The summer finale of White Collar was Tuesday, and while it’s a show I haven’t yet written about it’s one of my favorites currently going.
In my opinion it’s overtaken Burn Notice as USA’s best and most interesting drama. No two actors on television may have better chemistry than Matt Bomer and Tim Dekay. The show’s life is in their hands week to week; if one has a sub-par performance the show doesn’t work as well as it does. While I think separate shows focused only on Neil Caffrey running cons and womanizing, and Peter Burke chasing and busting sophisticated criminals would work, they wouldn’t be nearly as compelling and entertaining as when they’re united. The show’s success rests upon the relationship between Neil and Peter, and that’s why this finale, and the season as a whole, have been so good.
Everyone loves a good cops and robbers drama. They’re infinitely more watchable when you care about each side. The cat and mouse game Peter and Neil played this season while still focusing on solving the stand alone case at hand was excellent. We know Neil is presumably going to wriggle his way free from whatever predicament he’s tangled in until either the show ends or takes on an entirely new identity, and I don’t see the latter happening. The finale reminded me of a show I once greatly admired but now watch out of habit with far, far less enthusiasm: Dexter.
It may not seem like the most conventional comparison, but bear with me. They each loosely follow a similar story. A “bad” guy the audience roots for is suspected of wrong doing and is chased by an authority figure that is very close to them personally, yet they always manage to just slip their grasp. The only difference is the authority figure in White Collar (Peter) knows who it is he’s chasing, while the authority figure on Dexter (Deb) doesn’t. White Collar’s season long hunts eventually lead to a greater story arc that spans into the next season (the music box, the manifest). Dexter’s go nowhere after the season; the only piece that carries over is Dexter’s relationship with his kids. Unless they make significant changes, Dexter has come to a creative dead end, though one could argue they’ve been there for four seasons now. He’s never getting caught and any situation from here on out in which it looks like he may is an insult to the audience after how season 6 ended.
Showtime won’t change the format and hasn’t put an end date on the series, so we can expect more of the same for years to come. As for White Collar, I have hopes they they won’t fall down the same path. Their story arcs are already much better than anything Dexter has put out in years, save for the John Lithgow season. I have faith that Jeff Eastin and the creative team will keep coming up with interesting story lines before the series becomes as stale as a Billy Ocean song. If this finale is any indication, they’re on their way.