White Collar: Withdrawl

Bad news first: At no point in the White Collar season premiere does Neal wander around shirtless. Nor does he get captured and tied up and/or roughed up by miscreants. There are certain reasons why viewers turn to White Collar, and the expected weekly dose of Nealsploitation ranks high among those reasons.

So that’s disappointing.

More bad news: This is a thoroughly okayish kind of episode, but nothing more. Really, for a season premiere, it’s a bit underwhelming. Still, Neal is his usual beautiful and irrepressible self, and Peter is his usual gruff yet sympathetic self, and they still have that same fun chemistry and snappy banter that made the first season so satisfying, so how bad can things be? Mozzie, Elizabeth, June and Jones are all back, and Marsha Thomason even returns as Peter’s smart and savvy subordinate Diana; it’s good to see them all.

It’s been two months since the plane explosion that killed Kate. After a brief return to prison, Neal goes back to working with Peter as an FBI consultant. Ah, the idyllic world of White Collar, where Neal’s biggest complaint about prison life is the inadequate coffee.

Peter and Neal investigate a series of bank heists pulled off by a criminal calling himself “The Architect,” who leaves personalized business cards at the scenes of his crimes. I’m a little confused as to how the FBI could possibly lump armed robbery into the category of white-collar crime, but let’s go with it. From the distinctive Cyrillic “A” on the Architect’s card, Neal figures the culprit is a fan of Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky. From there, Neal unravels the identity of the Architect: art buff and wealthy businessman Edwin Walker. Walker is played by Tim “Otter” Matheson, who: a) also directed this episode, and b) also directed the premiere of USA’s splashy new series Covert Affairs, which immediately followed. So Matheson pretty much owned Tuesday night on USA.

Neal and Peter visit Walker at his personal putting green, which is located on the rooftop terrace of a Manhattan skyscraper. This is a negligent homicide charge waiting to happen. Walker is smarmy and arrogant, and they get nowhere with him. Also, Walker pokes fun at Neal’s golf ability and the electronic monitoring device on his ankle, so Neal swears to take him down.

Meanwhile, in a side plot, Peter and Mozzie keep skulking around and having clandestine meetings to exchange worried observations about Neal’s mental state following Kate’s murder. They’re both fretting up a storm about this, but honestly, Neal seems fairly hale and chipper about the whole ghastly business.

Oh, also, Elizabeth only makes one brief appearance (possibly owing to Tiffani Thiessen’s late stage of pregnancy during filming), in which she and Peter chat about Neal over lunch at Rockefeller Center, or at least a reasonable green-screen facsimile. I could be wrong -- White Collar films in New York, so there’s no reason they couldn’t have used the real location, but it struck me as strangely flat and artificial. Here’s hoping they increase Elizabeth’s presence in the rest of the season -- she’s a necessary and welcome component of the show.

Acting on his own, Neal orchestrates an allegedly accidental meeting with Walker’s attractive assistant. While Neal plies her with glasses of wine, Mozzie steals her phone and copies her schedule. Granted, Neal is just shamelessly exploiting this poor lady, but there are worse ways to kill an afternoon than hanging out in a posh wine bar while flirting with lovely Neal. After Mozzie successfully swipes her information, Neal gets rid of her by cheerfully telling her the truth about his criminal history. “You’re the first girl I’ve had a drink with since I got out of prison,” he chirps. She beats a hasty retreat.

Peter and Neal find a suspicious bank appointment on Walker’s schedule. They stake out the bank… you know what? I’m just not feeling this plot. I’ve been making glacially slow progress writing this recap, just because this episode really didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t bad -- it was just familiar, and more than a little dull. It’s the season premiere! I wanted more from the season premiere. Anyway, here’s the greatly condensed version of the plot: It turns out Walker is one step ahead of Peter and Neal. There’s another bank heist, and Walker gets away with the money, but Neal and Peter track down his accomplice and eventually manage to bring Walker to justice, the end.

And in another side plot, Mozzie tells Neal that the music box that Kate spent most of last season pursuing has been replaced by a counterfeit. And it turns out that Diana, of all people, is currently in possession of the original. I don’t know what that means, and honestly, I’m not all that interested. At this late stage, the whole music box plotline seems very last season.

So that was the premiere of White Collar. Not a disaster, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Let’s hope the rest of the season perks up a bit.

Comments

obscureviews said…
I think Matt Bomer did a good job playing 'traumatized', in the beginning of the episode. He looked about to cry in the prison scene, for example. I like that kind of stuff, so I'm a bit annoyed that in the end, we did not see Neal struggle as much as we were told that he was struggling.
Peter had, what, five scenes with two different people discussing How Neal Is Doing...? This is not to say I don't like seeing Peter worry about Neal, but it felt like a repetition. And while I liked the episode and was entertained enough, I realized at some point that some of the scenes are only working because the actors have great chemistry and I care about the characters and like them doing their thing, be it Peter being concerned about Neal, Mozzie being ridiculously paranoid... I like those scenes, but some seemed gratuitous.

I see some people are wondering if Diana is evil. I'm not sure that thought is even supposed to cross our minds. My first thought was "Peter and Diana have the box, and we know they are on Neal's side, so all is well".
Morgan Richter said…
I thought we were hearing a lot more about Neal being traumatized than we were actually seeing it. And while it was sort of adorable to have Mozzie and Peter conspiring together, fussing over Neal's mental health, it did seem repetitive. Then again, the relationships between all these characters are the best part of the show, so I don't know why I'm feeling so dissatisfied with the episode overall. Plenty of nice moments between Neal and Peter -- Peter even admitted that Neal is his friend, which I think is a first. So all that was good.
obscureviews said…
Yeah...
The show does have a problem here. We never saw Kate much, we don't know her. Her death seems kind of unreal. Maybe she isn't dead after all, I don't know. But if we only know Kate through Neal's reactions, and he is only allowed to show the minimum of grief, there's just a disconnect.
And Bomer is obviously capable of pulling it off, I wish they'd let him.
If such emotions, depression, darkness, don't fit with the show's mood, they just should not have killed Kate off...
Morgan Richter said…
I think that's the crux of my dissatisfaction with the episode: the first season ended with a big, traumatic, game-changing event, and yet the new season kicked off with pretty much the status quo intact. I assume Neal coming to terms with Kate's death will be explored in more depth in later episodes -- at least I hope that's the case. This sort of seemed like an episode that would come mid-season, not the season premiere.
Rosey said…
My thoughts exactly. Great review. Got to write mine up later.
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks, Rosey! I've added your site to my blogroll on the sidebar (lower right side).
Rosey said…
Thanks Morgan! I appreciate that! :)

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