“White Collar” Is Still Criminally Addictive
Issue   |   Wed, 03/14/2012 - 01:34

“White Collar” is a television show about an ex-convict named Neal Caffrey, played by Matt Bomer, who is offered a chance to mitigate his jail sentence by working for the FBI. He puts his expert knowledge of the underground world of art theft and forgery to good use when he becomes an adviser to special agent Peter Burke, played by Tim DeKay. As Caffrey attempts to acclimate to the world of the FBI, the viewer is forced to acknowledge the tension between his past and his present, creating an interesting dilemma that unfolds within each episode and across the series as a whole.

Over the course of the past three seasons, “White Collar” has succeeded in standing out among seemingly similar shows such as “CSI” and “Law & Order” by fleshing out recurring characters, those characters’ relationships with one another and their respective histories as an additive to the stand-alone cases being dealt within each episode.

Rather than playing off of Bomer’s good looks to reel in viewers, up until early in season three, the show focused on the budding friendship and business relationship between Caffrey and Burke. Due to the relative absence of sexual plotlines, the show gained a wider age range of viewers than the typical cable drama would. However, it seems that the writers of the show could only hold out for so long before placing Caffrey (who, despite being identified as a “ladies’ man”, hadn’t been getting much action) into a steady romantic relationship that lacked depth. The time and attention the show began to invest in Caffrey’s romantic relationship with insurance investigator Sara Ellis (played by Hilarie Burton, best known for her role on “One Tree Hill” as Peyton) took away from the more important plotlines that revolved around his relationship with Burke, as well as the increasingly prominent inner conflicts he experienced in regards to his current position in the FBI and the man he used to be. As of last week’s season finale, however, his relationship with Ellis has finally been pushed to the backburner and his relationship with Burke brought to the forefront of the show’s focus as the question of whether or not Caffrey will be let off his four-year sentence of working as an assistant at the FBI and wearing a tracking anklet early for good behavior. This brings his inner conflict between the professional art thief he used to be and the crime-stopper he has become to the center of attention for viewers, as well as the suspense becomes more and more tense with each episode, culminating with the masterpiece that was the season three finale. The tense situation is made worse by Caffrey’s long-time convict best friend, Mozzie, played by Willie Garson, who wants nothing more than for Caffrey to abandon his limiting post at the FBI and return with him to the life of a runaway convict.

If whether or not Caffrey would be let off early from his sentence had become something of a recurring theme late in season three, by the end of said season, it seemed that the show could cover nothing else. The season three finale actually revolved around Caffrey’s commutation hearing, and much of the episode was spent watching as each of Caffrey’s co-workers and friends testified on his behalf, a testament to the extreme lengths to which they had all come to love Caffrey in one way or another, despite his criminal tendencies. It also contributed to the running joke that regular viewers have concerning the fact that everyone who meets Caffrey can’t seem to help falling under his spell and developing either a real crush or a friendship crush on him, against all odds. Although no spoilers will be written here, the season three finale of “White Collar” will definitely go down in history as one of the most suspense-ridden, powerful episodes in the show’s run thus far.

Whether or not Caffrey and Ellis’s relationship will have resonance in season four remains to be seen, but for the time being, the show continues to entertain viewers by staying true to its usual charm, wit and action. Along with each episode’s customary FBI case, relations between Caffrey and Burke are tested and fleshed out as Caffrey seriously considers venturing back into his former life of crime. It has become clear that the next season will have both casual viewers and fans alike clinging to the edges of their seats. Yes, “White Collar” has changed a bit since the first episode, but its large success thus far is a testament to the writing, producing and acting put into it.