And perhaps what’s so maddening about all of this is that they could have told the current story, as-is, without him being dead.
The scenario you outlined would have worked perfectly…if not for the fact that they’d so clearly established that Emma and Neal still loved each other, so the only way to have her turn to someone else instead was to not have Neal around at all. Both times Emma’s kissed Hook, Neal’s been dead. Coincidence? I think not.