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Neal Cassidy/Baelfire: He Catches Shadows with Coconuts?

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This character had such promise.  I still grew to like him despite his disconnect with the Younger Bae, but his best episode was probably "Manhattan" after which he was underused, underdeveloped and glossed over.

Speaking about "Quiet Minds", I know this season is all about flashbacks to the missing year, and discovering along with the characters what happened.  In some ways, that was effective in that the viewers and the characters realized together that Neal was a goner.

If the writers are intent on saying that Neal didn't have a choice when he let August convince him to leave Emma, they need to explain why rather than to have the character repeat he didn't have a choice and Emma agreeing.  

Since I liked Neal, I kind of wished that his final episode would have the old-school reflective flashbacks. They could have shown how his imprisonment in Neverland might have changed him, how his second return to our world turned him into the Neal we now know, maybe better insight into why he made the decision with August, how he started to try to find Emma but he lost courage, maybe how he started to go to Storybrooke after getting the postcard and how he ended up turning back.  That all would have made his death more poignant, and would at least try to bridge the distance between Young Bae and Adult Neal.  It seemed to reinforce that the writers didn't care much about and had no idea what to do with the character since they threw his death in some random middle-of-the-season episode.

As a character from the "real world", I think his character did have a lot of potential, and it's sad that he paid the ultimate price for Rumple trying to find him.  I mean, what's the point... Rumple could have just let him go out into the Ogre Wars and die there.  Yes, he ended up creating Henry, but Neal and Henry even didn't get a final father/son scene together.  

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I think he was fantastic in Manhattan. The scene he discovers Henry is his son is one of my favorites of the whole series.

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Quiet Minds really left me feeling... awkward, for lack of a better word. For a character that is so central to absolutely everything the overarching story hinges on and directly related to three of the most important plot-starters and movers (Rumple, Emma and Henry), the episode felt more like a quick wrap-up for some pesky and inconvenient plot element than a proper send-off to a main character. They can revisit him in flashbacks, but I still think a moment between him and Henry and the Charmings re: Tallahassee will leave an important character arc unresolved.

On a different but not unrelated note, considering The Hug of All Awkwardness that took place in the same episode, Hook is the one who should have been an emotional wreck at Gold's shop, not Snow and Belle; I know he's not about grand emotional displays and they are, but he'd still be the most organic, given he's the one who actually knew Baelfire for an extended period of time.

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I think he was fantastic in Manhattan. The scene he discovers Henry is his son is one of my favorites of the whole series.

Oops, I meant "Manhattan".  I went back and changed it.  Thanks for reminding me.  

The episode felt more like a quick wrap-up for some pesky and inconvenient plot element than a proper send-off to a main character. They can revisit him in flashbacks, but I still think a moment between him and Henry and the Charmings re: Tallahassee will leave an important character arc unresolved.

Well said.  He always seemed to be treated like an inconvenience.

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Well said.  He always seemed to be treated like an inconvenience.

I can only hope they manage to streamline their characters' participation in the story with this, somehow, though the show still has more people than they can manage. I still find it jarring how such a key player got snuffed out without any build-up, while an actual throwaway character who could have easily been forgotten (Robin) is going full soap-opera with Regina for the remainder of 3B. Mind you, I like Robin, but him having more mainstay presence than Nealfire is just silly.

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I agree, they didn't give him much of a send-off. I mean, I don't like the actor who plays the character so I am kind of glad, but I would've thought the episode would've been more focused on Neal considering he is basically the reason the entire story so far has happened thanks to Rumple having manipulated everything to get them to the world without magic. Also showing Bae when he was still a child in flashbacks would've been nice, considering that's the Bae (and I'm guessing Rumple) will miss most.

At least they somewhat addressed that Hook and Bae had a relationship that extended far beyond competing for Emma. To be honest, the scenes with Hook and Rumple are the only satisfying ones there were for this character in the series. That might just be because Raymond-James didn't have much chemistry with Morrison for me, so all the Emma-Neal scenes fall incredibly flat and always have.

