Once Upon a Time: A Bitter Draught Review

This is what happens when your inner demon walks, talks and swears to rip your heart out.

This Once Upon a Time review contains spoilers.

Once Upon a Time: Season 6, Episode 2

What has always been so real about Once Upon a Time no matter how fantastical the stories get is that no one character is good or evil incarnate. Magic blurs the lines rather than going poof! Into a shower of glitter and an insta-happily-ever-after. 

The nebulous nature of good and evil manifests itself even more powerfully this season in serious personal dilemmas that can’t be solved by just waving a glittery wand. Regina is the obvious one who never wants to be tempted by a poison apple again, but we also have Hook trying to redeem himself, the moral ambiguity of the Count of Monte Cristo, and even some hesitation in—dare I say it—Rumplestiltskin. 

Rumbelle is no more. The breakup might not be Facebook official, but the twisted romance has at least been downgraded to “it’s complicated” considering Belle waltzes into the diner as if she’d never been paralyzed by a sleeping curse and pretty much announces it to half of Storybrooke. You know it’s over when a pregnant woman is so desperate to hide she’s willing to use the Jolly Roger as a hotel while someone else is trying to lure her greasy ex into bed. Why anyone halfway sane would want to seduce Rumplestiltskin (even someone as irredeemably evil and sociopathic) is beyond me, but that’s another story for another storybook. 

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Before I turn the page, let me take a moment to say exactly how magical the costumes in this episode are. Fairy Godmother couture has taken it to a whole other level. I want every every single thing the Evil Queen has ever worn in my closet, and all those neo-Goth dresses the show’s costume designers keep conjuring up this season have me under their spell. A dress that looks like a dress only to reveal that it’s actually a bodice with pants and a skirt in the back that even makes swordfighting look haute? Fierce. 

While we’re on the topic of fashion, we need to talk about the shady character in that insanely gorgeous embellished coat which looks like it could have been ripped from a John Galliano runway. Not bad for a guy who first walks in looking more like an extra from a spaghetti Western. While anyone who wished for Aladdin in this episode isn’t getting anything from the genie until next week, the Count of Monte Cristo is cloaked in enough mystery to keep you guessing in your sleep. Is he good? Is he evil? Is it just that his glowing heart is literally beating in the Evil Queen’s hand? He seems to be struggling with something resembling a conscience.

So is his sword. 

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Regina is still trying to keep a deathgrip on her own conscience. I have to admit it is some delicious schadenfreude to watch guilt consuming a character whose #lifegoals were murder, murder and more murder. Purging herself of a monster might possibly be the most disastrous thing she ever has done, however unintentional that unleashing of pure evil to run wild and terrorize Storybrook may have been. It turns out the magic that released the Evil Queen left behind a shard of evil that her dark doppelgänger is now mercilessly trying to lure out. Dark magic that involves snake venom, a graveyard and Rumplestiltskin, not necessarily in that order, may or may not have something to do with it. 

Whatever sorcery is responsible for Emma’s visions is only growing stronger. This time we get a glimpse into the bluish-green haze of these hallucinations in which she is up against a hooded figure that could pass for a Nazgul that strayed into the wrong literary universe. The face hiding in the shadows of that hood exists in a total blackout. There isn’t even so much as a scar or a piece of jewelry hinting at who this phantom adversary is. The oracle has vanished, and now isn’t exactly the time to be taking a stroll in the woods anyway, even if she was still standing glaze-eyed and waving her hands under the gnarly old tree where Emma left her. 

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Once Upon a Time continues to cast charms of suspense. This episode left us plenty of open-ended questions to lose sleep over with or without a dream draught from Morpheus, but it’s a welcome kind of insomnia.

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