Week 5 of the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows isn’t much of a battle. Grimm doesn’t have a new episode this week, and didn’t have one on Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday, so Once Upon a Time gets this column space all to itself this week.
There’s good news to report! Grimm has officially been given a full season! So, I’ll continue reviewing both shows here. NBC is doing something interesting with Grimm, giving the show a Thursday night tryout by airing a new episode on Thursday, December 8th at 10PM and the next new episode on Friday, December 9th in its regular time slot. This changes my schedule for write-ups a bit, but I’ll explain that below.
In this week’s Once Upon a Time, we get to know Dr. Archie Hopper, a.k.a. Jiminy Cricket, a lot better. Also, who knew that Once Upon a Time took place in the Lost universe? And after my review below, I have a Q & A with the episode’s writer, Jane Espenson!
Once Upon a Time, Ep 5: “That Still Small Voice”
Henry (Jared Gilmore), determined as ever to provide proof of the curse over Storybrooke, goes down into a sinkhole that’s mysteriously appeared at the edge of town, suspecting that Regina (Lana Parilla) is hiding something there. His therapist, Dr. Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge), follows him down to protect him from danger and ends up getting trapped down there with him. This is after Regina ordered him to not coddle Henry’s “delusion” and threatened to ruin him. Emma (Jennifer Morrison), now a deputy, and Regina must now work together to rescue Henry. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas) are getting closer now that he’s conscious, and we get backstory on Jiminy Cricket and how he went from being the child of con artists to literature’s most famous umbrella-carrying insect.
Script: Jane Espenson’s script for “That Still Small Voice” was so engaging because it didn’t stick strictly to the show’s Storybrooke/Fairy Tale format, but incorporated a third, separate modern storyline for which the situation with Henry was a only a loose catalyst. Bouncing from Jiminy Cricket, to the Henry rescue mission, to Mary Margaret and David’s budding relationship meant that no storyline overstayed its welcome. This is important, because none of the storylines were particularly action-packed: a rescue mission down a hole, a love story, a man figuring out how to escape his parents’ shadow. Yet, each storyline got just enough attention—no more, no less—which meant that every line of dialogue and every moment was important, necessary, and earned. The episode was also chock full of humor! Jiminy’s Thenardier-esque parents were as hilarious as they were horrible. And then there were lines like Emma’s when she’s presented with her deputy uniform: “You know, you don’t have to dress a woman as a man to give her authority.” And of course, there was David’s charming, “Ajax? Who would name a dog Ajax?”
But the best part of the episode, and the thing that always tends to be Espenson’s strength, were the intimate character moments, particularly the scenes between Archie/Jiminy and the boys in his life. Archie gives Henry advice he hasn’t been ready to take himself, and Henry inspires him to be the kind of person he wants to be. Young Geppetto giving Jiminy his umbrella in a completely selfless act of kindness. And then there was the wonderful scene where Archie confronts Regina at long last, and we see that he genuinely cares about Henry, and is willing to stand up to Regina for his sake. I hadn’t even thought about the kind of pull that a therapist would have, but when Archie threatened Regina with future problems should a custody battle come up it all made perfect sense. This character was in great hands this episode, receiving an amazing introduction.
Performances: There were wonderful performances across the board this episode, but the standout was, of course, Raphael Sbarge, who navigated both Archie and Jiminy’s journeys from being pawns to being their own men with precision and warmth. When Archie looks up at Emma and Henry and tells them it’s okay if Henry’s saved and he’s not and smiles, it’s like a ray of sunshine coming out of that mineshaft. And when he looks Regina in the face and threatens her, you believe that this is a man who is forever changed. This was Jared Gilmore’s best episode yet, and he does an amazing job balancing having all the answers with being a vulnerable child who needs love and attention. Also, he gives great Angry Face. The look he gives Dr. Hopper when the doctor orders him to give up his suspicions about Storybrooke is devastating. Lana Parilla continues to impress me with her performance as Regina. She never telegraphs her true intentions, “winking” at the camera. Her character is as good an actress as she is, which is a wise choice. Robert Carlyle: still creepy.
And can I just mention the amazing chemistry between Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas?! Whenever those two are onscreen, either as Snow and James or Mary Margaret and David, it’s electric. In this episode, their scenes together were so electric I could hear the screen crackle. They each invest so much in their performances, that mere glances speak volumes. And those volumes are all hot.
Production: Jiminy Cricket’s sideshow childhood was a beautiful patchwork quilt of color and texture. I loved the design of the cricket version of Jiminy, who looks like an actual cricket, not a cartoon approximation. Yet, he’s still insanely cute.
The production for this episode would’ve already gotten a 2 this week if I were scoring, but the Apollo bars would’ve earned the episode extra production points. That’s right, Once Upon a Time is set in the Lost universe. How do I know? Because Henry had Apollo bars in his bag, that’s how. Dammit, Kitsis and Horowitz, I can’t mourn Lost properly if you keep letting it tug at my soul!
