January 31, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “White Collar”


Season 5 of WHITE COLLAR rebounded nicely from its more lachrymose previous season, which asked us to care far too much about the backstory issues of con man/forger/FBI consultant Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and his sidekick Mozzie (Willie Garson).  This year, the show was back to doing what it does best, providing breezy capers for Neal and his FBI handler and surrogate dad Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), that built adeptly to a climax involving the previously unknown twin of the Hope Diamond, along with an implausible but well-played long-con plot twist that turned seemingly innocent art historian Rebecca (Bridget Regan) into a ruthless assassin.

The season finale, written by Executive Producer Nick Thiel and Supervising Producer Jim Campolongo, and directed by Russell Lee Fine, rounded out the year’s storylines in a mostly satisfying fashion.  The one misstep of the season was devoting too much time to Peter’s supposed promotion and reassignment to FBI headquarters in Washington, which was clearly never going to happen unless White Collar itself relocated there, so the only question was whether the new job would fall through in an interesting way.  In the end, it really didn’t–Peter simply changed his mind when (again, inevitably) the Bureau refused to free Neal from his anklet and servitude.  The only slight curveball was the suggestion that Peter’s perfect wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) would go ahead and take her own job in DC, which if it happens next season would raise the possibility of trouble in their up-to-now idyllic marriage.  Also, the last-minute cliffhanger was about as generic as they come, with mysterious men appearing out of nowhere to put a hood over Neal’s head and abduct him, allowing the producers to come up with just about anything they want for next season.

Otherwise, though, it was a generally fun hour.  The Neal/Rebecca plot was worked out in a pleasing fashion, with Neal pulling one last con on her and hiding the diamond she thought she had, and a good moment between the two of them as she reluctantly agreed that she had no more moves left and had to give up.  It was smart to keep Rebecca alive, as she’s a appealing character, dangerous and sexy, as well as one of the few to occasionally get the better of Neal, and obviously one who can plausibly escape from prison (again) and rejoin the plot as needed.  The episode also played one of the show’s most reliable cards by having Elizabeth become instrumental in saving Mozzie’s life after Rebecca had poisoned him–their bond is one of the more effective background notes of the series.

Much of the hour was devoted to Neal and Peter together as they tracked down the hidden location of the diamond, and of course the rapport between the two of them is at the core of White Collar.  The show, after 5 seasons, isn’t as buoyant as it used to be, partly because USA’s house procedural style (only Suits is somewhat exempt) doesn’t allow for much in the way of variation once a show’s template is in place, and a certain staleness will set in after several seasons on the air.  Bomer and DeKay, though, are still very sharp together, and their deft teamwork is what makes the show worth watching.

White Collar doesn’t get standout ratings anymore, but its numbers have been steady since late last season in the 0.8 area, and it probably has some life left.  At this point, its tricks may be familiar, yet still performed smoothly enough to provide a weekly hour of escapist fun.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."