White Collar Review: “Out of the Box” (Season Finale)

M: Well, the first season of White Collar is now officially over, and it ended with a bang…  quite literally.

C: This will not be a spoiler-free review, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know what happened!

To jump right in, this episode brought all the plot threads that have been spinning out over the previous 13 episodes of the season to a head.  A heist is planned and executed (Catherine the Great’s music box turns out to be embarrassingly easy to steal); Fowler turns up, reveals that the mysterious Project Mentor is all about Neal and has Bureau-approval and that someone above him is pulling the strings, then contrives to get rid of Neal’s ankle monitor, gets Peter suspended, and gets Neal and Kate put in witness protection (or something like that); and Neal, completing his deal with the devil by passing the box on to Fowler, prepares to fly off into the sunset with Kate.  They altered so much that’s been underpinning the show so quickly, I got whiplash!

M: It really did move fast, didn’t it.  We got a lot of what we love about the show, stylish cons, a well-planned heist, witty dialog, and Mozzie.

C: Not to mention an entirely gratuitous scene of Neal sculpting with his shirt off, as if to say: “Ladies, am I the sculptor, or the sculpted?”

M: Um, yeah.  The non-ladies among us found that tedious.  Anyway, we also got Peter continuing to be smarter than your average bear, which I will repeatedly mention because it is so out of the ordinary for this genre.

C: It was awesome that Neal didn’t fool Peter for a minute – as soon as he started planning for the heist, Peter knew exactly what he was doing.

M: Exactly.  This episode gave us things we weren’t used to, too.  We got Peter being overly emotional and losing his cool on more than two occasions, first when Fowler went after Elizabeth, getting Peter suspended, and then in shooting him (bullet-proof vest, rats!) then pleaded with him for the location of Neal’s meet with Kate – which I’ll come back to.  We got Neal actually fixing to disappear Kaiser Soze-style, and not letting Peter in on it because he would be the only one that could talk him out of it.

C: I was surprised by Peter losing his cool and letting Fowler trap him so easily.  I was also surprised by how much Neal did tell Peter, actually.  Once Peter figured out what was up, Neal openly admitted that his tracking anklet was off, and gave him some other clues he wouldn’t have had otherwise.  They’ve established before that Peter seems to have a fatherly influence over Neal, but it’s sometimes odd how childlike Neal can be in his evident driving need for Peter’s approval.

M: I’m not sure it’s a father-son thing, as much as it is their developing friendship and, more importantly, their respect for each other.  The show is leaving open the possibility that Peter is still sinister and pulling strings, but I’m not buying that.  I am buying that he genuinely cares about Neal making good on his new chance in life.  That, and Neal helps him solve cases.  On Neal’s end, Peter really does make him a better person, and he’s realizing that he can’t con people forever.  Peter is his best influence, and he respects that.  Also, they challenge each other intellectually, which is something they both thrive on and need.

C: I’ve heard a number of people describe their relationship with the overused word “bromance,” but I never really saw what they meant – until this episode.  Their conversation at the air field struck me as poorly written.  Having followed the show and psychoanalyzed the characters (as one does) I’d say that Neal is torn between competing visions of himself: one as Robin Hood, the roguish charming outlaw who defies convention and rescues maidens in distress; and the other as someone more like Peter, one of the good guys, using his wits to defeat criminals instead of for personal gain.  That may have been implicit at the air field, but that wasn’t the way the scene was actually played.  Positioning Kate on the plane and Peter on the landing strip, and having Neal seem torn between them made it seem like he was weighing which person he valued more.  This rang false to me.  If Neal’s going to give up on his desire to be with the supposed love of his life, whom he escaped prison to find and has been mooning over (M: mooning?) all season, it ought to be because he’s explicitly doubting that he wants to be the man he’d be if he left with her – the successful con retiring to a beach somewhere.  Not because he can’t stand to leave his mentor/buddy.

M: Ugh, I despise the word “bromance.”  It’s up there with “cheftestant” in the list of fake, amalgamated words (C:portmanteaus) I can’t stand that seem to be completely accepted by virtually everyone.  That said, I agree completely that the airport scene played too much like he was choosing between Peter and Kate, not between being a thief and bringing thieves to justice.  That said, the “you’re the only one that could convince me to change my mind” line worked.

Now, moving on to the “big bang” at the end…  a few thoughts.  They clearly wanted to leave the viewer with at least a shred of doubt as to whether or not Peter was behind it.  He was frantic to get there and delay Neal from getting on the plane – was it because he knew, and was making sure Kate died and Neal didn’t, thus further tightening his control over Neal?  This doesn’t work for me for a couple reasons.  First, I don’t buy Peter as a nefarious evil mastermind.  Don’t get me wrong, he has the mastermind in him, but not the evil part.  Second, in the scene with Fowler he was almost uncontrollably begging to get the information of where Neal was meeting Kate.  If he was the mastermind and planted the bomb, well, he would have already known that.  Oh, and I’m not sure Kate’s really dead, either.  Won’t be upset if she is, since it makes the show less pervy.

