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Featured TV on DVD Review: White Collar: Season Three

July 13th, 2012

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

I've reviewed the previous two season of White Collar. It quickly became one of my favorite summer shows and one I look forward to seeing. Unfortunately this year, the screener arrived more than a month late. Was it worth the wait? Is the show still getting stronger?

The Show

As usual, we start with a recap of the show. Matt Bomer stars as Neal Caffrey, a con-man whose talents include forgery, theft, etc. Many years before the show began, he was caught by F.B.I. Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), but escaped, only to be caught by Peter Burke again. But the second time around, Neal made a deal with Peter. Peter would get Neal out of prison, while Neal would help Peter and the F.B.I. with some of their tougher cases. Of course, this was a con, of sorts. He wanted out so he could find his girlfriend, Kate, but that quest ended in tragedy. Throughout season two, Neal attempted to find out who was behind that, and in the end was put on the trail of a sunken World War II sub that was filled with art stolen by the Nazis. After a long hunt, Neal and Peter find it, only to have it blown up. ... But not really. Neal's friend, Mozzie, stole the art and blew up the sub as cover, without telling Neal about the plan. Now the two have billions in stolen art and can get out of the country. ... If they can get it out of the country.

This is the main plot thread for Season Three. Can Neal and Mozzie figure a way to get the stolen art out of the country, without having Peter and the rest of the F.B.I. figure out they have it? The majority of the episodes at least touch on this one and it is an excuse to introduce Anna Chlumsky as FBI Agent Melissa Matthews, who is part of the D.C. Art Crimes division. There was close to a decade where she wasn't acting, but since coming back, she's been incredibly busy. She's very talented and I'm glad to see her back. This thread also brings back someone from Neal's past, but going into that would be too far into spoiler territory. The same is true of the strains the treasure puts on Neal's relationships with Peter, Mozzie, and Sara Ellis, his girlfriend. Can't talk about that.

As for some of the stand-alone episodes, Where There's a Will has real-life brothers, Danny Masterson and Christopher Masterson playing brothers dealing with a contested will after their father dies. Both wills they have say they inherit everything, but they are both forgeries. When combined, they turn into a treasure map. In Deadline, Diana Barrigan has to go undercover to protect a investigative journalist, whose life is threatened. In order to maintain her cover, she has to pretend she's from Manchester, which is an inside joke, as the actress, Marsha Thomason, is from there. The past catches up to Mozzie in The Dentist of Detroit. Mozzie also takes center stage in Taking Account, when a female hacker, The Vulture, works for the good guys after she's framed for stealing $125 million. Special Agent Clinton Jones (Sharif Atkins) has an episode of his own with As You Were, when a friend who went to the Naval Academy with Jones appears to be in big trouble. On the Fence has a plot too wrapped up in the main thread to discuss without getting into spoilers, but it does feature a guest shot by Eliza Dushku.

At this point, we run into some unacceptable spoilers, so beware. The return of Keller (Ross McCall), means Neal and Mozzie have to make their move right away, but due to secrets they've been keeping from each other, the Feds come down on them and Keller kidnaps Elizabeth to get to the treasure. As an aftermath, Neal learns he might have his sentence commuted, for all of the fine work he's done with the F.B.I. This would mean no more anklet and real freedom for the first time in a long, long, long time. However, this will only happen if Peter signs off on it, so Neal has to mend some bridges he nearly burned.

In the calm after the storm, Peter and Neal investigate possible embezzling at a private school, while Mozzie plays matchmaker between the boy who alerted them to the crime, Graham Phillips, and the daughter of the possible criminal, Elizabeth Gillies. Elizabeth gets to be the focus of Neighborhood Watch, when she thinks one of her neighbors is planning a heist. Neal has to work with his now ex-girlfriend in Pulling Strings, but more importantly, Peter's in-laws, Tom Skerritt and Debra Monk, are in town. Finally, Beau Bridges returns as Agent Kramer, who is here to look over Neal's work to see if he deserves the commutation, but he's already made up his mind and is looking to stop it.

So is season one an improvement over season two? It's a very close call. All the elements that worked the first two seasons are still here, including a stronger focus on Neal's loyalty. With the U-Boat treasure, Neal could skip the country and live the easy life forever. That's a huge temptation and that temptation was missing in season two. I also think the chemistry between the main cast has improved, while the number of guest stars was also a plus. It was already a very good show, so even a minor improvement is a big deal and I think it has continued to improve.

The Extras

Extras start with a featurette on the first disc called Interrogation Room, which is a six-minute trivia contest between the cast. It's a funny featurette. Disc two has Jeff Eastin: @ddicted. Jeff Eastin is the creator of the show, who is dealing with Twitter addiction. There are no extras on disc three, but disc four has an audio commentary track on the season finale with the creator, Jeff Eastin, and three of the actors, Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, and Willie Garson. There are also three minutes of deleted scenes and seven minutes of outtakes.

The Verdict

White Collar: Season Three is an incremental improvement over the previous season and even the weakest episode still has strong replay value. There are not a lot of extras on the four-disc set, but all of them are worth checking out. It's easily worth picking up.

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