Espenson Brings ‘Once Upon A Time’ to a New Level

I know I talked about Once Upon A Time not that long ago, but after last night’s incredible episode I can’t help but bring it up again, especially to talk about how Jane Espenson‘s writing is this show’s redemption.

First of all, we finally get to learn more about Frankenstein, and Henry actually says something meaningful again, expressing what all of the viewers are thinking: “Frankenstein isn’t in here. It’s not even a fairy tale!” Hopefully the fact that someone in the show finally sees Dr. Whale/Frankenstein’s presence as strange means that this incongruity will soon be explored.

“In the Name of the Brother” seems like a completely different show, rife with witty dialogue and clever quips as opposed to unnatural, awkwardly delivered lines. The entrance of the “outside” world into Storybrooke allowed Espenson to inject her characteristic referential humor into a show that has been bland for quite some time, throwing in a Star Wars ringtone, a joke about posting pictures of food to Twitter, and worries about outsiders wanting to experiment on Storybrooke’s magic inhabitants like in the movies E.T. and Splash.

Not only that, all of the characters seem to have, well, more character in this episode. Mary Margaret’s pluck seen previously in some of her Fairy Tale World exploits is revived, especially in one cheeky aside about the doctor:  “Does anybody else notice that he’s drunk off his ass?” Rumpelstiltskin is also given some particularly biting dialogue, bringing back some of that acerbity that we all so loved in his character in the first season.

Another Espenson staple, no doubt fostered by her time on the Joss Whedon shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, is the supurb–and superbly funny–ensemble scenes. As I’m sure any of you screenwriters out there know, ensemble scenes are exceedingly difficult to write. You need to have the correct balance of participation among all those present, not leaving any characters by the wayside with little or no presence in the scene, otherwise they might as well not be there at all. But on the other hand, no character should speak unless it is truly in their character to interject at that point.

Both Espenson and Whedon are extremely adept at maintaining this balance, and Espenson definitely displays her skill in last night’s Once. There are far too many examples to list here, and if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I don’t want give away too much and keep you from enjoying it as much as I did. But I’ll just give you one classic example of the quick, sharp group dialogue, as they are trying to figure out where the doctor has gone:

CHARMING
Got the scent?

RED
Boozy.

EMMA
Just find him and bring him back. We’ll watch Hook and figure out options if Whale doesn’t come back.

EMMA
Maybe Doc can do it.

GRUMPY
(uncontrollable laughter)
Surgery?!
(a beat)
No!!

SNOW
Maybe he didn’t even run. Maybe Cora grabbed him for some reason.

CHARMING
I don’t think so. He’s been a rough place since he brought Regina’s fiance back to life.

SNOW
Daniel?

EMMA
Back to life?!

CHARMING
And had his arm ripped off and put back on.

GRUMPY
Cool.

SNOW
Wait, Daniel came back?

EMMA
Like some kind of Frankenstein?

CHARMING
That’s Whale. The Doctor. And Daniel was his…

EMMA
What went on here while we were gone??

CHARMING
(exhausted groan)

A testament to the excellence of this episode is the fact that it was trending worldwide on Twitter as it aired, which apparently was right in the middle of some major sporting event that was taking place. Check it out:

130121-trending

This review has a great summary of some of the greatest moments in this episode. Thank you, Jane Espenson, for such a delightful hour of television!

Once Upon a Time Review: The World Comes to Storybrooke
Christine Orlando @ TV Fanatic

130121-once

Back in the Fairy Tale World… First off, Henry was right. Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster is not a fairy tale. I’ve always considered it more of a horror story. I know some will disagree, but I’ve never been thrilled that they’ve incorporated this story into the show.

Read More >

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s