefferson has a point in the narrative, he fills it, and his moral ambiguity is deliberate, something underlined in s2 when we find out he had absolutely no problem joining in in the vicious manipulation of the innocent young woman which Regina then still was. That Jefferson is in Storybrooke at all, and aware of the passing time with his true memories intact through the 28 years of the Curse is one of the reasons why I think Regina later at least very strongly suspects what he and Victor Frankenstein did on Rumplestilskin's behalf. (I also think that's why Whale is in Storybrooke, and why Regina was so vile to Belle. As payback for the Daniel ploy, it emotionally works if you're Regina.)

Anyway, back to Jefferson: one reason why I don't like him has nothing to do with the actual character, it is that I've seen Sebastian Stan do his teary eyed stare thing just once (or twice, or thrice) too often (in Kings, in Political Animals and here), and it always results in fandom crying "woobie!" And in this case pairing him up with Emma, which squicks me because of the drugging and kidnapping. This is also why I'm glad he's not in Wonderland, unless they recast (and they might, since I suspect one reason why he's not is that Sebastian Stan is pretty busy) - I'm not keen on Jefferson/anyone pairings there, either. And if Astro is right and Stan's unavailability is why we have Will/the Knave of Hearts as a character at ll, I'm even more for it, because Will's actor is someone I've loved in Being Human already, and he's great here. Mind you, Jefferson saying that he "lost" his wife (note: he doesn't say that she died) because of his dimension hopping activities and that he hates Wonderland would actually work with the Anastasia/Red Queen story if we substitute him for Will, so Astro is probably right.

The backstory this episode has me wondering about is how Henry Sr. (btw, this time I noticed that Jefferson says "Henry the father of the Queen?" when Emma mentions Henry, thus reminding the audience Henry Sr. existed half an hour before the reveal) got to Wonderland and what Cora's plan was - draw Regina there, obviously, but beyond that. I also appreciate the cleverness of setting up the Queen of Hearts (with her face covered) before we "meet" Cora. Regina's whole "there is nothing more important than family" to Jefferson is one of those ironic lies/truths as her "I always believed evil was not born, but made" to David in the previous episode was. She rescues her father here, and she does love him, but she will kill him one day... and then she'll name her son after him to remind her of that fact every day.

Emma does some lies/truths herself; when she tells Jefferson "if what you're saying is true, than the woman in the next room is my mother, and I would want that more than anything in the world!" she's doing it so she can convince Jefferson she's on his side and he'll turn his back on her, but at the same time, she's not lying. She doesn't yet believe Mary Margaret is her mother, but she wants her to be family because she feels their friendship that strongly.

I loved Emma freeing herself via tea cup shards and the Emma & Mary Margaret team up later. Mary Margarent instinctively using Snow's moves is a good indication that the memories of these people are locked inside them, not gone, true. MM at the end reading the "Mirror" with the headline "Heartless!" cracks me up because while it fits in-universe as Sydney writing an anti MM article re: Kathryn's "death" , it also works as a sly nod towards the preceding episode.
Jan. 20th, 2014 01:15 pm (UTC)
We don't really get a timeline of events in the OUaTverse. I want to believe the manipulation of Regina stuff happened before Jefferson became a father, and that experience (fatherhood), and feeling the full weight of Regina's anger at him after the events following Daniel's death has changed him a little.

Clearly not a LOT, of course. Maybe just the arrogance. He is still helping powerful people manipulate others for the ultimate purpose of looking out for Number One (and I put taking care of Grace in that category).

