Once Upon A Time 6×02 “A Bitter Draught” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

It’s definitely time for a movie night; in fact, it’s long overdue.

Episode Summary: Regina and the Evil Queen come face to face when the Count of Monte Cristo attempts to kill off the Charmings as he was once convinced to. Emma goes to a session with Archie. Killian offers Belle a space on his ship. And the Evil Queen shares her plot to turn everyone against each other.

Review | Analysis: Once Upon A Time’s “A Bitter Draught” wasn’t my favorite episode, but it opened up a lot of great issues. And most importantly, it reminded viewers of the first season because learning about a character’s past is what was so intriguing about the beginning. However, what doesn’t seem to change is the fact that the series wants us to continuously remember that “we are both” has and will always be a running theme with its characters. It is what it is. There’s good and bad in all of us and attempting to start over by ridding ourselves of our sins in the way Regina has done has shown to be the cause of more issues. As human beings we are susceptible to sin — we have and will always make mistakes, and sometimes, we’ll make the same mistakes over and over again until we finally realize enough is enough. Some of our characters have come to that point where they need a change, and since words without actions are dead, it’s refreshing to see Once Upon A Time showcase some of these issues in a real sense with the fairytale elements interwoven nicely.

Frankly, it would’ve been nice to see the Count stick around for a little longer, but we needed to see that Regina would actually keep her word by protecting Snow and Charming. However, the Evil Queen’s plot reminds us a bit of the Snow Queen’s in season four. The spell of shattered sight was meant to turn them against each other — to bring out the worst and have them fight to the end until they destroyed themselves. But as we’ve seen time and time again with the show, these characters have come too far to go backward as drastically. I don’t know how or when but Regina needs to find a way to put the Evil Queen back inside of her because she could control her better when she wasn’t a separate entity.

Ultimately, as I’ve said since the beginning of the arc, while I can see how this is meant to mesh with the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, it makes absolutely no sense to me. They are not the same person — literally, they don’t even look alike. And for this reason, it’s incredibly hard to buy the Evil Queen/Regina arc as something worthwhile. But while it frustrates me, it’s nice to see that Regina’s using this situation as a way of making amends. Personally, it would’ve been better without the literal split, but what can we do?

It broke my heart to see her fall apart after killing the Count, but it was also further proof that there’s good and bad in all of us. Snow White is supposed to be the fairest of them all, but she’s killed. And we are both doesn’t just imply good/evil but rather these people have different sides of them because of the lives they’ve led. Snow and Charming were different versions of themselves in Storybrooke as Mary Margaret and David Nolan. She wasn’t bandit Snow. But they’ve learned from all parts of themselves and found a balance beautifully because again, they are both.

We’ve come to learn that all our heroes are extremely flawed, but because they’re always learning from their mistakes and properly atoning, it becomes understandable. Plus, we seem to forget that Regina murdered nations for revenge while this kill, for once was out of a selfless act. Self-defense or helping a life that’s threatened isn’t the same as murdering because of revenge. And I would want Regina to understand that because it comes down to her accepting the fact that true atonement isn’t splitting herself, it’s accepting, making amends, and forgiving herself.

And on that note, it was lovely to see Killian offer a helping hand to Belle because he still hasn’t forgiven himself for attempting to kill her when he was trying to hurt Rumple. You can hate Killian Jones all you want, but no one will ever hate him the way he hates himself. And that’s an incredibly powerful element Once Upon A Time explores. As human beings, we have and will always be our worst critics. And we will always be a lot harder on ourselves than other people would ever be.  

For instance, I can forgive others a lot more easily than I can forgive myself — even for the simplest of things. To know that you have hurt someone is incredibly heartbreaking, and to come to that realization that you’ve done something so deeply terrible is hard to let go of. And I loved watching Killian admit that though he’s a hero, and he’s done a lot of good, he still hasn’t been able to forgive himself for what he’s done as Captain Hook. Since the moment he chose to be a part of something bigger than a vengeful quest, he chose to better himself. Although he’s fallen back a few times, he’s stood up and kept going towards the hard path. But admitting something out loud takes great bravery, and this is the reason why our characters are always growing beautifully.

Belle is a good person. She’s always been. And that inherent goodness is always lovely to see. It was nice of her to tell Killian that she once again forgives him because she knows that belief in someone especially when they’re willing to believe in themselves can work wonders. She’s seen the progress he’s made. She’s seen the hard work he’s put into bettering himself. And most importantly, she’s seen him make amends more often than not. This is a special friendship that’s blossoming — it’s always been a fascinating one and I for one can’t wait to see more scenes with the two. The enemies-to-friends trope is always a treat because these are the people who have seen you at your worst, and they still love you for who you are today. They put it all aside much like Snow and Charming with Regina.

On a final note, I’m so incredibly happy to be an Emma Swan fan — the authenticity in the character continues to leave me in awe and Morrison’s methodical acting choices are always a gift on our screens. While I’m looking forward to seeing more visits with Archie, the progress she’s making by going alone speaks volumes. As mentioned above, it takes great bravery to admit our fears and problems out loud. That’s an enormous problem with a lot of humans, myself included because sometimes we don’t want to admit to things because then they’ll become real. And once it’s real, it’s scarier.