Edited by TheGreenKnight

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So this is what the headwriters said in an interview
http://tvline.com/2014/03/31/once-upon-a-time-neal-dies-michael-raymond-james-burning-questions/

 

TVLINE | Best case scenario, would you have liked to shoehorn in a final scene between Henry and his father?

KITSIS | Of course.
HOROWITZ | In the sense of for the character, yes, that would have been great. But for the storytelling, this is the way we wanted to do it. That’s the tragedy of it, and that’s something they’re all going to have to deal with. But yes, I wish Neal could have had an emotional farewell with his son, like his father did with him, but that’s not how it played out.

This is something "they" are all going to deal with?  Who?  Isn't Neal the one who never got the chance to have a final scene with his son?  And he's dead... so, who's left to deal?  Henry?  Except in another interview, they basically said Henry will be sad but he'll understand since his dad died a hero.  Riiight...

 

EDDY KITSIS | We kind of started setting it up in Neverland; watching his father sacrifice his life had a profound effect on Neal. And what we really wanted to tell is: What happens when the kid who was always the moral compass loses his father [Rumplestiltskin], they make up and then he finds himself, like father like son, repeating that same obsessive quest to get back? But when [Neal] realized there was a price to be paid, he didn’t run from it, he did it, so that his son [Henry] would see him as a hero the way that he eventually came to see his father.

Wow, how convoluted is that?  Wouldn't a more natural reaction be for Neal to try NOT to make the same mistake?  Not repeating history over and over again ad nauseum?  

Edited by Camera One

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Well, they sure love making parallels to highlight... stuff they want highlighted (forgive the ineloquence, but it is my point, lol). I still remember how the Regina/Robin scene in 3x15 was a direct callback to their first in 3x12 to oh-so astutely clue us in to the fact that whatever happened in the lost year was Capital I Important enough so that when they meet again while cursed they interact in a whole different way.

Back on topic, they clearly intend to explore how the loss of Bae/Neal affects everyone, but a bolder storytelling choice would be to truly have his bad choices resurface and be confronted about them. I get it's a big character and they clearly wanted him dying engraced with everyone, but yeah, we're not getting what many of us seem to view as the right punch anytime soon.

Edited by samhalliwell
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Wow, how convoluted is that?  Wouldn't a more natural reaction be for Neal to try NOT to make the same mistake?  Not repeating history over and over again ad nauseum?  

Not necessarily. All this time, Neal thought his father was a horrible person, but Gold tried to do all he could to get back to his son, including helping with a big-time curse, after making the mistake of letting him go. Neal let go of Henry -- both as a child he never knew about and as a teen who had to leave because of Pan's curse. So when given the chance, Neal resurrected his father so he could get back to his son. In that sense, it not only showed how much Neal loved Henry and his father, but he was also able to understand why his father did the things that he did when he was just Baelfire. Sure, it was evil and dark, but I can see how the ends would justify the means in the minds of both fathers trying to get back to their sons.

And of course, this then leads into why Neal "had" to die in the first place. I'm really looking forward to how the writers play out Gold/Rumple's reaction to his son's death because if they do it right, it could be an epic story for Rumple.

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"TVLINE | And, as you told me previously, Michael could come back for a flashback down the line….

KITSIS | Absolutely. We would love that.

TVLINE | But this is the last we’ve seen of him this season?

KITSIS | Oh, you never know…!"

 

So, dead is not really dead for good as they clearly stated when this whole disastrously timed spoiler surfaced?

THIS is the kind of wayyy too precious verbiage we get from A&E all the time and it not only makes them out as disingenuous, but destroys viewer trust in them. Do the fandom a favor and go tease someone else, pals. Have some intestinal fortitude, will you?

Adult Neal, for as much as I wasn't fond of the character, deserved better handling than this cutesy sidestepping interview after his death.

I didn't think anyone needed to have died and that in and of itself was a plotline cop out. They directed their tale into a corner and while I see how "son was like father" and *all magic has a price* are very intriguing plot themes,  I think Neal's rapidly performed *at all costs* choice (especially after he and Belle conveeeeeniently decided to wait until the next day to start out on their desperate search...whaaaaat???)was as Zelena said...as dumb as a box of hair, I felt the writers were very shallow in their overall treatment of his demise. Even though it can be seen as eventually serving their story.

I can easily get temporarily annoyed when writers don't do exactly what I want them to in their storytelling (grin....imagine THAT?) but I have a hard time being anything but disgusted when they screw around rather cavalierly with the fans.

We accept it and stay viewers.. or not...that's our only choice!

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Personally, I was OK with them killing Neal off.  I think the creators recognized that Neal wasn't working, his backstory in particular made him kind of a douche.  There would either have had to be a ton of retconning or a few very Neal-centric stories to help rebuild his character and I don't think they had time to give this (unpopular?) character that much extra focus. Just my guess, apologies to anyone who loved Neal.  

I will say I love the idea of Neal.  Having Bae grow up, meet Emma, and become Henry's father could have been all kinds of awesome.  But the way it was told, not so great in my opinion.  So I'm OK with letting Neal go.  

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Just out of curiosity was it the producers or actor that chose to leave?

The character was written as jerk to Emma, didn't really serve a purpose other than sperm donor, probably a bad choice of actor for the role etc., but to me it felt like they killed him just so they were ok with Emma being with Hook. I really like Captain Swan but I didn't need Neal dead. I didn't need Neal in the show either but given the whole premise of the curse was to find Baelfire it just seemed like they decided in the second half of S3 they wanted him gone.

 

I don't miss the character but I do feel bad that Rumple and him didn't really get much time together.

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Just out of curiosity was it the producers or actor that chose to leave?

 

The actor said he didn't want to leave, so it was a producer/headwriter decision.

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What I'll miss most about Neal is how his character affected other characters. I never found him entertaining, but I still think he was a valuable asset to the story being told. He brought an ingredient of cynicism to the show that even surpassed Emma's in magnitude. While the show was on a fantasy high, he brought it back down to earth in some moments. He was a "real world" buddy to Emma, who she could relate to. OUAT is about our world and fairy tale land colliding, but as time goes on there's less and less from our world. Emma is in the book and beginning to embrace her identity as a fairy tale character, so that reality cynicism is slowly drifting away. I used to dislike Neal, but the more he's gone, the more I realize his character was needed. 

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I'm midway through binge-watching MRJ's earlier series,'Terriers,' on Netflix, and I nearly fell off the couch laughing when a character tells him in the first episode "it's been really fun hanging out with you guys in Never-Neverland, but. .."

And, since A&E never bothered to tell us what Neal did for a living, I'm just going to headcanon the two characters together and imagine that he turned from thief to moderately adept private investigator.

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I had never seen him before and only recently saw him in a 'Law and Order' episode I think, where he was a non-descript criminal type. In this show when we first saw him walking home to his apartment, I figured him to be in some kind of soul-crushing office job.  I never disliked him or his acting.  I certainly hoped for more/better story, The casting was maybe not spot-on, and I think he would have been fine with better writing.  But I like your head canon, Amerilla, why not a private investigator; Emma went from thief (with a record) to bailbonding. 

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As a history geek of the first order, I'm really excited he's playing Paul Revere in a miniseries for History channel. I think that's going to be good.

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The casting was maybe not spot-on, and I think he would have been fine with better writing.

I was really against his casting in S2 as well since he looked nothing like Baelfire and his personality also didn't match.  But by the end of his run, I did warm up to "Neal" and I agree he could have been fine with better writing, despite the disconnect with his younger self.  He had some good chemistry with different characters by that point and had his place into the show.

Edited by Camera One
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I think the problem is that they basically forced him to only interact with Emma, Rumple and Henry. They should have explored different character combinations, given him more with Wendy and Tink, for example. Also, people really hate being told who to root for, so the more they made Snow a Neal cheerleader, the more people refused to bulge from their "Neal is the worst" stand. He also had the same problem as Regina (on a way smaller scale) that at some point they refused to bring up him sending Emma to prison and deal with it. Instead, they chose to act like it never happened, so much that we still aren't sure if anyone other than Emma and Henry knows, and declared him a "hero" who "had no choice". Just because you say it doesn't mean people will believe it, A&E!

