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Featured TV on DVD Review: White Collar: Season Four

October 13th, 2013

White Collar: Season Four - Buy from Amazon: Buy from Amazon

I love movies and TV shows about conmen, and White Collar won me over the very first season. Also, I thought it got even better the second and third seasons. Has the show finally peaked? Or can it get even better?

The Show

Let's begin with a recap. The show focuses on two men, Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke. Neal is a conman / forger / thief and Peter was the FBI agent who caught him. And when Neal escaped from prison, it was Peter who caught him again. This time, however, Neal made Peter a deal. Neal would help Peter to solve cases in exchange for his freedom. Peter got the FBI to agree, for the most part. Neal would have to wear an ankle tracker for as long as he was working with the FBI. For the first two seasons, this arrangement worked out rather well. However, two things happened that changed that. Firstly, one of Neal's friends, Mozzie, sort of stole millions of dollars of stolen Nazi treasure. Throughout season three, Neal and Mozzie try to get the treasure out of the country, so if Neal's deal with the FBI turns sour, they can live in comfort for the rest of their lives. At first, this seems to be unnecessary, because Neal gets some good news. Due to all of the good work he's done with the FBI, his sentence will be commuted and he will be a free man. However, something sour does happen. Agent Kramer doesn't want Neal free and is looking for a way to have him sentenced to life, only to force him to work for the FBI. Peter manages to warn Neal, and Neal and Mozzie go on the run.

Season four picks up at that point with Neal and Mozzie living a good life on a tropical island, while Peter and his two colleagues, Diana Barrigan and Clinton Jones, are looking for them. They are on a short clock, because they are not the only ones looking. The FBI has Agent Kyle Collins hunting Neal, and hunting is the right word. He is determined to get Neal, even if it kills him. (And by "him", I mean Neal.) Fortunately, Neal has help, Henry Dobbs, a fellow fugitive who has been on the island for 20 years and has connections that run very, very deep. Doing a deal with Dobbs turns out to be a really bad and really good idea, but in ways I can't talk about without entering spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, their island adventure ends with Neal and Peter back in New York City, but they are not working together.

When they get back to New York City, Neal basically resumes his old life, but Peter's been reassigned to the cave, a.k.a., the Evidence Warehouse. It's a lowly job and his new boss, Agent Patterson, is a monster, but it is the best his boss could get him. After the debacle with Neal, there are many people at the FBI who want him out. One of the main story threads early in the season is trying to get Peter his job back. He needs a big bust to get him back in the good graces, but it's hard to get a bust when you are not allowed to investigate. Another main story thread is more personal. Neal never knew a lot about his father. We learn that his father was a cop, a corrupt cop. He admitted to murder, in fact, he admitted to killing a fellow cop. When his father was arrested, Neal was taken in by his father's old partner, Ellen Parker. Neal finally wants to know everything about his father, but one of the first things he learns is his father might not have been guilty. He might have pleaded guilty to protect his partner and his family from a larger conspiracy. It's an emotional storyline and really adds a lot to the season.

There are many very good individual cases, some of which have recurring characters. Sara Ellis is back as the insurance investigator / rival for Neal / romantic interest for Neal. Rebecca Mader shows up as an art thief who blackmails Neal into stealing a piece of art, or she will turn him in for breaking into the U.S. Marshall's building. Mozzie is the center of attention in Identity Crisis and it focuses on a Revolutionary War spy ring conspiracy, which is always a good sign. (On a side note, the episode mentions a crazy guy who thinks his cat gave him a parasite that subtly changes his behavior. That's actually real. It's called Toxoplasma gondii and in rodents it makes them like the smell of cat urine, which makes them easier prey for cats. I don't know what it's effects on humans are.) Compromising Positions is definitely a highlight episode. The overall plot is a little confusing and full of spoilers, so I won't get into it, but in the episode, Peter has to pretend to be having an affair with Sara, and it needs to be on film, so they have a sexy photoshoot, with Neal behind the camera, and Peter's wife, Elizabeth, giving tips to make it sexier. It's a great scene. Alex Hunter returns in Ancient History. She is a fellow thief and was a rival for the stolen Nazi treasure and she's not happy Neal and Mozzie stole it without her. (To be fair, she was planning on stealing it without them.)

At this point, we are halfway through the season and spoilers get a little more difficult to dance around. There are still some episodes where the case of the week takes precedent over the main storyline. For instance, Gloves Off involves an insider trader who only gives his tips to those who fight in an underground boxing club, so Neal has to fight Peter in the ring. Peter is supposed to win, that's how they choreographed it, but Neal learns some news about Peter that makes him want to win in the ring. Vested Interest involves an imposter at an FBI conference, who is looking to steal some new tech, but they don't know what tech. Even this episode deals mostly with Neal's quest to learn more about his father and from this point on, it is all about that quest.

Comparing this season to past seasons, I would say season four is not quite as good as season three, but it is damn close. If I were to give scores out of ten, which I don't, this would be a fraction of a point lower than season three. It would be a barely noticeable difference. All of the elements that make the show work are still here, including the great writing and the amazing chemistry between the cast. I especially love the relationship between Peter and Elizabeth. They have to be my favorite married couple on TV. I think the reasons this season is not quite as good, is because it doesn't have as many really fun guest starts. It is still a great show and easily worth picking up and I have no doubt season five will be worth picking up as well, when it comes out on DVD.

The Extras

The first three discs only have deleted scenes as extras, and the deleted scenes are in non-anamorphic widescreen. Strange. Disc four has a five-minute featurette on Tim DeKay, who directed his second episode of White Collar this season. There is an audio commentary track on the season finale with the creator, Jeff Eastin, and three of the actors, Tim DeKay, Matt Bomer, and Willie Garson. Finally, there are nine minutes of outtakes.

The Verdict

The quality level for White Collar: Season Four might be a tiny amount lower than Season Three, but it is still an excellent show. There are not a ton of extras on the DVD, but enough to lift from an easy recommendation to a contender for Pick of the Week. To emphasize, this is not the best season, but it is still a contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, Beau Bridges, Hilarie Burton, Brett Cullen, Willie Garson, Gregg Henry, Judith Ivey, Rebecca Mader, Mekhi Phifer, Tiffani Thiessen, Marsha Thomason, Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Sharif Atkins, Gloria Votsis