It’s been a strange season for White Collar. In its summer run, it delivered top-quality cases every week and featured some of the show’s finest episodes. Its winter run was considerably messier, culminating in a string of episodes that were fraught with plot holes and lazy writing. I’ll make what I can of this quality yo-yo after the jump.

 

Mythological Madness
I’ve always been a harsh critic of White Collar’s mythology. It’s too confusing for the short amount of time spent dealing with it. The first part of this season mishandled the mythology terribly, keeping it from advancing by having Neal hide vital information from Peter and Diana and vice versa.

But I was pleasantly surprised with how it was handled in the second part of the season. “Burke’s Seven” featured a great standalone case that tied into the larger mythology, for example. With the introduction of the fractal antenna, the show gained a clearer sense of direction than it ever had with the music box. I was worried that all of this was building to nothing and that White Collar’s writers were just making crap up as they went along, but this story arc was resolved quite nicely in “Under the Radar.” The show managed to bring all the mythology’s disparate elements – Adler, the antenna, the u-boat – together quite nicely.

There are still a couple of open questions, however. How did Adler manage to get control over OPR? Why did Adler know that he’d need Kate to access the u-boat’s stash? These open questions don’t really bother me, though, because most story arcs tend to have them.

 

Crazy Cases-of-the-Week
I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact that White Collar will never leave behind its case-of-the-week format, but as long the cases remain interesting, I don’t mind. In that regard, season 2 was a massive improvement over season 1. I barely remember what a single S1 case was about, but S2 had some really strong, memorable cases. I enjoyed the show’s satirical foray into state politics in “Need to Know.” “Prisoner’s Dilemma’s” search for a fugitive put the main characters out of their comfort zones and kept me on the edge of my seat. “Countermeasures” provided some much-needed backstory for June, all the while staying true to the shows roots in presenting a case about counterfeiting. On the other hand, a couple of cases weren’t up to par. The plot of “Copycat Caffrey” made no sense, and “Payback’s” case was full of plot holes.

 

Neal is Growing Up
Over the course of this season, Neal slowly began to renounce his old conning ways, realizing that he could make a life for himself helping out the FBI. I’m pleased that White Collar actually let its main character develop. By the midseason finale, I had already tired of plots that involved Neal going around the FBI’s back, so I was happy to see those come to an end. Moreover, Neal and Peter’s friendship was able to develop more since they were finally on the same page.

Unfortunately, all of this was undone in the incredibly stupid final few minutes of the season. Peter suspected Neal of stealing the Nazi loot (without any real proof), and Neal was led to the stash by an anonymous card. His smile at seeing the loot seemed to indicate that he’s been lured back into conning and swindling. I’ll have to wait until season 3 before I make a final judgment, but for now, this seems like a boneheaded development that threatens to ruin the enjoyability of the show.

 

Highlights
As mentioned earlier, “Need to Know” and “Prisoner’s Dilemma” both featured great cases. “Burke’s Seven” was also a highlight. Despite the fact that it was riddled with plot holes, the fun case and the the episode’s humour more than made up for them.

 

Lowlights
I already mentioned “Copycat Caffrey” and “Payback” as being particularly weak. The season’s flashback episode, “Forging Bonds,” was poorly paced and full of clichés. The same could be said of the season finale, “Under the Radar.” “Power Play” could also be considered a lowlight, given how easy it was for Peter to become a talented thief. But “Forging Bonds,” “Payback,” and “Under the Radar” are the episodes that drag this season down several notches.

 

Grade relative to past performance: B

Grade relative to other television shows: B+

Overall, this was a pretty strong season of White Collar, dragged down by some bad plotting early in the season and some clunkers late in the season. Based on how this season ended, I’m not too confident about season 3, but hopefully, the writers find a way to put the show back on track and tighten up the writing.

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