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White Collar leaves the air for good on a disappointing note.

TV Review: ‘White Collar’ – ‘Au Revoir’ (Series Finale)

wcTo me, White Collar represents a turning point for USA. It straddles the line between light-hearted procedural, which is the old style of show USA used to make a la Monk and Psych, and the character-driven, higher-concept stuff currently ruling the network, like Suits and Graceland. I almost gave up on it in its early days, but was hooked just enough to give it a chance to grow, and was rewarded for my effort. The sixth and final season, which consisted of a mere six episodes, ended this week with “Au Revoir” and, unfortunately, White Collar did not sprint through to the end.

In the past, the show has developed some really cool arcs, such as pitting Neal (Matt Bomer) against Peter (Tim DeKay) as the former considered returning to his criminal lifestyle. In the final year, the show returns to case-of-the week installments, mostly, with the final story, which spanned a few episodes, feeling like a longer version of the same. Neal and Peter go undercover to take down what is supposed to be one of the best illegal groups of all time, the Pink Panthers, but instead of this being a huge capper to their career together, the case unfolds the same as always and the good guys win as easily as ever.

There are signs that White Collar could go in a better direction. Long-time foe Keller (Ross McCall) gets involved. Instead of seeing Neal and Peter wrestle with what he’s done to them in the past, though, his part is glossed over and he’s just someone they work with. Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) worries about Peter staying in the field now that they are expecting a baby, leading one to believe a major life decision will be made. But instead, Peter just jumps into danger as willingly as ever, and there’s never even a chance for Neal to save him, as I expected to happen.

As “Au Revoir” draws to a close, the script gets really messy. Neal faking his own death, I sort of get, especially because he does let Peter know he’s OK. But Neal built a family here, so why would he abandon them? Why does White Collar hint Neal may have (or may not have) gone back to being a criminal without letting us know if his growth has paid off? Why doesn’t Peter try to arrest Mozzie (Willie Garson), whom he knows stole money? There is a bond of mutual respect between Neal, Peter, and Mozzie that allows them to work together, but Peter would never sit idly by and let the other two get away with anything as he appears to do here, nor would Neal be so heartless as to abandon everyone he cares about and wait an entire year to clue them in.

It’s just not good storytelling. One expects a show, in its final episode, to give some sort of pay-off to what’s come before it. Tiny bits of the epilogue do this for some of the supporting characters, but not in any way that matters so much. The core players, though, aren’t well served at all. Instead, they appear inconsistent and shy away from the personalities they’ve developed. Though I do admit that DeKay and Garson do get some juicy emotional bits to prove their range.

I mention supporting players, and “Au Revoir” does make time for Jones (Sharif Atkins), Diana (Marsha Thomason), and June (Diahann Carroll), as it should. Unfortunately, June’s role is basically a cameo, and the other two get happy endings without being shown to do anything special at the end to earn them, made even less satisfying by the time jump.

White Collar was very good at times. Sadly, its finale was not one of them. It will be missed, but if this is the direction the show was heading in anyway, I’m glad it’s gone before it completely tarnishes what it did when it was at its best.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome is the creator and writer of It's All Been Done Radio Hour, a modern scripted live comedy show and podcast in the style of old-timey radio serials, and the founder of the Columbus-based entertainment network, IABDPresents. He is also the Chief Television Critic for Seat42F.com and a long-time contributor for Blogcritics. Plus, he works fiction into his space time. Visit http://iabdpresents.com for more of his work.

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9 comments

  1. It was brilliant. The best ending. I was scared that they had killed off Neal so I was so glad to see a glimpse of him in Paris at the end,

  2. Safe to say this wasn’t the direction the show was heading. The previous season shows us that. The fact is we all got screwed by having to cram everything into 6 hours instead of another 1 or 2 proper seasons.

  3. You took the words right out of my mouth with this!!!! It’s exactly what I had been thinking ever since Thursday night! I am not happy with the ending at all:
    Don’t you think “Neal” is back to where it all started – just
    as though the past years never happened? So much has happened during
    those years, such as working for the FBI and
    seeing the good he could do, his friendship with Peter, Kate’s death,
    Sarah leaving, Neal telling Peter (earlier in the series) twice he’d be
    happy continuing to work for the FBI later on, and not to forget Neal’s
    “wonderful” father… And now it’s as though nothing of all this has had
    any influence on his personality, and he is back to being the lonely criminal
    again, just as he was all those years ago when we started watching the show? I find that very
    unconvincing, especially with all those big words by Jeff Eastin about
    character development. Where’s that development now? We are were we
    started, so to speak. Not satisfying at all.

  4. @Heike et al, really? The newspaper Neal left had a large headline something akin to “Louvre Makes Dramatic Security Improvements” meaning Neal is using his talents for good. That’s why Peter smirks with approval.

  5. @Russell: Dream on! Eastin gave an interview about – among other things – what he envisioned for Neal’s future, and Eastin said, that Neal was definitely planning a new heist in Paris; at the Louvre.

  6. @Beth: His character cared about people before – think Mozzie, and think Kate. And I haven’t forgotten about the Panthers allegedly killing everybody around a traitor – but he could’ve opted out of the deal once he got to know about this, could he? Yet he decided he wanted his freedom no matter what it takes – and what it took was leaving everything and everybody (except Mozzie, according to Eastin) behind and returning to exactly the same lifestyle as when the show started. I am sorry but for me, I can’t see this as a realistic ending: after all he’s been through, together with the entire cast of the show, he is content to be back where he started? Really? Like Peter Pan, never wanting to grow up?

  7. Agree with @Heike here, Neal had 2 options, serve around 2 years or less under FBI then get his freedom, or inflitrate Panthers and get immediate freedom. The 1st option was time taking but would have ensured a safe, peaceful life in NY with his friends, 2nd option made him flee his favorite city and everyone (hopefully mozie will join him) like forever.
    The smart Neal is he should have chosen the 1st option. But it looks like in the end the producers wanted the CONMAN in Neal to be more prominent than the NY loving Neal.
    We loved all the CONS of Neal but we also liked his development towards a honest living, somehow i thought Neal will return to normal life. But as the producer said, he was born bad.
    personally I don’t like him going back to the CON business

  8. I know this is a but after the fact, but I just finished watching the final episode on Netflix. I have to say the final season, and the finale in particular did nothing for me. I feel the way the series was wrapped up was way to cliche-ish for me. Naming the baby Neal–really? Just felt choppy and incomplete.

  9. I am surprised people wanted Neil to develop into a ‘good’ character. There is nothing inherently morally good about obeying the rules of the system. In a show about cons, I find it extremely ironic that people want the main character to shy away from being a CON when the entire focus of the show is cons/heists!

    The perfect ending is Neil returning to a life of classy thievery, as in the fashion of a good caper movie. You cannot have the character devolve into a lesser form by being just like everyone else and not committing the greatest art heists of all time. Might as well not even have a show.