Despite the fun stories, (former) great chemistry among the actors, and the beauty of Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay, I’m breaking up with White Collar.
First and foremost, what the heck has happened with the cast’s chemistry? Perhaps they took too much time off from filming but I’m used to rapid fire dialog that is delivered flawlessly and with certainty. The dialog between Tim DeKay and Marsha Thomason (and even between Bomer and Garson but to a lesser extent) in the first episode back was stilted, rough, and tenuous. It was like watching students in their first acting class. I was disappointed. I’m used to commitment and flow from these various USA Network shows. Suits, White Collar, Burn Notice – each of them maintains a fast pace with smooth and seamless interactions. They have to be rapid-fire since they have such far-fetched plots and we if look too closely, we’ll giggle at all the improbabilities. Instead of maintaining that sense of flow, White Collar has become awkward and tedious.
I think perhaps they needed some more rehearsal or a retreat or something before they came back together to shoot.
But, that isn’t the big reason I’m breaking up with this show. The main reason? I’m tired of the hypocrisy the show exhibits every time Neal is asked to compromise himself by people who purport themselves as upstanding, stalwart, true, and acting in his best interests. He is asked to go out and be a criminal while all the while he is berated for being one either implicitly or explicitly.
Case in point: At the beginning of this batch of episodes, Peter was in prison for the alleged murder of a Senator.
Elizabeth (Peter’s wife) talked to Neal and told him to do “whatever you have to do” to get Peter released. She asked him to save her husband and told him to do whatever it took. Are we naive enough to believe that she was asking him to do so while walking the straight and narrow? Doubtful.
So, Neal does what a really good friend or brother would do and uses his abilities to secure Peter’s release. In doing so, he commits a crime. So, he did the wrong thing for the right reasons. Peter is released and everyone is happy. Blah Blah Blah.
Later in the episode, we see that Peter is concerned that Neal’s tracking anklet hasn’t moved so he suspects that Neal might have figured out a way to disable it (actually it was Mozzie who did that but that is not the point) and so decides to bring him a newer, more secure, anklet. Before he does so, he and his wife discuss Peter’s worries that Neal just can’t help himself and might be doing something illegal. Peter sits tall on his high horse about Neal’s possible activities, while Elizabeth admonishes him to stop getting so personally involved. If I could have reached through the television and smacked the character (or perhaps the writers) upside the head, I would have. Didn’t she just tell Neal to do whatever it took? Didn’t she just encourage Neal to do the very things Peter is now thinking he might be doing? I get that she doesn’t really care about Neal and cares much more about whether or not her husband is in jail, but the sheer hypocrisy of the character’s stance angered me.
The show’s reluctance to allow the Neal character to grow frustrates me. And actually, it’s not the show’s reluctance. It’s the other characters’ reluctance that bothers me. The writers are simultaneously allowing Neal to grow while they keep all the other characters denigrating him as nothing more than a criminal. Peter even reiterates that to him when they speak. “You are a criminal,” as he brings out the new tracking anklet. Psychologically, I’m certain that sort of reinforcement must be damaging to someone who is trying to do the right thing. It must bring on some sort of “I can’t win no matter what I do” realization. And if Neal feels that later in the season and becomes more of a bad-ass, that would be excellent. If he just allows himself to keep getting verbally beat up after how much he has done for the FBI and for Peter and Elizabeth in particular, well that’s just writing that has become stagnant.
That leads me to believe that the characters are more than happy to use Neal when they need him, but they ultimately don’t have any loyalty to him. He has turned into someone who will protect those he loves even while doing something illegal (or something they won’t respect) while all the while the other characters don’t actually care about him and encourage each other not to care about him.
Maybe the writers are setting up some sort of Come to Jesus moment between Neal and Peter but it’s no longer worth it for me to watch because that kind of “I’ll use you to get what I want but then I’ll sell you out” attitude of the characters on the side of “right” sets my teeth on edge. The only likable characters are Neal and Mozzie and sadly even they are hard to respect if they keep allowing themselves to be used.