Well, a lot of that felt like a cop out.
Suits spent much of the summer portion of this second season (and let me just take a moment to indulgently complain about how confusing USA’s insistence on breaking up seasons into two parts can be when trying to parse story arcs) living in kind of a morally gray area, shading not only the enemy’s actions but those of our ostensible heroes as well. Daniel Hardman was presented in the season première as the ultimate enemy, but along the way, his presence was less a corrosive force than a propulsive one, adding a new layer of office politics to the show and shifting focus away from the dodgy premise and case-of-the-week centrism, and toward something much more complex.
And after all that, this complexity was quickly scurried away for an intriguing final line and an easy fix.
The past nine episodes did everything they could to tease the dissolution of the status quo, only for it to be easily snapped back into place when Harvey and Mike figure out that Hardman not only fabricated the memo Donna supposedly lost, but he also knew about the car defect in the original lawsuit and advised his client to bury the original memo. Then he used that knowledge to have Tanner bring the bogus case against Harvey. It’s a valid excuse to unseat Hardman from the managing partner post he just won. It’s also a valid excuse to get him dismissed from the firm outright. But it’s just not an riveting outcome. Hardman as the boss—with Jessica and Harvey fighting for their place, both against him and against Louis—feels like it was worth more than the 15 minutes of story allotment it receives. Sure, watching Jessica and Harvey “win” is at the heart of the show but, for a little while, it might have been interesting to see them play from the back of the pack.
The one saving grace of this whole thing is Hardman’s final line as he leaves—warning Jessica that she turned against him once and Harvey will do the same thing to her. Suits is heavily invested in the mentor/mentee relationship, and now we’ve seen every aspect of this life cycle. Will Harvey one day have to put Jessica in place the way Jessica had to deal with Hardman? On its face this seems unlikely, as Hardman was obviously a much less ethical character than Jessica, but we’ve seen her cracks. More than Harvey, she is willing to do almost anything to get what she wants. The idea of Harvey having to take her down—extending someday to Mike having to take Harvey down—is an interesting one to chase. The circle of life of high-powered Manhattan lawyers is rich with possibility, as they explore the line between doing what it takes to win and doing the right thing. And let’s face it, the idea of a Jessica vs. Harvey showdown sounds pretty damn great.
Aside from the Hardman issue, the episode also raises a troubling question: Is the show more interesting when it doesn’t focus on the character originally presented as its protagonist? One of the greatest strengths of the second season so far has been the expansion of the show into a true ensemble. In doing this, the focus naturally shifted away from Mike—our de facto point-of-view character since the pilot—to make room for the growth of secondary characters such as Louis and Donna. This was absolutely essential to the evolution of the show. Along the way, however, the one thing that got a bit lost was Mike’s own story. So when his personal life rockets back into the forefront in the finale it almost feels shoehorned in, like a forgotten relic from another era when much of Mike’s existence was wrapped up in often uninteresting romantic strife.
This is especially disappointing because I like Mike. Mike’s character—and especially his interplay with Harvey—was essentially what drove me to stick with the show throughout season one’s weaker episodes, a time when I normally drop USA programming like a bad habit. Once Mike and Rachel ended their brief relationship at the beginning of the season, Mike’s interactions on the show became almost exclusively office-related. It seemed as if the show was making a point to stress Mike’s evolution into a more Harvey-like existence: less emotional involvement, more ass-kicking victories. They were doing it quietly, without comment, but it was there.
Tonight, Mike’s story goes back to the personal place where it started as he deals with the fallout from his beloved Grammy’s death. This alone is enough to deal with, but for some reason the show felt the need to wedge in a silly romantic-triangle subplot between Mike, Rachel, and some random girl from Mike’s past. Revisiting Mike and Rachel’s connection in such an emotionally supercharged time of his life feels like a natural progression. Their friendship was slowly restored in the past few episodes, and her presence there felt right. The presence of a previously unmentioned childhood girlfriend—a first love named Tess—is just awkward, an obviously plot-driven obstacle put there so the show could stall Mike and Rachel’s inevitable reunion. Mike and Rachel simply aren’t an epic enough love story for the endless will-they-or-won’t-they device to work, and it definitely didn’t work here.
The worst thing is, Mike’s story doesn’t need it. Patrick J. Adams does wonderful work tonight, hitting all the right emotional beats—from denial to anger to utter desolation. To muddy this up with a love triangle for no logical reason other than to get to a predetermined end point isn’t great storytelling. Mike going into a downward spiral after his Grammy’s death is a worthy story arc—and it just might play out that way in future episodes—but in the context of this finale only, it’s pretty much a failure.
That’s a lot of complaining, and much of the disappointment I had in this episode is rooted in expectation. Suits struggled to find a consistent storytelling groove in its first season, and if an episode of this quality had aired back then, it might have been one of the stronger installments of the season. Now expectations are raised, and this finale simply didn’t live up to what we now know the show is capable of.
But even though Suits might not have ended the summer season in the best way, it sure was fun getting there. Until the show returns and we see how it deals with everything that happened in this finale, the memory of that journey will have to be enough.
- The fake memo obviously completely absolves Donna, not that she needed absolution to get her job back. Still: Donna doesn’t make mistakes!
- Although the above reads like a bit of a diatribe, the episode isn’t all bad. Mike and Harvey resuming their close partnership is a pleasure to watch; Mike and Harvey getting high together is a special pleasure to watch. I would like a web series called Harvey And Mike Smoke Pot, Eat Snacks, And Talk About Their Sad Lives, please.
- Harvey finally opens up about his home life and it’s simultaneously more mundane (Surprise, his mom was kind of awful!) and more obtuse than I expected. The most fascinating thing is how he went from a musician’s son to a cutthroat lawyer. Some steps along the way there are missing, which is intriguing.
- Louis remains great and the true triumph of the season so far. The thing I am most anticipating is how he will maneuver himself in the firm after the fallout from Hardman’s exit.
- Can opener!
- Louis: “I’m a senior partner; I always pay my debts. I’m a Lannister.”
- Donna: “I’m sorry I don’t have a photographic memory but my brain is far too busy being awesome.”