BACKGROUND (for the viewer or non-viewer): I wouldn’t say that back in 2011, my wife Erin and I were actively “shopping” for another lawyer show. We got our weekly dose of barely plausible law practice, after all, from CBS’s “The Good Wife.” But … we have traditionally been big fans of the USA Network’s “escapist” programming – shows like Psych, In Plain Sight, and even Royal Pains. So, in the summer of 2011, we decided to check out “Suits,” a lawyer show with an interesting angle: a partner at prestigious law firm, unbeknownst to his colleagues, hires a brilliant but underachieving con artist, with a photographic memory, as a new associate despite the young prospect not only hasn’t been to law school, but also didn’t graduate from the ONLY law school from which they hire… Harvard.
FOR THE TRUE “SUITS” FANATICS: (SPOILERS THE REST OF THE WAY!) Fast forward to last night’s season 7 premier. It was fantastic, and made me feel like some of the energy has returned after being sapped from a Season 6 that had Mike in prison and a distracted Managing Partner (Gina Torres’s “Jessica Pearson”) leaving the firm and moving to Chicago. Let me compartmentalize and grade the episode into the following “pods.”
Harvey and Mike as a duo: They are back! Movie quotes, jokes about Harvey’s record collection, the older/younger brother chemistry, and the taking on a case together = magic. Grade: A
Harvey as Managing Partner: Slow start, with a lot of “playing not to lose” machinations from the character we’ve come to know as a master of arrogance who can back it up with wins. Only when forced to confront the situations with Luis, a decision on Donna’s partnership, and following a great pep-talk/ “managing up” maneuver by Mike does he show us the Harvey Specter we know and (secretly, reluctantly?) love. Grade: C-
Mike as Pro Bono Hero: Mike accepts a job back at the firm under one condition – for every corporate case he works, he gets to do a pro-bono case. He accepts the job despite assurances to the public interest firm he was serving he wouldn’t let them down. But he does. Sure, Mike personally brings a check for $500,000 dollars to break the news and apologize, clearly hoping it buys him a safe landing. It seems to pacify the head of the pro bono firm, Nathan, only after Mike asks him to think about the good that money can do. But a young lawyer who revered Mike later confronts him outside of Pearson-Specter-Litt, vocally upset that he sold out and left them high and dry. Grade: C
Next Level Donna: Donna wisely and boldly asks Harvey to consider her for partnership. Forgetting plausibility for a moment, I enjoyed the fact that this alone wasn’t enough, and that her wise and experienced fellow legal secretary Gretchen had to teach even Donna how to really be a “baller,” encouraging her to use her savings to put up a partner’s buy in. We’ve seen Donna be the uber confident / can do or fix anything ass kicker before, but this episode balanced her can-do ambition with a vulnerable side. We close with Donna having moved out of the bullpen cubicle and into a partner office with great anticipation all over her face. Well done: Grade: A-
Gretchen: Is a wise sage, as always. Teaches Donna how the game is played. Grade: A+
PTSD Level Luis: Luis is at his worst in this episode, regressing beyond the overbearing, arrogant jerk he was when Suits began. Seemingly suffering PTSD following his being dumped by Tara, he not only takes it out on his new crew of young associates, but does so in ways well outside any HR handbook. In fact, his words are actionable offenses. After first dismissing attempts by Donna and Rachel to talk him off the ledge and remove him as supervisor to the associate bench, he comes to the realization he is in no condition to “Litt Up” anything, let along mentor the associates, asking Rachel to take over. Grade: B
Rachel: Can’t really call this first foray into the summer much of a “Rachel episode.” She brings word of Luis’ inappropriate behavior forward and gets her wish to lead the associates pool, which shows some moxie. But this was clearly a shooting week where Meghan Markle was between London and Toronto. Grade: D
The Case / The Client: I love how so many of the firm’s clients end up being jerks that the lawyers of Pearson-Specter-Litt need to save from themselves. This week’s client is a complete asshole who expects immediate, within-the-half hour service from Harvey and company. When he tells Harvey and Mike that he needs help selling his vodka company and plans to use money from the sale to buy a “Russian interest,” but won’t say more, you know the guy isn’t just a wanker. He’s shady too. Fast forward to the catch – Mike finds out he’s only selling the vodka company because he’s been using a competitor’s formula and they found out – and Harvey finally shows his stuff and tells this guy where to stick it. Not sure there is a lot of business ethics within the proposal Harvey articulates to get the guy out of it, but it still is a solution, and allows our hero to walk away without giving the client even the option of a response. Classic Suits, classic Harvey. Grade: B+
I’m not sure how many more seasons of Suits we’ll enjoy, but I know the creators are flexible. There is even talk of a possible Jessica spinoff for Gina Torres. For now, I’m just going to enjoy whatever Cool or Cruel summer Suits presents me.