Representation: After the travesty that was Prince Thomas in the last episode, we have returned to a sense of gender balance on Once Upon a Time. The male characters had center stage this week, but the female characters were all fully realized and lived-in, and every character felt like the star of their own story.
I’m still a bit disappointed, however, by the dearth of minority actors on this show. There was no room for minority characters in this script as the only new characters introduced were all parents to established white characters, but still. I hope that there will be more opportunity for long-term minority characters on the show.
Also, where are the gay characters? I mean, Archie could be gay. Who knows? Still, nothing yet.
Audience Engagement: This episode gives the audience all of the things that make Once Upon a Time wonderful without any filler. Also, Raphael Sbarge did a great job live-tweeting both the East Coast and West Coast broadcasts. The cast and crew in general seem to be upping their Twitter presence every week, which is really nice to see.
This week, I had the opportunity to ask Jane Espenson a couple of episode-specific questions. Here’s what she had to say about “That Still Small Voice”:
Teresa Jusino: Did you choose to write “the Jiminy Cricket” episode? If not, what about the character and/or his story was the easiest for you to tap into/relate to?
Jane Espenson: The episode was sort of handed to me, but I was thrilled to get it. It’s what I would have picked. I love taking a character like Jiminy and exploring them. He’s someone who you might think of as being part of someone else’s story even in Pinocchio, he’s all about someone else’s arc. I like taking that character and reminding us all that everyone is the hero of their own story. I related to him because of that, and also because it was such an identifiable story—the way so many people have their adolescence well after adolescence. It took Jiminy a long time to figure out how to get away from the life he was living, and I think a lot of people feel like that.
TJ: Jiminy’s parents were so much fun. But they also were downright horrible people. Was it always the decision to have them be that bad? How did you decide just how horrible you were going to let them be?
JE: I should make it clear that stories for most TV shows, and certainly for ours, are created by the staff as a whole, led by the showrunners in this case, the impressive Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. So this wasn’t a decision I made this was the story we chose to tell, but it was, of course, absolutely necessary to make them that bad, or you would simply never forgive Jiminy for turning on them.
TJ: Henry is a wonderful character. Obviously children are characters just like everyone else, but they also have limited knowledge of the world around them. How do you approach writing children in general, and Henry specifically? Or is there no difference at all?
JE: The difference isn’t really in the complexity of thought. It’s in the way the character expresses himself. It’s hard to write a smart child without giving them that fake precious sound. And Henry has the job of having to handle a lot exposition, because he’s often the only one who knows what’s really going on. It makes him the most challenging character to write.
TJ: Obviously Mary Margaret and David are meant to be together! But is there something about their real-world characters that draws them to each other? Is Mary Margaret drawn to him because he’s not threatening and she can’t handle someone “real?” Is he drawn to her, because he just woke up from a coma and can’t handle someone with history and baggage making demands on him? What’s your take on the “real world” relationship between Mary Margaret and David?
JE: This is a frakkin’ great question. I like your analysis, but I’m not sure it really fits the facts on hand. Mary Margaret and David do both seem “real” to each other. In fact, to him, she’s all that does seem real. So I’d say they’re both reaching for something that feels anchoring and familiar, but not easy or safe. They know that given their situation, the other person is not safe or easy. It’s more like gravity is pulling them together. Kathryn is putting pressure on David, while Mary Margaret is adoring and accepting, it’s true, and that is very relevant, but I still think the “easier” choice would be to stay with Kathryn. But that’s just my personal opinion, not the voice of the show.
TJ: What is the one thing you hope people take away from this episode?
JE: It’s never too late to start your life. That’s not the theme of the episode, but it’s in there, and I think it’s important.
TJ: You, Jane Espenson, live in Storybrooke. What fairy tale character do you think you really are?
JE: Oh my. Fun! Hmm… I took one of those personality quizzes recently and it said I’m a confidante/counselor. I get that. I’d love to grant wishes. Can I be a fairy godmother? I think I’d like that.
Jane Espenson—Best. Fairy Godmother. Ever.
Now, as Episode 5 of Grimm is airing on Dec. 8th and Episode 6 is airing on Dec. 9th, here’s the new schedule for the Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows:
Friday, December 9th: Grimm Special, Episode 5 (bonus interview in the works!)
Monday, December 12th: Once Upon a Time Vs. Grimm Episode 6—back to scoring!
Which means that there will be no column next Monday. Try not to be too devastated.
Grimm returns at a special time Thursday, December 8th at 10PM on NBC. Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8PM on ABC. And I’m thrilled that both shows are getting the full seasons they deserve!
If Teresa Jusino lived in Storybrooke, she’d really be the shoemaker with the elves. Because seriously, she feels like elves have been helping her out already. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.