It was co-written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, while being directed by Dean White.
The skyline of New York City is featured in the forest.
In the Characters' Pasts
In the village, Rumplestiltskin runs in to tell Milah that his weaving days are over and shows off a letter that he is going to the front lines of the Ogre wars. However, Milah tries to convince him not to because she thinks it is too dangerous, but he says it is the chance he has been waiting for his entire life, to prove he's not like his father who was a coward. Milah, despite her concerns about his decision, allows him to go and says that when he returns they can start a family. As Rumplestiltskin walks into camp to begin his duties, a soldier tells him to guard a crate with his life, saying it's something that can turn the tide against the enemies. After hearing a person calling out his name, Rumplestiltskin uncovers a cage to see a child, who happens to be a Seer who was thirsty and wanted a drink of water. She tells him that she is a seer and she can predict his future, including the fact that Milah and he will have a child, but his actions would leave his child fatherless. She says when he sees the cows he will know she speaks the truth. Rumple calls her a liar and covers her with the cover again. Hours later, as Rumplestiltskin is watching the wounded from the front lines being brought to the camp, a soldier says that they are lucky but Rumplestiltskin says that they would beg to differ. The man says that the only way people get sent home is if they are wounded and can't fight, hence they are lucky because they won't be killed by the Ogres. When another soldier announces that the duke said they will be riding into battle instead of marching, he tells everyone to grab a "cow" (a saddle made of cow leather), which horrifies Rumple as he realizes the Seer's predictions are coming true. When he goes to the witch's crate, now that he believes her, he removes the sheet to find the cage empty. He then sees a hammer and cripples himself with it by hitting his foot, leaving him wounded.
Rumplestiltskin later goes home, where Milah cradles their newborn son, Baelfire. Unfortunately, another prediction that the Seer mentioned would come true when Milah tells him that Baelfire will live in shame of being Rumplestiltskin's son. She also becomes extremely upset upon learning that Rumplestiltskin injured himself so he could see his son. Despite his story about the seer, a disbelieving Milah tells Rumplestiltskin that he is just like his father, a coward. He angrily says he's nothing like his father as he tried to abandon him and that he'll never do the same to Baelfire. He explains he injured himself so Baelfire wouldn't grow up fatherless like he did. However, Milah tells him that he should have fought and died in the war, as he's now sentenced Baelfire to be the son of a coward. She then leaves the baby with him and angrily storms out, foreshadowing their deteriorating marriage and her eventual fate. Rumplestilskin promises the baby he'll never leave him.
Years later, Rumplestiltskin (now the Dark One) walks into a clearing as the Seer (Shannon Lucio) appears to say that she's been expecting him as everything she's told him has come to pass. Rumple explains he deserted the Ogres Wars, causing him to be known as a coward and left by Milah. Then, he became the Dark One when his son was at risk of being called to the war, soon becoming separated from him. As such, Baelfire did grow up fatherless.
He accuses her of leaving out details, but she says knowing would have done nothing and he was powerless to escape the fate even knowing. He states she is powerless to escape hers as well when he chokes. Knowing what he wants, she uses the eyes on her hands to tell him how to find Baelfire, as Rumple tells her not to leave out a single detail this time. The Seer says it will take many years, require a curse, and it would take everything from the Enchanted Forest, but he will neither cast nor break the curse, and that someone else will. Rumple says that information is not good enough and chokes her, but the Seer says there is one way to see who it is and offers her powers, so he places his hands on her future seeing eyes that are on her hands, but he can't see anything, saying it's too much. He states she tricked her to free her torment. The woman explains the future is similar to a puzzle with many pieces and that in time he will sort them out, she tells him she gave him the power so that she wouldn't be burdened by it anymore. Dying, the grateful Seer tells him that, in an unexpected way, he will be reunited with his son because the person that will lead him to Baelfire in the future will be an extraordinary young boy who will also be Rumplestiltskin's undoing. After she dies, Rumplestiltskin, now knowing about what will happen next, says, "Then I'll just have to kill him."
In New York City, Emma, Henry, and Mr. Gold enter an apartment building, hoping it will lead them to Baelfire. When Emma notices a mailbox with no name on it, she presses the buzzer and tells the person that she has a delivery from UPS. Emma guessed right; she hears someone trying to use the fire escape. Since Gold cannot run because he has a cane and his powers are of no use outside Storybrooke, he says that Emma needs to fulfill the favor by getting Bae to talk to him, so she runs after the person by chasing him through the streets and into alleys, where she uses a shortcut and eventually tackles him. He gets up and she looks at his face and in a shocked expression utters, "No. Neal?" Emma discovers that Baelfire is none other than her former lover, Neal Cassidy.
As the two get up, Emma starts yelling at the shocked Neal for playing her and believing Gold has as well. Neal is horrified to learn his father is waiting for him and then starts yelling until Emma says she is the only one allowed to be angry. The two then go to a bar, where Emma asks Neal if he knew she was the savior or was just using her to take the fall for his crime. He says he didn't know her story until August Booth approached him when he went to sell the stolen watches and showed him something (August showed Neal a typewriter with the words "I know you're Baelfire" written on a page). Emma is angry he let her go to prison on orders of Pinocchio and confused as to how they could have met because it seemed to be a big coincidence. Neal says that maybe fate brought them together and maybe something good came from it. However, Emma lies and says that nothing good came from it and that she is over him, but Neal points out that Emma is wearing the keychain he got her on a necklace, which she responds that it's a reminder to never trust anyone and gives it back. Emma then tells him that she is going to reunite him with Gold as part of a deal with, but Neal refuses and tells Emma to just lie to his father.
