Thursday's series finale of White Collar (9/8c, USA) promises to be not only the biggest con of Neal Caffrey's career, but also the biggest undercover act of Peter Burke's. If he can pull it off, that is.
Last week's penultimate episode of the USA series ended with Peter (Tim DeKay) posing as a master thief who Neal (Matt Bomer) had brought in to join the Pink Panthers for their $500 million heist. However, Woodford, the leader of the elite group, didn't exactly welcome him with open arms, and the episode ended with a gun to Peter's head. Thankfully, Peter's years spent working with Neal will come in handy.
"Throughout the seasons, because of their great interest in one another and one another's lives, they have taken on parts of each other's lives," DeKay tells TVGuide.com. "That's what has allowed Peter to easily jump into the Panthers."
So what does it take to join one of the most elusive and most successful groups of thieves in the world? "I made it like Peter's character could take the job or leave the job. That he doesn't really care one way or another about joining the Panthers," DeKay says. "With that kind of confidence, that's why the Panthers don't quite question him."
Peter's foray to the dark side is not unlike what DeKay hopes to do now that White Collar has wrapped. "I wouldn't mind playing somebody darker and somebody perhaps more conflicted internally, or go to the complete opposite spectrum and do a sitcom," he says. "That's the one constant in the show: Peter will always make it right. I think the writers recognized it early on, that if we don't have that moral compass, that central pole, the White Collar tent will easily fall."
Indeed, Peter has spent the past five years trying to convince Neal to trade his fedora for a white hat and leave his life of crime behind for good. The irony that White Collar will end with the two collaborating on a multi-million dollar heist is not lost on DeKay. "I think it also is interesting for the audience to see the two of them working together on a heist after six years of going back and forth and going back and forth about how that kind of life gets you in trouble," he says. "The importance of having Peter be with Neal in the last big heist ... ties into the last few moments of the series finale."
That may be so, but Peter's decision to embark on a dangerous undercover mission couldn't come at a worse time for him personally, now that his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) is expecting their first child. DeKay admits that he was against the prospect of his character becoming father for years — "then Peter would no longer be a workaholic, he would just simply be a bad dad," he says — but has come around. "Since we had the shortened six-episode sixth season, it's perfect. It answers that question that the audience has had, and there is a reason why it answers it, and it's tied into the final moments of the series," he says. "I think he'll be a wonderful dad."
However, Peter is getting ready to welcome someone new into his life just as he is about to lose someone close to him. Should the heist go off as planned, and the FBI is able to nail the Panthers once and for all, Neal will be free and no longer an informant for the bureau. "The two of them are very attracted to each other. They find each person extremely interesting. One, because they've finally met somebody that could arguably be smarter than they are, and two, they may be very different in how they've led their lives, but they are cut from the same cloth to a degree in that they love the chase as much as the final result," he says. "While Peter would be happy for Neal, he will miss seeing his best friend walk into the office each day."
The real question is whether Neal will actually come through for the FBI or try to take the money and go on the run? After all, he hinted to Mozzie (Willie Garson) earlier this season that he has a bigger plan in store, one that he has yet to reveal. "There are twists and there is a big shocking moment that is profound, but the fans will understand why that moment needed to be there," DeKay teases. "Fans will be very satisfied."
Although DeKay was sad to say goodbye to White Collar, he is thankful the show received a proper farewell. "If you are missing something, it's because you're thankful for it, and that's what I've been walking away with; realizing how thankful I am for these six seasons that we had. Because we knew it was the final season, we were fortunate to have some time to think about the value of it and how much meaning it had in our lives," DeKay says. "It was a great ride."
White Collar's series finale airs Thursday at 9/8c on USA.
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