I know people can get very defensive towards their ships, but I would just like to know everyones opinion on who they prefer.
I personally prefer SwanFire. I loved their chemistry, and they had so many paralells (magical being in LWM, Lost Boy/Girl, abandoned, met Henry later in life, parental issues, sacrificed themselves for the ones they love). I know people don't like Neal because he left Emma in prison, but it wasn't his choice, since he had to help her get on the right path.
With Hook, again, great chemistry, but I feel like their characters changed way too much for the relationship to work. 90% of Hook's storylines became about Emma, and the relationship ruined the Dark Swan storyline for me (Unsure if they were going for a dark parallel to the Snowing storyline). Don't hate the characters or ship, but I would've preferred SwanFire to be endgame.
I'm fine with both, actually, but I prefer CaptainSwan, as we've seen more of them than SwanFire. But if Neal didn't die, I'd have probably stayed with SwanFire. Both couples have chemistry. I do think that CaptainSwan (kinda) ruined the Dark Swan storyline with the dark one stuff, but I liked their moments in S6 and their epic entrance in S7's finale.
CaptainSwan's wedding is definetely one of the best episodes in the show, and the best in season 6 overall. And I loved how "Revenge is Gonna be Mine" foreshadowed their relationship, with Snow touching her belly when Killian mentions his love (Milah).
Emma's and Neal's relationship had more emotional impact because of Henry and their past together in Tallahassee, the prison, August, etc... but I saw them more as friends than a couple back in S2/3A.
If Neal stayed for the show, I think he could've been one of my favourite characters, and they'd have probably given him a better couple than Emma (BurningBayou?).
While Beal was alive I shipped Swanfire, fairly hard to, buy the moment he died I got over it, it took me a bit but I was shipping CaptainSwan by 322, if Neal’s death hadn’t killed SwanFire I would have stayed with it for longer but I think that whatever one I thought was going to happen would have gotten my support (easy to do that when you binge it, I knew Neal for a month, most of you guys had known him for more than a year when he died).
To be honest, I hate Swanfire and Neal and I have never loved a fictional couple as much as I love Captain Swan. I really don't get why SF shippers say Neal didn't have a choice when he let Emma go to jail for his crime because in actuality, he did. Neal knew that Emma was an orphan and that she had abandonment issues, but when August, someone he'd just met, confronted him about his relationship with her, he decided to not only abandon her, but let August set her up for his crimes. Both of them decided that going to jail was what was "best" for her and she didn't get a say. Emma has never had any choices in her life and now the person she's in love with up and leaves her in jail.
I would argue that her time in jail was detrimental to her becoming the savior because it broke the trust she had in people and left her emotionally scarred. Not to mention the fact that she was pregnant. Neal didn't know about the pregnancy, but from Emma's point of view, it doesn't really matter if he knew or not. To her, she was abandoned in the worst way possible and that fact that she's pregnant makes the horrible situation she's in so much worse. And when she got out, she went to Tallahasse for two years and looked for him, hoping he would show up, that he still cared about her. But he didn't and when she ran into him years later, he treated her like crap, brushing off her confronting him about what he did to her saying "we're all a little messed up" in a condesending tone, being dismissive of her feelings in general, trying to control the situation (suggesting they go to a bar and talk and heading to one even after Emma said they were going to do this here), and being an all around jerk in my opinion. And then in her Echo Cave confession, Emma pretty much said rekindling their relationship was not an option because he had hurt her too much. And what did he go and do? Continue to pursue her even when she made it clear she didn't want him to.
Now as for Captain Swan, they are, in my opinion, perfect for each other. The main driving force of Killian's character is that he's motivated by love (he became a pirate to avenge Liam's death, he stayed alive for centuries trying to avenge Milah's death, when Emma came into his life she became his "most important thing") and for someone like Emma whose has been unloved for almost her entire life, he is the perfect partner for her. Emma deserved to have her true love be completely dedicated to her because she's never had that before. Season 3 onwards, Killian becomes all about her, which people who don't like CS tend to think wasn't good for his character, but he became completely dedicated to her because she gave him hope, something he hadn't felt since Milah's death. There's also the fact that they're kindred spirits and are 100% supportive of one another. They built each other up and helped each other become the best versions of themselves. And every single piece of their story is amazing. Once Upon a Time is Emma Swan's fairytale and like any fairytale, she deserved a love story worthy of her character and she got that in a way I couldn't be happier with.
TL,DR: Neal was bad for Emma and CS are perfect for one another.
I mean.... there's no guessing what my choice is....
But real talk, I feel like Killian is simply put, the better partner for Emma. Some of the things Neal does/says to her are a bit *bleugh* for me, but Killian is the inverse. He is patient with her, bolsters her, respects her, is her partner. I think Neal was the one who (mainly, there were others) broke Emma, Killian was a big part in helping her put herself back together (note: he didn't fix her, he just gave her the tools and helped her fix herself, and that's what makes CS magic for me).
Also, just a counter point, I think it's good that Killian changed when he got with Emma. If you preferred him as a villain, cool cool cool, but like... Character development isn't necessarily bad. If he had got with Emma while he was in s2 mode that would have been alarm bell territory.
