[Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday's episode of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!]
Once Upon a Time said farewell to yet another character on Sunday night after the Wicked Witch of the West claimed her first victim.
Desperate to resurrect his father, Neal (Michael Raymond-James) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) enlisted the help of Lumiere (Henri Lubatti), who — under orders from Zelena (Rebecca Mader) — pointed them to the Dark Lord's vault without first revealing that in order to bring Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) back to life, whoever opened the vault would take his place in death. Unfortunately, that person was Neal — but is he really gone for good? TVGuide.com caught up with executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis to get the scoop:
Is Neal really dead?
Adam Horowitz: He is really dead. The decision was one that was not made lightly. Eddy and I, as we've been developing the larger story of Once beyond each individual episode, saw where it was going. Earlier this year, when we realized this is the time that Neal would die, we talked to Michael Raymond-James. We all discussed how to best do this. We did our best. We thought that Michael was brilliantly emotional and amazing on Sunday night as we brought that character's life to an end.
Is there a chance that we could see him more in flashbacks since there are still decades of his life we still haven't seen?
Edward Kitsis: I would be so disappointed if we didn't. It was not an easy decision to make because we love Michael and we love writing him and watching him bring that character to life. For us, it was the evolution of his character. What we loved was this idea that we watched his father sacrifice himself for him after years of setting a bad example. He set a good example, and they made peace. So, when Neal found himself following a similar pursuit of obsessiveness to get back, he realizes the price he made and was willing to sacrifice himself for his family because he's a hero and wanted to set that example for Henry (Jared Gilmore). And we wanted him to help everyone out the only way he could.
How will Emma be dealing with the loss of Neal? Is she more determined than ever to kill Zelena, and might that cause her to cross some lines?
Kitsis: Emma is absolutely determined. The Wicked Witch killed somebody who means a lot to Emma and also [to] his father, who I'd be worried about.
A portion of the fandom rooting for Emma and Neal will be crushed. Another portion will see this as good news for Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) and Emma. Are you putting her love life on hold during this mourning period?
Horowitz: Emma's love life is only one facet of who she is. Right now, there's a lot of really pressing things to deal with, which is the fact that someone very close to her has just died. Her son is also in a precarious position and everyone she loves is in danger.
Kitsis: If you look at the season, Emma, as a character, always has her wall up. She's very resistant because Neal hurt her before she knew the truth. Henry was the only one she ever really let in. What you're seeing is Emma and Regina (Lana Parrilla) are very similar in a sense that they both reject love for fear of being hurt. Is Emma concentrated on her love life? No, I don't think she ever is. It happens like the thing in New York happened, but even that turned on her. Her natural inclination is she's skeptical about love even though maybe deep down she wants it. I don't think she's thinking about it now. Just like in Neverland, when she said, "I choose me."
Speaking of Regina, was her showing up at Robin Hood's (Sean Maguire) camp an indication that she's opening herself up to love?
Kitsis: It certainly looks like it. She might just be one mixed tape away.
It's only a matter of time before Henry gets his memories back. How upset will he be not only to learn that his father is dead, but also that everyone was lying to him?
Kitsis: If that happens, Henry will understand that his memories were like everyone else's. There is no way to bring them back or else they would do it. While he will feel sad about Neal, he will understand that his father sacrificed himself for everyone, so it'll be bittersweet. He'll understand that his dad was a hero, but he will, like all people when you lose someone you love, mourn him.
Horowitz: It's a sad thing, but it's coming full circle for Henry. In Season 1, Emma told Henry that his father died a hero, and it was a lie. Now, in Season 3, she gets to tell him again, and it's the truth.
Are you sad that Neal is really gone? Hit the comments and check back for more scoop from Horowitz and Kitsis in this week's Mega Buzz!
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.