“White Collar” finale: We bid adieu to Diana Berrigan

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Last Thursday, after six seasons, White Collar hung up its tracking anklet for good. This final, six-episode season has revolved around Neal helping the FBI bring down a gang of thieves known as The Pink Panthers. In return for capturing the band of ne’er do wells, Neal has been guaranteed his freedom. This short final season was tighter and more focused than past seasons. It was a pleasure to watch, and as stylish and fun as ever. Sadly, there was a significant dearth of the brilliant Special Agent Diana Berrigan (Marsha Thomason).

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Since the pilot episode Diana has been an out, awesome, badass, smart, sexy, and superbly competent Special Agent. She was Peter’s most trusted colleague and the agent least likely to fall for Neal’s bullshit. Like the other secondary characters (namely her fellow agent, Clinton Jones) we never got enough of her on the show.

Aside from a few episodes, like the one in which we met Christie, Diana’s doctor girlfriend, we never got enough of Diana outside of the job. She and Neal had a wonderful relationship to watch on screen. She always looked at Neal with suspicion even when Peter fell for his charms. Diana and Neal found a banter that propelled the show. They were funny, they teased each other, and eventually found a way to trust each other. Neal offered to plan Diana’ lesbian bachelorette party when she and Christie got engaged. They became bros. I particularly enjoyed the episode in which we learn that Diana and Christie have called off their engagement. We see Diana at her most vulnerable and she seeks Neal for advice, signaling a shift in their friendship.

Throughout the show’s run, I often lamented the lack of Diana. The few episodes in which Diana figured prominently, mostly when she was working undercover, are stand-outs within the series. How great would it have been to have seen as much of Diana’s home life as we saw of Peter and Elizabeth’s?

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The show was always about Neal and Peter’s relationship and the question of whether they could trust each other. But when the show was able to bring in the other characters, including Diana, it was a pleasure to watch. I only wish there had been more Diana. She appeared very little in Season 5 due to Marsha Thomason’s real life pregnancy but I was saddened when Season 6 didn’t use her much at all. At the end we see her leaving New York and returning to Washington, D.C. But, beyond knowing where Diana and her son Teddy are headed, we don’t learn too much more about Agent Berrigan this season.

Diana was one of the few lesbians of color on television and I am sad to lose her from the screen. Her character could have been explored in so many interesting ways. Particularly, after Diana and Christie break up it would have been great to see Diana struggle with dating. Neal would have been a wonderful wingman. While Diana was included in individual episodes, particularly when she did undercover work, I wish they had done more to tease out some of the threads such as trust, her feelings toward the con woman she kissed, and her complicated break-up, that came to light during those undercover missions.

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Overall, White Collar’s finale was perfect for the show (I will not spoil it here), but the show chronically underutilized one of its best characters. We all yearn for well-rounded queer characters and it’s sad to see such a well drawn, interesting woman be so underused. What I wouldn’t give for a White Collar reboot where the star is a lesbian con woman with as much charm, brains, and good looks as Neal Caffrey.

In spite of its flaws, I will always hold a special place in my heart for White Collar, because it is the first thing I ever wrote about for AfterEllen. Diana Berrigan got me here, I only wish we could have had more to write about these past few years.

What will you miss most about White Collar?

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