White Collar is pretty indicative of what kind of show the USA network likes to do. It's a fairly light drama with a lot of comedic elements. It relies on the charm and likeability of their main cast. It does a story of the week most of the time, but they include overarching elements because, in this modern era of ours, every show needs a mythology. Season four of White Collar is no different than any prior season, or most USA shows, in this respect.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. After all, the show succeeds in terms of the charm factor and the comedic elements factor. If you are not familiar with the show, the general premise is simple enough. Tim DeKay (Bizarro Jerry!) plays Peter Burke, an FBI agent in the white-collar crime division. Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffrey, a former con man, a very successful one at that, who now, in order to avoid prison, works alongside the FBI to assist them in their criminal inviestigations. Basically, Peter and Neal team up on some tough crime to crack, they butt heads about how to handle things, elements of a con are usually involved, and in the end they succeed. Also, Tiffani Thiessen is there as Peter's wife. So, there's that.
The show relies heavily on the chemistry of DeKay and Bomer as the main stars, and they both fit into the show's tone well. A lot of the cons and schemes are entertaining to watch unfold, and by season four the show has built a nice world up and given their characters some depth. Unfortunately, sometimes the show aims for more drama or gravitas, and it often falls flat at these moments. In particular, while Bomer plays a smooth-talking con man to a tee, and is good with a quip, he cannot hit the serious, emotional moments.
Anywho, season four begins with Neal and his guy Friday, Mozzie (a very good, entertaining secondary character) having finally disappeared overseas to avoid persecution and stuff. It would take too long to divulge all the mythology of the show at this point, and quite frankly a lot of it is clunky and tedious and it gets convoluted. It gives the show the drive to go beyond being a simple procedural, but it usually is just something you have to deal with. That leads to a couple of episodes of a new environment, before the show heads back to its home, New York City. It is TV, after all.
The main thrust of the fourth season involves Neal looking into his father's past and finding a conspiracy therein involving corrupt cops and corrupt politicians and other corrupt figures. It ends in a place that, not to spoil anything, is definitely a big moment, even if we pretty much know that it will all be resolved eventually. It does work as a cliffhanger, however. That being said, if you tune into season five of White Collar it probably isn't because you want to find out how they get out of this mess. It's because you like Peter and Neal and friends and their wacky adventures and cons.
That season finale is probably the high point of the season, and it is a really good episode. However, there are also a few clunkers along the way. One involves a secret underground fight club where winners get insider trading information. Another involves Bonnie and Clyde-type lovers and a piece of the Moon. The Moon! Yes, the show does get silly some of the time. Occasionally, it is too silly. When White Collar is firing on all cylinders and gets into its lane, it works really well. The jokes hit, the plot is taut, and it all wraps up elegantly. About a third of the episodes in season four work like that. Other times, it feels too silly, the jokes don't land, it tries to get too dark and serious (and can't do it), and the product placement is even more awkward than usual. About a third of the episodes do that. Basically, season four of White Collar is uneven, but overall it is a good, entertaining season of hour-long television.