White Collar – Episode 2-1 Review

Withdrawal Episode 2-1

Pictured: (l-r) Tim Dekay as Peter Burke, Tim Matheson as Edward Walker -- Photo by: Will Hart/USA Network

Tuesday night White Collar returned to USA with the season two opening episode “Withdrawal”. It may not have had the same level of explosive excitement of the season one finale, but it did have a particularly solid and clever script, great pacing, charming performances, and the same witty banter and overall sense of rollicking good fun USA Network shows usually offer up. They also seem to have found the confidence and opportunity to begin to more fully explore the characters and the bonds between the characters.

This episode featured the USA signature storytelling technique (à la Burn Notice), blending the season’s major who-killed-Kate-and-what-the-heck-is-up-with-that-Russian-music-box arc and the self-contained mystery of the week. The episode picks up shortly after the events of “Out of the Box”. Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) has been carted back to prison; Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) gets his badge back; FBI bad guy Fowler is in the wind and Diana Lancing (Marsha Thomason) is apparently on the team permanently. Badge in hand, Peter quickly offers Neal a return to the status quo, albeit with a slightly less chafing ankle monitor.

After a curiously unexplained two month delay, Caffrey is back out on the streets and on the job with Peter. A particularly slick bank robber has announced his intention to rob a New York City bank, via a unique calling card, after having struck successfully in other major cities. They swiftly deduce that a particularly slick businessman, Edward Walker, is behind the crime wave, but proving it and stopping him are both problematic.

Walker is played by Tim Matheson, who also directs the episode. It’s a role he’s well suited for and he seems to be having a ball. The scene in which he’s introduced is reminiscent of a certain golfing scene in Animal House, in which Matheson starred when he was a relative youngster. Not a coincidence, I’m sure. Tim has more recently guest starred in Burn Notice (for which he frequently directs) in a recurring role as the charming psycho assassin, Larry. It always helps to have a heavy hitter in the guest star spot when you’re kicking off the new season. Matheson was an excellent choice.

I noticed another excellent choice roll by in the credits at the beginning of the show. (The end credits were mysteriously missing on the first airing. What is up with that? Am I the only one who wants to see them? And don’t they have union/guild rules about credits?) Hy Conrad is now listed as a consulting producer. Mr. Conrad was a staff writer for USA’s recently retired Monk. In fact he was their go-to-mystery-guy. I’m happy to see he’s landed on White Collar. This bodes well for season two.

My one quibble? I’m not so sure I bought that Neal was “section 8″ distressed by the events in “Out of the Box”. I needed more than a glance beneath the con man façade. Matt Bomer (Neal) handles all the quips, the smooth talk, the vulnerable sincerity, the good buddy bickering and the hopeless romance deftly, but deeply troubled and in a “dark place” after an horrifically traumatic event? I don’t know. He didn’t sell it so much as Willie Garson (Mozzie) and Tim DeKay (Peter), whose work together in this episode was delightful, did it for him.

My favorite part? Any scene with Willie Garson, but particularly those park bench scenes with Tim DeKay. The pairing off of Peter with Mozzie and Neal with Agent Lancing is an intriguing development. I’d like more of that.

Favorite Quote? “I’m doing the newspaper thing. I’m not doing the stupid bird thing.” — Peter

Next week on White Collar: “Need to Know”

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