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In the season two finale of Once Upon a Time, Neal is (nonfatally) shot and falls into a portal, which then closes. When Emma sees her family, she tells them he died. Why does she say this? He was clearly alive when he fell into the portal, and Emma herself made it back to Storybrooke from a portal! It is possible that she wanted to protect Henry from having any false hope, but, again, Emma was able to come back! It seemed pretty obvious that Neal wasn't dead, and at the end of the episode when he is revealed to be alive seems a bit weak.

My question is this: Why does Emma say that Neal is dead?

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Aside from the fact that it's a plot coupon, (not) losing hope is one of the main reoccurring themes (plot devices) of the show. Emma's emotional stability and wherewithal is questioned at just about every point in the entire series.

Why though, you ask? If someone gets shot and falls in a hole to be left for dead, that's a reasonable conclusion. Almost all fatal gunshot wounds are due to blood loss, including head wounds, and not the physical trauma. You can only be classified as nonfatally shot after you stop bleeding. In reality death would've been the more likely outcome. In retrospect, this shows us just how well the writers have suspended our disbelief.

Another reoccurring theme is no one is an island. This scene speaks to Emma's inability to ask for help. She doesn't know where the portal went, she can't save him, so in her mind no one can, thus: he's dead.

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