Wednesday, July 3, 2013

TV on DVD Review: White Collar - Season 3

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters pull you into the fun stories
Cons: Absolutely none.  It really is that strong.
The Bottom Line
Strongest season yet
Character development
Humor, fun stories

"I Work Here, but I'm Not an Agent.  I Took the Road Less Recommended."

For me, the heart of White Collar has always been the relationship between con man Neal Caffrey and FBI agent Peter Burke.  The bromance between the two is so unexpected and so much fun and drives the rest of the relationships on the show.  So I was a little worried going into season three because it looked like they would be messing with that relationship.  But it turned out my worry was for nothing because this was by far the strongest season of the show to date.

The premise of the show is that Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) is serving the second half of his prison sentence for fraud as a consultant to the FBI helping them take down other white collar criminals.  He’s working under the supervision of Peter Burke (Matt DeKay), the only man able to track him down and arrest him.  And they make a surprisingly good team.

To properly discuss the on-going story of the season, I’m going to have to spoil the first 5 minutes of the season premier, which resolves the cliffhanger from the end of season two.  If you want to go into the season completely and totally unspoiled, just trust me this season will blow you out of the water and buy the set now.  If you don’t mind, keep reading.

Season three opens exactly where season two ended – Neal is standing in the middle of a warehouse full of the treasure supposedly destroyed when the U-boat exploded.  Peter thinks that Neal stole it or at least knows where it is.  But the real thief is Neal’s friend Mozzie (Willie Garson).  But before the two can sell their ill-gotten gain and buy an island, they have to make sure that the FBI can’t trace any of it to them.

That means that it is business as usual in the FBI offices.  Neal, Peter, and agents Diana (Marsha Thomason) and Jones (Sharif Atkins) track down someone threatening a journalist, find the person robbing a private school of funds, and save a rare baseball from being stolen.  We even get a look into Mozzie’s past as someone comes to town looking for the Dentist of Detroit.  Sometimes, the cases involve Neal’s new girlfriend Sara (Hilarie Burton), an insurance investigator who used to be chasing Neal for a painting he stole.  (Sorry, allegedly stole.)

The show is just as addictive as ever.  On New Year’s Day, I found myself watching a marathon of the season three episodes, and I couldn’t stop watching even though I had seen all the episodes before.  Yes, the plots are that much fun with some good twists.  But again, it’s the characters that are the real pull.  I love spending time with all of them.  The chemistry between the entire cast is top notch, and the writers liberally sprinkle in humor that keeps you laughing even though this is a serious mystery show.  Yes, Mozzie gets all the best lines and they often make me laugh out loud, but the rest of the characters have their moments to shine.

The treasure storyline, which develops slowly over much of the season, is the heart of what drives the character development this season.  Watching Neal struggle with what to do with that treasure is amazing.  Late in the season, Peter has his own struggle.  You don’t know which way things will go because you don’t feel like the characters know themselves what they are going to do.  Mozzie is also highly involved in the treasure plot, and the development works for him, too.  For the other characters, we see more of Diana’s girlfriend, and even Agent Jones as well as Peter’s wife Elizabeth (Tiffany Amber Theisen) get better development.  This was really Sara’s first season on the show, and she gets some development, but she’s the weakest of the main characters.

Speaking of Elizabeth, she and Mozzie are right behind Neal and Peter for favorite relationship on the show.  They have a very fun friendship, and their scenes are guaranteed to make you laugh.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Peter still have a very strong marriage, another element of the show that I love.

The increased layers to the characters required more acting, and the cast stepped up brilliantly.  There isn’t a weak performance in the bunch, and they handle the many notes of every episode brilliantly.  I have to single out Tim DeKay for special recognition.  The first episode of the second half of the season was a powerhouse performance from him.  It required him to be two seconds away from losing it and fighting hard to maintain control.  He was brilliant the entire way through.  If he doesn’t win an Emmy, it is a travesty.

There are four discs in this set, collecting all sixteen episodes in widescreen and full surround.  Extras include a gag reel, deleted scenes, and commentary on the season finale.  Rounding out the set is a trivia challenge and some behind the scenes fun as the cast confronts creator Jeff Eastin for his excessive tweeting.

To full appreciate this season, you need to start the show at the beginning.  It’s so addictive, you won’t mind in the slightest.  And when you get here, you’ll appreciate the character development so much more.

I cannot recommend this show or this season highly enough.  You’ll love every second of season three of White Collar.

Season 3 Episodes:
1. On Guard
2. Where There's a Will
3. Deadline
4. Dentist of Detroit
5. Veiled Threat
6. Scott Free
7. Taking Account
8. As You Were
9. On the Fence
10. Countdown
11. Checkmate
12.Upper West Side Story
13. Neighborhood Watch
14. Pulling Strings
15. Stealing Home
16. Judgment Day

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