Warning: This article contains BIG spoilers for OUAT Season 2, Episode 14: "Manhattan."
UPDATE 2/17: In Season 2, Episode 14: "Manhattan" we learn the truth: Baelfire is Neal, Henry's (Jared Gilmore) father.
Original article below.
If it wasn't obvious in Once Upon a Time Season 1, Season 2 has made it blatantly clear that Rumplestiltskin's (Robert Carlyle) main goal in life is finding his son, Baelfire, who was sucked through a portal into a "land without magic" while attempting to convince Rumple to come with him (because he wanted Rumple to go somewhere where he would no longer be cursed to be the Dark One).
We fully expect Baelfire to show up soon, since Rumple is now going to find him, and he will probably be a major character. What we also suspect is that, as we explain below, he won't just be Bae. Our guess is that he'll plays another part of the story, too.
But who else might he be? There are a couple of common theories that we like.
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He's just Baelfire: Given OUAT's penitent for combining characters (example: Rumplestiltskin is also the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and the crocodile from Peter Pan; Red [Meghan Ory] is also the Big Bad Wolf), we tend to lean towards the assumption that Bae will end up filling another role as well. But that's not necessarily the case. It's possible that he's just plain Bae. After all, between his complicated relationship to Rumple and the fact that he was a child from Fairytale Land thrust into our world by himself, Bae is plenty interesting already.
He's Henry's dad, Neal. In Season 2, Episode 6: “Tallahassee” we met Henry's (Jared Gilmore) father, Neal Cassady. He was presented as a regular human, but some suspect he's actually from another land. Could he be Bae? It's a popular theory. It would certainly make the tangled web of alliances centered around Henry even more complicated if Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin is his grandfather, so it seems very plausible on a storytelling level. Plus, we know Neal does come back soon, which makes the timing work out nicely.
Peter Pan: Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) is a major character now, which leads everyone to wonder: When will Peter Pan show up? Bae being Peter makes some sense, too. After all, he was sent to our world many, many years ago, since Rumple appears to have hung out in Fairytale Land for a long time before finally getting Regina (Lana Parrilla) to cast the curse. However, in Season 1 Rumple thought August (Eion Bailey) was Bae, which means he's expecting Bae to be pretty young — about the age he'd be if the curse transported everyone to Storybrooke at the same time Bae came to our world. We assume that means Rumple created the curse to take him to a time when Bae was still young.
It's very possible that timelines don't match up exactly between the worlds. However, it's also possible that Bae, after finding himself stuck in alone in a world without magic, somehow found his way to Neverland — in Peter Pan, it is possible to travel between our world and Neverland. Then he could have hung out there for years without aging (perhaps waiting for his father, perhaps just wanting to stay in a world with magic), before coming back to our world and maybe getting stuck after the curse. Or maybe the curse even pulled up back to our world.
It would certainly be ironic and interesting if Hook's biggest nemesis in Neverland turned out to be the son of his biggest nemesis in Fairytale Land. On the other hand, we aren't supposed to meet Peter Pan this season, which makes this theory less likely.
He's the writer of Henry's fairy tale book: We still don't know who wrote the book of fairy tales that caused Henry to learn the truth, and that is supposed to be something we learn this season. It could theoretically be Bae — though we should remember that he had already left Fairytale Land before many of the events in the book happened. However, if news of what happened in Fairytale Land somehow reached him and he heard Rumple was still alive, perhaps he wrote the book in an attempt to help his father. Someone who knew the details could have helped him... (We do think this is a less likely theory.)
Or maybe Bae's more than one of these theories combined, or someone else entirely! Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.