I'd fallen victim, as many of us have, to the 'OMG, if I don't post right away, no one is going to care what I have to say!' mentality. And that may very well be true! ;) However, I've noticed both more frequently and more egregiously this is just not affecting the writing of fans, but of the media paid to talk about shows. More and more I see typos, lack of punctuation, words repeated or left out, all of which leads me to having to read a sentence numerous times to try and figure out what information they are trying to convey. When I watch a TV show late in the even, perhaps chat about it on twitter, and then am swamped with work the rest of the week it's going to be at least a few days before I can get around to posting my thoughts. If my intention is to be thoughtful, not have *too* many errors and, ultimately, have it be something I wasn't embarrassed to have written. I'm just feeling everyone - fans, bloggers, journalists, etc - in a rush to be heard too sacrifice quality for speed. Maybe that's why LJ has been so much quieter lately, It's not because we don't care anymore, it's because we still do. And we need to be passionate about a subject, and give it the time it deserves to be discussed, or else why bother?
My interest in White Collar has declined a bit. I have no plans to quit talking about it (you'll see) or be any more critical of it. In fact, it seems rather pointless to rehash plotting issues since it's clear the writers either aren't as concerned about them as we think they should be or don't really care all that much about them. I hope that doesn't sound bitchy or insulting. The WC writers are talented people. They produce good work. Sometimes, VERY good work. But I think the potential for greatness exists and it's being missed.
I'm also beginning to suffer from USA network fatigue. I loved the 'Blue Skies' brand they developed - taking ideas that worked, building on them and improving upon them. In many ways, I feel White Collar was the pinnacle of their brand. The series has a fabulous city filmed at to look it's absolute best. An attractive cast led by one of the most beautiful human beings walking the planet. Fabulous wardrobe. Snappy dialogue. And an ability to often leave the viewer in a better mood by the end of the hour. But as I tried, and failed, to get into Covert Affairs and Fairly Legal, and now watch promos for Suits and Necessary Roughness I'm feeling a sense of creative malaise. Characters are bordering on interchangeable and, more problematic to me, all the shows are looking alike. Network TV has numerous creative problems, but turn on CBS and catch even a glimpse of The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-O and CSI and you will not be mistake one for the others. So, at the same time I'm not feeling much incentive to watch USA's new series, it's also taking away from the ones I like.
But what really drove home that, while I like it quite a lot, White Collar will never reach all consuming devotion for me was BBC America releasing a new promo on Thursday, Jamie Bamber: Secretly British?!. Yes, Jamie Bamber has his own frakking network promo.
Alright. Now that I've gotten that out of the way...
before moving on to the finer - and not so fine - parts of the story, I'm going to talk about the giant elephant in the
When it wasn't acknowledged in the season opener, there was fan backlash and I'll admit to being disappointed and somewhat perplexed. When the success of the series largely relies on the charms of one character, a career criminal, who ultimately does the right thing for the wrong reasons and who you can't help but forgive, depicting him as gleeful at profiting from the deaths of millions may not be a good writing choice. I actually don't believe the writers are that insensitive. At best, they were being naive not to consider this scenario wouldn't occur to viewers. At worst, they considered it, and hoped we'd ignore it and just enjoy whatever stories they decide to tell. Yeah, that didn't happen.
At this point, further comments on the matter need to reference information provided by Jeff Eastin and others on Twitter, and thus are somewhat spoilery, so I'll talk about it more at the bottom of the post.
Even with the controversy over the Nazi art, my biggest issue with the episode was with Neal - AKA The Smug Bastard. There was something, for me, a little off about Neal. I had felt his outrage at Peter in the closing moments of Season 2 were justified. He hadn't stolen the art. And after working (semi-hard) to try and not do illegal things (when it's convenient for him), there was Peter accusing him of betraying his trust and faith and calling him a liar. I could even cut Neal some slack for having some lingering feelings of anger. But once he was guilty of all of Peter's suspicions, and seemed to disregard the hurt and damage he would leave in his wake for Peter (his career would be ruined) and Elizabeth. Peter's career would be ruined and Elizabeth...I was SO excited she and Neal had a scene together. Elizabeth has always defended Neal, or at least played the devil's advocate, and she had worked to dissuade Peter from believing Neal stole the art. How does Neal replay her friendship? By lying to her and manipulating her. :(
After the episode ended, I thought I would be more upset with Neal than I actually was. But Bomer played the new, darker Neal so well. I enjoyed watching Matt's performance, even as I didn't enjoy watching the implications for Neal. That's not to say that Neal has been ruined for me nor has my appreciation for the character diminished. However, I have some concerns on where Jeff & Co. may be headed with him and his arc.
There were issues with the story and, as I mentioned above, I'm not going to dwell too much on them. But as someone with an art background, I feel compelled to say there is absolutely, positively NO WAY Neal could pull off the forgery he did in thirty minutes or less (was that a nod to pizza delivery service? ;). Putting aside even the best forgers can't work that fast, oil paints take a long time to fully dry. And the paint would be interacting with a 21st Century environment (Neal was working in a basement). So the whole scene was ridiculous to me.
