Jul 11, 2012

TV Review: White Collar Returns Triumphant

Neal is on the run
Oh, White Collar, we never know how much we miss you until you come back. We spend our days watching 'important' television dramas, full of 'important' characters and stories. And frankly, it's depressing. How long can we deal with Alicia Florick's marriage and Kalinda drama on The Good Wife, how much much more time can we spend with Don
Draper as he falls farther down a pit of depression? Sometimes, it's nice to have a show that, while also being a serviceable and interesting drama, is so much frakking fun!

Just as a primer for people unfamiliar with the show, White Collar follows a gentleman ex-con, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), as he spends the remainder of his prison sentence working for the White Collar division of the FBI, reporting directly to the agent who put him away in the first place. That agent is Peter Burke (Tim Dekay), who, in addition to being married to his amazing wife Elizabeth (played by everyone's dream girlfriend Tiffani Amber Thiessen), is a stand-up guy and pillar of morality. What follows is a caper/heist-style procedural, with each episode following the FBI team as they solve crimes and each season following Burke as he solves the mysteries of Caffrey and his troubled past. Over the past three seasons, we've watched as Caffrey and Burke have formed and unlikely partnership and friendship. This friendship was tested in last season's finale, as Burke had to testify on Caffrey's reformation and encouraged Caffrey to flee the country to avoid being locked up or forced to work in (heaven forbid) Washington, DC with Beau Bridges! It's mysterious, it's engaging, it's hella fun. All the elements blend so seamlessly.  Don't try to dwell on why it works - forget it, Jake, it's White Collar.

And from Neal Caffrey's first moments on screen in the new season, we know that this is going to be a good time. Matthew Bomer, while very pretty, was not always the most convincing actor. Early episodes of the show saw Neal struggling with difficult moral quandaries and Bomer's face struggling with difficult expressions. Over the last few years, though, Bomer has progressed to being a super solid actor, and that is on full display as he engages in a super swaggerific walk through town in this premiere episode. Sure, he's on the run, but that doesn't mean he's lost his sense of style. He flirts with local store owner Maya (played by the beautiful and incredibly engaging Mia Maestro, who we love in equal parts for her turns in Alias and Frida), grabs coffee with his cohort Mozzie, buys a new jaunty cap, and defends a street vendor from papaya thieves.  He is living the life.

Of course, all of this bliss is upended rather quickly by Peter being a real fart-knocker, and the island paradise is soon home to a long game of cat-and-mouse. Everyone is looking for Neal, including a new agent played by Mekhi Phifer. We don't want to spoil anything, but things get exciting and romantic and there is a lot of running. Even the secondary cast gets in on the fun. Willie Garson's Mozzie is often underused of misused in the show, but he's pretty great in this episode. Similarly, Tiffany Thiessen gets a lot more to do already in this episode. We would totally be okay with her being the third lead on this show, but we know that we might be in the minority on that one.

Sometimes White Collar gets too wrapped up in the larger mythology of the show, but we see good things happening already in this season. Mekhi Phifer is appropriately menacing, Mia Maestro is both a genetic gift and a talented actress, and the show gets Burke and Caffrey back together without much incident.  We're excited to see where it goes from here. It's a perfect show for summer!

Grade: A-
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