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:

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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

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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.

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Nathan Fillion: Awards Host Extraordinaire

I’ve never watched the Writers Guild Awards, but I’m definitely going to this year, all because the incomparable Nathan Fillion will be hosting. When watching the Golden Globes and I saw him come up to announce the winner of one category (and oddly got paired up with Glee‘s Lea Michele for the segment), I was eager to see the audience get a taste of his characteristic wit and charm, but apparently his script called for a straight performance as opposed to a humorous one, despite the fact that he is more than capable of getting the room laughing. So hopefully as the host of the Writers Guild Awards he’ll get a chance to do just that.

I, of course, love Fillion for his leading role in Firefly, but I’ve been catching up on Castle lately, too, and it’s wonderful how the role of Rick Castle has given him the opportunity to be even goofier, which is very fitting to his personality. If you want to see some of Fillion at his silly and singing best, make sure to check out Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It’s a great, 45-minute 3-parter produced independently by Joss Whedon and friends during the writer’s strike. Not only does it star our beloved Nathan Fillion, but also Neal Patrick Harris and Felicia Day. Good times are had by all.


Check out the official announcement Fillion’s selection as host for the awards – he accepts the honor with his usual mix of ironic hubris and self-deprecation.

Castle Star Nathan Fillion Set to Host 2013 Writers Guild Awards West Coast Show
Gregg Mitchell @ WGA, West

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When I first accepted the honor of hosting the Writers Guild Awards, I was confused and actually thought I was receiving one. Since I play a writer on TV, I felt perhaps someone was under the impression I deserved an award and I wasn’t about to correct them. However, now I’m in the perfect position to present myself with whichever award I choose. Who’s going to know? At the very least, I can network with the most talented writers in the business in preparation for my next round of unemployment. It’s a win/win.

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Changing the Game in Video Game Adaptation

Seeing as the video game industry has become so massive, with such hits as Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which grossed $1 billion in 15 days in December, and Modern Warfare, which sold $400 million in a single day in 2011, why is it that film adaptations of video games are so often flops? Especially in the wake of the dismal Silent Hill: Revelation, it seems that the studios producing such adaptations really need to rethink their approach.

Some of the only successful such adaptations include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the Resident Evil franchise, so perhaps the film industry should take notes from their example. In the article below, Resident Evil producer Jeremy Bolt, for example, said “When we developed the first screenplay, director Paul W.S. Anderson flew to Tokyo and spent a great deal of time with the game creators. We listened to their comments and respected their positions and that of the fans as much as we could. We see that as part of the success.”

So is that the key? True collaboration between the video game studio and the Hollywood studio? Well it’s certainly a start. It’s true that the video game creators know their fans much more intimately than the big-wigs in Hollywood. Ubisoft is taking this approach by putting together a complete package before proposing their projects to the studios, specifically by signing A-list stars (Michael Fassbender is slated to star in and produce Assassin’s Creed, and Tom Hardy is already attached to Splinter Cell).

But Prince of Persia showed that having A-list actors isn’t enough, as it failed to connect to audiences even with Jake Gyllenhaal as the star, and other recognizable actors such as Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina in supporting roles. There must be more to it than that – in my opinion, the weakness of these adaptations is primarily in the story. There is a delicate balance between pandering to the preexisting fans of the video game and being accessible to a new, wider audience, and the best way to appeal to both is through a story that is new and exciting for the fans that can also stand alone as a solid movie in its own right. If you ask me, the producers of these adaptations need to put more stock in their screenwriters.

What do you think would make film adaptations of video games more successful? Are there any video games you’re dying to see made into movies?

Why Video Game Companies Are Taking More Control Over Their Movies
Tatiana Siegel @ The Hollywood Reporter

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From books to plays to theme park rides, Hollywood has a long history of transforming successful intellectual properties into box-office hits.

But when it comes to video games, the track record is surprisingly dismal. Despite sales figures that have made film executives drool — Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 grossed $1 billion in 15 days in December, and Modern Warfaresold $400 million in a single day in 2011 — only one film based on a video game, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, has ever crossed the $100 million threshold domestically ($131 million).

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