I expect this will get quite a bit of criticism, so a disclaimer before I start: it is not my intention to bash Neal. I'm trying not to find reasons which aren't there and if I saying anything untrue, feel free to correct me. Please don't complain if I say things toi just don't like, but if I get something specifically canonically wrong, tell me so.
This post is me trying to articulate exactly why it is I'm not fond of Neal. I'm simply trying to just lay out what it is about him that irks me while being as objective and impartial as I can. Some of this post will overlap with other articles and posts I've already put up, just a word of warning.
First off, the way he handled the breakup with Emma in Tallahassee really turned me off him. Neal had his reasons for what he did but I cannot overlook the extreme negative effects his actions had on Emma. A betrayal is still a betrayal, regardless of intent. He gave her up to the police because of what August a dit to him. August's exact words were She has a destiny. And you... this life? You're going to keep her from it.[...] There's a curse ... and it needs to be broken. Emma, is the key. I was tasked with keeping her on track and you, my friend, just got caught in the crossfire. Now, I'm going to tell toi a story. And, at the end of it, you're going to have to make a decision. Will toi do the right thing ... ou not? So ... are toi ready?"
Having a destiny just means toi are a pawn to either other people ou a higher power and "Emma is the key" just cements this interpretation. She's being manipulated into getting involved with a curse. Neal's history as Baelfire proves how dangerous and terrible magic can be. Neal's "in the way", Neal's "been caught in the crossfire" - all this says to me is that Neal can prevent her involvement in magic. He can stop her being a pawn, a pawn to both her 'destiny' and to August, who "was tasked with keeping her on track". Neal was terrified of his past and of magic and was told he had the ability to save the woman he loved from it. August a dit leaving her was the right thing to do, but with Neal's history it couldn't have seemed that way. He could have met up with Emma, gone to Tallahassee together and, with the money from the watches, started a new and honest life.
Instead he flees his past, leaves Emma at its mercy, and in doing so psychologically damages her. His betrayal and abandonment completely destroys her ability to trust anyone. She spends ten years alone - she doesn't make any friends, she doesn't have any meaningful relationships. She's completely closed off to any sort of meaningful interaction with other human beings. This is in no way healthy and it all boils down to Neal.
So far we have a Neal that loved Emma but was too afraid of magic and his past to protect her from it, despite the fact he had the ability to do so. All he had to do was stay with her, care for her, and go through with the plans they had made for their future together.
Fast vers l'avant, vers l’avant ten years, and he has a fiancée. We see very little of their interactions and nothing of Neal's affection towards her. He is very open with her about his past after quite a bit of urging from Emma and Tamara claims that he is helping her cope with the idea that fairy-tales are real but we never see any of this. There is absolutely no on screen evidence of Neal's l’amour for her, despite the fact he asked her to marry him. Following the path of logic, either they have a very cold relationship ou Neal's feelings for her evaporated as soon as he set eyes on Emma. We have plenty of evidence of Neal's feelings for her.
Long story short, Neal's fiancée turns out to be a little evil and she shoots him in the abdomen and open a portal to send him to another world. secondes after this horrific betrayal, he is able to say "I l’amour you" to his ex, who he spent three days with after a decade long interval. An interval which began because he betrayed her.
Then there's the effect Neal's betrayal of Emma affected Henry. Neal didn't know Henry existed but the boy still grew up without his father. From the three days Henry spent with Neal it was clear that he had been starved for a father figure. If not for Neal's actions, Henry would have been raised in Tallahassee par both his parents instead of par the Evil Queen in a town where nothing changed except him. Going to school, Henry would have made Friends one year, only to leave them behind at the end of the an because he aged and they didn't. If the series wasn't on a channel suitable for children, Henry would have had severe issues from all this. As it is he's in therapy. None of this is Neal's fault, but it's still his responsibility. And to give credit where it is due, he does step up and act the father he should have been all along as soon as he finds out he has a son, putting his entire life on hold and facing his fears to do so.
I'm not entirely happy with this yet so I'll probably éditer it and add things I've forgotten to talk about some other time when it's not so late I can see the sun beginning to rise.Thanks anyway for reading!