Edited by Serena
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Yeah, I don't think Michael Raymond-James was ideal casting for Nealfire, but the real problem with the character was the bad writing for him. With decent writing, Raymond-James would've been okay.

 

I think the problem is that they basically forced him to only interact with Emma, Rumple and Henry.

The weird thing about that, though, is that he barely interacted with Rumpel! Like, after 'Miller's Daughter,' I think I can actually count on one hand the number of times he and Rumpel exchanged words.

 

imo, the character would have been much improved if he'd spent way more time with Rumpel.

 

Also, don't forget that Tamara was the albatross around Neal's neck. That entire storyline didn't help make him seen likeable or smart or anything good, really.

Edited by stealinghome
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Before 3B, I was infatuated with the idea of Neal slowly descending into darkness. That could have filled in a lot of the Missing Year. In reality, he just went by impulse even though he knew it was the wrong thing to do. He spent the rest of his days trapped inside Rumple, a storyline which caused two characters to be on the backburner for most of the half-season. The writing assassinated him big time.

 

I would have liked watching his character more if he had exciting stuff to do.

Edited by KingOfHearts
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I think the problem is that they basically forced him to only interact with Emma, Rumple and Henry. They should have explored different character combinations, given him more with Wendy and Tink, for example. Also, people really hate being told who to root for, so the more they made Snow a Neal cheerleader, the more people refused to bulge from their "Neal is the worst" stand. He also had the same problem as Regina (on a way smaller scale) that at some point they refused to bring up him sending Emma to prison and deal with it. Instead, they chose to act like it never happened, so much that we still aren't sure if anyone other than Emma and Henry knows, and declared him a "hero" who "had no choice". Just because you say it doesn't mean people will believe it, A&E!

You're right.  They blew it when they didn't have anyone but Emma take seriously how Neal ended their relationship, and then even Emma handwaved it away.  I resented that.  I resented that a lot--and from what I've read in the fandom, I was very much not alone in that. 

 

Adding in his limited interactions--he should have had a few scenes with Belle, for instance, since she was so important to Rumple.  It also would have been nice to see some interaction with Snow and David, considering he's Henry's grandfather. I'd also have really liked to see Leroy have a conversation with him, especially in season 2, because I think that could have been fun.    No wonder so many people had trouble warming up to Neal the character.  I don't think we can completely blame the casting.

 

It still doesn't make sense that they spent so much of his screen time on ridiculous relationship triangles (Emma/Neal/Tamara, and then Neal/Emma/Hook) while mostly shuffling to the side the really interesting things they could have been dealing with.

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The weird thing about that, though, is that he barely interacted with Rumpel! Like, after 'Miller's Daughter,' I think I can actually count on one hand the number of times he and Rumpel exchanged words.

 

Word. NOT putting them together in any meaningful way is the single most baffling narrative choice in the show's history, and remains one of the reasons I can't fully believe that dumping the character was entirely A&E's choice. How could any set of writers be so...uncreative?

 

In terms of casting, I could really see it last night watching him in an entirely different role why they handpicked him for Neal. Like Carlyle, he's a smallish guy who isn't conventionally pretty, but rather, oddly striking. For both (and for Jared) their most dominant facial feature are those big brown eyes. As Britt in Terriers, MRJ showed a lot of the kind of loose-limbed physicality Carlyle gives Imp Rumpel. And like Carlyle, he seems to be able to be as big or small or smart or dumb or loud or quiet as the role or the moment within the role needs him to be - and I think that showed in their first big scene together in "Manhattan." (I think a lot of actors would have played it loud and angry to Carlyle's soft pleading, but his choice to wrap his hurt in the same soft tone highlighted that while he was still as uncompromising as his younger self, he and Rumpel were, in many ways, the same personality.) Which is why I was looking forward to more of it. And was sorely disappointed. :-)

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I barely remember any scenes between him and Henry either. What a wasted character!

 

I don't think Neal got to have one conversation with just Henry in S3 before he died.  The one he did get was actually with Evil Henry on the ship.  I thought they would have done a little thing about Neal angry with himself that he couldn't tell between real Henry and fake Henry.  I guess that wasn't meant to be...

