B+

Suits: “Asterisk”

B+

Suits

“Asterisk”

Season 2, Episode 9

No one wants their life’s work to be qualified with an asterisk. Whether you’re a baseball player accused of taking steroids or a lawyer making senior partner at a cutthroat firm under potentially questionable circumstances, Suits makes the case tonight that your reputation is your legacy, the one currency you control—and the one thing you must protect at any cost.

In the case of the baseball player, Harvey is tasked to defend a popular sports reporter who is being sued for libel for accusing a popular baseball player of juicing even though his tests are clean. All the player wants is an on-air apology and retraction to prevent becoming yet another player with an asterisk beside his stats, but the reporter has a source and isn’t willing to give his career its own asterisk when he knows his accusations are true. Mike uses his super-powered brain to figure out the source and then he and Harvey subsequently manipulate (it’s the gentleman’s term for blackmail, you see) both the player and reporter into coming to a deal to protect the source: the player drops the suit and retires, and the reporter never mentions it again. Harvey and Mike spend a lot of time making their clients do things they don’t want to do, so it’s a wonder the firm doesn’t get an asterisk of its own: “does not work well with others.”

Louis is working on fighting an asterisk of his own after Hardman calls him into the office and offers the Holy Grail: senior partner. It’s what he’s sought since the pilot, and what he’s always resented Harvey for getting over him. The tricky part is while he absolutely deserves it—and the show has done a great job establishing Louis’ skill so there’s no doubt about this—it’s surely just a part of Hardman’s plan to get enough votes to take over as managing partner. Although the struggle of Pearson vs. Hardman has been the main focus of this second season, the real triumph here is how it’s deepened Louis’ involvement in the story and along with it his character. Louis’ reaction to being used as a pawn by both sides isn’t something being thrust on a character we barely know; his happiness at the news, followed by the insecurity of knowing the chance of this promotion being viewed as a payoff for his vote is an emotional arc that’s easy to track, because we’ve gotten to know him so well. The worst fate Louis Litt could suffer is to not be taken seriously, to have an asterisk qualifying his promotion as coming from anything other than his own hard work. Both sides spend several compelling scenes attempting to woo him, but it’s still unclear which way his vote leans. Putting Louis at the crux of the vote was a genius move, though, and it’s already paying dividends with an absolutely compelling storyline.

One thing that’s been consistently impressive all season is how much mileage they’re getting from the internal politics of the firm. When Daniel Hardman burst on the scene in the season premiere he was set up as the perfect season-long villain, but the story developed as much more of a slow burn, ambiguously shading Hardman’s character and making Jessica and Harvey’s vendetta against him a much more complicated endeavor. It wasn’t until last week that he dropped any pretense of ambiguity and declared himself to be the enemy Jessica and Harvey made him out to be all along. But although he’s portrayed as the enemy here, he’s a surprisingly villain-less villain. For all of the things he did wrong in the past, and the office politics he plays now, Jessica has been given her own share of shady misdeeds to contend with. This is an interesting idea in theory—especially where Jessica is concerned—but if Suits is struggling with anything it’s the execution of this idea. The hiccup here is Hardman, who is ambiguous at times to the point of not seeming like a serious threat. Since we have no clear insight into the character other than what we see through Jessica and Harvey, it’s natural he’s simply the villain. He just doesn’t seem all that threatening most of the time, when it all comes down to it. Jessica is far more frightening an opponent. Still, this is a small quibble in what has been a very satisfying story arc.

Not only were the firm politics in the episode top notch the personal stakes were high as well. Harvey wasn’t kidding last week about getting Donna back, and does so in the first few minutes with very little resistance. The politics of her returning are still a bit sketchy to me (I suppose since the lawsuit is kaput there’s less of a liability, but she still destroyed evidence) but Donna is such a welcome presence it’s easier than it should be to sweep logic under the rug. Just having her back in that assistant chair is logic enough.

Mike’s personal life also got a showcase, something that’s been completely on the back burner since his relationship with Rachel imploded early in the season. Harvey gives Mike a huge bonus check so he decides to buy his Grammy an apartment in Manhattan, so it must have been a really huge bonus check. Rachel helps him find a place and in the process there’s some decent Rachel/Mike chemistry, which reminds me that although the way their relationship ended wasn’t great, they weren’t so bad together. Then the story takes an emotional left turn when instead of giving the apartment to Grammy she unexpectedly dies, leaving Mike all alone in the world and crying on Rachel’s shoulder. It’s a punch in the gut to both Mike and the audience, and continues the show’s impressive streak of nailing the emotional moments this season.

This episode was the perfect setup for next week’s big season-ending showdown where we’ll see if Suits can stick the landing to what’s been an extremely impressive second season, or if it will have an asterisk of its own. Going by reputation, I’d say chances are high they’ll remain symbol-free.

Stray observations:

  • Tonight’s episode was full of fun little moments, like Harvey pulling out the bigger check to woo Donna or Louis and Donna doing a full-on strut walk into work.
  • Donna proves her worth immediately by figuring out Louis made senior partner using her deep knowledge of everyone’s business. Donna is the gossip you never see gossip but somehow still knows everything.
  • Rachel got a 172 on her LSAT! I guess this is good because everyone seemed excited! 

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