White Collar wrapped its best run yet last night with a exciting cat and mouse story guest starring Beau Bridges as Agent Peter Burke’s mentor from the DC FBI office, in town to help Burke prove a missing treasure of lost art and artifacts was stolen by his friend and confidential informant, Neil Caffrey. The treasure served as the back story for each of the episodes in this summer run, the first part of the third season of this USA network series. But it is the relationship between the characters, and more than that the clear chemistry between Tim Dekay (Peter) and Matt Bomer (Neil Caffrey), DeKay and Tiffani Thiessen (Neil’s wife Ellie), Thiessen and Willie Garson (Mozzie), Bomer and Hilarie Burton (Caffrey’s girlfriend Sara), and Thiessen, Garson, Bomer and Dekay together that made a good first two seasons finally catapult this year into a sharp, witty, and intriguing spy and cop show. For finally hitting its stride and achieving the potential we knew this show had in it, White Collar has become the best TV series this year.
Highlights of the season include the episode “Dentist of Detroit,” where a feared crime boss from Mozzie’s Detroit past is rumored to have surfaced in Manhattan, and we learn the details of Mozzie’s secret past. What kind of name is Dentist of Detroit for a mob boss? What’s scarier than a dentist? Mozzie’s past is traced from his youth to today, and we get to see how this strange, little paranoid fellow became the savvy thief and con man we know and love.
In the penultimate episode of the season, “On the Fence,” Matt Bomer paired up with his former co-star of Tru Calling, Eliza Dushku, in her first solidly mature, adult television role, where she proved to stand on equal ground with every other actor on the show. She played a stylish and “spicy” Egyptologist, who may or may not be a part of a shady underworld of trade in illegal artifacts. A stolen amulet, the possible end to Neil’s best relationship to date, Neil wrestling with holding back from Mozzie the fact he has a copy of the manifest, the return of Peter’s kidnapper (Keller) from earlier in the series, and Mozzie’s steely tough decision to put a $6 million bounty on Keller’s head to protect Caffrey, all adds up to great TV watching.
In the second episode of the season, “Where There’s a Will,” Peter and Neil followed a treasure map to uncover the kidnapper of a little girl. The team sleuths out a dead man who forged signatures on his own wills, Mozzie introduces the idea to sell the Degas out of the warehouse treasure, Mozzie brings in Peter’s dog Satchmo to an art gallery to create a diversion, the show introduces Anna Chlumsky as an art crimes expert coming to look at the partial treasure manifest who succombs to Caffrey’s charms, and clue after clue to determine who the kidnapper is makes this a standout episode for the series.
But the most enjoyable episode so far goes to the seventh episode of the season, “Taking Account,” where a computer hacker empties the entirety of a bank’s customer accounts, causing Caffrey and Sara to track down the hacker and steal the money back. Sara and Neil then go on a crazy extravagant spending spree, and we get to go along for the ride. Sara and Neil get to live it up, albeit briefly, as they predictably get found out by Peter. A rousing and funny episode with all the characters and actors in top form. The relationship between Neil and Sara seems to have definitively replaced the less interesting relationship between Neil and Kate, and hopefully we will see Neil and Sara rekindle their partnership in future episodes.
While its first two seasons were fresh and new, more episodes than not were just not memorable and the characters and story were struggling to find their footings. But this year the producers, writers and cast finally amped up their game. With any luck White Collar will hopefully continue its newly found momentum when it continues the 2011 season this winter.