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Tara Ariano

S06.E02: Return To Sender

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They didn't need to write Neal, Peter, and Mozzi as complete idiots when it came to Keller.  Keller doesn't rat Neal out, he actually covers for him, they know international law enforcement has been after the Panthers,  and someone was covering up for him, they should have immediately known that Keller was working for law enforcement.  That was my only problem with the episode.

 

Excellent character interaction again.  Loved Mozzie hugging Elizabeth and being excited for her.  The highlight of the episode was "Haven't you been acting like Neal's dad for years?"

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I liked the explanation Peter gave about El's pregnancy.  They were trying, but it wasn't taking over their lives.  When it didn't happen, they just carried on with their happy marriage and didn't let the disappointment consume them.  Now they're pregnant, and it is sweet.  I didn't feel like it was cliche at all.

 

The con was lame, but it wasn't the first time I had to hand wave the storyline to enjoy the character development.

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There was a time when the father-son banter might have been charming -- back in the day when the relationship between Peter and Neal wasn't so strained and this show still had some writers who could pull off that kind of magic.  But Neal is just looking to get the hell out of Dodge.  He's being as polite and friendly as he has to be toward Peter to get himself free and then he is gone.  Peter will be lucky to get an occasional birthday card (assuming Peter would even care).  

 

I've always had my problems with the insistence on the father-son theme, and what we see now is one of the reasons why.  The son really has to grow up and choose his own path and if you keep him on a leash too long, the relationship sours and you destroy any chance for a meaningful relationship in the future.   There's a feeling in this final season (and through much of season five) of these people having stayed too long at the fair.   The whole thing seems old and tired and the participants (characters and actors) look as though they can't wait to be free of one another.   I keep thinking of the expression "pro forma."   

 

This episode felt flat:  no heart, no soul, just actors reciting lines, and not very-well-written lines at that.   I'm not even trying to make sense of the Pink Panther silliness.   Keller showing up is, I suppose, rather fitting, since I've never believed in the supposed menace and brilliance of that character.   The fact that the FBI and Neal could never put him away speaks volumes about their incompetence.  

 

I'm beginning to wonder why they needed six episodes to tie up this series.   The pregnancy is taking up way too much time.  It's just cutesy filler material, reminiscent of all those awful "fun with the Burkes" episodes.   I was hoping the finale would be sharp and smart and memorable but so far it's sloppy and cringe-worthy and a reminder that this series was special only some of the time.   The main problem for me is that they knocked the heart out of the Peter-Neal relationship awhile back -- sort of like unplugging the life support system -- and without it there is no hope for much more than a few last gasps.   I'll stick around to the end -- maybe they'll find a way to surprise me.   That would be lovely, but I'm not expecting much.   

Edited by nico
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The whole thing was so stupid. And why was Peter wearing white tie and Neal black? THIS BOTHERED ME.

Someone's been watching too much Downton Abbey.

The show has always relied on Tim DeKay and Matt Bomer's talents and chemistry together more than it's writing, but even they can only do so much. I still enjoy watching them banter for an hour, but the laziness and eyerolling implausibilities become harder to ignore every episode. I'm not sure if it's that the show really did cover them up better back in the day or it's just that I notice it more because six seasons in, I'm not dazzled by the shiny exterior anymore and I notice the crappy transmission.

Another nitpick....Mozzie the legal genius wrote a couple hundred page contract that is binding on the United States government, but only required one signature? No Notary, no witnesses, no countersignatures??? At first I thought I was just being too pedantic because I am a Notary Public, but no, because you know what? Fucking Lucy pulled that trick on Charlie Brown to get him to kick the football in a Peanuts cartoon.

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There's a feeling in this final season (and through much of season five) of these people having stayed too long at the fair.

 

 

IMO the show's been on too long.  There is something to be said for a show maybe going 3 or 4 seasons, sometimes stories just run their course.

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The moment Keller didn't tell the others Neal was working for the FBI the thought that he could be a CI too crossed my mind.

 

 

He's being as polite and friendly as he has to be toward Peter to get himself free and then he is gone.  Peter will be lucky to get an occasional birthday card (assuming Peter would even care).

 

I have  my doubts, especially because I think it's impossible to understand their relationship. Peter said some nasty things about Neal last season and right  now we don't know if he still thinks that (or if he doesnt, what made him change his mind). This episode, there was  that moment when Peter told him he was giving Neal his word and Neal said "your word?" and man, he sounded as if he thought Peter's word is a joke, but ten minutes later they were celebrating the news about the baby like BFF.  I honestly  don't know what they really feel for each other right now.  But anyway, one thing is pretty clear: Neal wants his freedom.  Like in really, really wants his freedom, more than  ever. So I think he's in a "either you're with me or  you're against me" mindset and he's not sure where Peter stands. After all,  Peter has already tried to stop the mission which could give Neal his freedom. Of course he had good reasons to do that, but I don't think Neal can see that right now.

