Saturday, May 10, 2014

30 Days of OUAT - Day 16: Saddest Moment

Day 16: Saddest Moment

I can't think of a sadder one. Neal Cassidy's death is without doubt the saddest moment in the show's run. For me it probably always will be. It's far more emotional than when Emma is arrested for stealing watches (because Neal left her, and August called in a tip. jerks.), it's more emotional than Snow and Charming letting their daughter go through the wardrobe... the list goes on and on. None of those affected me like the episode Quiet Minds. Ironically, until Quiet Minds, I was pretty indifferent to Neal's story. I liked him as a father, and he had a great set of lines, but as far as feeling sorry for him or anything, nope. He was "the jerk that abandoned" (his words!) Emma (and Henry).

It wasn't the surprise that it should've been - the creators spoiled it weeks in advance "warning" fans that someone was going to die when the show returned from the mid-season hiatus. They gave those of us who are rabid "over-analyzers" tons of time to work it out and figure out who was most likely to go (they gave us a very short list of possibilities). It really came down to either Neal or Belle, and of the two Belle is more popular. She's never betrayed the one she loves. So even before Quiet Minds airred I was 85% sure that it would be Neal. I was just hoping they weren't going to go for the obvious. As much as I was indifferent to the character, there was still ton of potential storyline - and there's the whole father element that I totally buy into no matter who the character is. Be it Nealfire and Rumple or Henry and Nealfire.

If you weren't convinced it was going to be him, the promo for the episode should've definitely tipped you off. It was clearly Neal Cassidy falling to the ground in pain. I played the denial card as I just couldn't believe they would be THAT blatant. And even if you were still holding out hope - by the time the scene with Neal and Hook came around you should have had NO confusion. I'm still not sure that Hook didn't know that it was Neal who warned him about the danger coming and that Emma was needed. It would at least explain why Hook looked SO SAD when he talked with Neal in the hospital. I'm of the belief that Hook knew the entire time what Neal's fate was/would be. If not, then we're seeing Colin in that scene being super bummed that his buddy on the show was leaving (most likely a combination of both scenarios ha ha).

When Hook gave Neal the hug in the hospital I knew without a doubt that Neal was toast. I may have even said some words I shouldn't have. I hate when a show makes it obvious. They should've just been up front about it. "Hey, MRJ fans, he's leaving the show. We're killing him off. Thanks for watching!" Because, really, judging by the blogs and social media posts from that night - Michael has a ton of fans that did not see it coming even with all of the signs. And that's sad. It's also sad that he's not on our TV every Sunday night, he's a fantastic actor and while he's definitely been noticed by the business they never keep him around long (he's chosen for this type of role way too much).

But, I digress.

The Saddest Moment is the scene where Neal dies. He asks Emma to split him from his father to keep the town, and especially Emma & Henry, safe. Neal is able to say goodbye to his father, with the final reconciliation taking place with Neal's last breath. Emma, too, gets a sense of closure with Neal telling her to go and be happy and "find Tallahassee" even if it's without him. Earlier in the episode he tells her he wants her to be happy no matter who she's with, and that he would always love her. Emma begs Neal to hold on, that he needs to see Henry (doing a 180 from when she talked to him in the hospital saying that with Henry not having his memories it would be better if Neal didn't see him). And that is what is most tragic about Neal's death. It was pretty clear that Neal and Emma would not get back together. That there was a love there, but the trust was most likely forever broken... (and I'm not a big swanfire shipper... it's a nice idea, but it wasn't playing out that way.)

The saddest, most tragic thing (aside from no more Mikey Ray on Sunday Nights ha ha) was that Neal couldn't make good on his promise to his son of seeing him again. That Henry is forever without his father - oh, he has father figures in his life, but that's not the same. Yes, Neal was in Henry's life for the equivalent of only a couple of weeks, but they WERE bonding and they did have a connection. And that will most likely play some sort of role into Henry's psyche. There's only so much that Hook and Emma can tell him of who Nealfire was... and who's to say Grandfather Rumple is going to be all that willing to have a relationship with the only thing he has left of Baelfire? Especially since Henry is also supposed to be his undoing. Season 4, I hope, will not erase Neal's memory - and hopefully we get answers.

And, yes, I'm one of those holding out hope that there is a way to bring Neal back. I don't believe that the creators have that option out on the table, but I know there are enough loopholes that it'd be possible if they suddenly wanted/needed to bring it about. At the very least I want flashbacks. Grief can't be so easily overcome, though Emma already grieved for Neal when he "died" at the end of Season 2. Probably the biggest travesty of the writing of Neal's death (the only one from a writer standpoint IMO) is that it happened so soon after the last time he died. This is also why I don't believe Nealfire fans will get their wish of Neal coming back. The man's been dead in one way or another 3 times so far. He comes back and it'll be seen as a poor writing choice. And it won't hold to MRJ's wanting to "tell bold stories".

