Oh my, how Suits needed this one. After three episodes that were mediocre at their best and maddeningly frustrating at their worst, the show finally hit a home run by remembering its greatest strength: the relationships between the characters.
For so much of this season, the characters spent so much time maneuvering and so little time relating, and the strain of the imbalance showed. More importantly, everyone spent much of their time being so blatantly nasty to each other that the very tone of the show seemed to be undergoing a seismic shift. “Heartburn” pulls the reins hard on this destructive behavior and strips the show back down to its core elements, focusing on the core team of Jessica, Harvey, Mike, Louis, Donna, and Rachel, and how these people have created this strange, symbiotic place where they all somehow belong together.
For all of the praise about where it ends up, the show certainly gets to this place by pulling off a pretty shamelessly manipulative move by giving Louis a heart attack. It completely works, though, because of the ample time the show has devoted to making Louis a layered, rich character with unique connections to every other person in the firm. Is there anyone everyone would have rallied around so quickly but Louis? But although his heart attack turns out to be mostly a minor scare, it sets in motion a personal story that ends in tragedy. Louis’ relationship with Sheila has been one of the things that helped deepen his character, one of the things that helped him with his confidence in the firm so he could build his relationships there. It’s these relationships that force Louis to beg Sheila to move to New York after they get engaged, and she agrees; but their happiness gets woefully derailed when she realizes he wants kids and she does not.
Over and over again, Suits makes its case that the people of Pearson Specter can’t have it all. Louis can have his professional satisfaction and finally have the work family he’s always wanted, but love is just out of his reach. For Louis, this tragedy almost feels like one imposed on him, trapping him with a life that may be satisfying but can never be perfect. For Mike, his tragedy is one he brought upon himself by lying. This has always made him the less sympathetic character, and as the show brought his lie to the forefront again this season it appeared to be flogging the same old beats without any actual character growth. After this episode, it’s clear there is a far more interesting story being told here.
Mike and Harvey have been lying since the pilot. In season one, the show dealt greatly with the lie and the resultant guilt Mike had because of this lie, before transitioning him into much more of a place of acceptance in season two and beyond. In fact, the writers took him so far in the other direction that it became almost off-putting; Mike, once obsessed with doing the right thing, became far more obsessed with winning at all cost. It was a logical progression, but not one that was very satisfying to watch. By bringing Mike’s lie back to the forefront and spotlighting his realization of how this lie was going to affect his life—in a parallel to the Louis story, he doesn’t get to have it all, either—the show gets to address it in a meaningful way again, yet from a more personal angle. Mike wants to be the guy who has everything: A great relationship, a high-status job. But his lie will never let the high-status job happen; he’s forever stuck. Even if he wants to go legit, he can never do it in a big firm, under his own name. The damage is already done.
Cleverly (if not subtly), Suits uses a case to get Mike to this realization. When Harvey and Mike work a case where their client doesn’t let his underlings rise above a certain power level, Mike finds Jonathan, an investment banker and kindred spirit. Mike helps Jonathan get out from under his boss, and Jonathan rewards him by offering Mike a job. A non-lawyer job. It’s his chance to get away, to get unstuck, but will he be able to take it?
It’s fairly clear Mike can’t really take this job. This is a television show about a law firm. Mike is a lead character who works at this law firm. But what this episode does is take all of these things and make them about the character motivations, giving it the emotional heft to have whatever ends up happening resonate beyond the decision Mike ultimately makes. Everything about this episode had this heft, this feeling that what was happening mattered, in a way that’s been missing for quite a while. In the end, Harvey’s life advice to Mike is to “hold on tight and enjoy the ride.” For the first time this season when watching Suits, this is easy to do.
- Rachel finally getting to have her own story was a very, very good thing, though it was frustrating how passive aggressive she was with Louis. Thankfully, that was remedied when she negotiated her ass off with Jessica at the end.
- There were so many individual, lovely moments between Louis and various other characters. My favorite was Donna’s silent exchange with him at the end.
- Speaking of Donna, let’s stop having Donna be the vehicle to tell us why Scottie isn’t in the episode every week. Please?
- Louis: “I’m going to sue you. I’m going to sue you for sucking!”
- “You crossed out Jaime and Cersei Lannister.” “I thought they were too controversial a couple.”