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help, I've been Collared

Okay, now, I want to note a few things, here:

I've already got a good "con" show. I get bored with crime procedurals, no matter what exotic flavour they take on. (I even refuse to watch CSI:NY, even though I adore Gary Sinise to an unreasonable degree.) And I have an ingrained and inveterate bias against prettiness. (Seriously. I only tolerate Dean's looks because he is so very, very Dean and cocky and messed up, and although Sam is also pretty, he's more the lolloping-puppy kind of adorable; the only Winchester I'm actually attracted to is John, and that's because JDM gives fabulous scruff ... and the voice, and the eyes and the smile and ... I'm sorry ... where was I?)

So, with all that, I had every intention to be all lofty and not get sucked into this White Collar show that everyone seemed to be in a flap about. (I also have a bias against flap.) And then I saw a random new episode of it when I left the tv on (and this is a really good argument for not having one). Why did none of you lot warn me about going anywhere near it? I hold you all responsible, naturally.

I was watching, paying as much attention to what I was working on on the laptop as the show, not thinking too much about it.... And, then, somehow, there was something playful and deft there. Something kind of ... beguiling. I could pick up enough to understand that it's a fairly simple premise: one's a brilliant, straight-shooting, rather loveable FBI agent, the other's a brilliant, smooth-operating, not-entirely-reformed ex-con. Together, they fight crime! And there's some long arc, designed to create a tension between the tug of the criminal world and the crime-fighting world Neal's caught between, which transfers tension to Peter's commitment to his job and to his growing friendship with Neal. (I'm not that interested in the arc itself, but without it their relationship loses most of its conflict and stagnates, so by all means carry on.)

And in spite of his insane prettiness (which usually only the vey best of actors manage to overcome for me; Ackles, Pitt ... I'm having trouble with thinking of any other examples), I actually liked Neal. I mean, a bit. I was resisting like the dickens, but he still managed to charm me just a little. I didn't even really feel the urge to smack him in that smug smile.

Thinking back, I don't know if it was a good episode to show all of who Peter is. He didn't strike me especially at the time, except in his genuine concern for his friend, which was really appealing. Now I consider him one of the more delightful law enforcement officers I've ever seen depicted on the screen.

Does that mean I've watched more of the episodes all of S1, for both characters to have grown on me? YES. Damnit.

You see, I was foolish, and checked out another recent episode online. And then, after a day or two of quiet curiosity, I watched the pilot episode. I'd know whether to invest based on that, I decided. And, once again, there was a moment of real surprise in it, which the show gently teased into real appreciation. (And any show that picks Mark Sheppard to play its first episode villain has officially got my attention.) It's definitely not the cases they investigate (although I do enjoy the more art-focussed slant, rather than violent and gory murder); it's not the competence and high intelligence of the lead men (although that is very attactive); it's – once again – the relationship.

Predictably, the first conversation between them was what got me. (This is getting to be a theme. I am not kidding about conversation!kink.) It reminded me of nothing so much as a lighter-and-fluffier version of the conection between
McCauley and Hanna, which was one of the most electric and fraught meeting of equals from either side of the law there's ever been.

Why? What is this pull that these strange, brotherly, exceptional relationships have on me? I mean, the thing with Heat is it's a meeting of equals, and the brotherhood that entails; they are the only two inhabitants of their respective worlds who can actually understand the other, and therefore truly appreciate the other, even when fully opposing one another. This fascinates me. It may be part of why
Justified didn't grab me, even though Raylan was clearly set up as exceptional; it was too much about him. (I don't know if that has shifted much in his interactions with his "peer" antagonist, because I wasn't interested enough to follow it and find out.) I'm not interested in an exceptional character moving through a world they're "above"; I want to see what happens when they encounter an equally exceptional character, and what happens to the other in turn. Neither the immovable object nor the unstoppable force are as interesting on their own as when they meet.

Which is what White Collar is playing with, and I like it. And I like both Peter and Neal in it; they are both complex, secure, interesting characters in their own right, let alone when you put them together, to draw out their conflicts and commonalities. I like that they genuinely care about and respect one another, in spite of their differences. I like that they are drawing one another into their "worlds" in spite of one another.