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I was so hoping the benefactor who got Keller released would turn out to be Hagen, and that his death was faked, but sadly, not so. *sigh*

It would've made "working for Interpol" that much more satisfying, given Mark Sheppard's role on Leverage :)

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Eastin, Bomer and DeKay created these amazing characters, this incredible relationship, but Eastin seemed not to understand what a treasure it was.   He and his writers betrayed that relationship over and over by insisting that there must always be trouble between Peter and Neal.   Of course there would be trouble between an FBI agent and his C.I., but the writers were too lazy and pedestrian to allow that to develop organically, subtly within a richer context.   Instead, the premise was one-note and it became a pattern the writers followed over and over.  The writers struggled (Eastin admitted as much) to find ways to keep Peter and Neal at odds, to cause trouble between them.  The usual way was to have Peter do something stupid or mean or heavy-handed, and Neal would respond by going off the deep end, acting like a spoiled, irrational, insensitive brat.   

 

The writers did not stay true to the characters; they showed no respect for the integrity of that relationship.   If for awhile the characters seemed to grow, to mature, to draw closer together, the writers would respond  by forcing them apart, by causing them to do and say things the true, essential Peter and Neal would never do or say.  Didn't matter if it made no sense.   It's the worst kind of writing, the worst kind of television.   So, so disappointing.   Better if they'd have made them cliched cartoon characters from the start;  that way, those of us who want something more would have tuned out quickly.  But they started with something that seemed to hold such promise -- and then they screwed around with that relationship until in season five it finally made no sense whatsoever.   If the Peter and Neal we have now had been the characters introduced to us in the pilot episode, I'd have known not to stick around for episode 2.  

 

And in the end, what is Eastin's message?  No one changes?  Everyone reverts to form?  No one learns anything?   It was fun for awhile, but in the end the gulf between criminal and FBI agent, between Manhattan and Brooklyn, between sophistication and middle class values is too wide for anything meaningful and lasting to develop?   Don't bother, don't dream, don't try?   Waste of time?   I get the impression that Neal and Peter don't even remember the best days, the times when they found common ground, the affection and hope they found in one another, those magic moments when they learned from one another and experienced and perhaps envied each other's lives.   Do they remember any of that?   Has the impact of all that already worn off?   Life goes on:  Peter will have his own child soon.   Neal will be free, one way or another.   

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I'm still concerned with all this talk of "You think your freedom is worth dying for?" / "Yeah, maybe it is!" 

 

I don't want to believe that the writers are planning Neal's death and using such a huge anvil over our heads, but... I just get this bad feeling. Like Nico said, what's the message, then? Nothing is learned? People can't change? Once a con, always a con, whatever it takes? 

 

I hope that's not the end result planned for this show that I have loved, for this relationship between Peter and Neal that I have loved. (And again I say, if it ends with Neal dead, and Peter and El naming the baby after him, I will throw things at my TV.)

 

One thing I liked in this episode was seeing Peter and Neal working a con together again. I enjoyed them being on the same page, I appreciated that Neal was upfront with Peter about all the twists and problems throughout, rather than hiding any of the information. I liked all of that. And I liked the cigar scene at the end, mainly because it brought me back to the pilot episode and Neal smoking that cigar as he sat on Hagen's desk. Man, I love that episode so much.

Edited by sinkwriter
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I thought of the pilot episode, too, Sinkwriter.   It was the ending to the case that assured Neal would have his deal with the FBI.   In the scene at the end of this week's episode, Neal thought Peter was wanting to celebrate the Attorney General's signature on the agreement, and reminded him you don't celebrate before you cross the finish line (something Peter taught him).  But Peter was thinking about the pregnancy -- not waiting until the baby is born to pass out cigars.   Tempting fate -- both of them ending with "to the future".  Of course we know that means things are going to go very badly -- for both of them?   I was troubled, disturbed, maddened, touched -- not sure which, maybe all of the above -- by Neal's statement,

 

Based on the twenty-four hours you were my dad, I'm pretty damned sure that kid has won the parent lottery.  

