Some of the best season finales don’t leave everyone happy. Concerning this week’s White Collar Season 4 finale, “In the Wind” that’s one of the best things the series could have done.
We knew how driven Neal (Matt Bomer) was to close this chapter in his life, and tonight we saw how much he’s willing to finally move forward. He recognized how much more meaningful his family he created for himself while working for the White Collar division was than his biological family. His fake proposal to Sara (Hilarie Burton) wasn’t just part of the con, he really felt that way. He was ready to put his obsession of his father behind him. It just took seeing his father for who he truly was in the present day to permanently scorch the past for him.
James (Treat Williams) was never a trustworthy character, and it didn’t take a lot to suspect him. He laid clues all along the way, and while he didn’t appear to be the mastermind behind it all, he proved to be as dirty as suspected, and when given a chance to do the right thing, he turned his back on Peter (Tim DeKay) and most importantly, Neal.
No one could fault James for shooting Senator Pratt (Titus Welliver) in self-defense, he’s worked too long to clear his name, but now he needs to be convinced that the FBI would give him the freedom to come forward and protect him over the death of a famous and powerful politician. After serving the law, then bending it, James ran from the law for too long to think straight. He holds the cards, but he doesn’t want them. He doesn’t care about the others who depend on him, one of which is the son he ran out on too many years ago. And now he’s hell bent on showing Neal that life doesn’t work out the way we want it to. Fitting coming from a dirty cop, and this will leave Neal hating his father even more unless he changes his mind.
They came close to clinching it. Mozzie was the x-factor again, coming up with high tech gadgetry, hydrofluoric acid, giant scale models of the Empire State Building, and a remote controlled blimp to deliver the evidence box to Neal’s apartment–all of the White Collar staples we’ve come to love about the show. They were all spectacular and the spectacle kept us glued to the edge of our seats. Even Peter took a giant leap in crossing the line of the law, shaped by his friendship with Neal and Mozzie, his old mentor turning on him, and his respected fallen superior provoking him. He took that risk he never took, and once again, White Collar showed the good guys never win by painting the ultimate good guy in the corner.
Neal expressed his love and affection to Sara, and Pratt was going to get exposed for his dirty work. What a con this would have been if it all worked out, okay, we can agree it’s not an 18th century music box, but Season 5 would have started off with a clean slate, and no complications other than Neal and Sara’s relationship. It would have been a truly happy ending and beginning.
But no one really won. Pratt was killed. Director Reese Hughes (James Rebhorn) wasn’t vindicated, Peter has been wrongly accused of murder and Sara left for London without any hope that they could find some way to work it out. The head of Life isn’t that simple or convenient, so why should TV be any different?
Peter now hangs “in the wind,” leaving a promise to his wife unfulfilled, and endangering a career he’s worked very hard to maintain. Elizabeth’s (Tiffani Thiessen) fears that Peter would catch the brunt of Ellen’s evidence box, and while he’s not dead, he doesn’t have much to clear his name. They have evidence to implicate Pratt, but Agent Callaway (Emily Proctor) was trying to protect the dirty senator, not put him away. Now, who knows who she is going to serve now that Pratt’s been killed. Evidence linking her can’t be used since it was obtained by Hughes’ tap, which was done illegally.
What makes this finale different than the others in the series? There’s no question of trust between Peter and Neal. That’s one of the most refreshing things that happened. In fact, Peter is putting all of his faith in Neal to convince James to come back, there’s no other way to prove his innocence. The trust must be put in someone who has proven multiple times, he can’t be trusted. Come Season 5, everyone is putting their faith in Neal, and let’s face it, Mozzie too, since we all know he’ll factor into the solution. Neal doesn’t have to con anyone or pull the hood over his father’s eyes. He has to swallow up any anger he might be feeling towards James and get him to tell the truth before anything else happens to him, to get another con man do to the good thing, for justice.
My, how far Neal Caffrey has come.
We’ll revisit Season 4 later this week and see what comes next for Neal, Mozzie, and Peter. After that, look for Season 5 of White Collar this summer on USA.