I really like Peter, who's tough and strong without being a stereotypical hardcase. I like that he's "smart" (neither he nor the show go about trying to draw attention to his very high intelligence, but it's always operating, and I like that too; after all, this is the only guy who ever caught Neal – and he caught him twice) and that he likes smart people around him. I like that he is generous and nurturing, and responds instinctively to the need for nurture in Neal; that he wants Neal to become a better man, and wants to help him become a better man. I like that he knows how to give Neal the challenges he craves by solving crime rather than committing it.

I like that he has a good sense of humour and takes his work seriously without taking himself too seriously. I like that although his tastes run to blue collar, he can keep up and even insinuate himself into the upper class world – and that he is able to love and value people who have those upper class tastes, people who aren't like him. And I adore his relationship with his wife. I love that the show seems committed to showing a loving, functioning, supportive, healthy marriage, as someone as loyal and intrinsically honest as Peter is would be in.

And, so help me, I really like Neal too. I even like that he's so pretty, probably because it's part of the character; he knows how good looking he is, how charming he is, and he shamelessly uses it to his advantage. You get the feeling that if he were butt ugly, he'd use that. He uses whatever is at his disposal, but doesn't invest his identity in it. I like that for all his worldly ways and complexity, at heart he is actually a very simple man, with a kind of innocence to him. I like that under his calculated smugness, he's vulnerable to those he cares about, and that he is actually able to carry heartache without resentment.

I like his capacity for enjoyment of things, and how he is sincerely able to like people, even when they oppose or disapprove of him. He doesn't require anyone to agree with him or even like him for him to enjoy who they are, and that's part of the honesty of his charm. I like that he's fundamentally generous-hearted, and responds so artlessly to the good opinion of those who appreciate him, especially Peter. I like that he knows how to give Peter opportunities to actually enjoy what he does, how to widen Peter's fierce focus a little bit and appreciate the moment.

And their first conversation onscreen, upon the occasion of Peter catching Neal for the second time, held all those seeds. I loved that it wasn't adversarial, that this was a relationship that already had roots in real respect for one another and their considerable abilities. I like that nearly all their conflict so far has risen from each other trying to help the other, not hurt them; help by giving the other what they need but in a way they didn't want.

Of course, I like the other characters too, especially Elizabeth, who is a delightfully strong, intelligent, grounded, normal woman, and a loving wife who fully understands and adores what she has in her husband. I like that the show isn't going for cheap drama there. I also like Diana, for obvious reasons – tough, smart, independent, and not there as a love interest for Neal (not that the boy needs help in that department). Wasn't all that keen on Kate, to tell the truth, but she was more of an ideal than a real character, because we're seeing her mostly through Neal's smitten eyes. And Alex mostly came off as a lite cross between Fi from Burn Notice and Bela from SPN, and didn't really capture my interest. But it goes without saying that I love Moz, and as soon as Jones actually has some kind of distinctive character, I may well like him too.

Gah. I can't wait to get away from a house with a tv, and back to grad school, where I won't have time to keep accumulating shows. Then again, if I made it through the summer only picking up one show, that's not bad, right? This is why I don't ask for recommendations. Well, one of the reasons, anyway. I'm perfectly capable of being sucked into shows by myself. Thank goodness I can enjoy Burn Notice for what it is without all this drama. *sigh*

*puts super-critical rejection-prone glasses back on*


( 14 speakses — have a speak )
Aug. 8th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)

I'm really liking White Collar, for pretty much all the reasons you stated above... plus I love me some con and heist action. With my competency!kink and my love of well-dressed and witty people - yeah, never really stood a chance. Leverage also fills the niche admirably.

copperbadge has some thoughts re: White Collar that might be worth checking out.


Aug. 9th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Holy crap – that's a lot of words. Thanks for the rec, though. I might get time to check it out somehow.... :)

Plus, love your Gabe icon. Now there's a marauder I might conceivably be interested in! :)
Aug. 9th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)

Oh yeah. :D

And HELLS YEAH. I quite love Gabriel. :)

Aug. 10th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
Hm ... I think that just birthed a runty little bunny of pre-Fall fic, with Michael and Gabriel and Lucifer and Raphael as the Marauders.

Hell no. *gives natural selection a nudge along and kills bunny ded*

Aug. 9th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC)
Yay, you succumbed! White Collar is one of my favourite shows, and it's probably the fandom I'm most invested in (I read - or at least check out - most of the fic that gets posted to LJ).

