Everybody has a story, a trail of emotional breadcrumbs that eventually leads you to who they are at their core. For a show with so many well-drawn characters, Suits has been surprisingly stingy with the breadcrumbs, making a flashback episode the perfect way to fill in a few character gaps.
This is why the biggest surprise of “Rewind” was how little it actually revealed.
Not that the episode was terrible; it was engaging and quite funny at times, and also slipped in a stealth emotional punch. It’s simply that the show’s selected task—illustrating the discovery of Daniel Hardman’s embezzlement and his subsequent resignation from the firm—didn’t really need any elaboration. The gist: Five years ago, Jessica looked up to Hardman in the same way Harvey looks up to her, Harvey figured out he was embezzling, then blackmailed him to clear the path for Jessica to become managing partner. These are all things we already knew.
The whole endeavor seemed like just an excuse to introduce Jessica’s way out of being replaced by Hardman as managing partner: the reveal that Hardman’s mistress at the time was an employee of Pearson Hardman, and that Jessica fired her once Hardman resigned. (Or was her reveal the excuse to do a few fun flashbacks? It’s chicken-or-egg, really.)
What’s interesting here is how, once again, this shades Jessica’s character more than Hardman’s. We already knew Hardman embezzled money and cheated on his dying wife; although he’s been a fairly ambiguous character at times, his introduction was sleazy, and he hasn’t explicitly strayed from that. Jessica, however, gets dirtier the longer we look at her. A few weeks ago, we learned of her “prank” that was more like a shaming. Now, we learn she fired a woman for having an affair. These things emphasize her ruthlessness, but they also shine a light on the more untoward side of Jessica, the one that’s not always the good guy. It’s either a sad cliché of what a woman in power is seen as being, or a potential meta-commentary about what a woman of Jessica’s race and gender might have to do to get to the top and stay there. Precisely what the show is aiming for here isn’t quite clear yet, either in flashback or the present.
Mike’s flashbacks suffered even more in that absolutely everything we saw was information we already knew: Mike fell for Jenny first, his moral compass is easily compromised if it involves helping his grandmother, and Trevor was a drug dealer who stole Jenny out from underneath him. Does it matter that we now know Jenny’s roommate was the one who got him into the test-taking business? Was it really impressive to see Mike rattle off math answers and Moby Dick prose? Well, no, not really. It was nice to see that Trevor and Jenny weren’t always some sort of chain around Mike’s neck dragging him down, but they feel so irrelevant to Mike’s current story that these flashbacks would have been better placed last season, in the midst of all his turmoil with them.
The only person the flashback truly served was Harvey, who was the one character to really get any sort of emotional examination through the flashback device. There have been hints dropped about Harvey’s parents here and there, enough to let us know there’s a story there, but tonight was the first time any explicit information was given. Harvey’s doggedness in returning Hardman to the obscurity he sent him to five years ago has a root; there’s more at stake for Harvey here than Jessica not being in charge.
He essentially gave up mourning his father for this.
While he was throwing the blackmail smack down on Hardman, his father was dying of a heart attack. And other than a momentary loss of control upon hearing the news from Donna, Harvey threw everything he was feeling behind a wall and threw himself into being a new partner instead. Now, with Hardman threatening to become Harvey’s boss again, he seems to be suddenly thrust back to that day. This is beautifully illustrated by an evocative, melancholy train ride that ends up at his father’s gravestone, where he toasts to his memory. We still don’t know much about their relationship and how Harvey’s mother fits into his story, but there is the beginning of a breadcrumb trail here. I do hope we get more in the future.
The good thing about how Suits has evolved in its second season is it almost doesn’t matter that nothing of true import happened in the episode. Spending time in this world has become compelling enough to justify even the thinnest of story, and this is perhaps the season’s greatest triumph. But next time the series flashes back, I do hope there's more story there to justify it (and that someone, anyone has a silly wig).
- Harvey is finally going to get Donna back, and Jessica seems to think this is a good idea. I think they better come up with a genius way for it to make sense. Save Donna!
- The throughline between flashback Louis and the Louis we know today is unclear. Flashback Louis was far less mature and jaded.
- Speaking of Louis, his braces are this show’s version of funny flashback hair. Ridiculous and a bit unrealistic, but fun.
- Flashback Mike sees Harvey walking down the street and tells Trevor to shoot him if he ever looks like that. See, it’s funny because it happened! Get it?
- I hope we never meet Norma, because the idea of her is far better than any reality could ever be.
- “How did you know that?” “I’m Donna; I know everything.”