White Collar Season 2, White Collar returns July 13 on USA Network, and the first episode definitely sets up the main arc for the second season. What else could it be, following the explosive events of the Season 1 finale that saw a plane explode on the runway with Kate, the long-time girlfriend of con-man turned FBI consultant Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer), presumably still inside as the two prepared to flee together? Or is that how things were going to turn out? Just before the plane exploded, Neal turned to his season-long partner, FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), to say something, but was cut short by the tragic events.
Season 2 begins a short time after these events. We learn that Neal has be re-incarcerated, suspected of involvement with the explosion. Peter, meanwhile, is being relentlessly questioned by the Bureau's internal investigators and superiors. He tells them Agent Garrett Fowler (Noah Emmerich) is the one who should be answering questions, but he's apparently nowhere to be found. The FBI has other cases to consider, though, and Neal is given a choice once again to slap on a new (less chafing) version of the ankle bracelet, or wait it out in prison, possibly faced with finishing three and a half years of time.Of course, he takes the offer so that White Collar can continue on with the dynamic play between the unlikely duo of Neal and Peter, and the "Withdrawal" title of the season premiere takes on a double meaning, addressing both Neal's need to come to grips with the death of Kate, as well a criminal who is hitting banks around the nation and has signaled that one in Manhattan is to come. It's up to Neal and Peter not to find their guy, The Architect (guest star Tim Matheson) – that part comes fairly easy – but to figure out how to catch him with hard evidence, as he always seems to be one step ahead of them.
Mozzie (Willie Garson) takes on an interesting role in the first episode of the season. He's still a government conspiracy theorist, but it seems he's come to trust Peter a bit more, or at least recognize he's a decent guy following the events of the first season. Peter is investigating things and withholding information from Neal, worried he might do something stupid if he finds out the truth first, while Neal is using his own resources to do the same. Mozzie plays a sort of middle man, providing information to mutually benefit both sides, aiding the ultimate goal they're both working toward. He's still got his friend's best interests in mind, but is starting to recognize that Peter might too.
Bottom line, Season 2 returns with much of the same feel as Season 1, and that's mostly a good thing. There's a great dynamic between the main characters, even with Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen) playing a minimal role, as the actress was sidelined with her pregnancy and now maternity leave. Natalie Morales is gone, with the character Lauren Cruz no longer part of the team, but Jones (Sharif Atkins) is back, and Marsha Thomason is ready to rejoin the cast regularly as Diana.
It's a bit unfortunate that White Collar jumps right back into the rigmarole of its dynamic, cheating viewers a bit of the immediate follow-up to the tragic events. It's entertaining, and that dynamic is what ultimately drives the show, but viewers would have settled for an aftermath episode before kicking it all into high gear again, and it might have taught us a little more about the characters. The ankle bracelet is also back on with the new deal, which seems needless at this point, especially knowing that by the second episode it's already coming off again for another case. Why bother, at this point?
And White Collar has a big twist, or at the very least, a tease of a big twist at the end of the first episode, trying to make it must-see material. It gets that job done, but it's hard not to think it comes a bit too soon, especially when we were just getting reacquainted with a certain character. But despite any faults, White Collar is as entertaining as it has ever been in its return to USA on Tuesday nights, bringing back the flair of Neal's suave tactics, endearing us more to Peter's caring straight man, Mozzie's paranoia and crafty plots that place the importance on the wit of the characters rather than violence. Welcome back, White Collar.