'White Collar' season finale: Jeff Eastin on Neal's tough choices and season 3
Image Credit: Kevin Parry/WireImage.com; David Giesbrecht/USA Network[SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the season 2 finale of White Collar, freeze, pivot, and walk away. Return after viewing.] The rest of you may proceed to my chat with White Collar creator Jeff Eastin, in which we break down the crazy finale you just watched. And remember to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I watched the finale, and as you had previously promised me, it was Neal (Matthew Bomer) in a room. But there’s so much more to it than that! So tell me a little bit about how you came to this ending creatively with the U-boat and the music box and this treasure and… everything!
JEFF EASTIN: Even before I sold the show to USA, I knew how that moment would play out. I’d initially pitched the show and I had certain points in the show. I knew when Kate [Alexandra Daddario] would die, I knew they’d find a music box, and I knew Mozzi could decode it. And I knew what it lead to the treasure sub. A long time ago, I had seen this thing about Nazi U-boats that were found off the East Coast and, you know, just in terms of what ultimately be the greatest treasure out there that would be a lot of fun, that was it. Going into season 1, I knew this season would end with Neal standing in that room with the greatest treasure in the world. This idea that the greatest conman in the world now has the greatest treasure and seeing that smile on his face was really what I was trying to build to.
He obviously has a huge choice in front of him.
That’s exactly what it was. Season 3 was [always] going to be about choices. Moving forward, as the shows evolved, there’s really always been that choice for Neal. On one hand, there’s Peter’s [Tim DeKay] life — its the white picket fence and Elizabeth [Tiffani Thiessen] and that perfect life. On the other hand, you have the life of a conman. We’ve tried to hit that pretty heavily. In “Countermeasures,” there’s a nice moment at the end between Mozzie [Willie Garson] and Neal where they’re discussing that. How’s it all going to end. Mozzi says, “The big score, the big house.” And Neal says, “And there’s the other option — there’s true love.” That’s really been the driving force for Neal’s character. We’ve also played up that at the end of “Payback.” Keller calls him a lawman. It’s like, “Who are you, Neal?” That’s what the treasure represents. Neal has this choice. Here you go. Here’s the greatest temptation in the world. What are you going to do with it?
Is there any line between those existences that he’s going to walk in season 3? Or does he make a definite choice?
That’s a lot of what season 3 is. How do you walk that line? How are you going to manage that? What do you really want?
Let’s talk about that kiss between Alex and Neal. There are so many Alex/Neal fans who are going to be excited about that one. But then Sarah came along and forgave him for it. Where’s he going to be romantically next season?
Thematically, all the women in Neal’s life represent the same choices. Kate represented that white picket fence and idyllic life that Peter had. Alex [Gloria Votsis] was the id — the wild child. The idea of Sara [Hilarie Burton] when I introduced her was that you have someone in the middle. You have someone who could walk that line. Thus, she’s become fairly attractive to Neal. As we move forward, you’ll see that what Neal is at the most is impulsive. In the finale, when he kisses Alex, in my mind — and in Bomer’s mind when we discussed that kiss — there wasn’t too much thought into it. It was a moment; it was a rush. She was there, and he kissed her. That’s ultimately Neal’s greatest asset and his greatest curse. Interestingly, in “Power Play,” as it was scripted, when the lights came on, they were supposed to pull apart and be embarrassed. As Matt and I talked about it, I said, “What’s it feeling like?” And he said, “I feel like I don’t want to stop.” So I said, “Try that!” So that’s exactly what he did. So what ended up on screen was she said, “Sorry,” and he said, “Don’t be.” And he keeps going. [Laughs]
So the treasure was from Alex, though, right?
Well, do you know that?
That’s one of the big spoilers as to who left the card. You find out in the return episode, but I won’t tell you.
Well, here I was thinking I had it all figured out.
Let’s put it this way: There’s a reason it was typed out.
Speaking of season 3, will Neal feel like he finally has closure on Kate’s death? It seemed like he got plenty in the finale.
He’s accepted the fact that Kate is dead, but what he can’t let go of is the idea of Kate. That will still haunt him. Although, I will give you a little spoiler. (Ed note: This was revealed to Spoiler Room readers last week… ) I’ve been talking to Anne Rice about co-writing an episode with her next year. So she and I have been discussing the possibility of one more Kate episode, bringing her back Anne Rice-style.
Wow. But Neal doesn’t really need another girl, right? Ha. I feel like you’re already setting up a love triangle.
It’s a little bit of a triangle, but ultimately it is Neal’s choice.
Lastly, we saw Neal had his ankle monitor taken off in this episode, but I didn’t see it put back on. Is he without it in season three?
No. He’s got it. I constantly get comments that we should just let Neal off his anklet already, and I say, that’s like having House without his limp or his addiction. Without that, it’s really just two guys solving crimes. [Laughs] So Neal will have his anklet on for a little bit longer.
Any final words on season 3?
What we really looked at for this season is a simple plan. For Neal, the entire season is about figuring out what’s important to you. This is it. Your life’s work was to get a treasure like this, you got it, now what? What do you do? What choices do you make? That’s what we really explore in season 3.
There you have it, TV Insiders. What’s your take on the season finale? What choice is Neal going to make? Would you dig a love triangle story? And who do you think swiped the treasure for Neal?