Is Neal/Bae (Michael Raymond-James) also Peter Pan in the Once Upon a Time universe? It's a question on a lot of fans' minds, and there's plenty of evidence to support the theory. However, when Wetpaint Entertainment caught up with Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin) at the Once Upon a Time Paleyfest panel, he dropped a spoiler-y hint that leaves us unsure what to think.
Read spoilers at your own risk! For more on Wetpaint Entertainment's philosophy on spoilers, click here.
Robert mentioned that the show has been hinting that we'll see Peter Pan soon, and noted that he'd "love" for that to happen. Then he dished this intriguing bit of info: "What I hear through the grapevine is that if that happens it's going to be a kid that plays [Peter Pan]. So it's not going to be an older character. We're thinking about a 12 or 13-year-old to play it. I've never really seen that before and it would be interesting."
That is interesting — not just because it would be cool to see a young kid go up against the grown Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), but because it suggests that Nealfire isn't the same character as Peter Pan ... unless The Powers That Be are talking about casting a young version of the character for flashbacks. But it doesn't sound like that's what Robert meant.
So, why do people think Neal might be Peter Pan? And how does that theory jive — or not — with the spoilers coming out of Paleyfest? We've taken a look at the evidence below.
1. Neal/Bae has been to other lands and knows Hook. In Season 2, Episode 15: "The Queen Is Dead" we learned three key bits of info about Nealfire: He went to other lands before ours (and if he hadn't done so, he'd be several hundred years old), he knows Hook, and he knows how to sail a pirate ship.
This info adds up to a pretty compelling argument for Neal having stayed in Neverland for a while. After all, in Neverland you don't age, and we know Hook spent time there.
2. Suggestive episode titles. The episodes that make up the two-part finale are titled “Second Star to the Right” and “And Straight On ‘Til Morning,” which is an explicit reference to Peter Pan. On top of that, the executive producers confirmed that we will see a new realm this season. The obvious takeaway? We're probably going to see Neverland, and it's probably going to be during the finale.
3. We're not supposed to meet Peter Pan this season. The first major strike against the Nealfire = Peter Pan theory is that the executive producers have said in the past that we won't meet Peter Pan this season. That seems to mean Nealfire can't be Peter Pan after all, unless they just mean we won't find out for sure that Nealfire is Peter Pan.
4. A new character from the new realm. The EPs also dished at Paleyfest that in Season 3 we will meet a new character from the new realm mentioned above. Assuming the new realm is Neverland, that could mean several characters. If Nealfire's not Peter Pan, than we assume the new character in question is Peter. However, it's possible it could be a different notable Peter Pan character, such as Tinkerbell.
Looking at the evidence, we're inclined to think that Nealfire isn't Peter Pan. Instead, we're guessing that Peter is the new character we meet in Season 3, and he will probably be played by a young actor, as Robert Carlyle suggests.
So where does that leave Nealfire? We're still convinced he spent a lot of time in Neverland. Our top theory is that he's one of Peter Pan's Lost Boys. That would tie him in nicely with the Rumplestiltskin/Hook/Peter Pan conflict, while still allowing Peter to be a new character.
What do you think? Is Nealfire Peter Pan, or do you think Peter is a different character?
Reporting by Nicholas White.
Read more OUAT spoilers here.
Catch the next episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, March 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.