Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Suits: “The Other Time”

Illustration for article titled Suits: “The Other Time”

I’m just going to come out and admit it: The flashback episodes of Suits completely confound me. Like “Rewind” last season, “The Other Time” features an extensive look into Harvey and Mike’s past, this time going back 10 years to Harvey’s time at the District Attorney’s office and Mike’s time in undergrad with Trevor. On the surface, these episodes are emotionally satisfying, digging into character dynamics and how they inform the characters as we know them today. The problem is that while watching, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the information is just a rehash of almost everything we already know.

The Harvey flashbacks are the most interesting, despite somehow not revealing anything all that new about the character and the events of his stint at the District Attorney’s office. We knew Cameron’s corrupt behavior forced Harvey to leave the DA’s office and return to work with Jessica, even if we didn’t know the exact circumstances. Other than setting up some (admittedly nice) moral parallels between what happens when Jessica takes over from the previous partners and what Harvey is planning on doing to Jessica, there is nothing here we couldn’t have gleaned from earlier episodes. It’s just not that compelling to watch Cameron be shady in flashback form, even if it does tie in to the tactics he’s taking on the never-ending Ava Hessington murder trial. (Which yes, is still going, even at the end of the episode. Thanks, Stephen!)

Harvey’s flashbacks work, though, because they get the emotional content right in his relationships with both Donna and Jessica. One of the big running stories this season is how Harvey and Donna’s complicated friendship and working relationship is tested when she starts dating Stephen, and we finally get concrete proof as to why there are so many layers here: 10 years ago, when they thought they would never work together again, they both gave in to their obvious attraction. There was never any doubt these two had a sexual past—it’s been hinted at more than once—but to see how flirtatious their initial relationship was, followed by the rules they forced on each other to salvage their fantastic working relationship post-sex, suddenly made Donna’s dalliance with Stephen much more compelling. When Donna tells Harvey she “broke her own rules” to date Stephen because she needed to actually have a life, there’s a pain on both of their faces that shows that in a different world, she wouldn’t need to have a life beyond him for either professional or personal fulfillment because they could have both with each other, and that tension completely works.

Harvey’s relationship with Jessica also takes an interesting turn here when he recognizes he made a mistake in attempting to pull a hostile takeover on her and tells her about the whole situation. Harvey is in a tough spot here—he got his name on the door and seems pretty quietly pleased with it—and it looks like he is genuinely contrite about the deal he made with Darby. The trouble is Jessica knows just how devious someone has to get to be able to pull this off (she has firsthand experience with it, after all), and she isn’t rushing to accept his apology. I wrote in the beginning of the season about how Harvey’s immense need to dictate the terms of loyalty would either bring him down or bring the show down around him, and it looks like he might be the one who gets hurt. Still, this is immense character growth from where he was only a few short episodes ago, and seeing how he wins back Jessica’s trust after this grievous betrayal might be much more interesting than the actual betrayal itself turned out to be.

But despite my mixed feelings about Harvey’s flashbacks, there was one big, glaring issue with this episode: everything about Mike and his flashbacks. Mike’s backstory is an open book at this point in the series, extensively explored and exploited due to the circumstances surrounding everything in season one of the show, and it’s just not fun to watch it retold here. We already know Trevor is responsible for everything bad that ever happened to Mike regarding his academic career. Do we really need to see the intricate details? Is this supposed to make Mike and/or Trevor more sympathetic? Because to me, it just makes both of them seem even more pathetic; Trevor because he’s so dumb he never learns from his mistakes and Mike because he continues to bail Trevor out. No more Trevor!

While I enjoy most of Suits’ looks into the past on their surface, everything about Mike’s flashbacks—both in this episode and “Rewind”—show why there isn’t much of an opportunity for them to be great. The flashbacks are certainly enjoyable at times—and honestly, one of the best things about this episode is the change in pace from the constant dragging drone of the dual Hessington cases—but to continue to explore these characters’ backstories, there needs to be more actual story to mine. Rehashing the same few beats just doesn’t provide enough story to hang two whole episodes on. As much as I enjoy seeing how Harvey and Donna’s relationship got so complicated, I hope the show resists the urge to go to the flashback well again in the future, unless they find a completely new story to tell.


Stray observations:

  • Thanks to Kevin McFarland for taking the reins last week, especially since the episode was such a dud.
  • Did we know Harvey had a brother?
  • Harvey’s flashback scenes with his dad are really great, and make me sad he isn’t alive so we can have them interact more often. Harvey needs a sympathetic (non-Mike) ear to bounce things off of, dammit!
  • Can opener! Yeah, I don’t care about that running gag.
  • Everything—and I mean everything—about Mike and Trevor’s scene with “Omar” was uncomfortable. Was Mike really urging this very white guy to use the N-word? And then appropriating Samuel L. Jackson? Even as a joke, it did not work. At all.
  • Although I enjoy her chasing her law school dream, Rachel isn’t going to Stanford. Come on.
  • “I need a day.” Louis is tops.
  • “How is that Omar?” “He’s obsessed with The Wire.”