Well. That was quite something, huh? I've had several days to think about it, and I'm still not sure what I thought. SO MANY FEELINGS! And a spoiler cut!
First of all, things I loved: Everyone's testimony. I know June was deliberately putting on an act, but I think everything she said was true, and her line about Byron got me a bit choked up. Sara's was remarkably honest and self-aware. Jones was honest and obvious about his affection for Neal even as he's recommending that Neal not have his sentence commuted, and I'm glad they didn't have everyone unanimously be on Neal's side, because that would be unrealistic. I love that Neal says in his testimony that he wants to stay with Peter, that he has a family now. Obviously he wants his freedom, but it doesn't matter, because he wants to stay. And Peter - oh, Peter. I thought they did a good job of showing how honestly torn he was, but he wound up making the right decision.
El was particularly great throughout. She had cakes for each outcome! She was indignant at the idea that Kramer wanted to take Neal away from Peter! She SAID NEAL AND PETER'S RELATIONSHIP WAS BASED ON THE SAME THINGS AS HER MARRIAGE. "He's worth it." All the hearts, El. Can't you please just adopt Neal?
The caper/heist within the drama of the episode was fun - the tram jump was the sort of impressive hijink I like to see in these finales - and I love that Sara is back on Team Neal, and that she and Peter worked together to come up with a plan to save Neal. I love that we got a little more of Neal's history, and that things are opened up to explore it more next season. I love that Neal was going to go to the Police Academy, you guys, this is amazing. I love that Peter TRUSTS Neal enough to give him extra distance and then to help him escape. I love that Neal was about to tell Peter something he'd never told anyone.
Really, throughout, I loved the way Neal and Peter were so honest about their feelings. That's my big bias when watching this show: I am Team Neal & Peter Being BFFs all the way. I'm happy that Neal's wishes are not really in question. He wants to stay in New York. He wants to work with Peter. Peter wants him there. They care about each other. And they don't mind admitting it. I'm hoping that is so engrained at this point that they won't end up on opposite sides again.
But the ending . . . oh, the ending. First: What do you think happened, exactly? I saw Peter shaking his head at Neal as a signal for Neal to run. And I'm hoping that means that when season four starts, even if Peter is trying to catch Neal, they'll still be basically on the same side. Right? The alternative is that Neal has been running a long con not just on the other characters, but on the audience, and I don't like that idea. If the show has spent three seasons getting us to like a character they then try to convince us is actually bad, I will NOT be happy.
And second: What the heck is going to happen now? Peter will have to catch Neal, I guess? I mean, the more I think about it - yes, obvious that will have to happen. But then what? And how will Kramer's determination to keep Neal for himself affect things?
And... okay. As I was writing that, Vlada Gelman posted this interview with White Collar creator Jeff Eastin, and it confirms that I was right: Peter was giving Neal the nod to run, and they are basically on the same side. THANK YOU, Vlada. Phew. I am much less stressed now. The wait until the new summer season will still be long, but at least now it won't be so agonizing.
Summary: WOW. This was a great finale. Bravissimi, Jeff Eastin and writing team, and Matt Bomer, Tim DeKay, Tiffani Thiessen, and the rest of the cast. Can't wait for summer.