The First Evil (asta77) wrote,
The First Evil

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White Collar: Forging Bonds

Anytime I read the words "prequel" or "flashback" I tend to worry. There is too much opportunity to screw up continuity. Add to that fear, "Forging Bonds" was a heavily hyped episode and critical darling of the media. I tried to prepare myself. I was bound to be let down. It's happened so often before. But, to my amazement and shock, I was not! The episode not only was good, but even exceeded expectations for me in some respects.

Let me begin, as I usually do, with what didn't work for me: Alexandra Daddario. I'm amazed a show that has done such a good job casting roles, even one time guest spots, hired someone for such a crucial role who, lets just say, lacks the talent of those around her. It makes it very difficult, though not impossible, to understand why Neal was willing to sacrifice so much for Kate.

I'm too cautious and practical a person to believe in love at first sight. But the moment we see Neal come face to face with Kate, the look on his face tells us he's completely smitten. And since Neal is a romantic who sees the world as he wants to see it rather than how it is, I am able to believe he's in love.

His reaction to Kate is made more believable when put into contest with the other quick “bonds” he forms in the episode. He embarks on a partnership with Mozzie within hours of the two meeting. A chance encounter with Peter outside the bank leads to admiration and a desire to know everything about him. And Alex is a one night stand who he remains in contact with. He even feels guilty discussing their 'relationship' with Kate.

Neal Caffrey has always been quick to form impressions of people, and ones he is unwilling to shake. One look at Kate and Neal decided she was The One. It didn't matter he knew nothing about her. That she was a blank canvas. He just went ahead and created an image of her in his mind, an image of the woman he wanted to love, and nothing Kate could say or do would change that. This certainly is not healthy, but Neal's devotion to her – and what he believed they had – does make more sense to me now.

(ETA: Commenting on another LJ, it just struck me, there was discussion of Kate not getting to know the real Neal, which worried him, yet he never opened himself to learning about the real Kate.)

One aspect of the episode, in particular, stuck with me from the moment I heard it mentioned: the long con. Mozzie and Neal spent a year conning Adler, but what if Adler was conning them? When Neal reveals the password is an anagram that spells out “Nice Try Neal”, it's clear Adler new who Nick Halden really was and that Neal had been played. But for how long? Neal was hired to investigate people on Adler's behalf. It would make sense there were already people on Adler's staff to do the same job. Neal was new to the long con and Moz perhaps a little too confidant in his skills. As soon as “Nick” passed his business card to Adler, was Adler opening up a file on Neal? Did Adler wish to bring Neal into the fold, but was forced to cut and run before he could reveal to Neal his plan? And was Kate left behind to report on Neal's progress and usefulness to Adler?

I've seen some speculation Kate is Adler's daughter. She could be, but I have a couple problems with the idea. One is we saw Robert Moreau's headstone showing he died in 2000. It could be a fake, since the date means Kate's father died before Neal could have met him. However, Robert could have been an associate of Adler's and Kate was left in Adler's care after her father's death.

My other issue is Vincent Adler has a past. At least there was no indication from Peter or Neal that Adler suddenly appeared on the radar. I would think someone would have found out if Adler had a child.

But whether Kate is Adler's daughter or simply another one of his pawns (hey, the show likes the chess metaphors!), doesn't matter. I think Kate was used to manipulate Neal, though she likely fell in love him, and the plan succeeded.

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about Copenhagen (and not just because I'm feeling some personal shenanigans took place there between Neal and Alex ;). It's inclusion could be nothing more than another piece of continuity (which we had A LOT of) or is it an integral piece of the puzzle?

Here's what we know: Alex was there and sent word to Neal she had a lead on the music box. Neal joins Alex, even after Kate refuses to go. Something goes horribly wrong and Alex ends up in a hospital in France. Neal returns to New York to find Kate gone.

Here's what we don't know: Who else knew what was going to go down and perhaps could have been there keeping an eye on things? Peter points out there had to be someone there to spread the word Neal had stolen the box. My theory within a theory is Adler was in Copenhagen. He believed Neal had succeeded and got word to Kate to get the music box away from Neal. We know Adler doesn't have a problem with having people killed after they finish being useful to him. Neal's future would have been grim. Kate, having grown to care about/love Neal splits to protect him.

During Neal's incarceration, Kate visits and Adler backs off for a time because he either believes Neal won't reveal the box's location while in prison or learns Neal doesn't have the box. Something happens with Adler and it spooks Kate. She leaves Neal, again, in order to, again, protect Neal, but ends up back under Adler's control. (Sidenote: there is no way I can ever believe Kate is a cunning con artist or master manipulator, she would either need Neal or Adler to lead her.)

What I'm sill ttrying to figure out is how Alex fits into all this. Could she be working for Adler? Maybe. In the beginning. She is quick to figure out Neal isn't Nick and the first to bring up the music box to him. Yet, we also know Alex is very much her own person, tends not to play well with others and is capable of double-crossing people she works with. So, if she had a connection to Alder early on, she's not necessarily working with him now. Especially given she cares about Neal and I don't believe she would want to see him dead.

Today, to fact check a couple things, I watched the end of 'Bad Judgment', in which Neal finds the origami flower in the bouquet left at Kate's father's grave. Then I watched Alex's introduction in 'Home Invasion', in which Alex is surprised to find the same flower in the wallet and Neal standing nearby. The two were set up to meet, by Kate.

Getting back to Kate, I've never been convinced she's dead and this episode reinforced my belief. Adler has an obsession with fractals, used in batteries, and found in all our electronic a remote detonator to blow up a plane. I'm just sayin'. And while it's become painful to watch Kate onscreen thanks to bad casting, I still have a desire to see Neal make a choice to say goodbye to Kate and move on. It never did sit well with me the way the relationship ended.

Now that I have gone on at length with my theories, I probably should touch upon what I liked about the episode itself.

Continuity for the win! I'm not going to bother listing it all because there was so much there, but I especially liked the Bordeaux bottler and Raphael making a return.

Puppy Satchmo! So adorable! And I'm glad to finally learn how old he is. It's one of those things I wanted to address in the fic I've been plotting forever and.....moving on.

Though I believe Neal has been the victim of a long con in which Kate is a part of, Neal believes he pulled Kate into a life of crime. This helps to explain his guilt at leaving her alone with a lot of broken promises while he sat in prison.

While it didn't surprise me, it was interesting to see Neal try to con Kate. She seemed genuinely hurt. Neal's acted in the same manner with Alex and Peter and they've had similar responses to his dishonesty. On the one hand, I hate to see Neal manipulate and hurt people he's close to. On the other hand, there has to be a reason he is unable to stop himself and allow himself to completely trust others. I feel Neal is a much lonelier person than I had previously imagined.

The inherent distrust also leads me to believe, even with Peter's promise of immunity until sun up, there was no way Neal was going to share more information than he absolutely had to. It's why we failed to learn more about Neal's crimes - what put Neal at the top of Peter's most wanted list - in those three years before his arrest.

I loved how Peter's arrest of Neal played out. Beyond his criminal activities, you see why Peter was so intrigued by Neal and, ultimately, willing to do so much to help him. Neal's thank you to Peter was sincere and Peter knew it. How many other criminals about to have the cuffs slapped on would say and do what he did? It was a perfect moment and nicely set up the bond forged. :)

Finally, (I know, FINALLY) I got what I needed from the episode. Questions I really wanted answers to were answered - like how involved were Neal and Alex. ;) And others I felt needed to be saved for later were saved for later. For instance, we now know how Neal Caffrey became the man he is today, but how and why did Neal Caffrey become...Neal Caffrey? What caused him to follow this particular path when he could have followed others?
Tags: white collar s2

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