Blogo dormiens nunquam titillandus (White Collar 2.16, Under The Radar)

It’s been a while since I’ve been here, hasn’t it? Sorry. I could make excuses – none of my shallow shows were airing in March, work has been busy, I’ve been planning my escape from work in a few months’ time, and for the last 3 weeks I’ve had a very nice lodger staying with me in my house and making me feel that it would be rude to a) watch television all evening or b) write about television all evening.

But I’m getting awfully behind on this blog and need to pick up the pace again if I’m going to stick with my intention to re, so here goes. First on the menu: some long overdue thoughts on the season 2 finale of White Collar.

I think the reason I put off writing about this for ages is because I was deeply unimpressed by it. The majority of the episode was just one long exercise in the plotholes in which White Collar specialises, but this time the writers clearly weren’t content with one or two plotholes underpinning an otherwise plausible story, but went to town creating a whole minefield of them. Adler himself was potentially a believable villain, and I had no objection to Alex (or others of Neal’s criminal acquaintance) being dragged into the plot, but beyond that the whole thing was just… well, quite ridiculous. I think the best thing I can do is to bullet point all the things that struck me as stupid and attempt to get them out of the way as quickly as possible…

– so we have to believe that Vincent Adler is so desperate for this treasure that he would manipulate Neal’s escape from prison using a corrupted Federal Agent and Kate (who Adler knew himself, let’s not forget) because of his belief that Neal had the music box? That’s a bit of a stretch.

– even allowing for that, in this version of the story, why on earth did Kate have to die? By this point, Alex has had the music box and the key, taken a copy of the encoded equation and returned it to Neal to give to Fowler, right? Adler presumably wants both Kate and Neal dead at this point, hence (somehow) having the ability to remote detonate the plane. Why does it make any difference if Peter shows up to say goodbye to Neal? Even if the closeness of the FBI is a risk, Neal is surely much more of a potential problem than Kate given that Kate has never even set eyes on the music box, so why would you draw attention to yourself by blowing up the plane on the runway when only she was in it?

– and even allowing that, why then would Adler, once he has located the sunken treasure and brought it up from the seabed, fixate on Neal as the only person in the whole world with the skill set to pick its locks and defuse its explosives? That’s a ridiculous risk to take given how much Neal already knows and how closely Peter is monitoring his every move. I am willing to accept that Neal is one of the best all-rounder criminals there is where forgery and conmanship is concerned, but I am not willing to accept there weren’t other people better suited for this kind of job. (And even the writers had to acknowledge this by having Alex’s random knowledge (that Adler didn’t know she had, right?) be the key to defusing the trap.

– speaking of which, what the hell was an Enigma machine doing as the code entry device? Yes it’s cool and all but you could just have rigged up any typewriter or data entry device of any sort. Did all U-boats routinely carry Enigma machines to encode their transmissions? I suppose they may have done. I really should visit Bletchley museum some day, you know – it’s only about half an hour away from me and I’ve never been. Okay, going somewhat off-topic…

– dumping bodies in a dry dock and flooding it. Really? Even accepting that Adler is enough of a Bond villain to do this, you would shoot them first, surely? I mean, dead bodies found in a dock later will surely be considered suspicious deaths anyway, so you might as well put a bullet in them to be sure. And I can float even with my hands tied, I think.

– I simply cannot believe how willing Adler was to have Peter along for the ride. It’s an incredibly stupid move for someone who’s been working from the distant shadows for the last two years. I accept you can’t leave him free to search for Neal, but again I don’t see why you don’t just kill him straight away.

– the explosives were apparently volatile enough to go off at an unintended touch, but had survived the whole disintegrating u-boat being dragged up off the ocean bed somehow? No.

– how on earth did Adler even find it on the seabed if the signal from the antenna wasn’t strong enough to be detected in Manhattan until they boosted it?

…okay, I’m into technicality plot points and I should know not to go there with this show (or any procedural, really). Remember that bible that was somehow a book of hours as well? Yeah.

Having got that out of my system, let’s dwell on the things I did like.

– it may not have been earned by the plot, but Neal and Peter’s little moment of ‘in case this doesn’t work’ before opening the hatch was nicely heartwarming, as is usual with those two.

– Diana and Jones having to work with Mozzie was, of course, entertaining.

– The final confrontation between Adler and Neal was well executed by the actors – you could really see the moment at which Neal realised Adler was unhinged enough to just shoot him for his perceived betrayal – and I did enjoy that Peter just shot him without warning. (Is he dead? I assume he is, but they didn’t really dwell on it enough for me to be certain.)

– and, of course, the loss of trust between Peter and Neal at the end. Well played, even if quite a lot of contrivance with painting recognition was required to get us there. But it’s a low-key version of the scenarios I was envisaging in my previous review, and as such works well to drive the two of them apart without making their differences irreconcilable (yet). I do like how strong the characterisation is on this show, and particularly of these two characters, and although I might quibble with the plot that got us there, the reactions of both of them were spot on. Peter has never been able to bring himself to fully trust Neal where it concerns the idea that Neal could be tricking him, pulling a ‘victimless’ con behind his back – and rightly so, in some cases. But as a result he did the one thing that will drive a wedge between them more surely than anything else – he didn’t trust Neal not to tell him a direct lie. Both he and Neal have relied on that trust several times this season as a safety net to resolve problems before they occur, and now it’s gone. Peter doesn’t believe Neal, and as a result Neal has no incentive to tell him the truth any more. That should make next season interesting.

Note: I have seen people doubting whether Neal was actually telling the truth there, or whether he really is responsible for the stolen paintings somehow. I have no doubts on that – what we saw of him receiving the warehouse key and then looking around at his new loot looked to me like a very real and honest reaction to surprises. Who actually did pull off the heist? No idea on that one. Not sure either of the obvious contenders (Mozzie, Alex) had an opportunity or would have executed it like that if they did.

I do find myself wondering whether this is going to have something in common with other White Collar cliffhangers, and be resolved by halfway through the next episode. I’m inclined to think not. If Peter hadn’t suspected Neal, I’m reasonably certain Neal would have told him about the warehouse and handed over the paintings without too many qualms (though one or two might have been ferreted away, perhaps). But I can’t see him going to Peter now and risking the chance that Peter will continue not to believe him. I can also see him being hurt enough by the accusation that he half wants it to be real, wants to prove that he can keep this stash – and sell it, and benefit from it – under Peter’s watchful eye, in defiance of him.

Huh… it’s a bit worrying how well I remembered all that, if I’m honest. The episode aired, what? Two months ago? Hmm. Well, at least it’s now less than two months until the show is back. Hurrah. Never let my nit-picking convince you I don’t care…

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About Susannah

31-year-old who gave up her day job to go travelling for a few months, theoretically to help her work out what to do with her life. Amazingly enough, that seemed to work, and I am now back in the UK doing a PhD in a different field entirely. No longer posting regular travel blogs, because no longer travelling regularly. Boo.
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