 

 

Maybe because there has been a distance between them for awhile now, Neal can't say what I wish he'd have said -- or perhaps he was just keeping the conversation light-hearted because he senses they're past the time when he might have said something more.  Or perhaps Neal knows deep down that things are going to go badly -- he can't depend on the FBI keeping its agreement and he knows how much danger he's in trying to bring down the panthers.    "Based on the 24 hours" -- how about based on the last few years?   They're beyond the place where they could talk about that.   And of course he's genuinely pleased for Peter -- and is perhaps wistful about Peter having a real son (or daughter) to take the place that had sometimes seemed to belong to him, even if he wasn't sure that's what he wanted.   The end of a dream, and perhaps that's as it should be.   They've moved on to another place now.

 

Endings.  This is going to be really bad at the end, isn't it?   Does Peter understand any of this?  Will he understand even when it's all said and done?   Is he really just eager to have Neal gone so he can move on with his life without him?   When Neal is dead or convinces everyone he's dead, what will Peter remember?  What will he feel?   I'm guessing but it seems to be where we're going -- of course, they're good at putting out misleading information or clues.   

Edited by nico
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I noticed that even Mozzie didn't bother to point out to Neal that Neal was doing the very same dangerous thing that Keller was doing - chasing after something so hard that he can't even see how his desperation is clouding judgment and everything else around him, which may lead to his undoing. Keller's, and Neal's. Wouldn't Mozzie have argued with Neal about this, pointed out the "obvious" that Neal should be seeing? He's been a strong friend to Neal, one who isn't afraid to state the important things that need to be considered. Perhaps even he is giving up and "letting" Neal learn it on his own?

 

*sigh* I just get a bad feeling and with each episode so far it doesn't go away. You're right, nico; the showrunners have used misleading clues before. But I feel like they're hitting us over the head with this one. So either they plan to veer off with one hell of a twist, or even they don't care how obvious they're being. How many episodes left? Only 4? 

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I keep going back to Neal on the island.  Was he glad Peter showed up?  I don't think he was happy on the island, I don't think he felt free there.   Peter's arrival and subsequent events gave him a chance to complete his deal with the FBI (or so he thought) and become free, but I've always wondered what he was really thinking during that time.   He's always so hard to read which is in the nature of such a character -- we must always be unsure of him.   At the end of season five, when the possibility of freedom seemed so close, he seemed to have no idea what he would do next.   And maybe you have to be truly free (something he's never really been -- something he could never depend on anyway) to begin to understand what you want.  No tethers, no one chasing you, no one to answer to -- maybe you have to experience that in order to know yourself and what you want to be.  He's come to a point where he's willing to die in the attempt to reach that point.  Maybe the suspense -- the not knowing who he really is, what choices he will make when he has the chance -- maybe it's killing him anyway.  Time to go for broke.

 

He really is beyond a place where he'd listen to Mozzie.   Peter is very far away now.  I think Neal feels Peter has done what he could for him in securing the deal with the FBI and that Peter is not lying to him about it, but Peter has his marriage and the baby and his career to be focused on.  So he really is alone.  Back in season five an episode ended with him talking about cutting ties with everyone.  Mozzie of course assumed he wasn't included in that.   But I always thought he meant he had to start operating alone, working toward a time when he made some tough decisions about his future.   Of course, soon after that he got mixed up with Rebecca, so things changed.  But her situation and her death reminded him of the choices you have to make and how alone you'll be when you do, how all-or-nothing the choice might have to be.   He's always had that dark side to his personality:  bad blood, criminal, all the people he's lost.   He can't take Peter and Mozzie with him.  He must do this alone.  He's near rock bottom.   

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I don't want to believe that the writers are planning Neal's death and using such a huge anvil over our heads, but... I just get this bad feeling.

 

I got that feeling last week and I was hit over the head with it this week. So much so that I am now wondering if anyone will make it out alive? I mean seriously ---they're all going to die! kept repeating in my head at the end of the episode.

 

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All I can do is hope that for this final season the writers/showrunners are running one giant con, doing everything they can to fake us out and make us think it's going to end this one horrible depressing way, and then instead they'll veer off in another direction and surprise us all. I guess - depending on what they do - I'd be okay with Neal and Peter conning me.  (LOL.)

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I would rather a big con than see Neal... or well... anyone die. I am not down with the Peter and wife having baby storyline ---but don't kill them!

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I'm still concerned with all this talk of "You think your freedom is worth dying for?" / "Yeah, maybe it is!" 

 

I don't want to believe that the writers are planning Neal's death and using such a huge anvil over our heads, but... I just get this bad feeling. 

