A Potentially Unpopular Notion: or, Why Neal Had to Die
I’ve seen lots of tumblr and general internet angst lately regarding the death of one Neal Cassidy.
People keep going on about how he was killed for no good reason and how dare those writers, they suck, they don’t know what they’re doing, let’s petition to bring him back! And btw, it’s all Captain Swan’s fault so fuck those bastards! (Ok the last one is a bit exaggerated, but it’s usually there in subtext).
But, here’s the thing folks, and this might seem a bit blunt but I mean it well: you’re wrong.
I’m not discounting your feelings. You have every right to mourn. But Neal’s death wasn’t senseless.
Because here’s the thing, people; We have been told repeatedly and in no uncertain terms on this show that villains don’t get happy endings. Rumple may be beginning to get better, and he has progressed into a lighter grey area, but it many ways he is still a villain. And almost every villainous thing that we as viewers have seen him do over the course of his several hundred years of plotting and scheming and manipulating was done in some way because of Baelfire. Now, saving Bae from the ogre wars and then finding and reconciling with him may seem like a good and noble goal, and in some ways it is (and I admit, I wanted that for Rumple), but that’s over 300 years of wrongdoing done in the name if his son. Hell, he murdered his own wife, not because she left HIM, but because she abandoned BAE. Bae was Rumples desired happy ending. That’s what he wanted, above even Belle (as we know from Skin Deep). And for a brief, shining moment, returning from Neverland, with Bae seemingly haven forgiven him, it did look like he had his happy ending.
But villains don’t get happy endings.
I admit, that notion was a lot less complicated and painful when it came to characters like Hook and Regina. What did Hook want? Vengeance. Storytelling fix: give it to him and have him realize it is hollow and unfulfilling. Done. Regina: basically the same thing. She said her happy ending was to take away everybody else’s happy endings. But guess what? She wasn’t happy either.
But, unlike with Hook or Regina, the thing Rumplestiltskin thought would make him happy—reuniting and reconciling with his son— genuinely would have been a real Happy Ending. One that would have, in a way, justified all the terrible, villainous things he did to get it. I’m not saying that one bad deed makes someone a villain, or that the baddies can never change. Obviously, neither if those things are true. And maybe he could have changed for the better after reconciling with Bae
though in the long run, I doubt it, since dark magic seems to be something of an addiction to him and I really don’t think he’ll let it go until he REALLY hits rock bottom). But there is a kind of literary/ dramatic karma to fairy tales. And that karma cannot and will not allow the ends to justify the means to that great an extent. So as long as Neal refused to forgive his father, they were both safe because Rumple wouldn’t be happy. But once they reconciled? Well, that couldn’t be allowed. Something had to be done. One of them had to die.
One would think it would make sense that the one to die and stay dead would be Rumple himself. And going out the way he seemed to, to stop Pan, was a good, noble, redemptive type of end. And why should Neal pay for his crimes anyway? Except for this other, teensy little thing.
Neal is, in a way, the character embodiment of everything that holds Rumple and Emma back. He is the reason Rumple became the dark one. He is (directly and indirectly) the cause of all Rumples dastardly deeds. He’s the a big part of the reason Rumple can’t give up being the dark one, both when Belle tries to TLK him and when he brings magic to Storybrooke. He is the reason Emma doesn’t trust people. Think about THAT for a second. Really think about it. After everything she went through in the foster system, being bounced from family to family and never being wanted, HE is the reason she is so closed off. He did such a number on her that she wished he was dead so that she could get over it and him and move on with her life. Not to mention the fact that Emma has magic and really needs to learn to control it, and Neal HATED magic. And the one time he saw her use it in Neverland he wasn’t happy about it. He may not have been openly hostile, but he wasn’t pleased. If he were still alive I don’t see how he could NOT hold her back.