I've been watching this scene on youtube for the last few days knowing that this prompt was coming up, and I love catching more and more with each viewing. As sad as it makes me (seriously my heart still drops each time, MRJ was flawless. Jen's voice cracking when it did... ugh!) there's just so much that is said through visual cues and nuance. We do truly see both Neal and Baelfire in his final moments, and we do see the love that's shared between "Swanfire". When Emma pleads with Neal, to argue with him about it being too late, he once again goes into the protector mode from all those years ago telling her it is going to be okay. That he'll be watching her and Henry "from somewhere". And you can see that he's not totally okay with it himself, he has his own tears. He's not afraid to die, he's made his peace with that, but he's watching the woman he loves in pain... and he's lost his son without seeing him again to say goodbye.

But, I think Rumple says what all of us Nealfire fans truly feel (then and still)...

"No. I don't want to let you go."

And we won't fully let go. We can't. As much as Neal's plea of "I need you to," is what he wants (and what we need), We can't let go. Because it's too soon. Because it's too raw... because the trio of actors played that scene out far too well (DARN THEM!). So, obviously, I have a ways to go until I'm "over it." I accept it - I don't disagree that it was a bold choice, or even ultimately the "right" way to end the character arc. I may disagree as to when it needed to happen (middle of season 4 would've been much better), but I don't think that it's the death nell of the show.

I am not one of those fans that believes that Neal died just to make it easier for creators to push the "CaptainSwan" shipping. That had been hinted as far back as Season 2, well before they had decided Neal was going to die. I think the deciding factor was their getting the rights to the Wizard or Oz, and Rebecca coming on board to play the Wicked Witch. This question of "why did they kill Neal" was answered in last weeks episode. Rumple needed a reason to betray Belle's trust, and the only person who trumps the love of his life is his son. They needed a catalyst to "kill off" Zelena (I'm not convinced she's dead) and Neal was the only viable option. It sucks, but from a storytelling/writing perspective I see why and where they were going.

As I said earlier, however, the timing was wrong. They just "killed him off" at the end of season two and brought him back in Season 3, only to have him die once again. It was "too soon a killing" (again from a storytelling/writing perspective). That's really the only major fault I can find within their timeline. This episode was one of the best (if not the best) written in the show's history, the pacing was the best they've had in a long time. I know I've said before that Neal's final arc should've been two episodes - and I still believe that - but as quick as it was, the pacing worked. I'm not sure I could handle a two part farewell anyway. Ha ha.

I know people are saying that Neal was very out of character in this episode, but I really don't see it. This is not the first time Neal's willing to get back to Emma and Henry by any means necessary. In the Season 3 opener he's willing to go into his father's castle to find a way to get back - using "blood magic". No, it wasn't dark magic, but he was pretty determined and wasn't completely against the idea. I mean, he ends up using Robin Hood's son as bait to get Pan's shadow to appear!

Secondly, Neal does make rash decisions where family is concerned. Not always, but this IS the guy who sent Emma to prison because Pinocchio told him to (actually Neal didn't know about that until AFTER it happened, but still). This is the guy who watched his father give up his cowardly ways to save his family and sacrifice himself. Neal may not like what the dark magic did to his family, to his father, but at the same time he needed a loophole (much like his fans are now clinging to the hope of a loophole).

Third, the argument that he wouldn't give up on Emma and his relationship so easily - he already was starting to the "year prior" when crap hit the fan with Pan in Storybrooke. Neal even acknowledged in the hospital that he knew he couldn't come barging back into Emma's life. In season 2 it wasn't Neal who sought Emma out or even pursued her. The only time he "fought for" Emma was when it was Hook who was flirting. (Hook, btw, did think that Neal should have the first shot... when Emma blew off Neal that made it fair game.) Ultimately he wants Emma safe and happy - if that means all he is, is the guy who shares custody of their son, that's what he'll be. He's willing to put Emma before himself - which is a 180 in some ways (or at least in Emma's eyes) from what he was 11 years ago when he left her.

Was it an "easy" choice for the creators? Only they truly know. Did they mistreat Michael Raymond-James in some way? I would argue no, but again we will never know. Fans should take the actor at his word - even if what [little] he's said on the subject seems like a lot of "toeing the line". Both sides acknowledge that they discussed and agreed to this ending for Neal. I'm not saying it was the way MRJ wanted it to end, but ultimately he's made his peace with it - and was on board with it. To suggest anything else - at this point - is to suggest he's a liar... and I know his fans don't mean to come off that way (or at least I hope they don't).

Maybe once this season is over and his contract with OUAT is up he can "break radio silence" and answer those questions that folks have. Maybe. But to vilify the shows creators over it seems a little extreme. Remember, without Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis, we would not have Neal Cassidy. Most of us wouldn't have a clue as to who Michael Raymond-James is (okay, unless you were into True Blood... or Terriers - which I am addicted to, and wish it'd made it). I'm not saying they did him favors (he's a bloody gifted actor who deserves a series that won't kill him off after 20 or so episodes), I'm just saying we wouldn't have had this awesome character without them. They've done things right and ultimately Once Upon A Time is still a great show. It's never been perfect, it's never been on par with the "best shows of all time", but it's a great fantasy show. Great twists. So I'm sticking with it - even with the "lovesick pirate".

And, who knows, maybe the "rumors" that MRJ denied are really true and we'll see him finally get his big break. I have hope and can keep dreaming. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment