…Way to post a late reaction post, huh?
Late as it is, there’s one thing in particular I wanted to post about, in regards to White Collar‘s season 2 opener. In the last couple of weeks before season 2 started, in the midst of being really excited about the show being back, and getting more Neal and Peter, in the back of my mind there was one little detail I wasn’t sure how to feel about: when I was hunting down interviews, I read that at the beginning of the episode Neal was back in prison, so Peter had to get him released into his custody again.
In the end, I liked how this was dealt with, it all felt really organic, but the reason I’d worried a bit that maybe it was sign that the intention was to wipe the slate so that everything could start from square, as it were, but Neal being in prison was very logical and felt natural, things picked up in a logical continuation from where the first season ended. But even more importantly, Neal and Peter’s relationship picked up where it left off. It was the relationship we’ve come to know and love, but it was also an evolved version of it.
In some shows, when a particular dynamic is the driving force, there might be a fear of altering the balance and screwing it up; and so maybe situations are manipulated so that the dynamic doesn’t change. The problem is that relationships aren’t static, and they do evolve, and to force a relationship to stay the same unnaturally is counterproductive; the trick, obviously, is to keep the essence of the dynamic intact while letting it evolve. This is most obvious in the “will they or won’t they” type of romantic relationship, but it’s also true of platonic, complicated relationships like Neal and Peter’s.
One particular example where this was completely botched is season 2 of Merlin: through the first season, Arthur had gone from being a jerk to Merlin, to having a grudging respect for him, and then to seeing him as a friend (even though Arthur wouldn’t admit that to himself); and Merlin had also come to see Arthur as a friend and leader he could follow. But come season two, Arthur is once again behaving like he thinks Merlin is just an uneducated, stupid servant he can jerk around. I guess that the logic behind it is that that was the base of the relationship when the series started, and it generates both humor and angst for Merlin, but personally, I had enjoyed seeing the evolution of their relationship, and to see the slate wiped clean left a bad taste in my mouth, and it’s part of what soured me on the show in season 2.
At any rate, the point is that White Collar evaded that pitfall beautifully. I read an interview with Jeff Eastin today where he talked about resisting the urge to change everything up in season 2 (…completely the opposite of what I said up there, yeah) and how he wanted to stick to what works, and that Neal and Peter. But he also clearly understands the need to see the relationship evolve, and the characters through it; and in this episode, after all that’s happened, both Neal and Peter now freely admit that they consider each other friends. I mean, it was obvious last season that they cared about each other, but I don’t think we ever saw one refer to the other as a friend. And that, to me, was the most satisfying thing about this episode.