Its not that he’s a horrible person, really, but love should make you a better person, not worse, and he made Rumple and Emma both a lot worse. He brought out the worst in one and hindered the best in the other. He may not have been blatantly toxic, like Cora, but he was not a healthy person to have around, so further positive character development with him present would have been extremely difficult. However, he was family so just cutting him out wasn’t going to happen (especially as he was Rumple’s desired happy ending). Obviously the only thing to be done was for the writers to kill him off.
So, I’m sorry folks. I know a lot of people liked Neal/Bae. Unfortunately, his death was anything BUT unnecessary.
I’m sorry but what???
The whole basis of this argument is that Neal needed to die because “villains don’t get happy endings,” but funny, it seems like they’re working up to it with all three of the villains. Granted, I am among those who stopped watching, so I no longer fully know what they’re doing in show, but if villains don’t get happy endings then why are they all seeming to end up with some form of happiness? So they’re allowed to get some form of happiness, those who purposefully set out to hurt others, but Neal, who tried so hard to be a good person and to fix his mistakes has to die?
Why was Neal’s death the one and *only* solution? Never having them reconcile would have been just as bad, and they could have left it as they had in Neverland, with Neal standing up to him and walking away (I imagine they chose to reconcile them because they knew the death was coming). Even if Neal forgave him, it doesn’t necessarily mean everything with them would go back to normal. Everyone keeps saying “oh villains don’t get happy endings” but I have yet to see how they aren’t getting their happy endings? Just because something like that is said doesn’t mean it sticks; realm travel is supposed to have been near impossible and why the curse was needed to begin with, but look how many times they’ve pulled out convenient means of doing just that (and that’s just one example).
Neal is not the cause of Rumple becoming the Dark One. Was Neal the Dark One? Did Neal trick Rumple and make him acquire the dagger so that he could die? No? Pretty sure that was Zoso. Did Neal in any way hold a sword to his father’s throat and say “You need to do this and save me!” No, Neal wanted to do the brave thing and go to war; “If the law says I’m to fight, I can fight.” Neal didn’t want his father to become the Dark One in *any* way nor did he ask him to do anything and was plenty horrified when he saw what became of his father. Do not blame Neal for Zoso’s actions, and do not blame Neal for Rumple making the decision to pursue that avenue.
"He is (directly and indirectly) the cause of all Rumples dastardly deeds"
I don’t even want to answer this. So suddenly Neal is responsible for all the shitty choices Rumple has consciously made? If you honestly believe that I don’t know what to tell you.
"He’s the a big part of the reason Rumple can’t give up being the dark one"
Last I checked Rumple gave up being the Dark One, twice in fact; once when he killed himself to save everyone, and once again when Neal activated the Dark One’s vault. And again, last I checked, Zoso was the one who ensured Rumple became the Dark One by preying on his vulnerability. Neal did not make his father do anything. Neal did not ask to be sent to war, and Neal is not responsible for causing said war. Nor is he responsible for Rumple making the decision to try and control Zoso.
"He is the reason Emma doesn’t trust people. Think about THAT for a second. Really think about it. After everything she went through in the foster system, being bounced from family to family and never being wanted, HE is the reason she is so closed off."
Yes. He was PART of it. But what a lot of people seem to conveniently forget is that Emma was not some innocent girl when they met. She already had abandonment issues and walls because she grew up an orphan, and because she got sent away again when her first family gave her up for their own kid, and while there’s no complete proof, the foster system is not known for being a happy fluffy unicorn place. She had abandonment issues and trust issues to begin with. There’s no denying he added to it and was the “last straw”, and it’s a fact which he has regretted every day since it happened and has apologised for; “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t regret having left you; I’m sorry Emma.” And then he let her tell him to his face in the echo cave anything she felt about him, and he took it without complaint because he knows he hurt her.
"He did such a number on her that she wished he was dead so that she could get over it and him and move on with her life"
There is more to that line. The whole line is “I was hoping you were dead, because it would be easier for me to put you behind me than to face all the pain we went through all over again.” She was hoping for the opposite of moving on; burying it and ignoring it isn’t moving on, it’s just that— ignoring is not getting over it, it’s not thinking about it and hoping it goes away; it’s not accepting it or dealing with it or healing from it. Hoping he was dead during that time is not the same thing as wishing he would die.
