White Collar is on a roll. It delivered yet another strong episode this week. Though it wasn’t as good as last week’s outing, it certainly had its moments. On an episode-by-episode basis, this show is quickly becoming a television favourite.  However, “Company Man” emphasized the problems that the show has been having with its underlying mythology.

Let’s deal with the good news first. Though “Company Man” featured a more typical case than last week, it was still very well done. It was pretty easy to predict that Kent was the murderer from the outset, but there were enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. The case allowed the show to take a look at corporate culture, both at the fun-loving, carefree lifestyle of young businessmen and at the high-flying millionaire lifestyle of older businessmen. Neal, being a conman, slips into the former as if he is acting a part, whereas for Peter, it’s more personal; as an accountant, he could have chosen to work for a Fortune 500 company, but instead, he devoted his life to apprehending criminals for the FBI. Thanks to Tim DeKay’s excellent comic timing, Peter’s consideration of an alternate life for himself never became melodramatic; the way DeKay played it kept things light.

This episode also featured Mozzie and Diana working together on the music box. Their bickering was cute, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

Now, onto the bad news. I have only one major issue with “Company Man” itself: the revenge vs. justice stuff was just too heavy-handed for me. It was a necessary conversation the first time Peter and Neal discussed it, but the second conversation about it was pointless; it didn’t add anything of value.

In the larger picture,  I think that show’s mythology has become problematic. Because the cases-of-the-week take up a lot of screen time, it is difficult for the mythology to be addressed adequately in each episode. This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, but since the mythology this season has centred around a music box, it’s difficult to care. I don’t give a rat’s ass about an inanimate object, and waiting until the end of the episode for Peter and Neal to open the box felt utterly manipulative. The show could have reached the same point earlier this season if it hadn’t wasted time by having Peter and Diana lie to Neal.

Fowler has also become a similar problem. Because we never see him onscreen, it’s difficult for me to care about him too. If he was supposed to be some sort of bigshot baddie, then he should have appeared in more episodes.

Let me be clear: I criticize because I care. White Collar is on the verge of becoming a truly great show that stands out in a sea of generic procedurals and mindless entertainment (not that that’s such a tall order, given the low quality of the rest of the USA Network’s offerings). But these minor things are holding the show back. If the writers want this show to be the best that it can be, they need to start treating the mythology with the same level of care as they do the cases-of-the-week.

In sum, the cases-of-the-week continue to be top notch, but the mythology has become more confusing and frustrating than anything. Hopefully, next week’s midseason finale answers any lingering questions and pushes the show onto a new, more interesting track.

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