Once Upon A Time S06E02 “A Bitter Draught” REVIEW
Available in the UK on Netflix, new episodes every Tuesday
Writers: Andrew Chambliss, Dana Horgan
Director: Ron Underwood
Essential Plot Points:
- The Evil Queen breaks into Regina’s vault to procure the ingredients she needs to cause magical mischief. Zelena tags along, and the Evil Queen promises her that she’ll be the sister Zelena always wanted.
- Henry initiates Operation Cobra Part II to help all the characters from the Land Of Untold Stories find an end to their stories.
- Regina and Team Storybrooke start finding homes for all the newcomers from the Land Of Untold Stories.
- The Count Of Monte Cristo turns up with the Untold Stories refugees and delivers an invite to David and Mary Margaret: “The Count of Monte Cristo requests the pleasure of your company this afternoon, at precisely twelve o’clock near the grounded dirigible.”
- Regina smells a rat. When she was still evil, back in the Enchanted Forest before the Curse, she enlisted the help of the Count after being impressed by his dedication to revenge. She made a bargain with him; she would reveal the names and whereabouts of all the people responsible for his fiance’s death in return for him killing Prince Charming and Snow White – something the Evil Queen couldn’t do herself at the time because Rumplestiltskin had place a magic protection on them, preventing the Evil Queen from harming them.
- The Evil Queen put a similar protection on the Count to stop Rumple killing him.
- The Count managed to befriend Charming and Snow, and got close enough to them to be able to poison them. However…
- …He also fell in love with Snow’s handmaiden.
- Ultimately he cannot bring himself to kill Charming and Snow, but just to make sure Regina can’t force the Count back round, Rumple has a back-up plan. He poisons the handmaiden and tells the Count she can only be saved if he takes her to the Land Of Untold Stories. If she ever leaves, she’ll die.
- Which is, of course, exactly what happened when the dirigible crashed in Storybrooke last episode.
- Now the Count is the Evil Queen’s pawn again, and she takes his heart out for safe keeping to make sure he does as she says.
- Emma tries to drive Mary Margaret out of Storybrooke to safety but the Evil Queen has placed a containment spell around the town.
- Regina suspects Zelena but when Zelena denies doing it, Regina starts having bad vibes.
- The Count catches up with Mary Margaret and David. There’s a big fight and the Count nearly kills them but…
- …Regina swoops to the rescue and – gasp – kills him.
- The Evil Queen turns up and gloats that this exactly what she wanted to happen; she’s started reigniting the evil inside Regina.
- The Evil Queen also archly warns Team Storybrooke that the Untold Stories refugees aren’t the only ones with stories left untold. For an encore, she begins to make David doubt that his father’s death was an accident. She’s a right stirrer this one.
- Meanwhile, Emma is seeing Archie for therapy sessions, discussing her recurring nightmare. Following the Evil Queen’s revelation, Emma is now worried that it’s Regina who kills he in the vision.
Another worryingly average episode in a seriously plodding start to this new season. If the Count is set to be a one-off character (it certainly seems that way) then he could have at least been made more fun than the angsty, bland swordsman he is here. He’s not a character but a barely-disguised plot device.
It does make you wonder as well if this is going to be the format this season: Untold Story refugee-of-the-week (although technically, the Count was just hiding out in the Land Of Untold Stories, but you get what we mean). Hopefully this isn’t the case, as it could become rapidly annoying of they’re all as underwritten as the Count is.
Elsewhere, Henry gets Operation Cobra 2 swinging into action which might be more fun if we did actually see him identifying any of the Untold Story-ites. But so far, no. There’s potential in this angle if the show can bring itself to concentrate properly on Untold Story refugees, rather than having them exist only in fringes of an episode, like a vague idea in search of a concept.
At least we haven’t had to wait long for Regina to discover that her evil twin is still alive. We thought the writers would tease this one out for weeks but instead we’re getting Evil Queen vs Regina head-to-heads already, and they’re great. The idea that the Evil Queen wants to make Regina evil, though, is slightly odd. Why not just kill her off and be all evil herself? Unless she plans to create a new triumvirate of evil with both her “sisters”.
As for the Evil Queen planning to expose the other “untold stories” of Team Storybrooke… well, yeah, that could inject some new tension and story potential in the sixth season of a show where the existing backstories have been well-minded already, but doesn’t it feel a little small beer her – spreading paranoia and doubt with a few choice words? Presumably there’s some bigger masterplan underpinning all this. Getting everyone to kill each other probably.
Overall, though, this is another episode that simply lacks spark. While the cast still seems willing to inject some fun into proceedings, the writing feels tired and directionless, too reliant on tried and trusted script trickery. There’s not even anything visually arresting to remember the episode for – the ballroom scene is pretty but too short and too much like imagery we’ve seen before. This all feels way too much like a show that’s playing things safe at the moment.
- “Regina is quite literally the lesser of two evils.” We wouldn’t be surprised if this whole “two Reginas” plot was thought up just so they could use that gag.
- “Do you really want to hear about every time I tried to kill you?”
“I’m sorry. You know I’m trying to put that behind me. Clearly the Count didn’t get the memo.” – Actually, both Reginas get some great lines this week, and Lana Parrilla looks like she’s having a whale of a time in her dual role.
- Hook seeking atonement by offering Belle a place on his ship – despite the fact that Gold will probably try to kill him for it when he finds out – is rather sweet.
- Regina’s fight with the Count is actually pretty exciting with a outcome we weren’t expecting.
- Blimey, the Count falls for Snow’s handmaiden in superquick time. Okay, love at first sight is a suitably fairytale notion for a show like Once Upon A Time, but it does mean there’s absolutely zero emotional impact to the Count’s plight, because we barely know him, and we certainly don’t care about her.
- Okay, so this Emma does explain to Archie why she’s not telling her family and friends about her visions, but, as Archie points out, it’s a very weak reason.
- The overwrought music is particularly heinous this week. At times the characters sound like they’re having to shout to be heard over it.
- Um, still no more on Aladdin and Jafar? Did we dream their scene last week?
- Anyone else disappointed we’re not getting a “class register” of the Stories newcomers? Presumably all the new key characters who’ll come into play this season can’t be introduced in one go for cost/contractual reasons, but it means scenes like the one at Granny’s are all full of random, unprepossessing extras in off-the-rack costumes who don’t know what to do with their hands…
And The Random:
- Love the way Rumple was letching over Regina’s ample chest all the way through their conversation.
- So what was with the Count suddenly vanishing all the time. He doesn’t have any special powers in the book!
- The Count Of Monte Cristo (or Le Comte de Monte-Cristo in its native French) was written by Alexandre Dumas and first published in serialised form in the Journal des Débats in 1844-5.
- The episode’s title is actually taken from a passage in The Count Of Monte Cristo: “Hatred is blind, rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught.”
- Operation Cobra Part One (although obviously we didn’t realise it was Part One at the time) made its debut way back in the pilot episode, when Henry’s mission was to “bring back all the happy endings”.
- The title card this episode features the Dark Palace… which is a bit of a dull choice, to be honest.
Review by Jonathan Norton