Friday, June 8, 2012

White Collar The Complete Third Season a wild ride

USA's White Collar started slow in season one, picked up in the second half of the first year, and then got even better in season two. It should come as no surprise, then, that The Complete Third Season features the best episodes of White Collar ever made - at least until season four premieres!

The premise of White Collar is simple. An FBI man named Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) brings in career criminal Neal Caffey (Matt Bomer) to help him solve cases. At first, it's an unlikely pairing. As the episodes go by, Neal and Peter find a deepening trust and friendship. But season three puts that trust at risk as Neal's still-nefarious buddy, Mozzie (Willie Garson), gets Neal involved in the theft of a very valuable Nazi treasure.

This is a major shakeup for the show. Until now, Neal appears to be on the straight and narrow, and Mozzie is an unthreatening sidekick. But when Mozzie makes this totally unexpected, but should have been seen coming, move, it throws the entire dynamic out of whack. Suddenly, Neal is keeping something from Peter, and Peter knows it, but can't prove it. It's a dangerous cat and mouse game. The stakes grow even higher as Mozzie encourages Neal to run. Neal is torn, not wanting to abandon his new life.

By the middle of season three, things come to a head, and then, somehow, keep building even further! Peter's wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), is kidnapped by a really nasty guy from Neal's past (Ross McCall) who wants the treasure, forcing the secret out in the open. Following that, Peter's former mentor (Beau Bridges) comes after them, too, planning on using the treasure to blackmail Neal. It's a roller coaster ride of excitement, with viewers not really sure where anything is going until the shocking season three finale, which changes all of the rules once more.

It's impossible to give too many details of this long arc away without spoiling the story, hence the vagueness. Hopefully, it will be enough to know that there is a long arc, which is not typical for many procedural dramas. While White Collar began it's life as a case-of-the-week crime series, and has not strayed too far from those roots, it is also something much more. It is a series full of wonderful, complex characters expertly played by talented performers. This gift is not wasted, but rather, it is honed, stretching the conventions into something worth watching. As someone who cannot stand series that basically play out the same formula week after week, I can vouch that White Collar is not such a time waster, and it is a show I look forward to very much with each installment!

At the heart of White Collar is the relationship between Peter and Neal. While other characters do figure into the show very prominently, these are the two leading men. Their chemistry is absolutely fantastic. Having watched them grow so solid, it is equal parts disturbing and titillating to watch the pair go head to head in season three, especially now that they actually care about one another. Their interaction, more than anything else, is what drives White Collar. It is definitely among the best bromances on television.

Amid all of the chaos and machinations, some wonderful one-shot stories also sneak in, enriching the back story and personalities of the various characters. "Deadline" sees Neal and new girlfriend Sara (Hilarie Burton) on a double date with Diana (Marsha Thomason) and her partner, Christine (Moran Atias). "The Dentist of Detroit" exposes Mozzie's connection with the mob. Mozzie finds a possible romantic partner (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones) in "Taking Account." "As You Were" gives Jones (Sharif Atkins) a little time to shine. Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse) guest stars in "On the Fence" as a competitive thief. "Neighborhood Watch" lets Elizabeth get in on the action as she suspects a neighbor (True Blood's Joe Manganiello) of wrong doing. And "Pulling Strings" reveals Peter's relationship with his in-laws (Debra Monk and Tom Skerritt).

If the episodes alone are not enough for you, as hard as that might be to accept, there are also special features on this four disc set. A gag reel, deleted scenes, and a commentary track for the season finale are included. Also present is a trivia challenge known as "Interrogation Room" and a feauturette, "Jeff Eastin: @ddicted."

White Collar The Complete Third Season is on sale now wherever DVDs are sold.

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