And so then I was like, “Yay. Bae is back!!!” even though I had really liked the initial chemistry with Hook and Emma. But then it looked like they weren’t going to have Emma and Hook pursue a romantic relationship so it made sense to have Bae show up when he did.
Thanks for posting. In response to this first point, I don’t think it would’ve made sense for Emma and Neal to pick up right where they left off, romantically speaking. There are too many unresolved issues and misconceptions for them to work through first. Plus, in typical TV drama fashion, the writers decided to give Neal a fake fiancé, yet another hurdle for Emma and Neal to work through. Yet, as Jane Espenson said in an interview: “Fiancees are like walls. They can be moved,” which is surly what happened when Tamara shot Neal and he sacrificed himself by going through the portal so that Henry wouldn’t have to grow up alone. Sending Neal to another land and having Emma and Hook hook-up are yet more hurdles to work through.
Yet, what couples on this show don’t have a lot to work through? Rumple turned Belle out of his castle when her kiss would’ve freed him from his curse, and they were separated for over 30 years since Belle was Regina’s prisoner. Then Belle got amnesia when Hook shot her, and then Rumple left her behind for NL. Yet, their love endures. David and Snow had to face Prince George’s threat for Snow to tell David she didn’t love him so that he’d marry Abigail, resulting in David’s broken heart and Snow drinking a potion to forget Charming. Plus, they were cursed for 28 years, had to deal with fake memories and and a fake fiancé. They found each other again when Emma broke the curse only for Emma and Snow to get sucked through a portal again, resulting in them being trapped across worlds. Every couple has obstacles to overcome.
So here’s my question. I was assuming that I was going to love Neal as much as I loved Bae. But I didn’t. When I try to figure out why I can’t bond with him it’s because I find him kind of “flat” or something. And it honestly has nothing to do with being in comparison to Hook, because like I said, I was assuming I was going to like him. So I have been trying to figure out why I find him “flat.” We have talked about this over on our CS ship as well and many of us think that he has been purposely written flat because we don’t think it is MRJ who is causing him to be flat. But since you are all happily sailing the SF ship you must not find him flat.
Firstly, MRJ is a fantastic actor, and if you’ve ever watched season 1 of True Blood, you’ll know what I mean, since he nailed his role. He studied a Cajun dialect and accent just to perfect that role. So, it certainly isn’t MRJ’s acting chops, which are top notch.
Secondly, Neal is Baelfire, just a grown-up version of him. In 2×21, we saw Neal sacrifice himself by letting go of Emma’s hand so that Henry wouldn’t have to grow up alone, which was a clear parallel to how young Baelfire scarified himself for the Darling family. His same self-sacrifice instinct is still predominant in Neal just as it was in Baelfire. He’s a man who is long-suffering and a survivor, too. The last time we saw young Bae was when he’d only first arrived in NL; we’ve yet to see a flashback of young Bae’s long time in a NL. We’ve caught glimpses of it, seeing Bae’s cave full of tally marks indicating days spent there, which Emma recognized he’d stopped counting because he’d lost hope. Neal told Rumple in 3×4 that he’d used to dream of his father coming looking for him, but then he’d wake up and realize it wasn’t going to happen. Yet, somehow, despite all of that, Bae found the fortitude to get off the island. He’s the only lost boy ever to have escaped, and even though PP said it was with his permission, we know now that PP is a liar. Neal may have found a way to really escape PP and his shadow by his own initiative.
Now, back to my point. Neal is a man who has to relive nightmares of his father releasing his hand and sending him to another realm, forcing Bae to become a street urchent in Victorian London, and later Neal had to steal to get by in 20th-century America. It’s remarkable that Neal is as well-adjusted as he is, and despite all of his abandonment issues, he hasn’t turned into a villain or a hardened criminal. He’s kept he same, pure heart, despite all the crap that life continues to throw at him. By the time we met Neal in “Tallhassee” Emma was the one person who had loved him in over a century. Imagine how hard it was for Neal to walk away from her, from the dream of “Tallahassee” when he discovered that Emma was destined to break his father’s cruse, a curse which had been created to locate him. So while Neal is mainly criticized for this decision, Adam and Eddy confirmed in the official podcast for “Manhattan” that this not was done out of any malice, but rather, it was done out of love. Neal made the same decision that Charming and Snow made to send Emma to our world: they wanted to give Emma her best shot. And Neal realized that he’d be standing in the way of Emma fulfilling her destiny and saving her family if he selfishly kept her for himself. As both Mulan and Charming have said, sometimes love means sacrifice. Again, I see the same self-sacrifice tendency in Neal as I saw in young Baelfire, a desire to let Emma get home to her family ahead of his own hopes and dreams for forming a home with her, a home he’d been denied since he’d left the Darlings to save them.
That is why we SF shippers put so much stock into Emma meeting Wendy, because Wendy sees Neal as the same boy who saved her family all those years ago. By sharing the story of how Baelfire tried to save her brothers, Wendy will help to inform Emma about Neal’s true motives and what kind of a family man he truly is. Neal would do anything for Henry and Emma, as he did in 2×21 by falling through the portal, just as surely as Baelfire would’ve done anything to spare Wendy and her family from any harm of magic.