Emma later makes a call to Mary Margaret on the phone and tells her mother about Neal being Gold's son and Henry's father. Mary Margaret tells Emma that Henry deserves to know the truth, but Emma, having lied to Henry that his father was a fireman who died in a fire, says she shouldn't do that because she doesn't Henry getting hurt. Mary Margaret then questions her motives about whether she is doing it for Henry, or herself. Mary Margaret then tells David about the shocking revelation of Rumplestiltskin being Henry's paternal grandfather. They discuss more of their complicated family tree, in which Regina is both Henry's maternal step-great-grandmother and his adoptive mother. David, dismayed he and Gold share the same grandson and overwhelmed by the complexity, states it's good Thanksgiving isn't in the Enchanted Forest as "that dinner would suck". But his wife believes it mellow the villains out.
While Emma and Neal were having their reunion, Henry and Gold, unaware of the their heritage, are talking about whether Gold is afraid that his son will not want to see him. Henry tells him that he forgives Emma for letting him go, so Baelfire would have as well. As Gold is doubtful as they were separated differently, Henry asks him why he doesn't look into the future. Gold says that looking into the future is complicated and that to do it is terrible, like a curse. Emma walks in and lies to Gold that his son escaped. Gold isn't one to give up, so he breaks into Neal's apartment, hoping to find evidence to his identity, and refuses to listen to Emma's reasoning. When Gold succeeds, Emma sees the dreamcatcher she and Neal had shared and takes it down to look at it. Her interest in the object stirs Gold's suspicion and demands to know what she is hiding. After Emma asks Henry to go to the bathroom, Gold knows Emma is holding out when she tries to lie and say she doesn't know Bae. Rumplestiltskin yells at her, saying she will tell him or he will make her, leading him to break things and threatens Emma by reminding her that "No one breaks deals with me!". Before things can get ugly, Neal bursts in to defend Emma.
Neal remembered what his father does to people who break his deals and refuses to talk to Gold, who then realizes Emma and Baelfire know each other. Henry comes in, asking what is wrong. A nervous Emma briefly explains that Henry is her son before hurriedly trying to escort him away from a confused Neal, who repeatedly asks Henry how old he is and gets a reply he is eleven. After Neal realizes Henry is his son, the boy becomes upset that Emma lied to him about his father after she admits it, prompting him to run onto the fire escape. Emma runs after him while a stunned Neal then agrees to give Gold three minutes so they can talk. When Emma catches up with Henry, he asks Emma why she lied to him as he could have taken it. Emma says she knows but didn't want to remember because she was thinking of herself, not him. Henry says his biological mother is just like his adoptive one, because she always lied to him too, and requests to meet his father.
Gold tells Neal that he wants to make up for his mistakes, saying regret is the biggest sadness of life. Neal tells Gold how abandonment is and asks how he intends to make up for the lost time. Gold then offers Neal a chance to come to Storybrooke because there is magic there and he can turn the clock back and make Neal fourteen again so they could start over, but he refuses, saying that won't fix it, despite Gold telling him that he came to the city without magic. Neal says that every night for many years he would dream about his father letting him go in the pit and now Neal says it's his turn to let go. Moving on to another issue, Neal mildly admonishes Emma for not telling him about their son. She relents that Neal deserves to be involved in Henry's life and lets him talk to him. He is warned not to hurt his feelings, but assures he won't hurt his son like his father had to him (or how he did to Emma). Henry says it's okay that they didn't meet sooner as Neal didn't know. As Emma and Gold, both crestfallen, see their sons talking, Gold realizes this is the fate told to him back in the Enchanted Forest. The boy who will be his undoing is Henry, but also his own grandson.
Having learned that Henry had left town with Emma and Gold, Cora consoles Regina in the mayor's house, while Captain Hook overhears the conversation. Hook says that because Gold left town he was powerless and could be killed. Cora tells Hook that if either she or Regina left town, they would lose their magic, but Regina informs him that like Emma and Henry, they are immune from the curse and can retain their memories, meaning they can leave Storybrooke. Cora says that with Gold gone, they could search for the one magical item that could kill him, the dagger. Later that day, Regina goes to see Belle in the hospital and asks her if she can help her find something that belongs to Rumplestiltskin, but after Belle says she doesn't know him, Regina uses a spell to make Belle fall asleep, then uses magic to take a paper out of Belle's bag that has a note containing the numbers to a book in the library. Moments after she retrieves the note, Greg Mendell makes a call to "Her" and sends a video that he downloaded of what Regina did, and says that he is sticking around Storybrooke a while longer.
Cora, Hook, and Regina are looking for the dagger in the library, thinking Gold would have left the dagger with Belle. They discover a map instead which Hook says he could use to find the dagger, but after pinpointing the exact location, Hook learns that Cora plans to betray him, so he tries to object, but Cora uses her magic to knocks Hook out by thrusting him into a wall. Regina then learns from Cora that if they have the dagger, they control The Dark One and they can force him to kill David, Mary Margaret, and Emma, which would make them all the family Henry had left
- Baelfire is also Neal, Henry's father, thus making Gold his paternal grandfather (and Milah his paternal grandfather
- Rumple's reputation and leg injury are explained
- Cora and Regina intend to control Gold, so they can reclaim Henry back into their family
"Manhattan" was co-written by series co-creators/executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis and directed by The Shield veteran Dean White.
This episode marks a promotion for previously recurring guest star Colin O'Donoghue (Captain Hook) to series regular.
- The scene in which Regina uses her magic to open Belle's purse echoes that of a scene from The Sword in the Stone.
- The number on the address box to Baelfire/Neal Cassidy's apartment, 407, is a reference to the 407 area code, which happens to be in the Orlando, Florida area, where Walt Disney World is located.