Wednesday, February 5, 2014

WHITE COLLAR Doesn't Quite Sparkle Like a "Diamond"

Article first published as WHITE COLLAR Doesn't Quite Sparkle Like a "Diamond" on TheTVKing.

USA's White Collar's season finale, which aired this week, is called "Diamond Exchange." Rebecca / Rachel (Bridget Regan) poisons Mozzie (Willie Garson). She offers the antidote that can save his life in exchange for the diamond she came to town for. Peter (Tim DeKay) is determined to catch Rebecca before she gets away, but Neal (Matt Bomer) is more worried about his friend than his ex-lover.

The plot of the week, in which an ailing Mozzie helps Peter and Neal find the jewel, then Neal faces off against the woman who fooled him, is very good. It's got plenty of excitement, with guns and double-crosses and twists, as well as some emotional moments, with Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) demanding care for Moz and Neal having to face Rebecca again. Plus, there's the mystery tied into the Masons, and this is really the culmination of a season-long arc.

At times, White Collar has veered way too far into the procedural realm. However, this story involving Rebecca and the diamond seems to strike a nice balance. Many of the installments do contain an immediate crisis that is tied up within the hour, but there is also a compelling serial narrative that forces character development for the series leads, and so "Diamond Exchange" is a satisfying way to finish up a good run.

This season finale also serves the supporting characters better than many other episodes. Elizabeth gets terrific moments with both Mozzie and Peter. Jones (Sharif Atkins) and Diana (Marsha Thomason) are instrumental in saving Mozzie's life on their own volition, demonstrating the dysfunctional family that has been built. Working more of this type of thing in more often, as this season seemed to do better than the last one, will only benefit the series as a whole.

Neal's love life is fraught with drama. Since Peter is happily married, I guess it makes sense for the other main character to go through a few trials over the course of the series. It's still heartbreaking, though, to see Neal lose woman after woman that he cares about, Neal being a soulful man that deserves someone who will treat him right. Rebecca's betrayal, fooling Neal about who she really is, is something he can't forgive, and the latest pain he will have trouble getting over.

When will Neal give up? He keeps getting together with the wrong girls. Some of them are nice, but none of them are right for him, and always end up costing him. Might he stop trying altogether, or will the right person finally come alone?

When considering the proper gal, it must be someone who respects Neal's talents, but encourages him to stay on the just side of the law, unlike, say, Mozzie. In order for White Collar to have any type of happy ending, Neal must not fall back into his criminal ways. He has to escape his past and become the man viewers and Peter know he can be.

Neal's resolution to stay on the straight and narrow wavers during this season, but he seems fully committed to it in "Diamond Exchange," at least until the FBI screws him over by deciding he's too valuable an asset to grant him the release he has earned. First of all, why can't they just make his release conditional upon him staying on for awhile, sort of a probationary period? Secondly, why isn't the writing consistent with Neal in whether he'll do good or not?

I understand that Neal is a criminal, but Peter, who knows him better than anyone and is a great judge of character, thinks Neal can be a contributing member of society. This, despite Neal's flirting with going back to the dark side. What this means to me is that Neal may not really have wanted to be on the lamb again, no matter what he may have told Moz in earlier episodes. But it's the inconsistency surrounding Neal's conscience that has made this season a touch weaker than previous ones.

It's hard to deny the ending of "Diamond Exchange" is powerful. Neal is kidnapped by unknown assailants, presumably to help them do illegal things, and a time where some in the FBI suspect Neal has escaped for his own purposes. In this way, we get to see Neal use his talents again, but without having to blame him for screwing up, and Peter's faith in him will be tested. If White Collar is smart, though, we'll see Neal genuinely considering siding with the villains, even if he's being held against his will, which he'll surely balk at, so this part of his growth can be settled.

Also, ignorant of Neal's disappearance, Peter decides to stay in New York for Neal, despite the fact that Elizabeth is taking a job in D.C. It's understandable that Peter wants to help Neal, but he should understand that the National Gallery is Elizabeth's dream job and spouse always comes before buddy. It helps the premise for Peter to stay, especially as he can more easily stage a rescue of Neal, but this has got to have lasting consequences for his marriage.

I enjoy White Collar quite a bit, even if it one of USA's fluffier works. I do think it should end before it grows stale, though. Given the precarious positions Neal and Peter are both in, professionally, morally, and in their loves lives, it may be time to start to wrap things up. We can only have them at odds so many times before either their partnership or their betrayal start to seem false. It hasn't reached that point yet, but tying it up in the next year or two may be a wise move.

White Collar has been yet been renewed, but will likely return to USA in late 2014.

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