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‘Once Upon a Time’ showrunners explain killing off Neal, Emma’s future love life

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In the most recent episode of “Once Upon a Time,” fans faced the shocking and unexpected death of Neal, Emma’s first love, Henry’s father and Rumplestiltskin’s beloved son Baelfire. In a March 31 post on E! Online, showrunners talked about their decision to kill Neal off and what that means for Emma’s love life going forward.

The death took place when Neal sacrificed his own life to bring his father, Rumplestiltskin, back from the afterlife in order to battle the Wicked Witch and save Henry and the others. As he lay dying in Emma’s arms, he used his last breaths to return the necklace she gave him long ago and asked her to let Henry know he was a good man. He and his father also had a moment to express their love for one another.

That said, there are still a few unanswered questions regarding this scenario. Executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz shared the goods on why Neal is gone for good and what fans can look forward to next.

According to Kitsis, killing off Neal “was part of the larger story we've been trying to tell with all of our characters and the family that is Once Upon a Time.” Horowitz explained it better:

“What we were really telling, when you look at the story of Neal and Emma and his father Rumplestiltskin, is when he was a young boy, he tried to get his dad off magic and out of his evil ways. He always felt his dad was not a hero. And then as we showed you in the winter finale, those two actually came together, and the father actually sacrificed himself for his son. What we liked was the idea of history repeating itself and Neal going down the same path as his father. He was just as obsessive to get to his own family, and then realizing that mistake and having the father repeating the same heroic thing for his son, as his father did for him. That's the long way of saying it.”

The showrunners admitted that it was difficult to keep the upcoming death a secret, knowing that in this day and age fans have the ability to find out all sorts of things if they want to. They were glad it played as a surprise to most and expressed that the decision was difficult because of how much they enjoyed writing for and working with Michael Raymond-James.

As for Emma, they say Neal’s death has made beating the Wicked Witch personal. The stakes are higher for her now and will influence her desire to stay in Storybrooke. Does this leave the door for Hook? Maybe but both of them are embroiled in the battle against the witch so their minds are currently on other things.

“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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