Ever since we learned that Neal Cassady/Baelfire (Michael Raymond-James) has a history with Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), fans have been speculating that Rumplestiltskin's son is also Peter Pan, or at the very least a Lost Boy. However, the Once Upon a Time Powers That Be appear to have dashed that theory. So how do Neal and Hook know each other?
Warning: We're about to reference a few spoiler-y clues about the finale. So skip the next paragraph if you're trying to stay spoiler free.
What we know: Hook and Nealfire know each other other. Nealfire went somewhere else before our world, and if he hadn't he'd be over a hundred years old. That suggests he was in Neverland, since obviously that's a location connected to Hook, and people don't age there. This seems to be confirmed by images of Dylan Schmid, a.k.a. Young Baelfire, on set with what appears to be another Lost Boy type. Unless Nealfire is magically de-aged (please, no), that suggests we'll get a young Nealfire flashback, presumably involving Lost Boys.
That all points to the Peter Pan or Lost Boy theory. However, showrunners Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz recently said they've seen a lot of Nealfire theories, and none have been right. Given the popularity of the Peter Pan and Lost Boy theories, we have to assume those are included in the umbrella of theories the showrunners have seen and dismissed.
So, what else could explain the Nealfire mystery? We've come up with a couple of other ideas.
Nealfire was with the pirates. This is our new favorite theory, since it fits all of the clues while also including the kind of twist the OUAT writers love. Maybe instead of being a Lost Boy, young Bae actually worked with Hook and his crew. This would certainly explain his lack of scruples in our world. The one problem with this idea is we have a hard time imagining Bae, who was so repulsed by his father's evil actions, falling in with pirates. However, it's very possible the pirates will turn out to be more morally ambiguous than they are in the original Peter Pan (we're already seeing that with Hook, after all).
He hangs out with a different group. Lost Boys and pirates aren't the only groups in the original Peter Pan story. There are also fairies, mermaids, and Native Americans (who are problematically stereotypical, but could be updated in thoughtful ways). Perhaps Bae ends up aligned with one of these groups. Heck, may he could somehow fill the Tinkerbell role! Crazier things have happened on OUAT.
He went world-hopping. The Blue Fairy claimed to be sending Bae to a "land without magic." Does Neverland really count? Perhaps Bae landed someplace else altogether (maybe Dr. Whale's black and white Victorian science world?), and spent time hopping worlds. He'd still have had to spend a lot of time in Neverland, or someplace else where aging works differently, but maybe he never aligned with any of the classic Peter Pan characters. (We're hoping this one isn't right, though, because world-hopping is supposed to be hard. That's why Jefferson [Sebastian Stan] was important).
Share your theories in the comments below!
Catch the next episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, April 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.