For most of “No Way Out,” Suits’ eventful season three finale, it was difficult to tell exactly what the show was doing. Most of it takes place in a state of heightened paranoia, as Harvey gets targeted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for bribing witnesses in the Ava Hessington case. But as Mike gets hauled in and interrogated in an attempt to get him to flip on Harvey, the real reason the show is going down this path is slowly revealed: This is a way for Harvey to confront the man he’s become and decide who he wants to be in the future, consequences be damned.
The theme of Harvey’s steady professional moral decay is highlighted by the juxtaposition of who everyone around him seems to think he is; throughout the episode, everyone keeps telling Harvey he’s a good man. They tell him but he can’t agree, because being confronted with the chance Mike could go to jail for a strategy he signed off on is too much to take. Sure, it was Mike’s idea to go to Harold and get the witnesses the money the needed to go away, but in the end it was Harvey’s call. Just like it was always ultimately Harvey’s call every time the firm has done something morally unsound to save their own asses. The moral compromises might have started when Harvey made the decision to bring Mike on, and might have continued to spiral out of control to protect his secret, but Harvey doesn’t see Mike as the central issue: He sees himself.
It’s a rare introspective moment for Harvey, and just like in every other aspect of his life he goes all in, taking full responsibility and telling Mike he has to turn him in if it comes down to either Mike going to jail or Harvey. It doesn’t come to that—the case hinges on Harold testifying, and Louis puts a quick kibosh on that happening—but Harvey sacrificing himself in that moment, telling Mike to put the blame where it ultimately belongs, might just be a turning point for the show. In the end, season three was all about the downfall of Harvey Specter, with him stopping the bleeding with his band-aid admission to Jessica that he was becoming Edward Darby, and that must end.
What makes this such an interesting turn for Harvey’s character is that throughout season three, the increasing inability for the characters to see how damaging their choices were becoming, how rotten the core of Pearson Specter was getting, was really starting to wear on the show. Until both Harvey and Jessica acknowledged this and said they needed to “get back to being us” here, it wasn’t very clear that the show recognized this at all. The sudden recognition doesn’t make for a very well-plotted overall arc, but it does show a genuine insight into these characters and what they’ve become that up until now seemed lacking. Whether or not Harvey and Jessica’s commitment to get back to “them” sticks, it’s exceedingly nice just to see the obvious shift into something more nefarious acknowledged by the show.
But the biggest thing that Harvey’s sudden self-awareness manifests here is that it gives Mike a good dose of self-awareness as well, enough that he realizes he needs to take the investment banking job after all. After my complaints last week about not understanding why Mike couldn’t just leave, the writers do a nice job of filling in the blanks in his conversation with Rachel, stating explicitly that hearing Quelling talk about staying with his big case for the love of it made him recognize he needed to do the same. But subsequently, the fantastic Mike and Harvey conversation where Harvey insists he’s the cancer at the center of the firm, not Mike, is the perfect vehicle to make Mike realize he needs to go the other way. Harvey may see himself as the reason everything’s gone sour, but Mike knows none of this happened until he joined the firm. (And it’s fitting the only time Harvey seems to believe it when someone tells him he’s a “good man” is when Mike says it here.)
Mike and Harvey get a lovely moment to close the episode with a handshake, and an admission that although Mike is no longer working for Pearson Specter, he’s now their client. This is a genius way to have him still be involved in the show and answer the “Why the heck is Mike still at the firm?” question all in one, and I’m anxious to see how it all shakes out in season four.
USA’s decision to split many of their shows into a 10-episode and six-episode run has never been my favorite bit of scheduling, mostly because the six-episode portion never seems to have quite enough room to tell its stories properly. Suits tried to get around that a little bit by having Harvey’s story in these six episodes ultimately tie back into what happened in the first 10, but thematically it didn’t quite connect until this finale. Not perfect execution, but at least it’s an attempt at something a bit more meaningful. Where this six-episode issue really came back to bite the show was in the Harvey and Scottie relationship, which started out like a fairly promising way to explore Harvey’s character and ultimately ended up to be pretty much a narrative bust. Scottie’s main purpose was to establish that she was going to test Harvey’s ability to be in a real relationship in the first episode, pop back in a few times to accuse him of not being trustworthy, then shuffle off in the finale as she realizes yes, he’s not ready to be in a real relationship and he’s not trustworthy. It was a horrible use of the idea and a horrible use of Abigail Spencer, a great actress who deserves more.
Seeing Harvey navigate a real relationship is something that could be a great way to expand his character, but more and more it feels like they are waiting for one specific relationship: Harvey and Donna. Donna spent this whole season simply being a parrot on Harvey’s shoulder needling him about everything he was doing wrong in his relationship to Scottie. For everything Suits did right with Harvey’s arc in this six-episode stretch, they did pretty much everything wrong with Donna. Come on, season four! Better Donna stories, please!
- There were a few sequences with great visual flair, most notably the opening scene shot through Harvey’s office window and Harvey, Mike, and Louis’ strut back to the office after defeating the U.S. Attorney. The latter was when it was finally clear the show wasn’t endorsing Harvey’s actions; that wasn’t the soundtrack boasting, but being reproachful about these “bad bad men.”
- Will U.S. Attorney Eric Woodall pop back up next season now that Harvey is “on his radar?”
- Rachel also basically had nothing to do in these six episodes. Unacceptable.