|Neal is a captive in Most Wanted|
True words. But Neal's done running. That has become increasingly clear from the end of last season through the first two episodes of this one. So when Peter tells Neal that he has a way to bring him back to New York—sans prison—we see Neal answer with a slow smile.
Neal has the right idea: there’s a lot to smile about in this episode. It’s a fun, fast paced caper—although the end results are mixed.
Most Wanted has some shocking moments: Collins shooting Neal in the leg was, ah, a surprise. Mozzie's decision about New York caught me off guard. And the ending—well, we’ll get to that.
Meanwhile, though, watching Peter and Mozzie plot together in order to rescue Neal was a joy. (Hector, their benign Artful Dodger, helped. Huzzah!) So was the knowledge that, whatever happened, Peter had no intention of allowing Neal to go to prison. And perhaps best of all was the reassurance that Neal trusts Peter—even Mozzie said so. And hell, when it comes down to it, so does Moz.
The theme of Season Four makes itself known in a conversation between Neal and Ellen: Neal’s family history. I can’t wait to see Neal grapple with his father’s crimes while sorting out the familial aspects of his relationship with Peter.
All good stuff, and overall this was a very good episode. But now for the two negative parts of Most Wanted.
Firstly, Neal is back on the anklet to complete the original four-year deal he made with Peter. I know, I know: it’s not a tragedy. But I’m disappointed. In the wake of the treasure storyline, White Collar had a great excuse to go in one of two directions. The first was to extend Neal’s sentence to cover the whole of the series. The show never explored that option, which was fine. Instead, more intriguingly, it set up a situation in which Neal might have walked free.
I feel as if that story-line went to waste. Once you set up something that big—well, why not use it? Let Neal go free. Let us see what he would do with that freedom.
On the other hand, at least Neal answered one looming question about the anklet: last season, just thinking about his hypothetical freedom, he decided that he would continue working with Peter and the FBI. But I wanted to see how he would use that freedom on a day to day basis and whether the lack of an anklet would affect his relationship with Peter. (Yes, I think the bromance would thrive even without the anklet—but in some ways, things were bound to change.)
And now for what I saw as the second negative aspect to Most Wanted. Hughes, who was willing to help broker a deal for Caffrey, is nonetheless under pressure from the powers that be. He removes Peter from the White Collar division in punishment for going off the reservation in searching for and helping Neal.
My good friend and fellow WCF writer Elrhiarhodan sees this twist as a great way to explore the consequences Peter faces for his willingness to bend the rules in order to help Neal. That is a legitimate view. But I tend to see this more as needless drama that will be resolved in an episode or two. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong, and this will turn into a larger story arc—but that has its own problems.
The basic format of White Collar—of Neal and Peter working together as Neal struggles with his con artist past and the honest future Peter puts within his grasp, even as Peter struggles with the gray areas Neal introduces him to—works. It works brilliantly. There are plenty of organic ways to play with that format; Neal researching the truth about his father is one. Neal gaining his freedom but continuing to work with Peter might have been another.
But separating Peter and Neal, whether by putting Neal on the run or by transferring Peter—well, I can stand that for an episode or two. Three is pushing it; a season’s worth would have me cringing. So for me, this ends up being a catch-22: either Peter's reassignment will be resolved in an episode or two, which will make it feel pointless to me, or it will go on for a while, which will drive me insane!
But that’s enough of the negatives. Overall, I have high hopes for this season, and I believe most of the drama will come not from excuses to physically separate our boys, but from the real problems Neal will unearth as he delves into his past. Onward!
And now that I've got that off my chest, it's your turn, Collars. Tell us what you thought of this episode and its ramifications!