Lawrence was the most underdeveloped bad guy to date. What did I learn about him? He likes to fence and steal stuff. :/ And if Lawrence was a suspect in the theft six years before, and the feds were closing in on him to the point he had to flee the country without the money, then why was he surprised to find a fed (Jones) was watching him upon his return? And why return now? It can't be the statute of limitations is up because he's risking arrest by re-entering the country. Unless he came back under an assumed name. But then why return to his old haunts? And if you are someone in a rush to leave with your ill gotten gains, do you blow sixty million out of an air vent? Get a ladder! I'm being hyper critical of the plot again, aren't I? Moving on....
I do like that there is now tension and trust issues between Neal and Peter. I don't worry it will ruin the 'bromance', in part because I'm sure the writers will only address the strain in the relationship as needed. I had felt they were becoming too close too fast. On the other hand, Neal's eagerness to skip town with the art and willingness to destroy Peter's career in the process was a little confusing given he was torn about leaving at the end of Season 1 AND that was with the love of his life.
I also felt both actors played their final scene together so well. Neal stating, "You had judgment on speed dial" and "you kept my severed tie", were delivered with the perfect mix of simmering resentment and sarcasm. Peter, in turn, may claim to want to call a truce, but it was clear his heart wasn't fully in it. And Neal knows it. Yet, earlier, when Neal realized Peter hadn't turned the piece of the painting over to an FBI lab, he assumed it was to protect him. (I like that Moz was quick to point out Peter may have ideas of self-preservation.)
There were some nice, small touches throughout the episode I appreciated. The writers finally addressing Neal is off his anklet as much as he is on it. Neal's part federal/part self-imposed celibacy is over...and that we didn't see it. That is NOT a slam against Sara or Hilarie, accept Hilarie is getting thinner and thinner and I'm actually worried about her health and I worry about seeing skin and bones. :( Elizabeth's previous gallery experience finally came into play. Cindy returned from wherever she's been hiding (although I could have done without the odd scene in the gallery lobby). LOVED the kitchen remodel, but was horribly distracted by the fact it happened without explanation. The construction should have been addressed over several episodes and it would have been great to see Peter react to the inconvenience of having construction workers getting in his way at home. And nice touch to have Neal leave his FBI ID on the table, along with Neal Caffrey. That made me a little sad.
Oh, and if, like me, you thought the show looked especially fabulous (I adored that long shot of Moz and Neal walking down the street), the (former?) director of photography, Russell Fine, directed the episode.
Back to the stolen art.....After what I perceived to be a lot of questions on Twitter (and some anger directed at the writers), Jim Campolongo, one of said writers, finally addressed the controversy. He referred to the list of 22 paintings that Diana informed Peter was found at the crime scene and how the list established the art was taken from museums. Um, no, sorry, not really. A log of items being transported on the sub does not prove where those items came from. Even if there were notations the art came from museums, it's not like the Nazi's never lied!
Jim went on to remind us of the music box. I interpreted this as pointing towards the art being stolen from Russia. Still, this could be a problem.
Later that evening, as I slept, Jeff Eastin did a Q & A with the fans and tweeted this in response to THE question: "Treasure came from looting of Leningrad art & museums during Barbarossa, same as music box. Moz & Neal know it's not blood art."
Again, I say, claiming it all came from Russia is still problematic. But my bigger issue was how do Neal and Moz know this? And if they do know this, couldn't there have been a brief exchange between the two to let the audience know they know? So, you know, we don't think they are assholes who have no issue profiting from the slaughter of others?
Putting the ownership of the art controversy aside for a moment, what really came through in Jeff's Twitter Q&A is that, a day after the episode aired, he was explaining quite a few plot points to the audience. At least the ones following him on Twitter. At which point I began having Ron Moore podcast flashbacks.
As many of you know, even though I don't have the same issues with Ron as others have, one thing I was always critical of was his bad habit of telling us, in his podcasts, what he was trying to convey rather than actually showing it to us on screen. And Jeff Eastin is falling into the same bad habit. I mean, we were supposed to think back to the Russian music box and extrapolate from that that great works of art found on a Nazi sub fleeing Germany was actually art stolen from Russian museums? We didn't just get that? Really? ::head desk::
He also hinted that this will be explained (more explicitly?) later in the season. I'm guessing as they now write it in because they've now realized a) the audience didn't get any of this and b) some viewers were enraged.
And a reminder for my fellow Battlestar Galactica/Jamie Bamber fans: BBC America relaunches the show at 10pm est tonight, following the mid-season finale of Doctor Who, before moving into it's regular time slot of 7pm est next Saturday. There will be an open discussion thread at jamiebambernews if anyone feels inclined to chat about the show. :)