Edited by Camera One
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I've always thought the Neal leaving Emma in prison issue was never dealt with, but today I discovered it actually was at least to a small degree.

 

In Second Star to the Right, Neal and Emma have a conversation on the beach about it. He says every day he regrets putting her in the prison, and that he should have been the one to go to prison. He apologized for all the crap he did to her to boot, along with laying out all the regret and guilt he's felt over it. He acknowledged it wasn't the right thing to do, and that not looking for her was brought on by fear.

 

This doesn't resolve the whole issue, but I always thought it was never dealt with at all. But since this was in 2B, I glossed over a lot of stuff. I just now noticed that scene.

Edited by KingOfHearts
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I wish they did more with it (his regrets and making it up to Emma and apologizing more).  When I rewatched 2B, I was struck by how Neal was just standing around in the background like an extra most of the time in Storybrooke.  It's pretty disturbing that the writers introduced him and within the same season, they already couldn't figure out what to do with him!   I understand Lacey was supposed to be some irresistible vixen but don't tell me Rumple would go after her instead of seeking out his son even though he was rejecting him.

Edited by Camera One
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I'm just gonna leave this tweet from the Kristoff actor here:

 

Scott Michael Foster ‏@scottmfoster  7h

So it turns out "bae" is danish for poop... #irony

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Wow... classy.

 

Anyway, I'm curious how the writers came up with Baelfire, since it's an uncommon name, though I think it sounds pretty cool.  I googled for the answer, and someone asked Adam Horowitz the question in November 2013, and he tweeted back that it was a long story, and he'll explain it another time.  

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I don't think he was referring to Neal/Bae. It's Internet slang, I've noticed it's gained popularity in the last few months. Here's the Urban Dictionary entry.

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Yea that looks like the more likely explanation. 

 

As for Neal..nothing more to add..he WAS a wasted character with loads of potential. 

 

I think that showed in their first big scene together in "Manhattan." (I think a lot of actors would have played it loud and angry to Carlyle's soft pleading, but his choice to wrap his hurt in the same soft tone highlighted that while he was still as uncompromising as his younger self, he and Rumpel were, in many ways, the same personality.)

 

I love, love that scene. I was really impressed with how he was holding his own vs Carlyle. 

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I don't think he was referring to Neal/Bae. It's Internet slang, I've noticed it's gained popularity in the last few months. Here's the Urban Dictionary entry.

 

Yeah, I know it's a slang thing, but it still made me laugh, because context.

Edited by Souris
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Anyway, I'm curious how the writers came up with Baelfire, since it's an uncommon name, though I think it sounds pretty cool.  I googled for the answer, and someone asked Adam Horowitz the question in November 2013, and he tweeted back that it was a long story, and he'll explain it another time.  

I don't know if the writers were going for this (or even knew it), but Bael is the name of a demon from Christian belief, as well as --apparently--a fruit from India.

 

It could make his name mean "demon fire" or "fruit fire".  I'm not sure why preDark One Rumple would be naming his son "demon fire", but the writers could've been thinking of the Dark One.

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I've also read it means "bonfire" in Celtic?  In Korean, bae means inspiration.  

I wonder if Milah named the baby, or they named the baby before he left/after he came back.

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I like bonfire--it would be something beautiful but destructive. 

 

Better than "demon fire", anyway.

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Interestingly, Bae is also the name of the reindeer in the original Snow Queen tale. 

 

So many layers of context!

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I think Milah named the baby, didn't she? I vaguely remember her telling Rumple his name was Bae (because it was a strong name) after he came back from war.

