Suits is back! Finally! Seriously, USA Network, this is not Game of Thrones. Logistically and financially speaking, I think I think you could stand to make more than 12 episodes a year and air them with fewer than 9 months between seasons. Just sayin'. That said, if the interminable wait is the key to the show's quality, then, as with Justified, I will happily relent.
The basic premise for the show has always tied the writers hands in a certain way. The feasibility of Mike and Harvey keeping this kind of secret in this day and age stretches believability and hamstrings certain storylines from time to time. Fifty years ago, this would have been more than doable, but in the computer age, it's a reach (especially when he has been under direct suspicion on more than one occasion). Indeed, prior to the episode early last season with the hacker girl (who magicked a Harvard Law degree for Mike), it was getting hard to suspend disbelief. That said, this show started off as a fun little USA Network dramedy in the vein of all their other "blue skies" programming. What I like best about the show is that it didn't stay there for long and tweaked the base concept in order to accommodate more sophisticated storytelling.
Throughout the first season, Mike's secret was an albatross that was at the center of most of the ongoing conflict of the show. The writers worked around it with surprising aplomb, however, taking what could have been a wacky, madcap show and giving it more layers and depth than I expected. It'll never be Breaking Bad or The Wire, but it's not trying to be, and that is absolutely okay. Delightful, even. I do think the show is trying to bring more to the table than its network cohorts though, and I'm beyond pleased at how wildly successful they've been in this pursuit. Not only are the characters explored more deeply, but the show is comfortable with ongoing arcs than just about any other show on the network. They rely on cases-of-the-week the way any legal show would, but they do a much better job than most. In general, A-plots like that aren't my cup of tea, but Suits does a lovely job marrying solid, interesting A-plots with captivating, ongoing, and meaningful B, C, and D plots. I wouldn't say they succeed on the same level that The Good Wife does, but that's an exceptionally high bar.
Indeed, in one of the most interesting and telling character developments of the premiere, Harvey makes it very clear that he and Mike are a package deal. He also makes it clear to Jessica that he absolutely know about Mike's lack of credentials and has been lying to Jessica for months. For all of Jessica's insistence that Mike be fired, she can't lose Harvey without losing the firm to Hardman entirely. This fundamentally changes Harvey's and Jessica's relationship on a personal level, but it also changes the direction of the show and includes Jessica directly in the ruse. Given how much I absolutely adore Gina Torres, this was a brilliant move. More important than Harvey's changing dynamic with Jessica, a friend and mentor he betrayed, is Harvey's allegiance to Mike. This wasn't surprising in terms of the set-up for the show (uh, without Mike and Harvey, ya got nothin'), but in terms of character, it was a bit surprising. Before proceeding with this review, I actually went to see what other's thought about this situation and read a review of this episode on AV Club. Many similar sentiments regarding the episode throughout. The reviewer didn't feel that the Harvey's determination to save Mike was entirely earned and I can see what they mean. Based solely on what we've seen of the two of them together, the witty banter and brotherly ribbing doesn't quite equate to "I'm going to screw over Jessica and risk my job for a guy I'm fairly fond of". From where I'm sitting, however (and this may be the English major talking), I think Harvey was as surprised by this turn of events as we were. When Mike walked into his office, I think Harvey actually did plan on firing him. I think he had every intention of giving him the boot, just as Jessica had instructed. I think it's when he couldn't bring himself to fire him that he realized just how much he cares about Mike. The scene with Harvey and Donna just prior to this set the table beautifully for this to actually work without the necessary foundation. The writers did an absolute brilliant job of making it plausible by tapping into what viewers appreciate most. Not only did they get a delightful and illuminating scene with Donna (pretty much the best character ever), but they got backstory on Harvey that directly ties into his feelings for Mike. Donna knows him better than anyone on the planet and can read him like an open book. Based on what he's wearing, how he addressed her, and the look on his face, she assesses the situation in true Sherlock-ian style. When challenged about Harvey's willingness to go out on this big of a limb for Mike, I refer back to this scene and proposes the Mike is family. There's always been a brotherly vibe between the two, but for Donna to make a one-to-one comparison brings it home. Not only that, but Mike's situation evokes a specifically protective impulse in Harvey with regards to his brother. Did the show give me everything I'd ever need to believe Harvey would risk his career on some kid? Probably not. Did they give me enough though? Yeah, I think they did.
All in all, this first episode back far surpassed my already high expectations for the show. They could have taken any number of easy ways out, but opted for more complexity, more drama, and a shifted focus. All the better, they did all that while retaining the charm, warmth, and wit of the series. Hardman throws a major wrench into the show and should prove to alter the dynamics between all the characters, the hierarchy of the firm, and power relationships therein. I've been super excited for this show to come back since it signed off last summer, but now that I have a taste for where the show is going in its sophomore outing, I simply ecstatic.
- Rachel is still a problem. She's been the weakest character of the series since minute one and I'm still having a hard time liking her or caring about her. I think the writers may have realized this themselves because they are promoting her friendship with Donna in a way I'm really enjoying. Donna can make anyone more likable. That said, I don't see much chemistry between her and Mike and she's basically dead weight right now. Here's hoping that turns around.
- Louis could be a real wildcard this season. With Jessica's position threatened, people are going to have to choose sides and Louis has a sizable axe to grind. Were he to side with Hardman, things go quickly go from bad to worse.
- The fact that the show cast a little known, but incredibly talented actor like David Costabile for Hardman is a very good sign. They could easily have gone for some sort of stunt casting or obvious big bad, but they opted for a quietly menacing Breaking Bad alum. Can't argue with that.
- Jenny appears to be a goner. I can't say I adored her or anything, but I certainly liked her better than Rachel.
- In season 1, I often quibbled with the overtly secondary status of the female characters on the show, relegating them to cardboard cutouts of "boss", "love interest", "comic relief", so I'm overjoyed at the turn the show has taken. Rachel can still go find work elsewhere as far as I'm concerned, but bigger roles for Jessica and Donna is a boon to the show and a delight to see. They still technically embody the superficial roles of before, but they seem to be moving toward more depth.
- Gabriel Macht is absolutely beautiful. Not my usual type at all, but I'll be damned if I don't find myself just staring at him from time to time.
- As if I weren't already bowled over by Jessica throughout the episode, that closing scene with her and Mike was awesome. She is such a badass. "I don't need the computer." So good!