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the island of conclusions

White Collar 3.01: En Guarde

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White Collar 3.01: En Guarde

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Okay—let’s get the superficial stuff about White Collar 3.01 out of the way first, shall we?

You can probably imagine how excited I was to see Neal fencing , and to learn that one of his identities is “a world class fencer.” The “Gramercy Fencing Club” was pretty exciting too, wasn’t it? What with its floor-to-ceiling windows and bookcases. Our fencing club is in a basement under a coffee shop, and there’s nary a book or a window to be seen. I saw the scene and cursed the lack of a “blades” square on my kink bingo card.

For a cooler eye, though, I called in the expert in the family—my nine-year-old son, who not only fences three times a week, but will also happily watch fencing matches on youtube for hours. Realistic? asked I, showing him the scene.

Yes, he said. They were fencing with actual sabers, and the blade work was pretty good, according to him, and they pretty much followed the rules (though you can’t swap sides like that in a real bout). The only unrealistic thing is that real fencing sabers—for practice or competition—would never be sharp enough to cut off someone’s tie in that mark-of-zorro kind of way.

Still, you don’t have to be Dr. Freud to appreciate the lovely symbolism of the severed tie—and Neal and Peter’s struggle over it. I can see why JE couldn’t resist it.

On a more serious note, I have to say that I was more upset to see Neal lying to Peter and manipulating El than I was about Rachel and Danny sleeping together in the H50 finale. It wasn’t because I thought it was out of character, and wasn't because I don’t want to see what happens next. I can see why the show wanted to resurrect Neal’s latent criminality. It was just upsetting, y’know? Because they love each other. But the show has always been interested in the difference between love and trust, so I’m willing to go with it.

  • I was equal parts thrilled and shocked to see Neal's criminal side coming to the fore in this episode... shocked because well, it's Neal, ya know? Also, hey TPTB, you are actually going there (the jaw-dropping moment for me was how casually and callously he said 'let's use June's niece') and thrilled because, woah, possibilities! This source of conflict to me is a lot more interesting (and a lot more problematic) that where's-kate? and avenge-kate! of seasons' past.

    I know some people are upset that it's Nazi loot that Neal is treating like his personal chattel, but I think we are supposed to be disturbed by it, and that the underlining message is that Neal starts as a thief and a conman, and he's manipulated and lied his way his whole career... now that he's not charmingly giving bad guys their comeuppance we are reminded, finally, that he's not just a roguish hero who lives outside the boundaries of the law (or perhaps it's the first time we are shown this) and that conmen and thieves, in fact, hurt people, and sometimes they hurt good, honest people, even people who love them, and whom they love.

    This is truly an arc where Neal's character can acheive redemption. :)

    In short, fencing! \o/
    • This source of conflict to me is a lot more interesting (and a lot more problematic) that where's-kate? and avenge-kate! of seasons' past.

      You know, this is really true--it does seem much more organic to the characters. What happens when you love a criminal a little too much (even platonicly?)

      And it is an interesting character point for Neal--that he really has done all that he's done out of passion, not a love for the law. I agree that it's disturbing in an interesting way!

  • It was an okay episode to me, but I was hoping for something... more. I was upset about Neal lying, too. I guess I expected too much? I guess the bit about Neal lying to Peter was so predictible to me. I mean, everytime in so many production when a cop and a criminal get along, there always have to be trust issues just when they get along too well. I really hoped it won't happen on White Collar.
    • I can understand that! But it's kind of a double bind, because if Neal "reforms" too perfectly you lose the tension between the characters. I definitely found it disturbing, but mostly because it revealed how engaged I was in the bond between Peter and Neal....

      Anyway, for both our sakes, I hope they do something interesting with it over the course of the season--
      • It's not that I want him to stop being himself, it's just he didn't have to do something like that. I don't think it was needed...

        Yes, this so very much.
  • I love that they're willing to remind us that Neal is a criminal and a thief, and while he cares for people, he has a streak of amorality too that's almost pragmatic in nature--he does what he has to have security. There's something feral about him, even while he's also been established as compassionate and wanting to trust and be trusted, to have some stability. Yet I think he enjoys the thrill of a con, of stealing just for the challenge.

    As I said in my post, the trust issues, yessss. I see why it's upsetting and unsettling, but it's all been in service to reinforcing the intricacy of the Neal-Peter relationship and as you said, the difference between love and trust is a fascinating theme.
    • There's something feral about him, even while he's also been established as compassionate and wanting to trust and be trusted, to have some stability
      Yeah--that is really well put. And this shows what has been implicit throughout the series, that Neal may love Peter (and El and June and Diana and Jones), but he doesn't love the law--as much as Peter wants him to.

      it's all been in service to reinforcing the intricacy of the Neal-Peter relationship
      Yeah--I think this is true. And I think the fact that it was so disturbing is a sign of how intense that relationship is. It brings something else to the surface that has always been implicit--that Peter loves Neal, but doesn't trust him. And that there's something about Peter, who has a central relationship that is both loving and trusting with El, that pours himself into this other thing. I think that there have been lots of smallish times that he's chosen to go with his love for Neal even if he doesn't trust him--but maybe this season there will be a bigger thing (since Peter acknowledges in that scene with El that their lives and careers are so intertwined now). I'm finding that whole dynamic really poignant and compelling.

      There must be a version of that for Neal, but I'm less clear on how it works--

  • I love that they're willing to actually explore Neal's criminality, rather than skating over superficial territory for a season. Of course, I'm not willing to believe it's permanent, but I don't know...it's interesting. I was reluctant to watch after reading several negative reviews, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
    • Yeah, I agree--it was a strong choice that should really give the writers and actors something interesting to work with. It was disturbing, but I think that a measure of how intense the relationship between Neal and Peter is...I enjoyed it too (even aside from the fencing!)--and I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen next--
  • Ha! So I wasn't the only one upset by Danny & Rachel's rekindled romance/affair! In reference to both shows and Danny & Neil, I just think that actions speak louder than words. And these actions are very telling in regards to the characters' moral compass. Don't get me wrong, I understand doing the wrong thing in order to save a life-that seems more acceptable to me :) What I don't understand is the reason/purpose for these actions. Why couldn't Danny & Rachel tell Stan the truth before beginning an affair and getting pregnant? I mean how does THAT make things better. And as far as Neil is concerned, I know he's the ultimate conman, but the last two seasons have been about him gaining Peter's trust...or at least that's what I thought. Weather he gives back the loot, donates it to a museum, etc...it won't matter because the bottom line is that he kept the truth from Neil. I can't wait to see where these story lines take us-the watchers & readers! Sorry for the rant, but you opened up a can of worms!
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