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Review #2907: White Collar 3.7: “Taking Account”

Posted on the 21 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

There are few tropes of modern fiction I hate more than the “hacker”. Hackers are almost invariably portrayed as having magical powers, which they can use to hack into anything, as long as they hammer away on the keyboard quickly enough. Some portrayals attempt to give the hackers techno-babble to toss around, which can often make things seem even more ridiculous. To be fair to this episode of “White Collar”, it certainly could have been a lot worse. Some of the above-stated problems were present, but at least it wasn’t made completely unwatchable.

Review #2907: White Collar 3.7: “Taking Account”

It’s good to see the previous intro back again, as it is vastly superior to the one they tried to replace it with. Apparently, this decision was the result of a viewer poll, which doesn’t surprise me. Most of the fan reactions to the new intro that I read online were fairly negative. I should say that I wouldn’t be against an upgraded version of the intro, at some point. Maybe if there’s a season 4, they could consider doing that.

I’ll just come right out and say it. Lately there hasn’t been nearly enough of Neal and Peter solving cases together. I don’t really care about the potential breakdown of Neal and Sara’s relationship. I’m invested more in the relationship between Neal and Peter, and Neal and Mozzie to a lesser extent. There’s still some humorous banter between the two. I’m enjoying seeing Peter make fun of Neal for being domesticated. But lately it’s really been more about Neal, Mozzie, and Sara working a case behind Peter’s back, so he can show up later to scold them for it. The cases are a lot more fun when they work directly with Peter the whole time.

For me, one of the biggest selling points for the show has been the great Neal/Peter dynamic. There was an opportunity to test their relationship this season, but that issue has been virtually side-lined in favor of Neal’s relationship with Sara. I suppose the big conflict of the season is whether Peter will choose Mozzie and the treasure, or everybody else in his life like Peter, Eleanor, Sara, June, etc. So maybe Sara is serving as a representative for Neal’s reasons to stay in New York. Now don’t get me wrong. I like seeing more of Mozzie. I just wish it was more about Neal choosing between Peter and Mozzie, rather than Neal choosing between Mozzie and Sara. I guess I’ve never really gotten as invested in the Neal/Sara relationship as I was supposed to. So far, the entire season seems to revolve around that relationship, when it should be about Peter and Neal.

This episode’s big moment came when Sara finally discovered what Neal has been hiding all this time. It’s somewhat impressive that she managed to catch the password in the reflection on the gold-plated guitar, but how many password boxes don’t hide the password behind asterisks? Even if it’s custom-made, it seems like a pretty obvious safeguard that Mozzie would have thought to put in. And using a real word for your password is a bad idea. Mozzie and Neal should have used a completely random combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Anyways, realism aside, this development is to be expected, given the emphasis on the Neal/Sara relationship as a key factor in the season conflict.

At this point, I’m almost at a loss to understand why this season of “White Collar” isn’t working for me as well as previous seasons did. The best answer I can come up with is that it’s just a combination of many factors. As I’ve said enough already, the overall story direction is much less interesting, especially given how predictable the outcome will be. Obviously, Neal is going to end up staying and repairing his relationship with Peter. And it’s doubtful that Mozzie will leave him. The only real variable is Sara. I don’t dislike Sara, but I don’t think that she’s enough to hang so much of the season conflict on.

Also, the integration of character development and progression seems severely lacking this season. Am I remembering wrong? Or did there used to be a lot more of it from episode to episode? I seem to remember the exploration of Peter and Neal’s partnership being a significant draw in previous seasons, which is why the final moments of the previous season were so affecting. The breakdown of trust was a severe blow to not only a strong partnership, but a strong friendship as well. I’d hoped to see further exploration of this issue in the following season, but after a short period of mistrust, the writers force Neal and Peter back into their usual roles, with only the occasional reference to Peter’s continuing investigation of Neal.

I’m less confident about this point, but I seem to remember the basic plotting and dialog of each episode to be a lot more intelligent in past seasons. It’s certainly possible that I’m just growing tired of the show’s shtick, and that it’s just as smartly written as ever. I do still notice clever moments. This episode had the spending spree (for which the on-screen text was a clever idea) and Mozzie’s fling with the hacker (which was, admittedly, hilarious). And there was at least one episode this season that really nailed the comedy aspect (“Veiled Threat”).

But I still get the sense that there’s less intelligence in the scripts than there used to be. Has the overall quality of “White Collar” declined? Or is the lack of an interesting mythology exposing flaws that were present in earlier episodes? It would probably be hard to know for sure unless I went back and re-watched some of these episodes. But my current feeling is that this season of “White Collar” has, so far, been much weaker than the previous two.

Rating: 6/10

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