“The Choice” S2 / E2
- B+ Community Grade
At its core, Suits is really an examination of power and how people choose to wield it. Harvey’s power is a bulldozing power, part borne of his station and part shrewdly cultivated, and designed to run roughshod over everything in its way. Mike’s power is a quieter force in that the only power he has in life is his unique mind. These two different expressions of power and how well they work in tandem is why the Harvey/Mike partnership is so successful, and what the show spent most of the first season exploring. Within this dynamic, Harvey may have power over Mike, but everyone has power over them due to the constant threat of Mike’s big secret.
This season, however, the power dynamics have shifted, and things have gotten much more interesting as a result. Bringing Jessica in on Mike’s secret is turning out to be great not only for the story but for the exploration of Harvey and Jessica’s relationship, which was only briefly touched on last year. Harvey pulled Jessica down into the abyss by forcing her hand with Mike, and now, all three of them are simply trying to get out alive without new power player Daniel Hardman finding out about the whole ordeal. It’s essentially the same story as before but much deeper, with more stakes for everyone involved, and this deepening is partially why these first two episodes have worked so well. Where power struggles were (and still are, to an extent) played for laughs with Louis, the show now treats its exploration of power as much more than just a game.
Last week, Hardman was introduced and had a fairly large presence. This week, he’s more the mysterious shadow figure influencing everything around him without even being seen. He’s there threatening Jessica with a remodeled office that includes her stolen bar cart, he’s there influencing associates by giving them an omelet bar and box seats to Bruce Springsteen, and most importantly, for the narrative going forward, he’s there influencing Louis by giving him the perfect gift. He’s everywhere and nowhere, and it’s a very effective tool for building up an enemy without losing the mystery that makes him interesting in the first place.
Hardman is clearly playing a game to build his power, so Jessica responds by shoring up her own. But apparently, while Jessica has some people already on her side, Harvey is less loved, hilariously illustrated by Donna’s laundry list of each department and why each can’t stand him. Jessica wants him to get the one department on her side where she doesn’t have a toehold: bankruptcy. All Harvey has to do is make department head Paul Porter (the always-great Michael Cristofer) happy, and Jessica is home free. The problem is that Harvey disagrees with Porter’s handling of his client and can’t resist doing things his way, making the client happy but alienating Porter for good.
The case itself was inconsequential, simply a tool to make the character dynamics work. The excellent scene where Jessica dresses Harvey down for not having her back when she is practically risking her entire career for his little science project Mike Ross is the ultimate end goal of this story, and it’s fantastic. Jessica and Harvey do make up in the end, but these little breakdowns and buildups along the way are doing a wonderful job of deepening their relationship in all the right ways. Gina Torres has been given a lot more to do in the first two episodes of the season, and her added presence is a great asset to the show.
Also awash with power dynamics is Mike and Rachel’s relationship. Their interactions have been full of power imbalances from the start, but theirs are fully based on the lies he tells and the ones he simply lets her believe. Now that they’re finally coming together, both kinds of lies are too much for Mike to continue telling and—after a few charged kisses and an excellent first date—he decides he needs to tell her the truth. Mike is perhaps the most naïve liar in all of the land, however, because he somehow truly believes Harvey will go along with this plan. He doesn’t, of course, and Mike decides a dishonest relationship with Rachel isn’t one he wants to have, and breaks things off. Although the end of this relationship was a bit rushed, the beginning was rather pleasant, and it is refreshing to know we don’t have to deal with a Clark Kent and Lana Lang saga of unnecessary lies each week.
The most interesting part of the Mike/Rachel story, however, wasn’t about the two at all. It was the momentary glimpse into a hinted past between Donna and Harvey, one that has been alluded to before but never to this extent. The unshed tears in Donna’s eyes as she talks about how the feelings “just go away” were compelling and heartbreaking, and a lovely little bit of character backstory. I selfishly hope they keep this bit of backstory as only these fleeting moments for quite a while, especially if they are as heart-tugging as this. Between this, her excitement over the Edward Albee play, and setting Mike straight about why he even still has a job, Donna was once again the episode’s stealth MVP.
After a great season premiere that set a lot of compelling things in motion for season two, this episode had a lot riding on its shoulders, and it mostly pulled it off with ease. That it could do this so easily with only the specter of Hardman hanging over the firm’s head is intriguing. Once he’s fully integrated, the power struggles hinted at tonight seem like they could be only the beginning.
- Truxton Spangler alert! It’s always nice to see Michael Cristofer, yes, but I really just wanted an excuse to write Truxton Spangler. (We’ll all quietly pretend Smash doesn’t exist.)
- Rachel’s character needs to be explored a bit more, because her insecurity about being a paralegal seems to come and go at this point to best fit the plot. She thinks Mike thinks he’s too good for her? That made no sense.
- Louis: “Chain of command is everything to me. If I don’t know who to answer to, I might as well be living naked on a kibbutz in the middle of Africa.”
- Harvey: “Do you want to take down the firm tonight just to get laid?”
- Jessica: “Did you really miss the point of what I asked you to do, or can you just not help being a dick?”