Suits is definitively a summer show. Has anyone ever worn anything other than an impeccable suit, stunning dress, or perfectly tailored skirt? Manhattan is a pristine blue-green, everyone walks into work in comfortable business attire. I’ve barely noticed a coat in the entire run. There’s no indication of how long the story of this show has worn on, but apparently the weather never changes in New York these days, a perpetual summer to show off an immaculate vision of corporate law in Manhattan. I have no idea why USA would insist on showing episodes of Suits in the depth of winter when the flashy wit and firm-as-kingdom bombast blows away all the other chaff on the summer schedule.
At it’s best, Suits is a layered Shakespearean dramedy, with high plots meting out the power struggle between the senior partners, a few dashes of romance on the side (between Mike and Rachel or Harvey and Scottie on occasion), and the low plots involving more base humor between underlings (This week, it’s all of Louis’ unintentional sexual innuendo while complimenting Donna’s glow). My favorite episodes contain slight touches of the latter two elements, and lean heavily on the outsized drama of professional ascension: drawing battle lines, taking sides, forming alliances, making treaties that will be hastily broken. That’s what the show found when it turned a corner in the second season, and the best moments of season three so far have tapped into that same life-or-death attitude toward the firm.
Unfortunately, “Shadow Of A Doubt” is season one Suits in tone masquerading as season three filler. Heavy on the casual, flirty romance and episodic cases, light on the tectonically weighted political conflict within the firm that merits casting two Game Of Thrones actors in recurring roles. There’s still an underpinning of the season-long arc as Harvey attempts to win Darby’s support for Managing Partner by helping Ava evade murder charges with Stephen’s help, but most of the episode devolves into rather inconsequential romantics.
Let’s start with the romantic thread that informs the Ava Hessington litigation of the week, as Donna continues her tryst with Stephen without telling Harvey about it, because apparently Rachel and Mike and others assume he’ll be thunderously angry that his secretary has a life outside the office. Still, it’s great that Donna gets what she wants and feels more than satisfied by Stephen. (And for now he seems to want more, but if Suits teaches viewers anything, it’s to expect the rug pull sometime soon.)
The scene between Donna and Harvey when she chooses to disclose the relationship is actually subversive, as he reacts as though it has no effect on him—as he should. There’s so much subtext in these conversations—even as the characters lay their emotions bare to each other—that it’s difficult to take them at face value without anticipating some kind of reversal or new revelation two episodes down the line. Harvey tells Donna that as long as her personal and professional life have clearly marked boundaries, her arrangement with Stephen won’t be a problem. Which telegraphs that unlike this conversation—which teased an incensed yelling match last week—that is exactly what will happen as Donna and Stephen progress.
But the way in which Donna becomes a bit of a pawn between Harvey and Stephen while they work to thwart the Giannopoulos takeover of Hessington Oil and fend off Cameron’s murder charges against Ava still feels dirty. Stephen goes personal, subpoenaing Giannopoulos’ daughter without Harvey’s consent, and they get into an argument that Stephen chalks up to Harvey’s anger over Donna, but really ties back to Harvey being pissed that Stephen went personal and mucked up a good deal. Harvey’s code is mutable to serve the current plot, as he’s broken it before and lost to Cameron fairly, but this all feels like the buildup to something more important. Too many loose ends get tied up without much fire, and the only remaining thread is Cameron’s determination to see his personal grudge against Harvey and Jessica through to a trial.
In the only bit of real law firm politics, Harvey goes to Jessica to mop up what Stephen spilled—Stephen notes the irony that Jessica doesn’t know about Harvey’s plan to stab her in the back and swipe Managing Partner away. Jessica wants to bury the hatchet with Harvey, so she handles Ava selling her share to Giannopoulos if Harvey gets him to agree to keep Ava in charge, on the condition that they find a way to cut the legs out from Cameron’s murder case.
Again I think the strongest statement on how Suits views its female characters comes from a scene between the two female power brokers who haven’t devolved into giggling high schoolers over a new beau. Jessica goes to see Ava to convince her she needs to give up shares of her company in order to retain control. Women in power need to give the public, official power to the men, but then do the work on the inside to make everything run smoothly, waiting for the chance to tip the scales in their favor. It’s certainly cunning, and says a lot about how Jessica approaches the merger going forward, but it places the strongest female cast members in secondary roles—and with the added bonus of nuking Donna and Rachel’s characters—this season hasn’t treated its typically standout actresses with material worthy of their talents.
Off in the romantic plot, new lovebirds Mike and Rachel get to work a case together after Mike gets booted to the sidelines—already a sign of the episode’s weakness. We find out Rachel doesn’t want Mike to meet her parents because of his secret, then she changes her mind almost immediately. This romantic development is moving faster than the characters can keep up, and though they have nice flirty chemistry together—and the dinner scene at the parents’ house might be the best rapid-fire dialogue of the season so far—it’s all in service of a plot that can’t go in the direction it’s leading because it would leave a huge narrative thread hanging. Rachel won’t leave Suits, and breaking her and Mike up only serves to create more headache over his secret, so it’s either a predictable path or a huge misstep.
In the final scene, Jessica comes around to mend fences with Harvey, offering to put his name on the door. That’s an unlikely finish to what was a loose hour without much sense of burdensome work to get there, but Harvey probes with the appropriate questions: Is this a move to placate Harvey? Is it a just reward? (Not after the weak case this week.) He wants to know if it’s a gesture or another part of the chess game. Jessica says all the right things—that her position relative to Darby shows her how she should treat Harvey better, thereby magically fixing all the succession problems that break down the compelling hierarchical steeplechase that’s been going on over the past season. But Suits always has a few extra moves up its sleeve, so I wouldn’t take any of these olive branch actions at face value just yet. For now, this is a bit too breezy and inconsequential. I’m still waiting for the heavy-hitting arguments and law firm civil war with all the lieutenants taking sides. Keeping Mike, Louis, Rachel, and Katrina on the sidelines gives the show a breather, but it makes for a less enjoyable Suits.
- Carrie was feeling a bit under the weather today, so thanks to her for letting me sub in here tonight. Looks like I just keep drawing the short straw on Suits drop-ins. But I still consume the show with great delight, and enjoy many of the little things
- It is a big problem that last week Mike and Katrina call direct attention to an on-the-nose reference to The Wire, and then Wendell Pierce shows up in the next episode. That’s some bush league stuff, Suits.
- Louis and Nigel continue to slight each other as they parse out their chiral existence, but discover a shared love of cats. Anybody want to bet that Nigel’s cat dies, and that forever ruins the possibility of reconciliation between him and Louis? The other possibility is that he’s gone so long that Louis grows attached and tries to keep the cat, which, seriously, the Louis/Mike plot was a thousand times better than what I just had to postulate.
- Next week: Another flashback episode, this time 10 years back. I am not excited by this prospect, as it seems to excise the new characters and the new conflict and dig for the history of the Harvey/Cameron/Jessica debacle, which I don’t find interesting.