So do you feel like Neal gets the same caliber of writing and attention that the rest of the cast gets? And I am not talking about in comparison to Hook because I know there are a lot of people who feel like he gets way too much attention. If I were to completely take Hook off the show I still feel like Neal is flat compared to the other characters. I think everyone agrees something is odd with how ABC publicity leaves him out of the show synopsis and can’t seem to spell his name correctly. So that makes me wonder if he isn’t supposed to be considered one of the “important” characters?? But that doesn’t make sense considering how important Bae is to the entire curse and the entire show and the fact that MRJ is at all the publicity events.
While I find it annoying that ABC doesn’t promote Neal enough, I think it’s mostly because the marketing likes to give fangirls what the want. Yet, I don’t think Adam and Eddy have written Neal in a “flat way” because he is so integral to many characters: Rumple, Emma, Henry, Hook, and probably will be with Belle. I think that we need to see more of Neal’s own backstory after he got out of NL, and also after he left Emma. We need to know more about Neal to help in the continuity of his character to see how Baelfire grew into Neal. Neal has anything but an easy time. In fact, we Neal fans think of him as fate’s punching bag. Yet, Neal got his degree in the school of hard knocks. Even when fate deals him a rough hand, he tries to overcome it. He’s going to have to work hard to forgive his dad, but when he does, the payoff will be that much greater. The same goes for Neal having a lot to do to make up for being absentee to Henry (which wasn’t his choosing), and also he has many miles to go to try and resolve things with Emma. Yet, that doesn’t mean he won’t or can’t. It just means that like Emma must forgive her parents, so Neal must forgive his father. And when they do, they will be able to start to dismantle their misconceptions about each other and to learn the truth of what took them apart from each other so that they can begin to form new, hopefully positive conceptions of one another. Neal’s greatest regret in life was leaving Emma, and he must learn to believe in second chances, just as Emma must learn to take the hard road of revisiting her past in order to move forward. Emma said it’s easier just to burry her own emotions in the past, but then, that just means she’s not dealing with her past and not really moving forward. She’d just be standing still, with a closet full of skeletons. Likewise, Neal must deal with the skeletons in his closet by dealing with his own abandonment issues. Yet, when they do, both Emma and Neal will find the payoff is somehow worth the pain of revisiting painful memories. Because then they’ll truly be able to move on and set healthy patterns for Henry going forward.
My difficulty bonding with Neal actually started in Tallahassee. I didn’t find Emma and Neal’s relationship at all romantic or appealing (and again – it had nothing to do with Hook). But when we found out he was Bae I thought I would somehow come to love him because, well . . . he is Bae!
It’s a matter of personal preference. When “Tallhassee” first came out, Neal and Emma were open to interpretation in my mind. From what we’d seen, Neal and Emma were two young people on the run, sealing to survive, but still living outside the law. Emma became pregnant with Neal’s child and ended up in jail for assisting in a crime Neal had committed. That seemed like a really negative light to cast Neal in, so it’s understandable why many people didn’t take to him. Personally, I started out actually preferring Hook, but then after 2×9 when he told Emma he’d jab her with her sword and nearly killed Belle, I stopped because I found that demeaning to women. Anyway, I just decided after that to be open-minded about Neal, figuring he could be Baelfire and that we didn’t have the full story yet. When I saw “Manhattan” I fell in love with the idea of Neal and Emma. It clicked for me, because I realized that Neal never wanted to leave Emma and that he’d never stopped loving her. I suddenly understood his side of the story. His leaving her was not done out of any malicious intent, as Emma had believed for 11 years. It was done to give Emma her best chance of getting home, of saving her family, which is the same choice Snow and David had made when Emma was just a baby. I started to love Neal as a prospect for Emma too, as I realized how much they still love each other, despite everything. By 2×21, when Emma and Neal declared their undying love and need for one another, I recognized that at being true love-love which doesn’t keep record of wrong but rejoices in the truth, endures all things, hopes all things, and a love that never fails.
So I am just wondering, do you SF shippers see Neal being given just as much depth of character as the rest of the cast? Because I honestly feel like he doesn’t get much to work with and I don’t feel like he has been given much of an emotional connection to the other characters. And I have a very difficult time not separating Bae and Neal into two completely different people even though I don’t mean to. I didn’t have that problem with Rose playing young Cora and Barbara playing older Cora – I saw them as the same person regardless of which actress was on the screen. And even with Dr. Hopper, he’s still Jiminy Crickett. But I just can’t seem to keep continuity between MRJ and Dylan – they always feel like two completely different characters to me.
I know that Neal has a long way to go in fighting for Emma and proving that he’s still the same Baelfire who tries to sacrifice for others. Yet, I have faith that as Neal reconciles with his Papa, more people will see that Neal really is Baelfire who only ever wanted his father and family to be whole.
"That’s how you know you’ve really got a home. When you leave it, there’s this feeling that you can’t shake. You just miss it." Neal Cassidy