Suits is a show obsessed with power. It’s particularly interested in the power struggles that go on between its core characters, but as the show evolved it added a new, more sinister dimension to its examination of legal power struggles: the corrupt enemy. Daniel Hardman, Cameron Dennis, and now Edward Darby are all examples of lawyers who went too far in their quest for power, becoming the purest distillation of the show’s view on just how thin the line is between doing whatever it takes to win and doing what is right.
This line is an interesting one because Suits has shown its own lawyers crossing it in the past—Mike’s kerfuffle with Katrina last season comes to mind—but it always uses these moments more as examples of how easy it is to do the wrong thing, right before making sure to do the right one. Harvey, Mike, and Jessica’s biggest enemies aren’t the ones who use their power to beat them in the courtroom; no, they’re the ones who abuse the inherent power that comes with being a lawyer and use it to reap unjust rewards. Suits might give Harvey a frustratingly narrow worldview on loyalty, but his thoughts on the legal profession have always remained steadfastly clear—you have to win, but it only counts if you do it straight.
Suits’ insistence on having its biggest enemies be corrupt is precisely the reason we should have been expecting this shoe to drop. Finding out Darby was actually the one who ordered the murders Ava is accused of ordering—a sad attempt at sort of really twisted paternal idea of “helping” her—ended up being very surprising, mostly because of the way the show has slow-played this entire story. The Ava case just kept going and going and going this season, longer than any reasonable case this outwardly boring ever should have been allowed to, so on reflection it was obvious the writers had a big additional twist up their sleeves, and that big twist had to do with Darby and the person he sent to actually do the dirty work, Stephen.
Now everything the show has been doing all season long suddenly snaps into focus. Why Darby was so insistent Ava be exonerated for all her crimes, why the Hessington case dragged on for so long, why Stephen was sniffing around the case so much, and, most importantly, why setting up a romance between Donna and Stephen was so essential. The focus on Cameron Dennis’ history of corruption in last week’s flashback episode was just a cheat, a red herring to distract the audience from seeing the sleight of hand happening right under its nose. Cameron’s corruption wasn’t the end game here; that honor is reserved for Edward Darby and Stephen Huntley, just in time for Harvey, Jessica, and Mike to take them down.
It’s a fairly clever construction, and works like gangbusters here in this episode, but it still doesn’t make those less-than-satisfying past episodes any better in retrospect. I completely respect the show for playing the long game (in fact, I kind of love it), but for a long game to work, all of the moments leading up to it must work on their own, only to be brought into sharper focus once the true goal is revealed. So far this season, the Hessington and Darby arc started out fairly strong but petered out into banality pretty quickly, leaving the case to feel far staler than it should have.
The biggest impediment in all of this is Harvey’s vendetta against Jessica. Once Harvey has a change of heart and reveals to Jessica his plans to plot against her, the show starts to feel like the Suits we’ve come to know and love again. Their power struggle takes on an interesting shading tonight when Jessica realizes Harvey might have only revealed his plans to turn her against Darby, calls him on this fact, and then begrudgingly accepts his positive affirmation of these facts and goes along with it anyway. Harvey and Jessica’s give-and-take relationship is one of the most compelling things the show has built over its three seasons, and this turn of events is serving it very well.
But what does all of this mean for Pearson Darby Specter as an entity? At the beginning of this episode, Harvey threatened to beat Stephen up for accidentally leading Cameron to the witness who could take down Ava. At the end of the episode, after learning what Stephen’s actual role in the case turned out to be—and how that revelation is now tearing Donna apart—Harvey makes good on his promise. The rest of the season likely won’t be filled with overly macho displays of physical power like this one, but with Harvey, Jessica, and Mike in a fight to extricate the firm from what turned out to be a toxic partnership, the mental power games are just beginning.
- The only thing I really don’t like about Darby being evil is that it proves Harvey was right all along. Does Harvey always have to be right?
- I can’t really figure out what Stephen was doing in New York this whole time. Is he hanging around just to ensure no one implicates him or Darby in the Hessington case? I am assuming that is why he stole Moriga’s deposition.
- Louis’ mock trial was strange and fairly out of place in this episode, but so completely and wonderfully Louis. Nigel was ultimately not my favorite new character idea, though. Now that Louis has the associates back I hope Nigel returns to London with his cat.
- Rachel had a great week, between kicking ass at Louis’ mock trial and getting into Columbia. I knew she wasn’t going to Stanford.
- Harold! The list of all the things you messed up while at Pearson Hardman was pretty amusing, dude.