C: I’d like to think the showrunners read our blog and repented of their casting error.

M: It’s possible… pig.  But I wouldn’t shocked if she turns up alive – she slunk out of view well before the explosion, and I don’t trust her.

C: I’m not taking it for granted that Kate’s really dead either – but if she is, that does set up next season’s arc to be Neal Finding Out Who Did This And Taking Them Down.  It also opens up the chance to bring in a compelling romance for Neal that we can actually watch develop, which I gotta imagine they’ve been longing to do.  Do you want to take bets?  If it’s not Kate next season, will it be Lauren Cruz, Alex the Fence, or a new character?

M: My guess is that if she is dead they go with the arc you mention, with the subplot of Neal Getting Over Losing The Love Of His Life For Good.  Once they get him past that I think they’ll go with flirty Neal, but unlike this season he’ll have the ability to close the deal (although I’m not sure that something didn’t happen with Alex in the little skinny dipping session).

C: That scene made me giggle.  Intense physical attraction + attempting to deliver lines clearly while treading water = more awkward, really, than steamy.  I do like Alex, though.  On the other hand, it’s also possible she was the bomber, getting Kate out of her way…

M: Hadn’t thought of that.  Interesting. Now, iIf they do go down the compelling romance route, I’d lean toward Alex or someone new over Cruz – she’s been losing screen time big time lately, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s not back when season two starts this summer.

C: That would be too bad.  Cruz was underused, but I liked her pretty well.  Anyway, we know it won’t be Diana!  I’ve been assuming she disappeared after the pilot because the producers didn’t want a woman on the show Neal couldn’t charm.  I think the actress does a good job, though, and it’s nice to hear they’ve picked her up as a regular for next season.

M: More fuel to the “Cruz is gone” fire.  But I think the reason she wasn’t on the show this season was more behind the scenes than plot.  Lots of times secondary characters are introduced in the pilot of a show, but the actor is off to different things by the time a network makes the decision to pick the show up.  I’m guessing that’s what happened here.  Regardless, it’ll be good to have her, and the show, back in the summer.

C: They’ve opened a lot of doors with this finale, anyway, and I don’t think they’ve closed off anything that we’ll miss as viewers.  Yay for Season Two in the summer!  After giving us only 14 episodes before snatching the show away, bringing it back after only a few-month hiatus is the least USA can do.  I could get used to two mini-seasons a year…

M: That’d work for me, too.  Until then, so long White Collar.

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7 comments on “White Collar Review: “Out of the Box” (Season Finale)

  1. Gina says:

    I have heard that Lauren is gone except for possible guest spots, which stinks. Morales is a terrific actress if they’d only been able to figure out what to do with her! And while I see why they might want a woman on the show whom Neal couldn’t charm (and by the way, M, you’re right about why Diana was gone for a while), if Kate IS out of the picture, we also should have a woman that Neal CAN charm. And I don’t want it to be Alex (sorry, C), who is dancing on my last nerve. All she does is smirk and flirt and smirk and flirt and smirk. Get a new facial expression, girl!!

    (I get far too worked up over these things, don’t I?)

    M, you’re the very first person I’ve heard mention the possibility that Peter was behind the explosion. I think most of us trust him fully by now. As one of my favorite WC fanfic writers put it, a man who wears puppy dog socks cannot be bad.

    • M says:

      See, I trusted him completely before the mid-season cliffhanger. When they threw that meeting between Peter and Kate in I was thrown off, because it was SOOOOO out of character. Then he explained it to Neal, and I’ve been waiting for them to have Kate confirm it since just to be sure…. well, that didn’t exactly happen. So its more that I don’t trust the writers than not trusting Peter, and I think they are trying to make it seem like that door’s not completely shut.

      and I agree, if Kate’s gone then Neal should have someone to charm, not just Elizabeth, because they could go down a bad path with that.

      • Gina says:

        To their credit, I don’t think they’re going anywhere near there — and bless them for that, because that would be very VERY ugly. I definitely get more of a big-sister vibe.

    • C says:

      I’m not especially fond of Alex. She primarily appealed to me in comparison to Kate, since she 1) actually appears on the show, 2) looks older than fifteen, and 3) has some sort of characterization. And I like that they have a history and that she doesn’t let him get away with much. But she’s not the best love interest for Neal I could imagine, not by a long shot.

  2. shasas says:

    hello! Mrs. M here. Not that M needs to be clarified- but he and I discuss this a lot and neither of us believe that the character Peter, in his authentic state, could be bad.. it is just that the writers seem to be refusing to close the door with finality. I will say that if they ever decide to make him bad- I will A.) not buy into it and B.) be really angry at the attempt!

    :o) yay for another season soon!! LOVE this show and
    I.heart.nealcaffrey.

  3. Sadie says:

    White Collar fans, rejoice! WC comes back July 13th, in the 9:00 PM timeslot now. Apparently, some new show called Covert Affairs got the 10 PM slot. So, that means only… two months and five days!

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