With every day that passes, we get a little bit closer to the premiere of Once Upon A Time Season 5. It's been a long summer, I know, but we're almost there. Before you can say "all magic comes at a price", we'll be journeying to Camelot, looking for Merlin, and trying to keep Dark Swan from killing too many people before she's restored to her former Savior self. It's going to be a great season, based on what we know so far, and Once executive producer Adam Horowitz has been stoking our anticipatory fires by continually releasing mini spoilers/teasers in the form of episode titles from next season. Most recently, he revealed the title of episode five, "Dreamcatcher," and my head basically exploded because I immediately thought, "Neal!" Does this mean Neal will return to Once Upon A Time Season 5?
It's not that I'm some die-hard Neal fan — there were some obnoxious parts of his plot and his character, but generally speaking, I thought he at least had potential for some serious growth and that his backstory could have been explored in more detail. Michael Raymond-James is a great actor and fit in seamlessly with the main cast, but Bae was killed off before we could get too attached (or forgive him for basically screwing Emma over, no matter what August told him about her fate).
In case you forgot since it has been a few years, the Neal/dreamcatcher connection was pretty straightforward. Neal kept one in the window of his New York City apartment for ages, as a memento from his time with Emma. In fact, Emma actually gave him the dreamcatcher back in "Tallahassee", so it's a bit sentimental, but a pretty blatant reference. And while Neal died to save the residents of Storybrooke back in "There's No Place Like Home", he was mentioned as recently as the season finale, and given that we all know death isn't particularly final on this show, there's at least a small chance he could be coming back, right?
Then again, producer Edward Kitsis has tried to keep us from getting our hopes up, telling TV Line, "Although dreamcatchers evoke and remind us of Neal, they have been used on the show magically." And that's true enough. Emma used a magical dreamcatcher a few years back to take Pongo's memories and see if Regina was lying about having killed Archie. It was an imperfect science, but it did work. Although, given that Kitsis hasn't outright denied the whole Neal thing, I'm not particularly ready to give up just yet.
Of course, Neal coming back is great in theory, but he would need to serve a greater purpose for it to make sense. Emma certainly doesn't need Neal to save her from the darkness — that would be against the entire ethos of the series as a whole, because the women on Once are strong and don't particularly need saving, at least not by a man. Plus, who would bring him back? How long would he stay if he did come back? There are a lot of questions left unanswered, but they may be all for naught, anyway. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see. September 27 isn't so far away, guys. Hang on.