You can usually tell if a show is going to be worth a damn not by what it does in season one, but by the direction it takes in season two. Season one is for navigating the basics: establishing the premise, developing basic character relationships, and creating an interesting world for those characters to live in. Season two is where a good show will take everything it learned in season one and run with it, throwing out the things that didn’t work and embracing the rest, and hopefully creating something better. After seeing just these first three episodes of season two, I’m confident enough to say that I think Suits is worth a damn. The season has been that strong.
One thing is perfectly clear: this show is a full-blown ensemble now. It’s no longer the Harvey and Mike show with periodic pop-ins from lesser characters; those lesser characters now have full storylines and lives that exist beyond how they can be of service to our central pair. For Donna and Rachel, their friendship has been the catalyst to expanding their roles. At first this was a bit troubling, as all they seemed to do was talk about Rachel’s star-crossed affair with Mike, but tonight threw an interesting twist into that scenario. Most of the episode was spent on Rachel’s letdown after her breakup with Mike and her attempt to rejoin the dating pool, continuing to revolve her entire existence around her relationships with men. This culminated in a well-executed scene where she almost gets Mike to divulge his secret, but that isn’t the interesting thing: the interesting thing is how she responds. Instead of continuing to define herself by her relationship to Mike, she instead decides to take the LSAT again. By simply refocusing her on the character’s original goal and making her more than just a love interest, she immediately becomes intriguing again.
Another ensemble player who got the chance to shine tonight was Louis, who was faced with his own crossroads when a survey comes out ranking Pearson Hardman as second lowest New York law firm in associate satisfaction. When Harvard threatens to repeal their on-campus recruiting privileges, Louis is faced with his worst nightmare: having to potentially hire someone who didn’t go to Harvard. The horror! In an amusing runner, Harvard sends an investigator (played by a pitch-perfect Rachael Harris) who is essentially a female Louis, in all the best ways. She tells him the reason he’s having problems is his associates don’t respect him, and think they do all of his work for him. In a great little sequence Louis finally gets a win, doing all their work in one night and giving a rousing speech about why he gives them the assignments he does. Louis the sniveling suck-up is essential to the fabric of the show, but it’s nice to get a glimpse as to why he’s as important as he is at the firm.
The meat of the episode, though, was Hardman’s return to the firm and how his antagonistic relationship with Harvey completely almost derails the case of the week. Hardman claims he doesn’t want to get in anyone’s way but immediately inserts himself into Harvey’s defense of a hospital group against a nurse’s strike, inviting himself onto the case and then undercutting Harvey’s attempts to get an injunction and play hardball with the union. It’s not an especially thrilling case, but the casting of Margo Martindale as the nurse negotiator gives it additional heft and it’s strangely fun to watch Harvey brutally beat down his opposition. Besides, in this show the meat of the case is never what’s important; it’s how the case affects the relationships in the firm that matters.
On that front, the case did a great job of making Hardman’s transition back into the firm as nasty as possible. Hardman immediately goes after Harvey’s weak spot: his relationship with Mike. Throughout the case, both Harvey and Hardman work completely opposite angles but use Mike to do it, bouncing him back and forth between allegiances like a pinball. The only confusing part of all of this is why Mike isn’t better at discerning what they’re doing. Mike clearly knows Hardman isn’t on Harvey’s side, and he clearly knows Hardman works angles. Mike’s greatest weakness is his naiveté, but at a certain point his idealism has to turn into realism, just from sheer experience. Harvey sitting Mike down and explaining exactly why Hardman is so untrustworthy was important to their relationship and to Mike’s relationship with Hardman moving forward. Seeing as Hardman would be enemy number one if he ever caught wind of Mike’s secret, he needs to tread a bit more lightly around him.
When people praise USA programming it almost always comes with a qualifier, with people dismissively wielding the phrase “good for a USA show” like the backhanded compliment it so clearly is. Three episodes into this very strong second season, no such qualifier is necessary for Suits. It’s just a good show.
- The Louis/Harvey bonding scene over their time as associates together—and Harvey admitting he stole one of Louis’ files—was perhaps the best scene of the season so far. Those two are good as snarky adversaries but they’re also surprisingly realistic as compatriots. It’s a great relationship.
- Lots of Mike’s grandma tonight. She’s saucier than I remember.
- Harriet Specter and Michelle Ross. Heh.
- Grandma: “At least do it with a little authority. Someone’s going to think I raised a pussy.”
- Harold: “Do you think if they touch the world would cease to exist?”
- Harvey: “You know, I can see myself in that thing. I would find that completely distracting, of course.”