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S02.E14: Manhattan

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Emma, Henry and Mr. Gold search for Gold's son in New York; Hook, Cora and Regina look for one of Rumplestiltskin's most precious possessions.

Please use spoiler tags when referring to anything that happens after this episode.

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I rewatched this episode a few weeks ago. It's a dark and dramatic episode. You have the grim seer flashbacks that still creep me out to this day, then all the yelling and shouting at Neal's apartment. It's not one of my favorite episodes to watch, but it did conclude one of the series' main arcs. 

 

My favorite scene is where Snow and Charming try to wrap their heads around the family tree and find out about Neal. :)

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My favorite scene is where Snow and Charming try to wrap their heads around the family tree and find out about Neal. :)

Yes! I wish they did more stuff with the characters realizing how ridiculous their situation is.

 

I think this episode is mostly notable for having some of the worst green-screen work in the series. The "New York" in the background when they're talking on the fire escape looks faker than any Enchanted Forest setting, including the giant's castle, to the point it's so distracting I barely notice what's happening in the scene. It reminds me of the old movies where they filmed characters "driving" by projecting film of the passing scenery on a screen behind a car.

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I don't know, I actually think 'Manhattan' cracks the series' Top 10, largely because of the present-day stuff (I'm very eh on the flashbacks). This is the kind of episode that I point to and say "dammit, when the show slows down and actually talks about emotions, when it lets its characters breathe and its actors perform, it's so fucking good." Everyone in the episode gives great performances (side note, I always crack up at the Emma/Neal scene from this episode on the blooper reel...too funny!), it balances humor and pathos nicely, Nealfire wasn't yet a total douche, it's emotional, it's a fulfilling quasi-resolution to several series-long arcs, it takes the mythology forward...it's just a very, very good episode.

 

This episode, 'Miller's Daughter,' and 'Broken' are the clear standouts for me in S2--there's no other episode that merits a rewatch. Those three are just head and shoulders above the rest of what the show put out this season. And in fact if you take out 'The Queen Is Dead," I think 'Manhattan' and 'Miller's Daughter' are the last episodes before the show jumped the shark. I really, honestly think the show irreversibly shifted, and not in a good way, after 2x16. So I always think of 2x14/2x16 as that last, shining moment before it all really went to shit.

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For me, it's an exception to the rule, but the present-day stuff was just really well done and really well played, by all involved.  This was a big climax, with all the reveals and the reunions, and they actually delivered.  As @stealinghome said, it really shows they can do meaty emotional everyday stuff well, when they put their heart into it.  And rewatching it, I do think there was a lot of potential in Neal.  

 

The flashbacks disappointed me a bit when they revealed Rumple being able to know the future.  I know it's supposed to be incomplete and a bit of a curse and we already knew he had some powers of foresight, but it went a little too far, IMO.  Not to mention it kicked off the idiotic "The boy will be your undoing" plot.  I mean isn't there enough unresolved issues between Rumple and Neal so it's not required that Rumple wants to kill Neal's son?  I mean, give me a freak'in break.  

This episode is definitely a standout in S2 for me but 

I consider this episode a shining star in a sea of crap. To me, there were no other solid episode in 2B, though there were good moments here and there within various episodes. I thought "The Miller's Daughter" was very underwhelming with the present-day stuff, and was very disappointing for a climatic episode.  I even rolled my eyes at Rumple's final scenes with Neal and Belle before he "died" and I'm usually touched by the emotional scenes on this show.

Edited by Camera One

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This is actually my favorite episode of the entire show if purely for the scene where the poop really hits the fan and we get everyone realizing how they're all connected. The acting is top notch and it's incredibly intense. It also was an example of the show having all of these characters related to each other in a GOOD way before it started to get eyeroll worthy. Oh man, just thinking about that scene absolutely kills me. It's an example of the writing and acting really hitting a strong note together because we get this absolutely perfectly done build up to this one scene. It really blew me away the first time I saw it. Love, love, love that scene.

 

I really would love for the show to get some more of this kind of drama in there. It really gave everyone a chance to act their hearts out and they had it, oh man they had it.

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Remember when this show could be good? An episode with actual character development, emotional issues being discussed and forward momentum with the plot! 

 

I loved the Neal/Rumpel scene. Neal's little hand flourish when he talks about magic. His complete and utter disbelief that his father still hasn't gotten the message that Bae ran off because of the magic. Rumpel's cluelessness about how to deal with his son. 300 years he spends scheming and planning how to get to his son, but he seemingly never thought about what he would do when he actually found him. Sad!Rumpel face doesn't work on the kid he abandoned for power and magic. When you consider all of the lives that were destroyed for Rumpel to get to this moment with his son, it's just so sad to watch.

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That scene with Rumple and Neal was fantastic. MRJ was spot on and really impressed me. He was so resigned and just tired of it all. Not yelling was more damaging to Rumple. 

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Oh man... I am so grumpy about how the show's been handling Rumpel this season in general, but the Neal/Rumpel conversation was absolute perfection. Finally, Rumpel got called on his crap by the one person he can't lie to, magic away, or manipulate. Neal needs to give Regina lessons in how to move on and stop needing your parent's love (hmm... Neal/Regina... that would mess with Emma in a deliciously, perverse way). I still have trouble believing the writers gave me exactly what I wanted out of that reunion. I am only grumpy that they plot contrivanced Hook out of witnessing that confrontation (I also don't know why Hook listened to Cora instead of going after Rumpel himself. He was right that this was his best chance for violent revenge, although really just seeing him get absolutely shot down by Bae would probably have been worth everything)

 

The Neal/Henry father twist, I'm not sure how I feel about. It is an awfully big coincidence that Neal and Emma met, and so far we've been given no reason why fate or the curse or whatever would make it so they'd have to. And not just meet, but fall in love and have an unplanned for child. The scene in the apartment was really good.

 

I was also wondering what would have happened if Regina called police to report that Gold and Emma had kidnapped Henry out of a fit of pique/despair. Neither Emma nor Gold have legal standing with Henry. While Snow may have been right that in Storybrooke, Emma doesn't need to consult with Regina about Henry, I don't think that would be true once they left the border. I think both Emma and Gold could have gotten in serious legal trouble if the show had been interested in going there.

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I was also wondering what would have happened if Regina called police to report that Gold and Emma had kidnapped Henry out of a fit of pique/despair. Neither Emma nor Gold have legal standing with Henry.

 

And Emma could show proof that Regina had poisoned her son and that he had been removed from her custody. She's the sheriff, she could easily work up the paperwork. You have an entire town of witnesses who would testify that Regina went crazy and threatened everyone. She then proceeded to abuse Henry physically. Regina would get her ass handed to her if she tried to pull that. Henry would end up in the system away from everyone until things were sorted. There is no way in hell the show would go that route because they'd actually have to address Regina's crimes and we can't have that. Regina's plans are to get the dagger, force Rumpel to kill everyone (thus avoiding all blame herself) and then she'll have Henry. While she's sad that Henry's gone, she knows he'll be back soon and she has the freedom to wander around with her mother without fear of him catching wind of her activities.

Edited by KAOS Agent
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There is no way in hell the show would go that route because they'd actually have to address Regina's crimes and we can't have that. Regina's plans are to get the dagger, force Rumpel to kill everyone (thus avoiding all blame herself) and then she'll have Henry. While she's sad that Henry's gone, she knows he'll be back soon and she has the freedom to wander around with her mother without fear of him catching wind of her activities.

 

While I wish that the Land Without Magic would have continued to be real enough in this show, with logistics and paperwork and budget reports and due processes--just to contrast all the magic--I can also see why this episode didn't take a turn in that direction. I mean, Cora knows nothing about this non-feudal world full of technology...and she wants to have Regina wrapped around her little finger, and Regina wants to be there because that's like the only warmth and contact and love that Regina has hope for (rather than Henry's love, which is more like aimed for than hoped for, and only because Mama Cora said so.)

In hindsight, though, especially with how the concept of "villainy" is treated much later...I wonder if Grown-Up Baelfire wasn't supposed to be written as wrong-minded? "I don't get closure, neither do you." Ouch! Harsh. Realistic. Refreshing.

But maybe that was the first nail in Neal's coffin.

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This ep was why I could never, ever ship Emma with Neal. He was so belittling and rude to her when they met again, utterly dismissing and laughing off her pain over him leaving her. Asshat.

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This ep was why I could never, ever ship Emma with Neal. He was so belittling and rude to her when they met again, utterly dismissing and laughing off her pain over him leaving her. Asshat.

I absolutely agree with this statement. I didn't ship them before anyway, I never saw any chemistry between them in Tallahassee, I did see sparks just not with Neal.

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And Emma could show proof that Regina had poisoned her son and that he had been removed from her custody. She's the sheriff, she could easily work up the paperwork.

This gets a bit outside of the scope of the show, but I don't think Emma could. The poison was a magical curse and there was no toxicology report. Based on what we saw, there was also no investigation that already occurred and Regina was never tried or convicted. Maybe Emma could fake some paperwork if she went back to Storybrooke, but if she and Gold were both arrested for kidnapping in Manhatten, she wouldn't be able to fake paperwork. Who's going to post bail? No one except Regina can leave! Also, at this point, everyone in Storybrooke is afraid of attracting official attention. Bringing police there to deal with a custody dispute is the last thing they want.

 

I think there's very little Emma can say about Regina that would hold up in a non-Storybrooke court, assuming Regina's (presumably not actually legally acquired) adoption paperwork holds up. All of Regina's custody-losing crimes are related to fairy tale stuff. In terms of non-fairy tale stuff, the most she can be accused of is some negligence. It is very unlikely that Henry would go to foster care rather than simply be returned to Regina. And that still wouldn't help Emma deal with kidnapping charges if Regina called them in on her now. But this isn't the type of show that can deal in real-world solutions like that, and Regina wants Henry to return to her willingly rather than by coercion anyway.

 

 

This ep was why I could never, ever ship Emma with Neal. He was so belittling and rude to her when they met again, utterly dismissing and laughing off her pain over him leaving her.

 

To be fair to Neal, Emma went to jail because she was an actual accessory to theft. Yes, she probably would have gotten away with it if Neal hadn't turned her in, but she really did do the crime (and many others beside). He didn't know she was pregnant; he tried to make sure she had means to start over when she got out of jail; and when they met again, he tried to explain what was going on in his life to lead him to make the choice (which I do understand given the Rumple factor). Emma got so distracted by her assumption that he, or he and Rumple, had been manipulating her from the start that she didn't really process what he was saying about how dangerous Rumple was/is to him. 

 

I also didn't think Neal and Emma have chemistry, though. The only men I think Emma's had chemistry with were Graham (RIP) and strangely, Jefferson. 

Edited by Zuleikha
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The poison was a magical curse and there was no toxicology report. Based on what we saw, there was also no investigation that already occurred and Regina was never tried or convicted. Maybe Emma could fake some paperwork if she went back to Storybrooke, but if she and Gold were both arrested for kidnapping in Manhatten, she wouldn't be able to fake paperwork. Who's going to post bail? No one except Regina can leave! Also, at this point, everyone in Storybrooke is afraid of attracting official attention. Bringing police there to deal with a custody dispute is the last thing they want.

 

Which is exactly why Regina wouldn't try to press charges against Emma. She would be bringing in all kinds of outsiders to town. David is currently acting sheriff while Emma is out of town. Easy enough for him to create the paperwork about removal of custody. And you can't claim conflict of interest because without magic reasoning, David's not related to Emma. She's an orphan. There are an infinite number of witnesses including the attending physician and nuns who would testify to the poisoning. Once Regina leaves town to deal with her legal issues, she'd be powerless. At which point, you could also have her arrested and detained outside of Storybrooke and brought up on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, destruction of property, making of terroristic threats, etc. Regina would be so screwed. All of the people she screwed over would be delighted to pile on. Regina committed a ton of non-magical crimes.

 

 

Emma got so distracted by her assumption that he, or he and Rumple, had been manipulating her from the start that she didn't really process what he was saying about how dangerous Rumple was/is to him.

 

Yeah, it was so brave of him to set up his underage girlfriend for a crime he committed because he had daddy issues. Clearly, he had no other option to get away from her, such as breaking up with her to her face and going off on his own to Canada. Hell, hand her the $20,000, say thanks for the good times and take off. Neal's actions broke Emma. He promised her a home and to make a family with her and then completely destroyed her because he's a giant coward just like his daddy. Rumpel isn't dangerous to Baelfire. In fact, Neal is the only one who's safe from Rumpel. And he oh so nicely sent Emma back to face his dick of a father on her own knowing what was likely to happen to her. I have zero sympathy for Neal. He made selfish choices and acted like it was no big deal.

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I also didn't think Neal and Emma have chemistry, though. The only men I think Emma's had chemistry with were Graham (RIP) and strangely, Jefferson.

Not that strange, if I recall, JMo and Sebastian Stan dated for a while. But that was indeed a strange thing to bring onscreen considering the situation. Apparently there's a ship of Belle and Jefferson, only because they had five seconds of screentime with each other at the end of Season 1. If I didn't ship Page Boy, I'd probably be on board with Emma and Jefferson. (Page Boy: Grace and Henry. I imagine their adventures later in life, like, "Hah, our parents' lives were wild. Let's live like normal college students now." Nope! Magic will happen to you! I imagine Heather Morris and Lerman Logan playing university-age Grace and university-age Henry but at the rate Henry's growning, Henry can play that.)

I have zero sympathy for Neal. He made selfish choices and acted like it was no big deal.

With anything involving Neal and August, I can't help but blame the writers because I don't see character motivations in there...just actors trying to do their best with what they're given. Although maybe the director or editor could have used a take of Michael Raymond-James playing Neal not quite so smug at Emma if that exists, and just maybe that could have helped.

I mean, he's Baelfire! I love Baelfire! What happened??

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I mean, he's Baelfire! I love Baelfire! What happened??

 

Nothing against MRJ, but he was a miscast. Seeing him in the present against his days as Baelfire just doesn't hold any continuity. I understand people can change dramatically, especially over 200 years, but Neal wasn't what I pictured Bae to grow up into at all. Normally the casting department does a great job of picking out actors playing characters at different ages (like Young Snow), but MRJ just didn't work.

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Nothing against MRJ, but he was a miscast. Neal wasn't what I pictured Bae to grow up into at all. Normally the casting department does a great job of picking out actors playing characters at different ages (like Young Snow), but MRJ just didn't work.

 

If back in Tallahassee, it was Robert Sheehan playing Neal Cassidy, I would have been like, "That man has Dylan Schmid's hair. It's grown-up Baelfire!" right away.

Granted, there's more problems with the character than the surprise.

I mean, I doubt that Sheehan could have saved the character with the lines given. Heck, during the Captain-Swan-Thief Shipper Wars (wait, is that still ongoing?) a hypothetical was introduced where what if Colin and Michael had swapped roles, and one fan weighed in with, "I think Colin would have imbued the role with unspoken regret!" And I was, like, "Mayb...no. No, no. Nealfire left Emma in prison because Pinnocchio told him to. That is so preposterous that nothing can save it." Although without the beard, Colin and Dylan do sort of have the same chin and jawline.

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I think MRJ was a fine choice if the role had just been a wise-cracking, street-wise and somewhat charming petty thief from modern-day Portland (I mean, there'd have still been age issues, but that is also true of JMo). But yes, it is hard to also buy him as the grown-up Bae. That is writing as well, though. 

 

BTW, Zuleikha, I just wanted to say that I've been really enjoying reading your unique (to us) perspective as someone watching these episodes for the first time without any knowledge of what comes next. It's nice to read a fresh perspective on some of the storylines and characters.

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Yeah I was hoping til the last second he wouldn't be Bae becaue MrJ=grown up teenBae=does not compute. I also think the fact that they initially cast August to seem like he could be Bae, and that he was a much better match, kind of hurt them in the aftermath.

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I was one of those people who were denial, hoping that Neal and Bae weren't the same guy since Tallahassee.  I could not reconcile both characters at all because they were so different and I felt completely creeped out with the whole Neal is Henry's father bit as well.  I thought maybe they would try to redeem Neal to a certain extent, but the scene in the bar left me very bitter, not because I liked Neal and wanted him and Emma to get together (because no thanks), but because of who Baelfire was.  Even Bae would probably look down on Neal.

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I think MRJ was a fine choice if the role had just been a wise-cracking, street-wise and somewhat charming petty thief from modern-day Portland (I mean, there'd have still been age issues, but that is also true of JMo). But yes, it is hard to also buy him as the grown-up Bae. That is writing as well, though.

Neal was okay character in own right, but it was a poor writing choice to make him the man who knocked up Emma but also Bae. The show tries to show him as sympathetic with him being Henry's dad and Rumple's son, but it fails miserably when you add Tallahassee into the mix.

Edited by KingOfHearts
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Honestly, I pretty much hated Neal by the end of "Tallahassee" (because to me Neal is just as culpable in the plot to send Emma to prison as August was, so no, I'm not forgiving him for that) but I just could not with him after "If I'd known who you were, I never would have gone near you." Dude, that was cold, and it was cruel.

 

Maybe I'm holding him to a high standard, but this is a show about fairy tales and true love, so yeah, I'm going to be judging what I see based on that. And what Neal did? Is not true love. I understand he has issues with his father, I really do, but that's not enough of an excuse for what he did for me. If he was afraid Emma was going to lead him to his father, there were easier, better, less hurtful options than dumping her in jail.

 

Because let's look at this from Emma's perspective for a second. Here's this guy who's promising to make a home with her -- her first one ever. Here's this guy who's promising to be her family -- her first one ever. He lets her keep one of the stolen watches, seemingly out of graciousness. He's the only one who knows where they're supposed to meet after he fences the watches. Then he's late, she tries to call him and his phone's disconnected, and out of nowhere, a cop shows up. The cop tells her that her boyfriend turned her in. So, here's 17-year-old Emma assuming Neal completely played her. And for eleven years, she believed that Neal never loved her, he just needed a patsy.

 

And then for Emma to find out that he essentially took the word of some dude he'd just met five minutes before to send her to jail? That's just adding insult to injury. "If I'd known who you were, I never would have gone near you" is salt in the wound. All that added up to me as Emma herself wasn't enough for him, and I'm sorry, but no.

 

This is where I think it would have helped to have just thrown August completely under the bus. Have him lie right to Neal's face and tell him that Emma's life is in danger if he doesn't leave her. Neal takes off, August finds Emma and turns her in to the police. That way, they still get pregnant Emma in jail but 1) Neal isn't complicit at all, and 2) Neal's reason for leaving and never contacting her is more noble, because he believes he's saving her life by staying away.

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Honestly, I pretty much hated Neal by the end of "Tallahassee" (because to me Neal is just as culpable in the plot to send Emma to prison as August was, so no, I'm not forgiving him for that) but I just could not with him after "If I'd known who you were, I never would have gone near you." Dude, that was cold, and it was cruel.

Maybe I'm holding him to a high standard, but this is a show about fairy tales and true love, so yeah, I'm going to be judging what I see based on that. And what Neal did? Is not true love.

That line about never coming near her sealed it for me too. While I wouldn't say I hate him, he's pretty low on my list. More of a "meh." His comments and attitude turned me off.

I agree that what Neal did was not true love. If it had been Snow and Charming in Emma's and Neal's places, Charming would have never left Snow. He would have fought for her.

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Honestly, I pretty much hated Neal by the end of "Tallahassee" (because to me Neal is just as culpable in the plot to send Emma to prison as August was, so no, I'm not forgiving him for that) but I just could not with him after "If I'd known who you were, I never would have gone near you." Dude, that was cold, and it was cruel.

 

Maybe I'm holding him to a high standard, but this is a show about fairy tales and true love, so yeah, I'm going to be judging what I see based on that. And what Neal did? Is not true love. I understand he has issues with his father, I really do, but that's not enough of an excuse for what he did for me. If he was afraid Emma was going to lead him to his father, there were easier, better, less hurtful options than dumping her in jail.

 

Because let's look at this from Emma's perspective for a second. Here's this guy who's promising to make a home with her -- her first one ever. Here's this guy who's promising to be her family -- her first one ever. He lets her keep one of the stolen watches, seemingly out of graciousness. He's the only one who knows where they're supposed to meet after he fences the watches. Then he's late, she tries to call him and his phone's disconnected, and out of nowhere, a cop shows up. The cop tells her that her boyfriend turned her in. So, here's 17-year-old Emma assuming Neal completely played her. And for eleven years, she believed that Neal never loved her, he just needed a patsy.

 

And then for Emma to find out that he essentially took the word of some dude he'd just met five minutes before to send her to jail? That's just adding insult to injury. "If I'd known who you were, I never would have gone near you" is salt in the wound. All that added up to me as Emma herself wasn't enough for him, and I'm sorry, but no.

 

This is where I think it would have helped to have just thrown August completely under the bus. Have him lie right to Neal's face and tell him that Emma's life is in danger if he doesn't leave her. Neal takes off, August finds Emma and turns her in to the police. That way, they still get pregnant Emma in jail but 1) Neal isn't complicit at all, and 2) Neal's reason for leaving and never contacting her is more noble, because he believes he's saving her life by staying away.

This would have worked--but, if they'd decided they had to go that way, and they'd cast a younger actor for the flashbacks, so that he didn't seem so much older than Emma--and then had current Neal be apologetic?   I could've accepted and gotten behind a Neal who restarted his interaction with Emma by sincerely apologizing, and explaining that he'd been so afraid of his father he panicked, and then was too ashamed to contact her because of what he'd done.

 

It would've been acceptable to me if Neal had been played as a character that truly believed he'd done something horrible to Emma, and wanted to be forgiven.

 

Instead, the way they played it, at times he didn't even seem to respect her, really, let alone have cared about her.

Edited by Mari
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It would've been acceptable to me if Neal had been played as a character that truly believed he'd done something horrible to Emma, and wanted to be forgiven.

 

Instead, the way they played it, at times he didn't even seem to respect her, really, let alone have cared about her.

 

I agree. That's what I was expecting would happen. But instead, the writers even made it as though Emma was at fault for not letting him know of Henry.

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I could've accepted and gotten behind a Neal who restarted his interaction with Emma by sincerely apologizing, and explaining that he'd been so afraid of his father he panicked, and then was too ashamed to contact her because of what he'd done.

 

Exactly. I could have possibly turned my feelings around on him, too, if he'd owned his mistake instead of couching it in all this "I had to do it for your own good" nonsense. Because I'm sorry, but I can in no way see getting a 17-year-old girl sent to prison and never contacting her again as good for her.

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This would have worked--but, if they'd decided they had to go that way, and they'd cast a younger actor for the flashbacks, so that he didn't seem so much older than Emma

I saw another post, I think in another thread, that linked to pics of JMo from 11 years ago to show how young she should have looked, and was curious about how MRJ looked 11 years ago and looked it up. Turns out he's only two years older than JMo? He did look a bit younger, because his hair was brown. I wonder why they didn't bother at least dyeing out the grey in his hair, since they obviously tried to make JMo look younger with the glasses and ponytail. Neal in Manhattan looked exactly like Neal in Tallahassee, if maybe a little less greasy.
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Maybe it was done on purpose to have Neal look much older than Emma.  Both Neal and Hook appear in Tallahassee and there's already a huge contrast not just in looks but also in personality.  The two are as different as day and night.  We see Tallahassee and then we get Manhattan and Neal is a total schmuck.  From A to Z, he is a schmuck.  And the things he tells her at the bar were incredibly cruel. 

no one will convince me that the reason he wanted to get back with Emma was because he loved her.  I think it had a hell of a lot more to do with Henry than Emma.  For me, over time, it has become incredibly difficult to talk about Neal and not compare him to Hook.

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I saw another post, I think in another thread, that linked to pics of JMo from 11 years ago to show how young she should have looked, and was curious about how MRJ looked 11 years ago and looked it up. Turns out he's only two years older than JMo?

Huh.  I knew the actors weren't as far apart in age as it seemed in the episode, but I didn't  realize it was quite that close. 

 

I've never figured out exactly how old Neal was supposed to be in that episode.  I know the wanted poster had him at 24ish, but by then he'd spent how many years in Neverland, and who knows how many in the regular world.  We know Emma was 16/17.  Even the 24ish/17 is squicky to me--and then, if you add in all the other stuff?  Not good.

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I remember thinking he looked and felt nothing like Bae when I first watched this episode. I was really disappointed since Bae was just a great character.  But I did think his scenes with Emma were quite effective in this episode, and the scene in the apartment with Rumple was excellent as well.

 

[Moved part of post over to other thread]

Edited by Camera One
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And the things he tells her at the bar were incredibly cruel.

 

I must not remember that scene right because I don't remember him saying anything cruel. Maybe not what she wanted to hear, but nothing cruel. I definitely don't think Neal/Emma were ever intended to be true love, though, or are true love. They were both con artists and thieves who had been lonely. Even had Neal not met August or been Baelfire and even had Emma not had a destiny, I don't think they would have settled in Tallahassee and been happy. They would have either ended up in jail anyway, broken up, or both, and probably both. 

 

I tend to go light on Neal sending Emma to jail because I view that as more of an August choice (since August convinced Neal that August knew more about what had to be done) and because that was so obviously writer contrivance to deal with the fact that Emma had to end up in jail. It made zero sense for either August or Neal to conclude that they needed to send her to jail for her to fulfill her Storybrooke destiny. It did, however, give us a great line in the "You sent me to jail because Pinocchio told you to?" 

 

Not that strange, if I recall, JMo and Sebastian Stan dated for a while. But that was indeed a strange thing to bring onscreen considering the situation

 

That makes me feel a lot better about the disturbing chemistry in "Hat Trick." I guess they just couldn't help it. Too bad she doesn't have the same irrepressible chemistry with the people she's supposed to! I just get nothing with Neal.

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I must not remember that scene right because I don't remember him saying anything cruel. Maybe not what she wanted to hear, but nothing cruel.

 

I thought "If I'd known [who you were], I wouldn't have gone near you" was cruel. Maybe not necessarily in and of itself, but when you consider that Emma grew up as a child who was always used but never wanted and this guy was promising her everything she'd never had, to have him say to her, basically, he wouldn't have touched her with a ten-foot pole if he'd known from the jump she was from the Enchanted Forest? Once again, there's Emma, never wanted, only this time, it was coming from someone she actually cared about and even loved, at one point in time. That's gotta hurt.

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With that, it certainly was cruel but I don't know if he really meant that. IMO he was still in shock that his father was actually in NYC/in his vicinity. 

 

With MRJ...I think he was an apt choice for Baelfire..after being betrayed by Rumple, Hook, who knows how long on Neverland, regret (cause I do think he had some) about Emma/not having her in his life. I did see flashes of old Bae...like when Cora entered the pawn shop for the fight...Neal didn't know her from Eve..but he knew she was evil and didn't hesitate to fight just like Charming and Emma. 

Edited by wingster55

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I think a lot of the issues with Neal/Bae and the fact that they don't connect come in part from them building toward the big "OMG, Neal is Bae!" moment when Emma caught him. Because of that, he had to be immediately recognizable as the same guy from the "Tallahassee" flashback, so they couldn't use a younger actor in that flashback. I wonder if that's also why this is the one time we've seen a younger version of the same character played by the same actor when they made no effort to use different hair/makeup/wardrobe to make the character look distinctly different. They might not have wanted to risk us not instantly knowing it was the same guy in this episode's shocking reveal. I would hope we'd have been smart enough to recognize him here even if he'd been clean-shaven and didn't have gray in his hair in the flashback, but TV people aren't known for overestimating their audiences. As it is, it's just a bit weird and creepy that he doesn't seem to have changed at all in the past eleven or so years, when Emma seems to have grown up. Maybe that was deliberate?

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I thought "If I'd known [who you were], I wouldn't have gone near you" was cruel.

 

That's not what I consider cruel, especially in the context of Emma thinking that her relationship with Neal was part of a grand conspiracy between him and Rumple having to do with the curse. Neal was emphasizing how little he wanted to do with magic and Fairy Tale world. I definitely get the argument that it could have been painful for Emma to hear, but I don't think that's the same thing as it being cruel for Neal to say. 

 

I think a lot of the issues with Neal/Bae and the fact that they don't connect come in part from them building toward the big "OMG, Neal is Bae!" moment when Emma caught him.

 

There's just something so greasy about him. He was fine as the conman in "Tallahassee," but that's actually part of the problem. Bae shouldn't have been fine as a conman! I know there's a chunk of Bae's life that I don't know anything about, but child Bae had such a strong sense of honor and dignity about him, it's very hard for me to imagine how we get from child Bae to adult Neal. MRJ acted the hell out of his scenes with Rumpel,  so I feel like he could have been a fine Baelfire if he'd had the opportunity to establish the character. But he just didn't seem to be trying to play adult Bae as consistent with child Bae at all. 

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I don't know if it was just that I was tired or that I zone out in the second episode when watching back-to-back, or if it was the episode itself, but I just couldn't stay focused on this one. Even though it has a major event in it with the revelation that Neal is Bae, and it has the reunion of Rumple and his son, the rest of the episode around it just seemed like filler. Hook is being oddly patient about waiting to go after Rumple in a place where he won't have magic. Regina seems like she's wasting time messing with Belle just for pettiness (or was that in the previous episode? that plotline blurred between episodes for me). Neal doesn't come off very sympathetic to me here, and Henry is really awful with his comparison between Emma and Regina. Yes, a white lie about his father so he wouldn't have to know how awful he was is exactly the same as Regina gaslighting him so she could maintain the horrible curse on his grandparents.

The timeline is still weird -- they left Storybrooke to drive to Boston in the morning. We saw them on the plane after we saw a scene set after dark in Storybrooke. Then they seem to have arrived in New York the next day. Did they take a redeye from Boston to New York? Except they then go to a bar when Emma finds Neal. Would there be bars open in the morning? We saw Neal in a suit, like he was coming home from work. Was this a weekend that he was home? He didn't seem to have known his father was there, so does he always bolt out the fire escape when someone rings his doorbell? I understand the impulse, but it makes you wonder what kind of life he was living.

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To me, this is actually a climatic episode, since we finally get the payoff of seeing two long-awaited meetings (Rumple & Bae and Emma & Neal), and the reveal of several big secrets that could have been a bombshell in one episode, but they all happened in the same episode (Neal finding out he had a son, Henry finding out his father was alive & he was Rumple's grandson, Emma finding out Neal was Rumple's son).  It did result in a very explosive confrontation.  But maybe revealing all that at once contributed to none of it being adequately explored.  

It reminded me of the Season 1 finale... Emma finally believed, Regina admitted who she was, everyone's memories returned, everyone was reunited, Rumple found out Belle was alive, and magic came back, all at once, with very inadequate payoff.   

1 hour ago, Shanna Marie said:

He didn't seem to have known his father was there, so does he always bolt out the fire escape when someone rings his doorbell? I understand the impulse, but it makes you wonder what kind of life he was living.

This is another example of stuff that happens on "Once" that is done for showiness.  It makes no sense, and we never even found out what Neal did for a living (I guess it doesn't matter since we're not trying to explore who he is, anyway).  But it made for a cool chase sequence ending in recognition of who each other were.

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This is still one of my favorite episodes because of how satisfying and emotionally resonant both the Neal/Emma and Nealfire/Rumple reunions wind up being.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but I like Neal, as he is portrayed here. Not because he's a good guy - he is a total ass to Emma in several moments-- but because he is, to me, being portrayed as a realistically flawed one. In a show where "evil" often means epic-scale villainy, he offers something a lot more realistic. It helps that, unlike in "Tallahassee"

Spoiler

and unlike later episodes

 

the show doesn't seem to be buying into Neal's reason for betraying Emma. Rather, I think there's a pretty clear implication that he did what he did because of fear of confronting his father and being drawn back into that world; August gave him the flimsiest veneer of a justification by saying, absurdly, that this was all for Emma's own good, but that's not why Neal did what he did. So we have Neal having left Emma out of cowardice, and in the present day, he's belittling and minimizing to her. She doesn't want to have drinks with him; he just smirks and tells her they're going to the bar. He tries to downplay what he did by chalking it up to fate, and registers no understanding of how much he hurt Emma with his comments about the swan pendant. He is then entitled beyond belief in his anger at her over keeping Henry from him, and in claiming he has any right to make decisions involving the son he doesn't know because he ditched his teenage girlfriend in prison. Yet, again, the show on most of these issues - maybe not the Henry one -- seems to see that he's in the wrong, and lets Emma puncture his rationalizations.

What is more, there is another side to Neal. MRJ gets some flak over this role, but I really love his expression when he recognizes Emma, where you can tell that there's a part of him that, in spite of everything, is genuinely thrilled to see her again. For all that he has no right to be angry at Emma over Henry, it is obvious that he is devastated to find out that he has a son that he essentially abandoned -- and no wonder, given his own backstory --, and really does want to do right by him. And, perhaps above all, this time, he isn't a coward, and comes back to face his father for Emma's sake. In his conversation with Rumple, you can also see how profoundly damaged he is by what his father did to him, and yet he comes out of the conversation with some real dignity. While I agree with some of the charges that MRJ is miscast as someone who is supposed to have once been Baelfire - and as someone who could have had a relationship with Emma 11 years ago without it being totally skeevy -- in this scene, I think the contrast between Rumple, who is still steeped in the mentality of magic and FTL, and Neal, who has spent so long running from that world, and seems so resolutely part of our mundane reality, works really well (especially the "Are you insane?" when Rumple offers to turn him back into a teenager). 

This is also, IMO, a really effective flashback. I'm not sure that it tells us anything wildly new about Rumple, but it nails his character: Rumple, as usual, brings his suffering on himself, but I can sympathize with the impulses that led him there. There's a parallel, as well, to what Neal winds up doing to Emma - August, who comes speaking about mystical destiny, gives Neal a pretext for giving into his far less high-minded fears and running. Which is exactly what Rumple does in the flashback - he is obviously, and understandably, scared of dying in battle, but the seer's prophecy, and the revelation that he's about to have a son, gives him a pretext for giving into what is actually simple cowardice. Rumple maims himself for his own sake, not Bae's -- but I also believe that, in spite of his again understandable fears about the battle, had he not had the encounter with the Seer, he would have fought. There's a difference between accepting the chance that you'll die in battle, and being told (or so Rumple thought) that you're definitely going to die tomorrow, orphaning your unborn child in the process. And of course, there's the obvious irony of the Seer's prophecy clearly not having referred to death in battle at all; he does, ultimately, lose his son because of his actions on the battlefield and what they lead to - consequences that includes him becoming the Dark One, in part, out of utter humiliation. In the present day, Robert Carlyle also does a great job registering Rumple's pained reaction to realizing, a moment before Neal does, that Bae is Henry's father, a reaction that I think also encompasses recognition of what it is going to do to Bae to realize that he, too, unwittingly abandoned a son. Although given what we learn at the end of the episode, it is also possible that he's registering exactly what "the boy will be your undoing" means for all of them. 

The one real negative - Henry's reaction to Emma's lie. Yes, Emma was wrong to do it, and yes, Henry is only 11, but even at 11, I think he should have had the empathy to respond to Emma's explanation of why she lied with at least enough awareness not to wind up comparing her to Regina. Worse, in this one case, I don't think the show necessarily disagrees with him, as the episode is, I believe, trying to parallel Rumple and Neal's self-serving decisions with Emma's decision to lie to Henry to protect herself, rather than him. Which is kind of true, on its face, but doesn't work as a meaningful comparison any more than the one between Emma and Regina. Yet, I do feel like the show is at least teetering on the edge of demonizing Emma for what was an understandable mistake. 

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I remember feeling that Neal looked nothing like Baelfire and that the casting was disappointing since there was a huge disconnect between child and adult.  But I think the actor did a commendable job in this episode which actually made me buy his scenes with Robert Carlyle and also Jennifer Morrison.  His nuanced reaction shots did make the character of Neal grow on me.  I thought the transition from the alleyway to the bar was very abrupt and unnecessary.  I don't understand why the scene needed to transition to a different location.  To me, there was a lot more interesting potential character-wise to explore between Emma and Neal, and there was so much to unpack beyond the scenes in this episode.

Spoiler

But of course, we realize by the next episode that the Writers were hardly interested in the character despite his connections to two main characters.  A character like Robin Hood by comparison was much harder to write for, because there really wasn't that much to work with.  Yet he became a series regular while Neal was killed off.

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I just have so much trouble with Neal as a character. In this episode, while I still have a serious disconnect between Neal and Bae, I do actually see it a bit more here, and I can see where MRJ is trying to play both an older, more scared version of the Bae we knew, and this older person. He hits a lot of good beats here, even if some of the transitions dont fully work. I do continue to find him skeevy and dickish, and his "it was for your own good" as to why he dumped Emma and left her in prison has never seemed more hallow, but I do think he comes across as human here, and I can even understand why he was desperate to get away from all of this. And, I do think that there had to have been some kind of fate/destiny thing going on with Emma meeting Neal/Bae. I mean, what are the odds that Rumples son would end up in the exact same place and time period, or the entire history of the universe, as Snow and Charmings daughter, and that they would fall in love and have a kid? I doubt fate meant for him to totally betray her, but its a pretty big freaking coincidence that they came together. 

Really, it just makes me pissed at August again, for messing with Emma's life, instead of just talking to her or doing something less extreme. Also, oh my God, him showing Neal his typewriter in a box with "I know your Baelfire" written on it is so melodramatic and Extra. And such a lame payoff. Its just so Once to make this big mystery, only for it to turn out to be people being mysterious for no practical reason beyond "it will be such a shocking reveal!" and instead just comes across as silly, and not usually very shocking anyway. 

Spoiler

And we will soon get Greg and Tamara, the patron saints of being unnecessarily secretive and critic! The "she" stuff is already silly, and its just going to get sillier. The closer we get to the later parts of 2b, the more this re-watch starts to feel like a horror movie. "no, its right behind you! 2b is coming!"

The flashbacks dont really tell us much we dont know about Rumple, but they are still very effective. Its nice to see an earlier, happier version of Milah and Rumple, and see more of how he so wanted to be a good person, and was a victim of his own fallibility. I also really love the Blind Seer. Both the younger and older actresses are both creepy and otherworldly, and the design with her eyes her her hands is really memorable. Really, for a minor character, she basically set the entire plot into motion with her prophesy, and Rumple panicking and not thinking about those little details in between prophesy and reality. I also find it fun to see human Rumple interacting with the Bling Seer in a way that is rather similar to how Snow and Charming dealt with Imp Rumple when he was in their dungeon. Those prophesy twists are a bitch! 

I also really like the conversations with Rumple and Henry throughout. Its a nice dynamic, as Henry really is scared of Rumple or put on edge around him, and Rumple just talks to Henry in a pretty straightforward way, without any ulterior motive that we see. It makes Rumple realizing that the prophesy about Henry bringing about his end hit even harder. Also, lots of good acting by Jennifer Morrison this week, especially in her interactions with Neal. Its a great mix of shock, anger, and long simmering hurt. 

"Its a good thing we dont have Thanksgiving in our land, or that would suck."

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Being an utter moron doesn't make you a bad person...and for someone supposedly as street smart as Neal...just taking August's word and going along with, The Great Plan, of 2 MUCH MUCH older men conspiring to send underaged girl to prison, to 'to keep her on the path' of her destiny??? Yeah, both Neal and August are complete morons for coming up with that one.

For all of ArseWipeFire's protestations about doing it for her own good, he jumped on board with The Great Plan pretty damn quick. Who knows how long he really intended to stay with Emma before August turned up? The creepy stat rape vibe was unbelievably strong in Tallahassee...I was very uncomfortable watching those scenes. Gets worse when you picture young Abby Ross  in those scenes because that would really show how ick ths whole thing was.

But the smugness in ArseWipeFire in response to the emotional evisceration of Emma and the condescension to Emma 

Spoiler

Which justs get incredibly worse when Tamara turns up!!

...THAT makes him an arsehole. Stupidity, I can forgive, but rude, obnoxious, self righteous belittling of someone you wronged on a whole new level of wrong? THAT'S  why I call him, ArseWipeFire. 

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I'm still surprised that...

Spoiler

the writers remembered the "boy will be your undoing" prophecy and came back around to it in the S7 finale. It's interesting that it ended up being Wish!Henry instead of Henry, adding to the idea that prophecies aren't always what we think they are.

To this day I'm not a fan of this episode. As others have mentioned, there's a lot of payoff and drama presented that never goes anywhere. 

Edited by KingOfHearts
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The way the Seer talked, it seemed like they're taking the "prophecy is absolute -- you can't change it, but you may be missing details or you may interpret it differently, so it's not necessarily what you think" approach. Rumple thought what she said about his actions on the battlefield meaning his son would grow up without a father to mean that he'd die in battle, but really it was about him maiming himself.

Except, that wasn't what meant his son grew up without a father. Wounding himself wasn't what made him a coward or power-hungry. It was more that they were all symptoms of the same basic personality flaw. Most of the events with Bae probably would have happened whether or not he wounded himself, since being crippled had nothing to do with whether Bae would get drafted or whether Rumple decided to become the Dark One. It would have been more accurate to say that Rumple's actions on the battlefield would lead to his son growing up without a mother, since Rumple being known as a coward had a lot to do with Milah's unhappiness, and that seems to have been a turning point in their marriage. But, given his basic personality, would something else have come up along the way?

So, was the prophecy accurate? Or did Rumple alter fate by wounding himself rather than going into battle, so he didn't die, but things still worked out so that his son grew up without a father?

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14 minutes ago, Shanna Marie said:

So, was the prophecy accurate? Or did Rumple alter fate by wounding himself rather than going into battle, so he didn't die, but things still worked out so that his son grew up without a father?

I think it is accurate, because I don't think Rumple would have become the DO if he hadn't experienced years of humiliation that left him so desperate for power, nearly all of which stemmed directly from his cowardice on the battlefield. I'm not even sure that I would say thirst for power was a core trait of Rumple's; it became that way only after he was branded a coward, lost Milah, etc. As far as I can tell, while Rumple was pleased to get the call to the wars because of the chance to make up for his father's legacy, he would otherwise have been pretty content to live as a simple weaver with his wife and whatever children they had, which doesn't speak to overwhelming ambition. 

Had Rumple served honorably and made a good life with Milah, once Bae was drafted,  Rumple would probably have used to DO dagger to force Zoso to end the Ogre Wars rather than becoming the Dark One himself. And it is quite possible Zoso would never have looked at Rumple as a likely target to take the power from him in the first place. 

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Not a fan of this episode because we know Rumple and Bae's reunion leads no where. Nothing ever gets brought up or talked about, or worked out. Henry is Bae's son and Rumple's grandson doesn't really either or Emma and Neal/Bae. They also never bothered to show how Bae ended up Neal. We never saw the transition. I don't like Neal in this episode. I didn't like his attitude towards Emma or getting all upset that she didn't tell him about Henry. You sent her to jail for your crimes. I did like Emma knocking down his stupid arguments and her "You left me because Pinocchio told you" will never not be true and funny. While also being the problem. Seriously Neal why would you believe Pinocchio? I hated Henry's comparing Emma to Regina and it really felt like they wanted us to think that. See, Emma isn't that great. She lied to Henry. Ah, she lied to Henry not wanting to tell the poor kid his father sent his teenage mother to jail for his crimes. Regina gaslight and lied to him to keep her Curse and Revenge intact. 

I also really don't like Rumple and Bae's reunion but mostly disappointed by it. So Rumple meets up with his son for the first time in centuries and....offers to turn him back into a 14 year old? I mean, what? That was his entire plan? To find his son and turn him back into a 14 year old? And he's surprised that Neal turns that down. It just felt like we were waiting a season and half for this? The fact that this is basically there is. No bringing up their issues. Neal not being up his mother's murder. Or any anger or rage at his father for spending centuries manipulating and Cursing so many people just to find him. It just never ends up going well.

The flashback it was nice to see Rumple and Milah happy.  I go back and forth with the Seer. Telling someone their going to leave their son fatherless right before he's to fight in battle. Of course he's going to think he'll die in battle. But I'm not completely convinced. He was already getting nervous from what he was hearing from the battle. And being a Coward is consistence with him. I'm not entirely sure if he would have fought. I do think he injured himself for himself but tells himself its for his son. He goes home and takes care of Bae. But abandons his marriage. He won't move even though his wife is miserable. That doesn't matter to him. When he's afraid to let Bae go off to battle he meets another person who tells him he can save his child by controlling the Dark One. He murders the Dark One instead. Again telling himself it was for Bae but if someone who really is doing something for their child would they really dissolve into the murdering monster as fast Rumple does? Rather then telling the soldiers Bae isn't going with them and ordering them to leave. He murders them all. Yes, he ends the Ogre wars but that's the only good thing we ever hear him do with his powers. We never hear or see him doing anything good again unless it benefits him somehow. He murders the mute because she saw the knife. He turns a man into a bug and steps on him. He doesn't go with Bae into the portal. While he does look for him, it takes him centuries because he won't give up his powers. Bae always ends up being his reason or excuse for everything. He doesn't want to leave his son fatherless so he injures himself and leaves, he doesn't want his son to go off and fight in the Ogre wars which is apparently going so bad they are now rounding up 14 year olds to fight. Well he kills the Dark One and becomes him for Bae. He spends centuries murdering and manipulating everyone towards a Curse for Bae. To find Bae. When all he had to do was use one of the many ways to LWM at any point but won't because he'll lose his power. When Bae is dead he pledges to become the man Bae wanted him to be. Well, he clearly kept that promise didn't he?

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I like Neal as a separate character from Baelfire. The writers probably could've done more with him if he were truly an outsider from the Land Without Magic. Not only would he be pulled back into a relationship with Emma and Henry, but he would be pushed into a world of true fairy tales. How would he react to that? He's the asshole who left Emma in jail and got her pregnant. How would Emma's family react? I don't think he has to be Baelfire to be interesting, but the writers would have to take steps to insure it wouldn't be a repeat of Emma's journey to belief in S1.

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I love the Neal/Rumpel scene. I absolutely love Neal doing Rumpel's magic hand waving motion.  Neal was on point and absolutely incredulous that his father, for all his crazy machinations to get to this point, had zero plans about what to do once they reunited. In some ways, I can understand why this is. However, I have a very hard time believing that over a few hundred years, Rumpel never thought about or had pretend dialogues with his son. This is the story that needed the focus. Not Emma/Neal or Neal/Henry.

Having emotional fallout from three major reunions all at once was a disservice to the individual importance of each of them. Thrusting a bratty Henry into the Emma/Neal reunion and somehow insinuating that Emma was awful for not telling Neal about Henry (how exactly was she supposed to do that?) and not telling Henry that his father was a deadbeat thief who set her up and ditched her to enjoy his freedom while she rotted in prison for his crime made it all the worse. Deflecting a horrific action by Neal with a realistic and understandable action by Emma is a crappy tactic, albeit a typical one for this show.

These guys love their twists, so it would have hugely subverted expectations if Neal had not been Bae. Fans suspected that Bae was Henry's father back in S1. It wasn't that shocking. Why not have Neal be a normal guy, but tie him into this trip to Manhattan by having him be Bae's roommate or something? Fate can play some weird tricks and still not have every damn person Emma ever met as a young person be tied to the Enchanted Forest. 

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