 

 

While I believe Neal's going to fake his death, I think he's always been ready to die for his freedom or the people he loves. That leap he made over the Hudson River was almost suicidal. Peter, on the other hand, is getting older (which usually means less reckless)  and  is going to have a baby. They're in very different places right now. And I also  think Peter is beginning just now to understand that Neal is completely sick of his deal with the FBI. Because honestly, what kind of question is "You think your freedom is worth dying for?". Since when freedom isn't something worth dying for? I mean, there  have been probably people risking their lives to get their freedom since the first slave appeared. 

 

I agree that it's sad to see how much their relationship has changed for worse, but tbh I'd be  more upset if Neal  were treating Peter as if season five never happened. 

 

I can see Neal  spending some time on his  own, but leaving Mozzie behind? That would be so unfair! 

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I've been thinking about S5 and S6, trying to make sense of it all.    In the S4 finale Peter was found to be wearing Neal's anklet -- a move that still makes me cringe, but is highly symbolic of how far across the line his friendship with Neal had taken him.  And then he was arrested for murder.   Six weeks in prison gives you time to think.  I can imagine his first meeting with Elizabeth after his arrest, the pain and fear and bewilderment he saw in her eyes.  It was time to get his priorities straight:  somehow prove his innocence, convince the FBI to let him have his job back, and devote himself to building a future where Elizabeth and their marriage and his career weren't in such jeopardy.  

 

In the first episode of S5 he reminded Neal that he was a criminal.  I think he was saying it to himself even more than to Neal.  He was reminding himself that he was the FBI agent and that he had to stop covering for Neal, risking his job and his future.  He had to find a way not be so involved in Neal's life -- no longer would he risk so much for him.   And it was hard to do -- he missed Neal, missed the fun they had together.   And Neal missed him, but Neal was also offended and dismayed by the change in Peter's attitude toward him.   Because of his involvement with Hagen, Neal had huge secrets to keep from Peter, and he was in many ways more a criminal than he'd been in a long time. S5 made me believe Neal could never change, never give up his life of crime.   Him dancing down that hall at FBI headquarters, on his way to destroy evidence he and Peter had gathered -- that is haunting to me.   Beautiful, but such a betrayal -- and he was so into it, enjoying it.    

 

S5 was such a mess, the writing so inconsistent, the continuity so screwed up -- it was hard to know what Peter and Neal were feeling.   Peter was trying to keep that distance -- he did and said things that seemed so unlike him in an effort to keep to his promise to change.  I never could understand why he wanted a job in D. C., yet perhaps the mere offer of such a job was reassurance that he was headed in the right direction, making decisions that made Elizabeth proud and would give them a more secure future.   In the end, he couldn't go, couldn't walk away from Neal, couldn't work with FBI leadership that would treat Neal so unfairly.  But the distance did its work.  Call it tough love, I guess.   It's what he said speaking as the father in 6.2:  I tried to sculpt him into the man I know he can be.  At some point, he has to grow up, become his own man.    

 

One of the things I have liked about this series has been the evolution (with lots of backsliding and fits and starts) of Peter's understanding of how to handle Neal, not only for their work in the FBI, but on a more personal level.   He's made lots of mistakes with him -- trying at times to sculpt, to remake him in his own image, but he's also learned so much (not only about Neal but about himself, about doing what's right for both of them).  The time in prison scared him, gave him time to think.  He went overboard in the other direction for awhile but his affection for Neal has finally brought him to a place that seems best for both of them.    

 

Neal, more and more on his own, unsure if Peter was on his side and not knowing if he could depend on him for help, had to face some difficult times.  He felt angry, abandoned, alone, and his reactions were at times wrong-headed.   He had to do some growing up, which was painful.   He has a lot of guilt, has lost so many people, has brought so much trouble into the lives of those he is close to.  

 

So now, seeing Peter so happy about the baby, believing that Peter does want Neal to be free, knowing that Peter is committed to being his handler until the deal with the FBI is finished -- Neal sees things more clearly, realizes that he has to be the grownup here, has to be in charge of his own life, has to take the responsibility to set himself free, one way or another.   The way Neal is handling himself in S6 (instead of Peter handling him), is not only about Neal setting himeslf free, it is about Neal trying to protect Peter and Elizabeth and the baby, trying to protect his friends, "his family".   The son becomes the father.  Neal is fighting for his own freedom, but he is also fighting to set Peter free as well.  Peter's on the other end of that tether, after all.  The best gift Neal can give that baby is the father he himself longed for, a father who will be present in that child's life and who will devote his life to doing what's right for his family.

Edited by nico
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