I wish I had been more up on USA’s White Collar return. Two weeks ago, in the mid-season finale, Peter (Tim DeKay) was framed for a crime, and had to get all of his friends to help him clear his good name in an Ocean’s Eleven inspired way. The team included returning guest star Hilarie Burton as Sara. Then, last week, Peter probed Neal (Matthew Bomer) for information on new villain Adler (Andrew McCarthy), and as Neal told his story, we were treated to flashbacks of all the main characters in their younger days. Alas, having just watched both a couple of days ago, it felt too late to review them.
Instead, this week I’m left covering a standard, stand-alone episode. But I can’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. I prefer the episodes that play more to the series’ mythology, but a stand alone is sometimes a better representation of the show as a whole. Plus, last night’s entry, titled “What Happens in Burma”, was a fine representation of where the show currently is and where the growth has occurred, as well as an enjoyable hour.
For most of season one, I got the feeling that Peter Burke never really trusted Neal Caffrey. This feeling continued into the first part of season two, but has been slowly changing from a partnership forged in necessity to something more. Best friends, even. Bromance. Peter’s willingness to help Neal engage in not-quite-legal activities to allow justice to be served shows how deep their friendship has become. And Peter actually trusts Neal, allowing him to go down that road, but not worrying that Neal is turning back to his life of crime. To the same extent, Neal has recently been showing a willingness to go to Peter first, rather than trust his illegitimate instincts. Neal doesn’t cross that line any more unless he has a very good reason.
Similarly, Diana’s (Marsha Thomason) bond with Peter has begun to feel more authentic. Diana was not part of the original cast, but was added as a main character later. It seemed to me that Diana and Peter seemed too chummy too quickly, though it was explained that there was a back story that we the audience hadn’t witnessed. Stepping outside the fourth wall, it felt like a forced way to add a new character. Now, having seen them work together over time, I have begun to like and appreciate Diana, and the role she plays in Peter’s life and job.
Did anyone really feel any suspense when Mozzie (Willie Garson) was shot last fall? I didn’t think for one second that the former Sex and the City pal wasn’t coming back. But I love him on White Collar, so I’m not too upset. I just wish the writers hadn’t made such an obviously false ploy.
Mozzie, like Neal, is starting to trust and befriend Burke, as we saw in the mid-season finale, when Mozzie betrayed Neal for his own good to Burke. Neal later thanked him for the betrayal, and I think that allowed Mozzie to finally feel OK with accepting Peter. Clearly, there were feelings of guilt before the thanks came. I yearn for more Peter – Mozzie scenes, as those two play off of each other very well.
If I could change something, I do wish that the status of two characters in the cast were switched. I like Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), but she sits plenty of episodes out, and when she does appear, she’s rarely relevant, or seen for more than a few moments. I love her friendship with Mozzie, but it doesn’t get that much attention. Why is she a main character? I’d rather her part be beefed up than she be dropped, but right now it feels like a very important spot is being wasted in the lineup.
I say wasted, because Jones (Sharif Atkins) is always around, frequently involved in the action, and has even made a point of recently complaining at being left out of the loop. Jones is still not a main character, despite the fact that he has been in almost every single episode. I was upset when Diana was added, because it felt like Jones was skipped over. I would very much like Jones to get that promotion, as I see some really good potential there, if nothing else, as comedic relief. He isn’t usually used for that, but the prospect is ripe with opportunity.
I watch plenty of USA shows, but the quality just never reaches that of other stations. On a network whose every series has a slight corniness and mediocrity to it, fueled by often similar tones, White Collar is definitely one of the better offerings. It was the first USA show (of three now) to try moving away a bit from the standard USA formula of the last decade. New episodes air Tuesday night at 10 p.m.