January 19th, 2010
Through the magic of Twitter, I’ve known for a few weeks that critics have been fine with how White Collar resolved its midseason cliffhanger, which I…well, let’s just say that I wasn’t buying what they were selling. So, going into “Hard Sell,” I knew that I wasn’t going to be writing an extended treatise on the show’s incongruous plot twist tarnishing what goodwill it had.
However, although I was able to put away that particular hat, “Hard Sell” remains, well, a hard sell for me. While they may negotiate the cliffhanger in a way that doesn’t damage the integrity of the show, it also does absolutely nothing to make the show more interesting. There’s some vague potential on the margins here that makes me wish this were an entirely different show, but as it is all this mid-season premiere demonstrates is that no matter the crazy ideas the show might introduce, it’s always going to revert back to a pretty blasé procedural with some charismatic leads.
While I think the show would have ceased functioning if they had allowed us to believe that Peter was in any way evil, I think it is actually more damning for the show that they are able to sweep it under the rug so efficiently. At least if they had really let the show’s dynamics change, I would have seen some sense of life in the premise; instead, I’m left wondering how many times the show is going to bluff its way to something approaching dynamism. And while I might have felt it was worth it if this episode felt particularly eventful as a result, the boiler room case suffered from parallels that lacked subtlety, and scenes where Neal and Peter talk about one thing, but we know what they’re really talking about. All that did was distract from the case itself, which only really popped when it let Neal go into slick salesman mode and more or less died once it became about two other people’s business dispute.
I like the show in some ways, but what’s interesting is that the things the show seems to be doing well (or, at least, spending time on) are some of the things that I thought they would have problems with. I was sure Peter’s wife would become a distraction, as she is disconnected from the main action and because I’ll admit I doubted Thiesen as an actress, but her integration into the world has become somewhat natural, and I’m fine with the show bringing her into the fold on occasion. However, there’s a limit to the degree to which her involvement can really influence the rest of the show, and yet I don’t even remember the names of the FBI agents who aren’t Peter, and one of them is played by goddamn Dubby. There’s something wrong with that picture, and it’s keeping me from embracing the show.
By episode’s end, we’ve learned that the cliffhanger was in fact just a ruse: Peter was meeting with Kate in order to try to get her to back off of Neal, and the ring is an FBI ring so Fowler remains a suspect. It’s a cheat, but it does allow the show to get back to normal, and I’m sure its fans will appreciate that. However, when we leave the episode as Neal tells Moz that the music box Fowler is looking for is not actually in his possession, it makes me wish that we could just abandon the current story and spend an entire season with Neal stealing things, and that the dynamic between Bomer and DeKay were part of a Catch Me If You Can-style cat and mouse game as opposed to a typical USA procedural with a Catch Me If You Can-back story.
Which isn’t a new feeling, but one that I’d like to see going away (or at least fading into the background) by now.
- I know it’s a procedural cliche, but I actually think the Boiler Room story would have worked better if we had seen someone who had gotten fleeced, or potentially actually met their woman on the inside long enough for us to be really concerned about her fate. The human side of the story was entirely absent, which made it all about Neal and Peter, which made things seem a bit too neat for my tastes.
- I liked the idea that Neal only pretended to steal the music box, and that he lies to even Peter about it, but if it was that impressive a feat I’m surprised that Peter wouldn’t have heard about it at some point.
- Seriously, I don’t even know the name of the character played by Natalie Morales. That’s not right.