White Collar’s mid-season finale was a shot of adrenaline. It was an exciting hour, filled with action and plot twists. It also provided some closure to a part of the show’s underlying mythology. However, it was also a problematic episode, relying on a tired plot device that the show needs to stop using.

Before I proceed, I feel it necessary to say that White Collar has never been better. It’s been at the top of its game this season. After a debut season that failed to live up to the show’s potential, White Collar’s sophomore season has consistently met and exceeded my expectations. It’s easier to criticize than it is to praise, so the amount of text that I’m going to devote to criticism isn’t reflective of how I felt about the episode overall.

As usual, I’m going to lead off with the good, and there was lots of it in this episode. Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer continue to be two of the most underrated lead actors on primetime television. They deliver consistent performances week after week, and Bomer did an excellent job in this episode of portraying his grief over Kate’s death without taking it over the top. Marsha Thomason was also at the top of her game. I think that she struggles a little with the comic stuff at times, but the high-stakes drama and action of this episode were more suited to her talents.

Aside from the excellent performances, I love the subtle humour that this episode employed. Mozzie’s conversation with the Japanese man and all the gags about smell were funny standouts. I hope that with the new direction in which the plot seems to headed, the show doesn’t abandon its sense of humour.

And speaking of new directions, I have to say, “FINALLY.” We got some movement on the music box storyline. We know what Fowler was up to. We figured out the identity of the man in the mystery composite photo. After complaining about how the show has handled the mythology this season, I was pleasantly surprised that it was handled so deftly here. For the most part, the plot of this episode was excellent…

…with one glaring exception. I’m tired of plots that revolve around Neal going behind the FBI’s back. I understand that Neal tends to colour outside the lines a bit; that’s what makes him an interesting character. But a full-on con against the FBI for the sole purpose of luring out Alex? It’s a little hard to believe that Neal would violate Peter’s trust to that extent. Furthermore, these kinds of plots have been done before, and if the show wants to develop Neal’s character and the Neal/Peter bromance, then it can’t rely on making Neal backslide whenever it’s convenient.

The thing that became apparent to me in this episode was that Gloria Votsis and Noah Emmerich have been slightly miscast in their roles. Votsis, the actress who plays Alex, just doesn’t have an easy, casual back-and-forth with Bomer. Emmerich, the actor who plays Fowler, had a lot of trouble selling the tough-guy-who-was-being-manipulated-all-along persona. I hope that we’re done with these characters for the time being or that they come back in more interesting forms.

The episode ended with a suprising twist. Mozzie was shot. I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting somebody to get seriously injured at some point, but the way it happened shocked me. I wonder what emotional repercussions there will be for the other characters. I’m also intrigued about this new Big Bad that Fowler introduced us to. I hope that he’s scarier than Fowler.

All in all, a strong finish to what has been a strong half-season for White Collar. I can’t wait to see where the show picks up in January.