Once Upon a Time “A Bitter Draught” Review (Season 6 Episode 2)

Maybe I was fool to not see this set-up coming, but tonight’s Once Upon a Time established that this season’s main focus is going to be more or less a throwback to the first season. However, instead of following Emma as she inadvertently helped the amnesiac residents of Storybrooke remember their happy endings, “A Bitter Draught” changes things up a bit. Now, Regina seems to be stepping into the central role, with the residents from the Land of Untold Stories far less willing to face the grim endings ahead of them.

It’s a darker twist on the original model the show followed, but it undoubtedly fits a shift in focus to Regina and her battle with the Evil Queen. As this episode reminds, Regina has always had a hard time being a hero, something that remains true even now that she’s separated herself from her evil half. Frankly, it makes for the promise of a richer narrative, one where victory isn’t always assured because the heroes are supposed to win. Also, as I mentioned last week, Lana Parrilla has consistently been the show’s best performer, so any excuse to give her more screen time is okay in my book.

And somehow, the modern day set-up also offers a good excuse for the flashbacks again. We’ve got a whole swath of new characters incoming this season, so we need these flashbacks to give us an idea of where their stories were at when they were sent to the Land of Untold Stories. Hopefully, not every flashback is tied to the age-old battle between Snow and the Queen – how many times do we have to watch Regina fail to kill her? – but at least they can be one-and-done adventures as opposed to the multi-episode flashbacks that dragged out previous villains’ backstories.

With so much of the focus on Regina and the new status quo, there wasn’t much for the rest of the cast to get up to. Belle went into hiding from Gold on Hook’s ship, while Emma realized that in her vision of the future, it’s either Regina or the Evil Queen that kills her. Small beats, but they give the rest of the cast enough to do to justify their presence.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!