But if Once Upon A Time has taught me one thing, it’s that it takes great bravery to be vulnerable. It takes great bravery to admit things because confronting our fears is what makes us stronger — opening up our hearts and tearing down our walls makes us better. It was actually surprising how quickly Emma revealed what was really bothering her because I imagined that’d come after maybe two or three sessions. And frankly, can Archie really be trusted? I mean don’t get me wrong, I know he’s a therapist and there’s a confidential agreement there, but because her life is at stake and the town’s so small, I feel like he could easily go tell the Charmings to help her. But hopefully, he lets Emma do that herself because opening up to one person will most definitely make it easier to open up to most.

Additionally, because it isn’t easy for her to ask for help, Emma confronts an issue I’m sure many of us have. She’s the savior — she brings back happy endings. If that’s not what she’s doing, then who she is? How could she ask for help when she’s supposed to be the one doing the helping? So often as human beings we tend to focus on our best traits and when we fail at that, fear tells us we’ll fail at everything. Fear tells us we’re useless. Fear tells us we’re not going anywhere. Fear tells us we’re failing everyone. And sometimes, the hardest thing a person can do is ask for help. It isn’t easy to do because you don’t want to bother people — you want to be there for him. You want to be the one helping because it feels good to help. It feels good to be a part of a person’s happiness, but it’s beautiful that “A Bitter Draught” reminds us that no person can carry the world on their shoulders. No person can take on everything alone. And sometimes, even the strongest, most equipped need help. Emma’s been through a roller coaster of trying times and while it’s often been hard for her to accept her duties as a savior, once she did so, it was hard to fail. It was hard to feel as though she wasn’t helpful to anyone because being helpful brought her warmth and happiness, and thereby not rising to her highest potential wasn’t an option. But it was nice to see the series address an issue that so many of us go through.

Once Upon A Time deals with its characters in a realistic manner — no one changes overnight. We will constantly be going back and forth with the progress we make, but as long as we’re aware of it, we’re on the right track. Knowing there’s a problem is the first step to finding an answer. And this is the season where our characters are taking on their issues in a way that’s impeccably related. While we aren’t sure what untold stories await our core heroes, it’s exciting to know that it’ll teach them, and us, a lot about what really matters in life — plus, it’ll continue to layer them beautifully.

Worth Mentioning: 

  • Snow and Charming were the first couples we fell in love with. And Snow and Charming will always be intriguing in Flashbacks. We’d happily take an entire episode of the two of them back in the day. “Snow Falls” all day every day. Henceforth, it was lovely to see them at a time when things were still and they could drink wine with old friends and new friends without the knowledge that Regina was attempting to poison them at the moment. They were always on the run sure, but it was nice to have this still, small scene where they were just your average day royals. And in the present-day universe, it’s always nice to them partner up.
  • The choice to put Emma in a white, loose shirt was lovely. It’s interesting how clothes can showcase a change, but literally removing her armor and wearing brighter colors is revealing so much growth already. A+ wardrobe department. A+.
  • Henry’s pop culture references will always be the best. What’s it going to take for us to have an episode where all he does is makes Killian watch Star Wars? Seriously, just one episode would suffice. Totally serious jokes aside, it’s exciting to know that Operation Cobra Part II will be bigger, and better than Part I. They’ve got to top it with their sequel, and knowing this group, they will.
  • As much as it’s what the Evil Queen would want, I doubt Regina’s behind the hooded figure, at least I hope not because that ultimately goes against all the progress she’s made. And in the same way, I really hope Zelena doesn’t turn against her sister.
  • At what point will Hyde and the Evil Queen partner up? Shouldn’t they be the ones causing mayhem? They seem perfectly fitted for that? No? Just me? Okay.


  1. I see your point, but I like the splitting Regina-Evil Queen because of the perspective it brings. As I wrote in my blog, Regina has always been symbolically connected to a mirror, a device that reflects our image in the literal sense and in an emblematic one, as well. As a spoiled child, she used to see herself as more beautiful, more intelligent and sassy, and, obviously, stronger, developing a narcissistic idea of her feeling/emotion being more intense than the others’, of her suffering being more intense, of having more right to happiness – her sense of equality was marked by distortions. With the splitting, like in a 3D mirror, she now literally sees the “worst” in her when she talks to the Evil Queen. It is revealing in a way that she had never experienced before. She is experiencing the fear, the horror, the vulnerability, that her victims, in the past (and present), experienced. She is putting her feet in their shoes, and feeling the effect of her own evilness in her skin. Similar to a scorpion stinging itself with its own venom. That might have the effect of making her, finally, being empathetic, compasionate, able of understanding the pain she caused because she is feeling it, too. And that might be the only way for feeling, deep down, and sincerely, regretful. For learning to feel, deep down, the need of doing good – not just intellectually understand that doing good is right which used to lead her to only repress/control her evil impulses.

    1. First of all, I want to thank you for expressing an opposing opinion eloquently and kindly. If all discussions could be had like this, we’d live in a beautiful world. And I never thought of it this way so your gorgeous analogy is very much appreciated. I enjoy Regina’s scenes, but I’m simply not a fan of the Evil Queen and that’s perhaps because I don’t like villains as much as the morally “good” characters/heroes. So that’s essentially where my frustrations often come from — my own personal dislikes. But seriously, kudos for this analogy. It’s absolutely incredible!

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