Review: USA's White Collar Returns - "Withdrawal" (ep. 2.1)

Peter and Neil break into an already broken-into bank.On the return of USA’s White Collar last night, Matt Bomer was just as charming and mischievous as Neil Caffrey during the best of season 1.  After the explosion of the plane and (possibly) his girlfriend Kate that ended the first season, Neil is left back in jail and possibly fighting off symptoms of post-traumatic stress.  After being reunited with the FBI’s Peter Burke (the always charming Tim DeKay), he immediately goes back to work, both as a FBI consultant where he legally gets to rob banks to detect security flaws and with his friend Mozzie (played as goofy yet loyal by Willie Garson) to find out who killed Kate.

The first season was all about finding a music box that would allow Kate to return to Neil, a gimmick that seemed secondary to the cases and growing friendship between Neil and Peter.  This season still seems to revolve around the music box, which was unveiled as hiding in an unexpected place by the end of the first episode, and Kate, who is most likely not dead and will reappear at the mid-season cliffhanger.  Yet still, the most interesting and entertaining parts of the show are Neil showing off his skills as a thief and master forger while helping the FBI take down other white collar criminals.

This first episode back neatly recapped the first season without being too exposition heavy and still filled its story with bank robberies, an arrogant hedge fund manager, and not quite legal ways of obtaining evidence.  First the bad guy in question set them up, making Peter and Neil look like incompetent fools after they wasted SWAT resources to break up a bank robbery that ended up being an alarm clock in a safe deposit box.  When 30 other banks have similar false alarms all at the same time, Neil and Peter figure out that the real robbery is taking place at another bank with a silent alarm and sneak in through a rooftop vent to whisk away the hostage they had worked with to help secure the banks in the first place.  The robbers get away with the cash, Peter and Neil’s partnership is threatened by the bureau and everything looks like it’s going to end negatively.

Old married couple or partners in (solving) crime?But this is a show on the USA network.  Nothing really bad ever happens on these shows.  Storylines are tied up in a neat bow with just enough strings to carry you to the next episode.  You watch for the fun dialogue, exemplified by Peter and Neil having an “old married couple” like argument to distract someone holding a gun on them before using dye packets to blind the robber, and the comedy that stems from the odd couple that is Peter and the ever paranoid Mozzie meeting in a public park to discuss Neil’s mental health.

The only slip in an otherwise quality show was the attempt to use green screen to make a scene featuring the currently pregnant Tiffany Thiessen (who plays Peter's wife) look like she was having lunch in New York when really they were filming in Los Angeles.  The green screen usage was worse than some I've seen in amateur video.  The very first shot looked like it was compressing the image in an attempt to make Thiessen look slimmer to disguise her pregnancy.  Bad move by the director, but a scene that was easily forgotten by the end of the episode.

White Collar is an always entertaining, light show that is perfect for summer viewing.  If you haven’t seen the first season, get the DVDs and stream what was one of the most delightful new shows of last season.  You’ll probably be done with it before the new episode starts next week.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (entertaining capers might lack a little suspense but make for a very enjoyable summer show)


Netflix accounts can get the first season here or you can buy the first season here.  To watch (or rewatch) last night’s episode, a digital stream is here.

Showrunner Jeff Estin is also on Twitter - @jeffestin

Screen caps originally from