I personally enjoy Neal/Peter/Elizabeth stories; they're my favourite fic OT3 at present, even more so than Eliot/Hardison/Parker.

I'm also working on a Leverage/White Collar crossover fic, which I'll post after I finish my other Leverage crossover series.
Aug. 9th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, succumbed is how I would describe it. As previously noted, not a lot of shows hit that sweet spot, but these characters are awesome. I couldn't ship them, though; Peter/Elizabeth is definitely one of my most favourite canon pairings ever. That's not a hard one to pick, though, unlike most "what's your favourite...?" because the list is so damn short. Probably only Zoe/Wash come close.

There probably will be fic, though. Le *sigh*.

Aug. 9th, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
Whoo, White Collar! I love Peter for all the reasons you've stated, and I'm not even sure why I was surprised when I found myself clinging fiercely to Peter/Elizabeth with no plans of ever letting go.

Though I have to admit that somewhere mid-season one Neil started to really annoy me, and it's just gone downhill from there. I don't even know why I dislike him, I just do.
Aug. 9th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
I noticed the Peter!love going on over at your place. He's one of the few onscreen officers/agents I really enjoy, because he avoids all those easy and tired clichés. And, yeah – I am so into the idea that a show can do a good man with a good wife with a good marriage. (One of the reasons I like Zoe and Wash, although of course there was always the Whedon factor in operation, which gets tired after a while....)

I don't even know why I dislike him, I just do.

Hm. Is it the smarm?
Aug. 9th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
Probably. The fact that everyone else seems to find him reeeally charming while I just... don't also adds to the annoying.
Aug. 10th, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
Yeah, I can see how that would be annoying.

So how does Peter's friendship with him affect how you see Peter? Because I always tend to like both characters in a "pair" like this (Sam and Dean too), so I'm always curious about how it affects the viewing of someone who doesn't.
Aug. 11th, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
It's weird, but I find Neal so much more appealing when he's working closely with Peter - his character doesn't interest me enough to pay much attention during his solo scenes, but I really like how he plays off of Peter. They've got a nice give and take going on, equally competent but standing on opposite sides of the law. It's almost the same thing the other way around, as well - Peter's fascinating on his own, but even more so when he's scwabbling with Neal.

It's kind of like Psych's Shawn and Gus. They're capable on their own, but amazing when they're working together. Of course, Peter and Neal don't have that BFF/platonic life partners thing going on (yet), but I can see them getting there, eventually.

*edited because I just realized I've been spelling Neal's name wrong all this time. whoops*

Edited at 2010-08-11 11:26 am (UTC)
Aug. 11th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
his character doesn't interest me enough to pay much attention during his solo scenes, but I really like how he plays off of Peter.

Ah, gotcha. Yes, that makes sense! And I totally agree that's the strongest element of the show. I don't think anyone's that interested in Kate, to be honest. I do like Neal and Moz scenes though. (Moz with either or both of them rocks.)

Peter and Neal don't have that BFF/platonic life partners thing going on (yet), but I can see them getting there

Funny you should say that – the first few random S2 episodes I watched, I just assumed that was their story. That they'd been BFF growing up, and then circumstances led them on their different paths and back together again. Beacuse that BF vibe is so strong. It wasn't until I checked out the pilot that I realised that wasn't the case! But I like this route, too.

I just realized I've been spelling Neal's name wrong

Eh. When there are two equally legitimate spellings and the show doesn't make a point of which one they're using, it happens! I'm just guessing at "Moz" myself. Although I get annoyed with people on Kung Fu Monkey spelling "Elliot" ("Stirling" is less prominent) when Rogers himself continually spells it "Eliot" and "Sterling". That, I don't get.

[Edited because apparently my brain is just pulling spellings of "their", "they're", "there" out at random and my self-edit isn't switched on.]

Edited at 2010-08-11 06:20 pm (UTC)
Aug. 11th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I really like the whole whole BFF growing up and then taking different paths thing. I'd watch that show!

And yeah, I don't get 'Elliot' either. If I were Rogers that alone would drive me nuts.
Aug. 11th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
I'd watch that show!

And here we have the root impulse of all fanfiction. :)

Also, love your Peter icon!
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