Suits is my absolute favorite show on television that has significant, potentially show-ruining problems.
At the end of season one, Myles McNutt wrote a great review taking the premise to task while praising all that is good about the show at the same time. I won’t rehash my (very similar) feelings here, but the ridiculousness of the idea that Mike could just continue working at this high-powered firm indefinitely, rising through the ranks while lying his ass off and not getting caught, is definitely an albatross around the show’s neck and the thing that will likely keep it from ever being more than a well-made distraction.
The great thing about this is that there’s nothing wrong with being a well-made distraction, especially if it’s one as fun as this. Suits isn’t trying to be television’s next “important” cable drama series. It’s trying to be a well-acted, well-plotted, snappily written goddamn good time for one hour each week, and for the most part, it succeeds wildly.
If you’re looking for subtlety of themes, there’s really none of that to be found here, either. Instead, Mike starts the season by strutting around in slow motion while the plaintive rock song in the background informs him, “You’re a fraud, and you know it.” And although the audience is pretty sure Jessica knows all about Mike’s lies from moment one, the show does an impressive job of piecing the first act together so we’re just as much in the dark as Mike until the bombshell drops right before the credits: Jessica knows, she wants Mike fired, and she wants Harvey to do it.
Here’s where Suits needs to do some deft maneuvering, because the show just doesn’t exist without Mike Ross and Harvey Specter working together at Pearson Hardman. To get itself out of its own mess, the writers come up with what is probably the best possible solution: giving everyone involved a common enemy. Harvey makes it very clear to Jessica he not only hired Mike but hired him knowing about his lack of a degree and conspired with him to lie about it, hitching his entire future at the firm onto Mike’s express train to disaster. The why of this is a bit bothersome—which I’ll get to shortly—but the how turns out to be rather smart. Jessica (the wonderful Gina Torres, whose greater presence in this episode suggests good things for her this season) isn’t simply going to let Harvey and Mike get away with this for no reason. She’s too smart and upstanding for that, and no matter how much she respects Harvey, she has made it clear in the past she doesn’t respect liars.
Bring on the common enemy, then: heretofore unseen partner David Hardman (David Costabile, looking much better than the last time I saw him), whom Jessica and Harvey apparently railroaded out of the firm (by blackmail, no less) after learning he was stealing from client escrow accounts. When Hardman’s wife and subject of the blackmail threat dies of cancer, he’s free and clear to return to the firm and take his revenge on both Harvey and Jessica for what they did to him. With Hardman threatening to return to the firm, Harvey finally has enough leverage to get Jessica to back off of Mike as long as Harvey prevents Hardman from ever returning.
At first, it seems like Harvey is going to easily—if somewhat brutally—pull off the exact same blackmail feat on Hardman again, except this time targeting his daughter. It would have been a simple, easy conclusion: a clean getaway for everyone involved, a quick reset to the premise, and the kind of thing the show did last season many times. What makes this episode one of the better ones the show has done is how it doesn’t go the easy way: Hardman returns to the firm, fesses up to the staff about his past misdeeds, and promises he’s a better man, all while discreetly putting Jessica and Harvey on notice. Now, not only does Jessica need Harvey, but she also needs Mike because Harvey insists they’re a package deal.
Setting up season two as one long battle between “our” in-the-know guys and a new threat is a smart way to build a season, and something the show needed. Now, the premise isn’t necessarily the driving conflict; it’s still a part of the conflict (as Hardman could easily find out about Mike at any time), but it’s not the main focus. It makes for a very strong episode and a promising start for a season.
If I have one glaring tangential complaint about the premise, it’s the show’s continued lack of explanation as to why Harvey is so invested in Mike staying at the firm. It’s not really about protecting his own career, because Jessica gave him a clear out tonight by asking him to fire Mike and not pushing whether he knew about the lies. Intellectually, I know from television convention that the reason is the growing bond between the two characters. The problem is how lacking this bond has been in the writing. Mike and Harvey have a great rapport: Their banter is top-notch, and Harvey’s interest in developing Mike’s talent is clear. But for him to go to such great lengths just to keep Mike around sometimes doesn’t quite feel earned, and tonight was one of those times. It just feels like we need a bit more.
Do I, like Myles, wish the show would just skip forward to a time where Mike has a law degree and the series could evolve into a fun look at a great relationship between two lawyers with different levels of power in a firm? Sure. But that’s not the show we’ve got here. And within the original premise, the new direction established in this premiere is definitely one of the most intriguing ways to make the limiting premise work in the show’s favor. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
- Everything I know about the law I learned from television, so please bear with me as I miss obvious implausibilities and utter inconsistencies in the cases of the week. This week’s merger was fairly inconsequential, but it did show some nice character growth for Mike, with him not getting completely bowled over by a bleeding heart story for once.
- If Mike didn’t get Rachel’s message, does this mean he didn’t have his phone for three days? Was Harvey sending him to-do lists by carrier pigeon in the meantime?
- Speaking of Mike’s love life, the scene where Jenny breaks up with him was just dreadful, an obvious and clunky way to extricate Mike from all last vestiges of his friends outside the firm. If she is truly gone, I can’t say I’ll miss her.
- Rachel and Donna’s new friendship is promising, not only because it gives us more Donna but also because it fills out Rachel a bit more. Let’s just hope they talk about more than Mike in the future.
- “Black don’t crack”? Ah, Mike, for someone so smart you certainly are a dummy.
- “Was John Boehner there?” Donna rules.
- Jessica: “We’re at a funeral, and you’re quoting Highlander?”