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Saturday, 17 of March of 2018

White Collar – “Taking Account”

“Blow it up on his face.”

Sally "the Vulture," hacker (played by Lena Headey)

Hackers don't look this good. Period. If they did, they wouldn't spend their time looking up fake nude pics of Felicia Day.

Usually the opening quote of these reviews are telling, well-crafted lines that either encapsulate the episode on the whole or it’s just a gem I want to share. This line is neither. Sometimes I’m just 14 and it makes me laugh.

That line comes from the mouth of Peter Burke and will probably be featured in a new incarnation of the “Let’s Enhance” video. He’s talking about some surveillance video he gains through a hacker in his employ, from a bank that must have HD cameras installed at all exits since “blowing it up on his face” didn’t degrade the image quality at all. But I suppose I shouldn’t be nitpicky.

My eyes roll when shows do episodes revolving around technology and hacker culture. The scripts tend to become a list of keywords and misused terminology and it’s so transparent that the writers don’t necessarily understand the solution to their story problem and just type in what the consultant tells them to write. I imagine hospital shows sound the same to an doctors. Unless sarcoidosis actually does come up in every differential ever.

However, I don’t blame White Collar for sounding like every procedural that tackles technology. Sure, they make their computer nerds gorgeous (generally not the case) and their apartments ridiculously well-outfitted (the wall of expenive 25-inch monitors in a hacker’s pad is probably way more rare than you think) but you have to expect that kind of thing with the “blue skies” look. This isn’t The Wire; gritty reality has no place here. No, my issue with the show of late comes more from it falling into tropy pitfalls. The season started off with a bang and it’s been stalling, things like Worried Wife and Syrupy Character Development (I wish I had the time to review the Mozzie-focused episode — what a cheesey/saccharine miscue that was) flooding the choke. And even that wouldn’t bother me so much if Myles McNutt hadn’t said that would be the case when I was filling my glass half-full.

I hate it when that smug, Canadian bastard is right.

What I can say, though, is that this particular episode brought a little more development and a little more drama. I would say it’s moving in the right direction. But, sadly, I know better now.

We all know my feelings on Sara. I like Alex better as a love interest and, while I don’t think the single-dimensional character is Hilarie Burton’s fault (she’s working with what she has), I struggle to understand what it is about her that Neal’s into. I liked her better as the sometimes-antagonist to his caper-of-the-season. She seemed sharper, deeper, capable. As Neal’s girlfriend she’s reduced to Con-Abetting Barbie (literally in last week’s episode) and possesses a naivete and capacity for innocence that didn’t fit her whip-smart attitude before. You can explain it away by saying her relationship with Neal made her all mooshy but I would believe that more if I saw that Old Her pop up again. It’s like I’m watching a completely different character. Would Peter worry about Neal criminalizing Season 2 Sara? I don’t think he would.

But we suspend our disbelief, right? We assume that she’s got some swagger that Neal appreciates. Clearly, since he’s over Kate and could ostensibly get any woman in New York to fall for him (as is his job in just about every episode), Sara must have something he appreciates above any other prospect. Or she put a gypsy curse on him (One Tree Hill is the one with witches, right?). In any case, it brings him to a crossroads: should he stay or should he go? Does he stick around in New York City, live his life with Sara Plain and Slingbacked or does he skip town with Mozzie and his billions in Nazi fortune? If he goes there may be trouble, since he’ll always have to look over his shoulder and he’ll abandon a life that could have been worth sticking around for. But if he stays there could be double, as he is sitting on a mountain of illegality that could shatter any hopes of a “normal” life with this girl with whom he might be willing to settle down.

Clash songs aside, that Sara is putting two and two together due to Neal being uncharacteristically careless (really? leaving the safe open?) is a decent bit of drama as long as we’re suspending our disbelief anyway. Will she turn him in? Will she confront him? Will she consider stepping out of the gray area and into the dark side? Does Neal want to take her out of the frying pan and into the fire?

That one was Meat Loaf by the way.

As much as the storyline is ambling, this season is maintaining its gray edge, blunt as it may appear right now. Thank Mozzie for keeping that edge. Neal not taking the reins on any of this only fritters the intensity. Combine that with Peter really hitting that paternal role hard, reprimanding Neal twice for his petulant chicanery in the last two episodes and hinting about Neal changing his stripes like a father who knows his son done wrong, and, really, this season has turned from being about the tension over the caper into a morality play on how sinners can change. I’m hoping the season sharpens up and works that tension back into the story. Stupid Myles McNutt and his made-up last name.

Other things:

  • Mozzie totally gets laid by lady hacker, Vulture! What up! After the stint with the waitress he was obsessing over, I didn’t think they were ever going to get around to Moz ever doing it and they were just going to keep him as a pathetic sap for the rest of the series. Way to go, killer. I’m sure Lena Headey was just happy to pretend-sex a person that isn’t supposed to be her brother and doesn’t look 15.
  • It really does depress me that there hasn’t been a believable technology expert/hacker on television since Mac on Veronica Mars. I’m including the kids on Big Bang Theory. But they also don’t have a believable character on set.
  • I’ve been hopping around the country for the past couple of weeks (for business and pleasure — got my Jet Setter badge on Foursquare!) so I just caught up on White Collar tonight. I’m really glad that I had a glut of shows because if I had to endure “Dentist of Detroit” and “Veiled Threat” without the most recent two to make up for them, I might have signed off the series until the finale. Although “Veiled Threat” did have a good tango scene and Neal not being chosen by any women. That was nice. “Dentist of Detroit” might have had some redeeming factors that were sullied by the awful flashback sequences. Might have been endearing to some. I am not some.
  • Even if I don’t believe the relationship at all, I do appreciate them at least trying to build up to how Neal and Sara (Sara particularly) still struggle with nomenclature and status of their coupling so that the shackin’ up had more bite.
  • I’m still cracking up about “blow up on his face.”
  • Elizabeth: “We chat.”
  • Is Neal reverse-Chuck? Does he implicate everyone in his secret underworld life into the above-the-surface legitimate one? Mozzie’s protests against the FBI’s interdictory encroachment upon his lifestyle have become less righteous and more juvenile. Neal and Peter seem to recruit everyone in their lives to help them out all the time (isn’t there some sort of paperwork or screening process people have to go through?) but not like Chuck where the people are not supposed to know what they’re really doing.
  • There is very much a running thread of children/growing-up going on throughout the series but especially this season. Peter is definitely owning his role of father figure to Neal, the most telling scene so far to that effect when Peter finds Neal and Sara childishly dressing up their statues, wearing the expensive gowns, and hollers at them for going off book. I totally expected Neal to shout, “You’re not my real dad!”
  • When there were shots fired in the park, there was a part of me that hoped Sally would get hit but mostly for her crimes as Cersei. And then I thought about Arya being the trigger person, learning her skills Leon-style. And then I realized that, really, Arya in any kind of spin-off would be pretty amazing. Police procedural. First-run syndicated Roman epic. Guest spot on The View where she jabs everyone with Needle. I’d be there for all of it.
  • Ha ha. “Blow up on his face.”

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