I'm no shipper to anyone, but if I choose, I'd would pick Swanfire for perfect reasons. Neal and Emma are Henry's real parents and they both had alot more in common. I didn't pick the other ship becuase it was not perfect, because for an important part, Hook murdered a part of Emma's family, Robert, Charming's father (the real hero). No one likes to watch the hero marry the evil assassin. Wouldn't work, and it may not last in the futre. It may not happen now, but sooner or later, even in a possible revival, that bad ship might get retconned and the story of Robert's murder would get resolved. That's the way most stories like that end. Also, Hook hardly changed at all, he still keeps lying like all villains, he keeps reverting, he is to hard and impatiant to others, etc, and he hasn't shown remorse for the murder of Merlin. And he knows how to try to come between a boys parents. Only his counterpart Nook has changed for the better. These explanations are not based off hate, but based of fact and what was seen. Neal on the other hand, has done more heroic acts like saving Wendy more than once, and is not very fond of evil doing evil deeds.
Most probably know that I dislike ships (at least, within this show). I think ships evolved to be more about idealized representations than what’s actually being written.
If you want my thoughts overall and not a long essay: Neal- Emma was stronger if the show ended earlier, Hook- Emma was stronger at the show’s end. However, the show changed over the course of time and thus what fit what changed as well.
Disclaimer: I’m going to skip over the writers’ worldbuilding and lack of math skills and possible internal logic and even move beyond the fact that I didn’t particularly like either male character.
I think both were good for different parts of the show. In the first three seasons in which the show was more muted (though some aspect generic), Neal and Emma represented something real and the show was all about fairytale meets reality. There was complex dynamics that got explored (Though for some, just superficially). When the show became more overt and “lively”, Hook and Emma thrives without comparison.
It all comes down to personal taste in that regard. Neal and Emma fit the muted, real tone and Hook and Emma bloomed in the campy, colorful tone. I like a more down to earth tone and thus Neal and Emma would seem to be more of my preference, but Hook and Emma had the underpinnings...but the writers chose “Secrets and Lies” plus their “bad boy formula” three times over.
This is where fandom diverts from writing in some aspect. In “Once Upon a Hook” aka season 5B, certain fans saw “Hook is finally getting the spotlight he deserves as main love interest” and others saw “Hook is hogging all the spotlight” and I think both were just wrong despite kernels of truth to both. Hook was elevated in level as he should as main Love interest and he did get more spotlight....but it was shallow and superficial and thus didn’t really get anything. A season half that could delve into his psyche was reduce to one episode, forgotten about like some episodic filler and they simply toss him around for the plot and falls into the “Love Interest must permanently die...not Hook” trap of season 3 and 5.
To give some balance, though less to write, Neal and Emma was just something that was near completion and doesnt match the fortitude of random writing cycles that Hook and Emma has. Neal and Emma is slowburn, but also less fun, too ingrained with the overall narrative (at the time) to be rocked with less stellear writing. It wasn’t something campy and one off that could thrive in campier tones and sporadic development.
So...each were good for what was the tone at the time. It’s all a matter of preference of tone and the depth of character development/narrative relevance.
Just a few points: Your points sound more like a defense.
1. You cannot say Nook changed and Hook didn't. OG Hook has done way more to redeem himself than Nook ever did. If you think he has not changed, please rewatch the show, you missed key details. His only real reversion was the DO. We'll I didn't miss details. I watched it more than once. Many have. His other reversions is continuing on lying to others for personal things. He showed too much impatiance to others in a rushy selfish way. He reverted in 6x20 towards Rumple when darting him in his shop saying he would skin himself a crocodile (even though we don't see more of it). He continues lying to people like he did in s7 on Henry, much to Regina's displeasement. He's left still lying to everyone about Ariel, when he never helped her find Eric, but betrayed her, and that the Ariel he met in Storybrooke was not her, but Zelena. Still left lying about it, just like how Regina still left lying about Graham's murder. Throughout David's life, Hook left him under a lie about his dad, until in s6, when he found out who David's dad is, he does it again, before Emma found out and told her dad what really happened herself (even though she hinted she would iie to him too). Which shows he hasn't fully changed on that. Yes, he may have changed in some ways, but not completely. You missed some key details here. And what you said about wish hook did not make it true actually. We saw him evolve more and did things that Hook didn't fully. There many things different between them too. Like how his friendship with Wish Ariel, which seemed better than what their counterparts started. Alot of difference between two counterparts. Even though Hook gave up his ship in s3, he gets it back in s4, and kept it ever since. But Nook on the other hand, gave his up completely. We all saw it. Which proves Nook does better.
2. You can't sat "villains lie, Hook lied once, ergo he is a villain". By this logic, every person on this show is a villain. By logic, not everyone.
3. Hook has shown remorse for all the things he did as the DO, including killing Merlin ("If anyone deserves to go to the UW it's me").There was no mention of Merlin actually, despite his remorse.
4. This is a fairytale show where Snow is bffs with the woman who killed her father and tortured her. might not work IRL, but suspension of disbelief applies here. We know he has changed enough not to revert. I've already been well aware of it being a fairytale show already. We all know that. And he already did revert more than once. Reverting does not necessarily 'turning evil again and again, it can refer to more than that. Remember Emma in s1? Cursed Snow said to Emma, in 1x21, that she was reverting. So reverting does not mean going evil again. Cause throughout the seasons, we seen many people revert in their own way more than once, whether it's going evil again or not. Rumple, Emma, Regina, Hook, Zelena, etc for example. We know that no matter how hard they try to change, they revert again, and again, and again.'
Don't misinterpret this as an argument, it's just a bit of friendly details.