When White Collar Season 5 kicks off tonight with the new adventures of con artist/FBI helper Neal Caffrey and Special Agent Peter Burke, things are more than a little bit shaken up.
Peter, in prison orange for a crime he didn’t commit, has been serving time and it’s up to Neal to get him out. And while viewers can rest assured Peter won’t be spending the whole winter behind bars, there are other changes coming that include Peter moving into a new position at the FBI and Neal getting a new handler (Warren Kole, who turns up next Thursday).
I jumped on the phone with Tim DeKay earlier this week to talk about how these changes will affect the Peter/Neal relationship, how NOT being Neal’s handler anymore gets under his skin and whether Peter’s new gig will overall be a good or bad thing...
TV Fanatic: The new season starts with Peter in jail after what happened in the finale. Do you think prison changes Peter at all? Maybe gives him a different perspective on Neal?
Tim DeKay: I do. Prison changed Peter. That's a cliché statement, but it's true. With his being married and his believing in the system, he never loses hope that he will get out. But there are times where he is very depressed and he realizes that this kind of life and how this came about.
The fact that he is in prison [and] how it came about, can never ever happen again. And he can't even get close to that. But that's obviously what stirs up the pot for the whole season. How he [gets] out and how he thinks he [gets] out. And how, again, that affects the relationship with Peter and Neal.
TVF: The Peter and Neal relationship is such the core of the show and how there is affection but not full-on trust. Does that change at all this season? Especially with Peter moving into a new role at the FBI.
TD: I've always said if Peter ever implicitly trusts Neal, I think the show changes greatly. Or is no longer the show it is. And that doesn't happen here in this season. I don't think it ever well. I think if that ever happens we don't have a show. And as you put it, these guys are friends. They're good friends. They would be devastated were anything to happen to either one of them. This season puts a lot of that trust and a lot of that friendship on the line. So much so that they have to address it to each other.
And it's interesting because these two guys never really come out and said anything exactly how they feel about each other, about they see their relationship. But circumstances make them. So, the circumstances of this season make Peter and Neal have to address what their relationship is to each other.
It's interesting because these two guys never really come out and say anything exactly how they feel about each other, about they see their relationship. But circumstances make them. So, the circumstances of this season make Peter and Neal have to address what their relationship is to each other.
TVF: In the premiere this week, Mark Sheppard's back which I like since he was in the pilot. It’s a real full-circle feeling. Do you see it that way?
TD: Oh, I love it. I love that Mark's back. Mark's a great actor. And he has done a wonderful job coming back here as Hagen. It does. It's wonderful. When Mark came back a flood of memories of the pilot were there. It was interesting because we shot the pilot in late fall, like November/December. And we tried to make, we said it was fall, but of course you know, the blue skies of USA don't have any snowflakes. So, there were times during the pilot where we have to put an ice cube in your mouth before the scene so you didn't see the cold vapors coming out of your mouth.
TVF: We find out that Neal's going to get a new handler who we meet in the second episode in Warren Kole.
TD: He’s great.
TVF: Is there going to be any ill feeling on Peter's side? Just about the fact that he's kind of stepped away from Neal.
TD: Peter has mixed feelings about Neal having a new handler. Peter is excited with the direction of his career. Yet he realizes deep down inside that the best times he had at the bureau were when he and Neal were on the hunt. And so, to see another handler and the two of them doing the stake out and brainstorming together, it eats at him. It eats at him. And the other element is he misses - now he'll never say it - but he misses hanging out with his buddy. He misses that. Again, he'd never admit it, but he loves spending time with Neal.
TVF: Is Peter's new gig going to be a good thing for him? Because sometimes, be careful what you wish for or you might get your dream job but it ends up not being what you thought.
TD: That's a great question. We will see how Peter is dealing with the new position and the possibility of Washington. We'll see how Elizabeth and Peter are dealing with it. Peter strongly believes it's a good thing. Strongly believes that. I guess that's all I can give you for now.
TVF: I love some of the past episodes where Peter does kind of get involved with the con of things. And you kind of see that he's good at that. Is there any of that this season? Or is there not really room for that?
TVF: Does the story of Neal's dad come back this season? We haven’t really seen much of it in the first episodes back but there are definitely repercussions.
TD: There is certainly a repercussion. The writers have had it so that it was a great story with that and they feel like, for now, that story doesn't need to be examined anymore at least in the upcoming season.
TVFanatic: With things changed up in the new season like Peter no longer Neal’s handler, was there a challenge in that for you?
TD: Yeah. It was a challenge. Because I, look, when the plane blew up, I thought we were, I thought that was way too big a story point in the first season when the plane blew up with Kate. But I guess that worked out for us all right. Yeah. It was a shift because what I enjoy, I enjoy all aspects of the show. But what I enjoy most about the show is doing the procedurals. That's where I think we're allowed to have that fun banter and the rich relationship stuff comes out without it being too prominent in the story. But I think the writers have set up some wonderful, wonderful rich, new and interesting and challenging stuff for the story.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.