Is Neal Really Returning To ‘Once Upon A Time’? Yes, But You’re Not Going To Like How
In the vast and complex Once Upon A Time universe, Neal — or Baelfire, if you prefer his Enchanted Forest incarnation — is the itch that just can't be scratched. Perhaps it's because we were only just starting to get to know him back in Season 3 when he was unceremoniously killed by Zelena, squandering yet another potentially interesting character before they could develop further. But life is complicated — life in Storybrooke and the realms its characters come from in particular — and Bae's quick departure left many unsettled. Lucky for us, it seems like there might finally be some closure coming our way, because it seems like Neal is returning to Once Upon a Time ... sort of.
Neal was, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a jerk. Sure, he was just listening to August and attempting to help Emma follow her fate and break the curse, but she was a scared kid who also happened to be pregnant with his kid, and ended up spending the better part of two years behind bars because of his decision to frame her for robbery and leave her behind. I was never a SwanFire shipper because of this (it's safe to say I hold a grudge), but I do think Neal was genuinely sorry for the pain he caused, and much like Emma, he was desperate to find some semblance of home. Unfortunately, that home seems to be in the Underworld, along with many other heroes and villains whom we'll be reunited with / meet for the first time in Season 5B.
As Once executive producer Eddy Kitsis told TV Line, "I would think that it would be very disappointing for Emma to go down there and not have somebody talk about Neal." Of course, that doesn't mean that Neal's actually there, though given the (potentially spoilerrific) photos Sean Maguire (Robin Hood) has been posting on his Instagram account, it's safe to say that we'll be actually seeing Neal again in some incarnation. Don't get your hopes up for a long return, however — dead is dead (hear that, Hook?), and there's no defeating that.
While I don't necessarily know that bringing Neal back is going to serve any real purpose, I have to admit that taking a trip to the Underworld — where we already know we'll come face to face with the likes of Cora and Peter Pan — without seeing him would seem wrong. He's Henry's father, Rumple's son, and Emma's first love, and that's important. Just how important remains to be seen, but bringing Neal back, even temporarily, is something that's sure to please fans who were sad to see him sent off so quickly.
I guess all that's left to do is wait until March!