I think he has potential as a complicated character if they could have kept him on. I suspect that if the character shows up on Wonderland, we will be dealing with backstory for Jefferson, though, not continuing adventures. Hard to say. Wonderland happens in that fuzzy "When the hell is this?" territory, where it appears we are back during the Victorian era, except for present-day Knave of Hearts being there.
Jan. 20th, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
I want to believe the manipulation of Regina stuff happened before Jefferson became a father

I was thinking that, too, watching it this time. I think it makes a lot of sense, in terms of what we see on the screen and how he responds to Regina's approaches. And I think there is reasonably enough time in there for it to work, as Regina was meant to be quite young in the S2 flashbacks.
Jan. 20th, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC)
And if Astro is right and Stan's unavailability is why we have Will/the Knave of Hearts as a character at ll,

Was it me who suggested that? I don't actually remember even hearing that that was the case, so it might have been someone else. Although given the state of my memory these days, it might well have been me. :)

In any case, if that is true, I completely agree with you. I might find the Hatter to be a reasonably interesting character -- and he is one I'd like to know a bit more about -- but I like Will, in a way I can't ever quite imagine coming to like Jefferson. And I'm very glad we have him as he is.
Jan. 21st, 2014 01:27 pm (UTC)
I thought for certain it was you! Otherwise, andrastewhite is the only other candidate who talks to me about such stuff.:)
Jan. 21st, 2014 02:22 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't deny the possibility. :) Actually, I probably did mention actor availability problems with Sebastian Stan, which I believe are why we haven't seen his character show up in OUaT more often. I just don't recall any speculation about whether he might have been intended to play some part in the spinoff. Although surely already knew he was a difficult guy to get when they started planning it...
Jan. 22nd, 2014 06:06 pm (UTC)
There was a throw-away line on Wonderland where the Knave said he was now in Storybrooke (or cursed by the queen, or similar thing), which Will would know also having spent time in Storybrooke. Which again makes me scratch my head at the timeline.
Jan. 22nd, 2014 06:28 pm (UTC)
I think the timeline makes sense. Clearly the start of Wonderland is sometime during S2 of OUaT, after the curse has been broken and Will et al. have their memories back. And Jefferson is in Storybrooke at that time, just as Will says.

Alice, of course, clearly isn't from the same time and place. It's possible that the Rabbit's portals can also take him back and forth through time, but I think the most obvious and likely explanation is that Alice isn't from this universe, but from another one where it's currently the Victorian Era (or the storybook equivalent thereof). Not unlike Frankenstein's 19th-century-ish world, in other words, but with more color.
Jan. 22nd, 2014 06:36 pm (UTC)
and likely explanation is that Alice isn't from this universe, but from another one where it's currently the Victorian Era (or the storybook equivalent thereof). Not unlike Frankenstein's 19th-century-ish world, in other words, but with more color.

See my most recent LJ post about why I try to avoid such explanations, however obvious, like the black plague.
Jan. 22nd, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, well, I do get that as a personal preference, I suppose. But I personally am happy enough with them, and they seem to be built very much in the fabric and premise of the show. (Also, given that these other universes have contact with and influence our own, it seems to me you might be able to have a bit of "have your cake and eat it" on this one, anyway, depending on exactly how you want to look at it.)

However. Having just said all the things I just said in the previous comment, it does occur to me that there still needs to be either some time travel involved here or time traveling at different rates in different universes, since Will spent 28 years under the curse, but it clearly hasn't been that long for Alice since she's seen him. Which... actually just goes along with similar weird timeline issues on the parent show. I think the only conclusion is that time is a flexible thing in this particular multiverse. But given that we have seen one real example of time travel -- Regina and Jefferson reaching back in time to grab the apple -- maybe it all sort of fits.
Jan. 22nd, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC)
You know, I got the impression from the conversation between the Rabbit and Will in the first ep that Will was slumming in Storybrooke--only hanging out there by choice, not because he was part of the curse. Like he wanted the comforts of the modern Earthly world and be around other FTL folks for a bit.
Jan. 22nd, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
Hmm, the impression I got was that, having found himself in Storybrooke post-curse in the same way that everybody else did, he quickly concluded that he really liked it there, much better than he did the Enchanted Forest, and wanted to stay.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )