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S03.E04: Nasty Habits

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Gold confronts Pan, while Neal finds himself back in Neverland. Back in fairy tale land, Rumpelstiltskin goes in search of a missing Baelfire, who has followed a mysterious figure who steals away children with his music. 

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Okay, I'll admit it: I love Neal in this episode. I understand people who aren't able to look past the ridiculousness of his reason for leaving Emma, or his douchiness to her immediately after their reunion, but he improves a lot in the end of S2, and he's pretty fantastic here. From "I'm not a boy and I sure as hell ain't lost," to coating the shaft, rather than the tip of the arrow with Dreamshade, to tricking Rumple with the squid ink, he's brave, clever, and - perhaps above all - emotionally mature. In some of his previous encounters with Rumple, as righteous as his anger is, his attitude still shows a certain childish petulance. Here, his rejection of his father is clear-eyed. When Pan initially tells him that Rumple wants to kill Henry, not save him, I was worried that Neal was falling into an obvious trap, given that Rumple had been talking about saving Henry even when he thought Neal was a hallucination, and wouldn't have had any reason to lie about his motives. But in the end, that wasn't why he decided to walk away: he accepts that Rumple has committed to saving Henry at the moment, but doesn't trust that he's going to stick with that resolve if he sees a better path forward for himself.

It is the antithesis of what happened with Regina last episode, where Blue and even Tink blame her for things that aren't really her fault rather than focusing on the things that are, which manipulates the viewer into sympathizing with the villain. Had Neal been vicious to Rumple throughout and ultimately told him "You're incapable of love and can't possibly care about saving my son," the scene wouldn't have worked so well because we know that Rumple, for all his faults, does love people and is sincere in his resolution to sacrifice himself for Henry. Instead, Neal shows how well he knows his father: Rumple is capable of love and might even be capable of a certain level of sacrifice under the right circumstances, but he can't be trusted to do the right thing when push comes to shove even if he starts out with good inclinations. And as much as I think Neal is sincerely moved by "You're my happy ending, Bae," he's not wiling to risk Henry on it. In a land where people don't grow up, Neal is showing that he finally has, moving on from the part of himself that can still convince Rumple he's real with an instinctive "Papa!" to the father finally taking responsibility for his son. And yeah, it doesn't work, and he gets captured - but that doesn't mean his choice was inherently stupid.

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Sorry, all I see with Neal is a douche. Says he waited too long to tell Emma he loved her. No, you sent her to prison for your crime because you were afraid of having anything to do with the EF world. Ran away from Emma like you were on fire.  I also don’t like the way he pushed and manipulated Robin into using his son as bait. 

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Like I said, I do understand anyone who can't get past what he did to Emma, which is genuinely unforgiveable. But show-logic wants us to believe that he was at least kinda-sorta doing it for her own good - or, at least, that he thought he was. I don't accept that logic, because it makes no sense, but he did (finally!) apologize, and as he doesn't usually act like a total piece of garbage, I find myself able to chalk that up to crap writing and begin investing in him again. 

Spoiler

I find myself doing the same thing with other characters. Like, Snowing eggnapping Lily makes them pretty awful people, but as that doesn't gel with what we see of their characters as a whole, I reject it as crappy writing rather than rejecting them. Same with Hook killing David's father - his rationale makes no sense, but rather than regarding it as Hook killing a guy just for the hell of it, which would move him into sociopath territory, I look at it - as the show seems to want me to, no matter how irrationally -- as Hook selfishly killing a guy to protect himself, which does fit with his MO at that period of his life

The point at which I stop being able to sort of handwave bad behavior that the writer clearly doesn't want to be as bad as I think it is is when the character consistently does terrible things. Like, I could have forgiven August for convincing Neal to leave Emma, but he also abandoned Emma, stole the money intended for her, stole money from someone he thought was a terminal cancer patient, and only came to SB because he thought Emma might be able to save him. Or, more substantially, I was willing to accept Regina as redeemable in 2A, even though there was really no sign of that until the last episode of season 1 -- but not after she then became involved in another plot to kill everyone and we learned about even more terrible things she had done in the past. 

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On 11/10/2018 at 12:58 PM, companionenvy said:

Like I said, I do understand anyone who can't get past what he did to Emma, which is genuinely unforgiveable. But show-logic wants us to believe that he was at least kinda-sorta doing it for her own good - or, at least, that he thought he was. I don't accept that logic, because it makes no sense, but he did (finally!) apologize, and as he doesn't usually act like a total piece of garbage, I find myself able to chalk that up to crap writing and begin investing in him again. 

My issue with Neal isn't so much what he did in the past, but the way he treated Emma in the present. He rubbed his fiancee in her face as though Emma was the one to dump him. He dismissed her quite reasonable concerns and disparaged her abilities (true, the show is inconsistent about her "superpower," but it's a jerk move). He only started showing the slightest interest in Emma the moment Tamara was proved to be an enemy, and then it was like a switch was flipped and suddenly he loves her. Oh, and there's throwing her under the bus with Henry and letting Henry be mad at her rather than owning up to his actions and supporting Henry. So I kind of consider that he does usually act like a total piece of garbage to Emma. He consistently takes the path that's easiest for himself, even if it will hurt her.

I do really like the scene in Neal's old cave. It definitely sounds like there was more to Hook and Bae's interaction than what we saw on the ship, or else Hook wouldn't have known about the cave or how to get in. In one of their rare cases of going subtle, you can see the moment Emma puts two and two together and realizes that Hook's lost love was Bae/Neal's mother and Rumple's former wife.

And I think Robbie Kay does a great job of tone shifting in the way he's so menacing to Neal and Rumple but friendlier to Henry, though still with a bit of nastiness. He's that bully who wants a weaker kid to join his gang because he has a use for him, so he's all welcoming and friendly, but there's something lurking beneath the charm.

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2 minutes ago, Shanna Marie said:

He rubbed his fiancee in her face as though Emma was the one to dump him. He dismissed her quite reasonable concerns and disparaged her abilities (true, the show is inconsistent about her "superpower," but it's a jerk move).

I didn't interpret that he was rubbing his fiancée in her face.  He was even eager for Emma to meet her and assumed Emma would never forgive him so the possibility of them reconciling was closed.  I thought he reasonably (though stupidly) thought Tamara was a normal person and he was loyally defending her.  The whole Tamara-as-evil-operative plot was so stupid and unlikely I wouldn't have believed Emma either.  I do agree we should have seen Neal tell Henry the truth of what happened and defend why Emma kept him a secret.  I see that as something that he would have done in Storybrooke, though not necessarily in the heated moment of "Manhattan".

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10 minutes ago, Shanna Marie said:

He only started showing the slightest interest in Emma the moment Tamara was proved to be an enemy, and then it was like a switch was flipped and suddenly he loves her.

I think he had stopped acting quite as jerky even before Tamara's motives were revealed. He (understandably) didn't believe Emma about Tamara, but he was fairly decent about it, and seemed to recognize that it was a sensitive and painful situation. IIRC there's also at least one scene before the Tamara reveal where Neal expresses faith in Emma's capacity to succeed. And he obviously wants to do right by Henry, plus -- as different as they seem -- there's the fact that he actually is Baelfire, who was a pretty great kid. So, he does have a fair bit of good to balance out the bad.

I also draw a distinction between Neal as a character and Neal/Emma. I can look past what he did or how he treated her enough to not see Neal as a total piece of crap; I can't look past it enough to see him as a viable partner for Emma. Ever. On top of everything else, their relationship as it was presented in "Tallahassee" doesn't seem remotely healthy enough for either of them to want to resume it eleven years later.

It is a shame that we never get more of a sense of how Bae became Tallahassee-era Neal, but we do get at least a hint of it in this episode - there's the nice touch where Emma quotes Neal saying "never break into someplace you can't break out of," and then Pan repeats the same line later on. Combined with the number Pan is trying to do on Henry, you can sort of see how Bae might have become hopeless and cynical enough to turn to crime once he was back in the LWOM.

20 minutes ago, Shanna Marie said:

I do really like the scene in Neal's old cave. It definitely sounds like there was more to Hook and Bae's interaction than what we saw on the ship, or else Hook wouldn't have known about the cave or how to get in. In one of their rare cases of going subtle, you can see the moment Emma puts two and two together and realizes that Hook's lost love was Bae/Neal's mother and Rumple's former wife.

Relatedly, there's another subtle moment where Neal seems to visibly react to Rumple mentioning that Hook brought them to Neverland. 

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I appreciate that we actually got Neal and Rumple together, working out some issues, and having some real drama. We should have had this last season, but at least it happened eventually. I do admit that I like Neal a bit more here, and can actually see a bit of Baelfire in him. Not very much, but I can see a teeny bit of how he became Neal here. I still dont like Neal, but this at least gives him something to do beyond being a dick to Emma, an idiot, or a walking plot device. 

The scenes in Neal's cave are pretty good, and, really, I like most of the stuff with the Nevengers. They're all being helpful, more or less, and the banter between them is all quite fun. I wish we had gotten more follow ups, like how Hook and Neal knew each other, and Snow and Emma bonding over their rough lives and having to get by on their own. And Charming not telling anyone about him being poisoned is still ridiculous, but its so very Charming. He would keep saying how fine he was even after getting an arm chopped off. 

Robbie Kay really is a great presence in this show, he walks a fine line between charming, and creepy, and he really does come off as a twisted variation of the original Peter Pan, and the one from the animated version. At this point in the show, I am already rolling my eyes at how every single story ever is wrapped up in the same couple of people, but I do like this version of the Pied Piper, it actually fits the Pan story really well. And, knowing who Pan really is and his real connection to Rumple, their interactions really are quite interesting, and Pan is even more sinister in that context. 

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1 minute ago, tennisgurl said:

At this point in the show, I am already rolling my eyes at how every single story ever is wrapped up in the same couple of people, but I do like this version of the Pied Piper, it actually fits the Pan story really well.

I still think the flashbacks in this episode were unnecessary retread with the usual cryptic conversation as an ending, and I still think they should instead done a flashback with Baelfire following up on what happened to him after leaving the Jolly Roger.  But I also remember thinking how clever it was that the Pied Piper attracting children was actually Peter Pan.  

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