And for another thing. Yeah, he hurt her. He knows this, but fact of the matter is, if she didn’t get closure on it (and now she never will, because her last chance was during that lunch Neal asked her to and she missed out on it) and now she will never get a chance to deal with that anger and hurt and get the answers she needs to move on from it, whether it would have been with him or Hook or Regina or Walsh. This whole thing about his death is supposedly based on the fact deaths happen without happy endings all the time, but you know what, this is also real life and people in real life have to deal with their emotions and their relationships and her reconciling with Neal, even if as just a friend or at least on good terms as the father of her son, would have been the opposite of toxic.
"And the one time he saw her use it in Neverland he wasn’t happy about it. He may not have been openly hostile, but he wasn’t pleased. If he were still alive I don’t see how he could NOT hold her back."
Uh, no, he doesn’t. He knows it’s not something to mess around with, he watched how it destroyed his father, so yes, he was worried about her using it for her safety, because Regina, the one with powers similar to his father, is the one who has been teaching her; look at their interaction in 2x16 where he says “I didn’t know you were magical.” He sounds amused, not spiteful or disgusted. Neal is not anti-magic like everyone loves to make him out as. But I dare anyone to give me the line, in canon, where Neal says “I hate magic.” And no, the “destroyed my family” and “I’ve been running from it my whole life” doesn’t count. He uses it when he thinks he needs to, but he also knows it’s not a plaything and that’s always been his biggest point.
Neal’s death was not only unnecessary, but insanely out of character; not in terms of the death itself, because self-sacrifice was a very Neal thing to do, but the circumstances surrounding it made ZERO sense.
I know they were trying to parallel it back to Rumple, that desperate need to save and be with their family at all costs, but where they messed up is in the fact that Neal is not Rumple.
When Rumple originally obtained the Dark One’s power, he had NO idea what he was getting himself in for. But Rumple at that time was a simple peasant who had never dealt with magic in his life. Neal was the exact opposite. We’re honestly being expected to swallow the fact the guy who watched his father deteriorate because of dark magic, that begged Wendy not to talk to Pan’s shadow because of how dangerous magic was and how much of a point he made about magic having a price, the guy who spent 200+ years living under a dark magic sociopath in Neverland did not stop to think about what he was doing? That even after Belle outed the fact that it was likely a trick didn’t stop to think about what the price was? And didn’t stop to think that he could suffer a similar price as his father? Neal, the one who made a huge deal to Rumple about how he had nightmares about the portal and getting abandoned for magic every night? Who didn’t stop to think he could be leaving his own son without a father, the one thing that he, until that point, was successful at breaking the cycle of abandonment? Who should know that you don’t throw something like resurrection around without paying a heavy price?
That goes against absolutely everything Neal’s character has ever done.
Neal does not exist solely for Rumple. Neal had his own son, Neal could have found love with Emma again or someone else. Neal had his own life and his own story. Neal was his own person. The fact that it was so ooc and quick is exactly what makes it feel forced.
So no, we are not wrong to think it was for no good reason and we have every right to be critical about it. Was it for some agenda? Who knows, and honestly I don’t particularly care, but I do care that people are still trying to tear at Neal, even after he’s dead, and that the only solution they could come up with to whatever they wanted to do was “Neal has to die.” In that regard, it WAS senseless, and out of character, and you will never convince me it NEEDED to happen.
And no, before anyone starts I’m not “hating” on the writers or anyone else (being critical =/= hate). I am grateful they created him. But I will never be able to wrap my mind around why his death was the ONLY way.
Yeahhh… I don’t think they HAD to kill Neal off. I don’t think I’ll get over that… But I’m still gonna watch the show. Even though I’m very anti-Captain Swan and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be cannon soon -_-