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After rewatching "The Crocodile"... does Neal remember how his mom used to leave him at home alone and go out to the pub to gamble with pirates?  I mean, he has so many rich issues he should have dealt with.  It made his strangely only-positive reminiscences about his fond memories of childhood pre-Dark to be a bit strange and unlikely.  He also never found out how his mother died?  Or did he?  At the very least, he never got the chance to deal with it, and Rumple never had to own up to it, from what I can remember.  This should have been the conflict which drives Neal to turn his back on Rumple in "Nasty Habits".  The flashbacks to that one was craptastic, and I think this episode should have instead been Neal flashbacks to show how he escaped Neverland, and became the Neal we first met in "Tallahassee".  Alternatively, they could have used this to retcon why he gave up on Emma after TypewriterGate (not advocating this, but if the writers felt they had been misinterpreted and truly wanted to get across what they wanted to get across with Neal not having a choice).   I know he wasn't a popular character, but I am presuming the writers had already decided Neal would be canon fodder in 3B, so why not give him something meaty to work with while they still had the guy.

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I assumed Milah worked at the pub, actually - and that day she decided to stay later because Killian was there. And the pirates were just passing through, so Milah drinking with them couldn't be a common thing: if you add to that the fact that Bae was pretty young, it makes sense that he doesn't remember.

 

He does know Rumple killed Milah, though. Hook told him. He didn't seem to believe him, but who knows?

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 This should have been the conflict which drives Neal to turn his back on Rumple in "Nasty Habits".  The flashbacks to that one was craptastic, and I think this episode should have instead been Neal flashbacks to show how he escaped Neverland, and became the Neal we first met in "Tallahassee".

Wait. Wait. This would probably solve the disconnect the audience was having between little Bae and Neal. Can't have that. It's much more interesting that Peter Pan is also the Pied Piper.

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When Rumple brought Bae in to try and get her to leave the pub, I got the sense that It was a common occurence - Milah boozing it up and flirtiing with guys there.

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It made his strangely only-positive reminiscences about his fond memories of childhood pre-Dark to be a bit strange and unlikely.

 

 

It seems like he was only about 5-6 when Milah bolted, 7 at the most, so it would be unlikely that he had many strong memories of her at all. There's a deleted scene from S2 of Rumpel telling wee Bae that Milah had died and he would take care of him now; there was no hint in the what we saw of Rumpel and Bae in fairybacks that he spoken ill of her; Bae was happy with Rumpel before the Dark One's curse. Based on all that, I can buy that Neal would have mostly positive memories of his childhood, because the rocky marriage/haphazard mothering happened when he was too young to understand or remember it, and he had been genuinely happy with Rumpel after Milah left.

 

I assumed Milah worked at the pub, actually - and that day she decided to stay later because Killian was there.

 

 

No, I don't buy that she was just hanging out after her shift. She was blowing off her "responsibilities" because she needed "a break" from the hell that was not being an honored war widow, or something like that.

 

I know he wasn't a popular character, but I am presuming the writers had already decided Neal would be canon fodder in 3B, so why not give him something meaty to work with while they still had the guy.

 

 

 

Because they are idiots. 

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He does know Rumple killed Milah, though. Hook told him. He didn't seem to believe him, but who knows?

That's the big disconnect. He made up with his father with no mention of what happened to his mother, and there was all that "I love you, Papa," stuff, but on the other hand, he and Hook were apparently quite close, and though Hook initiated the hug, Neal returned it and seemed to draw a lot of comfort from it, and Neal sent the desperate last-second message to Hook instructing him to get Emma when the curse hit.

 

So, if he thought Hook killed his mother, why was he that close to him and trusting him? By sending Hook the message, he was essentially putting his son in Hook's hands (well, hand). But if he knew that Rumple killed his mother, why didn't he so much as remark on that? Wouldn't that be something he'd need to work through with his father before reaching the "I love you, Papa" stage?

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Because, as in so many other things on this show, Adam and Eddie went for the "shocking twist" with absolutely no thought/understanding to how it would make their characters look or how characters should logically react to events, and even less intention of even 5% realistically exploring the aftermath of the event and what the consequences should be.

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I'm re-watching Season 2 and I still wonder what Neal's job in New York was. In the opening scene in Broken, he looks like he could work in an office on Wall Street or something.

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I actually asked Adam that very question via Twitter. I didn't get a reply. I had our Fearless TWOP Recapper Cindy ask Adam, because he almost always answers her. Crickets.

Edited by Amerilla

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My completely unsupported head cannon is that Neal was a graphic artist for a company designing logos etc.  I think that would be good job for him

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