Friday, August 12, 2011

"Countdown" to White Collar finale

White Collar: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]     "Countdown," the summer finale of USA's White Collar, is tense in the best possible way, but doesn't really end in full resolution. This season, Peter (Tim DeKay) searches for evidence to either convict or clear Neal (Matt Bomer) of the theft of a Nazi treasure. In the final episode of the current run, Peter brings in his mentor, art crimes expert Agent Philip Kramer (Beau Bridges, Brothers & Sisters, My Name Is Earl) when a painting from the Nazi manifest surfaces. Neal scrambles to recover the artwork, which Mozzie (Willie Garson) sold. Of course Neal succeeds, but decides to stay with Peter, rather than flee with Mozzie. Unfortunately, old nemesis Keller (Ross McCall) knows Neal and Mozzie have the treasure, and so kidnaps Peter's wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), to try to force them to hand it over.

     Neal's loyalty is obviously to Peter. Neal, himself, doesn't steal the treasure, or even knows about Mozzie's plans until after the theft is complete. Neal is avoiding leaving New York City and the job he is comfortable in. After all, Peter is very good to him, and they have a satisfying partnership, as well as an ever deepening friendship. However, Keller's kidnapping in "Countdown" will all but confirm to Peter his suspicions that Neal is involved in the crime. With Elizabeth's life on the line, Peter will have no patience to give his partner the benefit of the doubt. The stakes are just too high. Peter will turn on Neal. Keller has managed to do what is been danced around, but dodged, all season: ruin the team.

     Is there any way for Neal to recover from this? Sure. White Collar is a USA show, and as such, highly procedural. The network will not want its formula messed with in an unrepairable way. While White Collar certainly takes more serial liberties than most of the other shows on the network, and the network itself has been steadily moving in a better direction, Neal and Peter's arrangement is the linchpin of the series. Even during the standard case of the week, the chemistry between DeKay and Bomer is extremely enjoyable. While it's hard not to root for the bold decision of Peter spending a season openly hunting Neal down, it is unlikely to happen. USA is just not ready yet for that kind of shakeup.

     Bringing in Beau Bridges is a brilliant move. The television guest star king is always welcome in whatever show he chooses to grace with his presence, and White Collar is no different. Hopefully, Bridges will be recurring, and would be a great asset if Peter crosses the line in his quest to get Neal or save Elizabeth. Agent Kramer's intelligence, as well as his history with Peter, makes him valuable. Not to mention, he brings assistant Melissa, who is played by the delightful star of My Girl, Anna Chlumsky.

     "Countdown" seems to spell the end of Neal and Mozzie's friendship, even while everything about the series screams that the two are not done with each other. Mozzie is very fond of Elizabeth, and so surely will return to help rescue her from Keller, whom he loathes. Mozzie's assistance will probably be enough to convince Peter to save him from criminal from prosecution. But will Mozzie clear Neal's name? Will he be able to forgive Neal for choosing Peter over him? Or will Elizabeth's situation remind Mozzie that Neal is not alone in his affection for the Suit and Mrs. Suit? The next episode is definitely something to look forward to.

     White Collar will be back on USA, though definitely not soon enough.

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Article first published as TV Review: White Collar - "Countdown" on Blogcritics.

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