Television Review – Are You Watching….? Suits
At the end of January, one of my current favourite television series returned with the second half of its sixth season. In the run up to its return, I decided to go back to the beginning and was reminded just what a fantastic series it has always been. If you haven’t given Suits a try yet, now is the perfect time to dive in! Hopefully this post might just convince you.
Suits had a simple premise when it began in 2011. In episode one, hot shot lawyer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) is forced by his mentor and his firm’s managing partner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) to hire an associate to work with him. This is not an appealing idea to Harvey; he works best alone. Under duress, he holds interviews with one dull character after another, until he meets Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), whose dream to go to law school was derailed and yet despite not finishing college, let alone going to law school, he is the most promising candidate by a mile and Harvey hires him regardless!
Yes, it would never happen in reality (I hope not anyway!), but it’s a clever basis for a legal drama, as we watch the relationship develop between Harvey, known for his confident, selfish, detached attitude and his young protege. Indeed, the more we watch, the more it becomes clear that it isn’t just Mike who is benefitting from his new life, as he is clearly good for Harvey too.
The biggest strength of Suits and the reason it has become one of my favourite shows, has always been its core set of characters, whose lives and relationships we follow throughout the series. As well as Harvey, Mike and Jessica, there is fellow partner Louis Litt (the brilliant Rick Hoffman), whose frequent clashes with Harvey provide comic relief, but also more dramatic moments too along the way and paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), a young woman determined to be a lawyer herself and to whom Mike is attracted immediately.
Finally, there is the awesome Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty). Although she is Harvey’s secretary, she is so much more than that and it often seems that she is the backbone of the firm, providing both professional and personal support to all of the others at one point or another over the years. That the three female characters in Suits are all strong, confident women is another factor that makes the series stand out and television today.
Creator Aaron Korsh and the team of writers have always been able to strike the right balance between serious drama and comedy, something that differentiates Suits from other modern legal dramas such as The Good Wife. In an episode, you can have moments of serious conflict between characters, while a much lighter story (usually revolving around the glorious Louis Litt) runs in parallel and yet both work because of the quality of the writing and acting.
I don’t want to say anything that gives significant plot points away, but despite the series now being in its sixth year, it is constantly finding a way to be refreshed by the writers. Indeed, there have been storylines that have happened, more than once, which have shifted the entire balance of the series, giving it a new lease of life and direction. This certainly hasn’t remained simply a show about a guy pretending to be a lawyer and one of the most exciting aspects of being a fan of Suits is wondering what road the characters will find themselves taking next.
The individual cases (and sometime story arcs) are important of course, but the series is driven by the characters and their relationships with one another. You’ll find yourself liking all of the core six for different reasons.
Donna is witty, strong, intelligent and loyal to the end, able to read Harvey (and indeed Louis) like a book and I’d go as far as to say she is one of the most well-rounded female characters on television at the moment. Louis will drive you crazy, but you’ll still have a soft spot for him as the show goes on. Jessica is the strong, feisty, boss. I love that it is a woman in this position of power in the world of corporate law and how she is able to keep everyone else in line. She also has an utterly spectacular wardrobe! Rachel is the woman determined to be a success in her own right (not because of her successful lawyer father), but who also has a kind and generous heart, especially with Louis, as well as having great chemistry with Mike Ross and Donna.
Patrick J Adams does a superb job making Mike a genuinely decent guy. Yes, he is being dishonest by pretending to be a lawyer, but it’s clear he could have been one. He has the intelligence and indeed the talent and despite the lie that starts him on this journey, he is one of the most moral characters in Suits. If the audience didn’t like Mike, I don’t think the series would work.
The other crucial success of the show is the character of Harvey Specter and his relationship with Mike. Gabriel Macht continues to do a fantastic job of bringing quite a complicated man to life on screen. Those who say Harvey is simply an arrogant, flashy, corporate hot shot haven’t been paying attention. Yes, he is an excellent lawyer and he knows it (and wants everyone else to know it too); yes, he looks great in a tailored suit and has a to-die-for penthouse home, but there’s much more to this man and peeling back those layers is one of the most fascinating elements of the show.
Over the series, you learn about the issues in his past that drive him and only an actor as good as Macht could so subtly over time develop him. You may not even realise just how much he changes until you go back to episode one and that change all begins with his decision to hire a fraud. As Donna says later, it gives him someone he needs to protect and Harvey and Mike’s brotherly relationship is the foundation of the series.
The other relationship I have a huge soft spot for is that between Harvey and Donna. Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty have a fantastic chemistry on screen (no doubt helped but the fact they have been good friends for over 20 years) and the result is one of the best partnerships on television. They remind me a lot of the dynamic I loved between Mulder and Scully and just like I did 20 years ago with them, I can’t watch Suits now without hoping that Harvey and Donna ultimately end up together! It’s a relationship of trust, respect, support and indeed love and I know I’m not the only one who thinks they belong together.
I’ve touched on the writing of the show already. Aaron Korsh has around him a fantastic writing team, who six years on, are still delivering a show that is interesting, fun and full of development. Indeed the latest episode (which airs tonight in the UK on Dave) is packed full of character development, which will only help shape the future storylines. When Suits started, I imagined the likely final endgame – would Mike get caught or not? It’s thanks to the writers that the series has become so much more than that and full of possibility!
Visually, it looks great too. It’s always fabulously lit, is jam packed with incredible fashion (they all look fantastic in Suits, it’s so annoying!) and I’m constantly impressed with how well Toronto doubles for New York. Then there’s the music, which is a mix of original score by Christopher Tyng and individual songs, which always perfectly match the emotional moment on screen. I have Suits to thank for so many new artists now on my playlist!
Where to catch up – what are you waiting for?
So, have I peaked your interest? It is, after all, still winter time, when staying in with a good television series is hardly a bad thing! Plus, if you are new to Suits you have plenty of material to keep you going, with 88 episodes waiting for you!
I know that here in the UK Netflix has seasons 1 – 4 and all of the series is on Amazon Video (albeit not all of it on the free Prime service), or there’s always iTunes or DVDs for seasons 1-5. If you catch up quickly enough, the remaining five episodes of series 6 will continue on Dave on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. I’m planning to review the remaining episodes, so look out for those here over the next month.
If you do start watching, I’d love to hear what you think, or if you already watch, feel free to give your own thoughts on the show in the comments.
As for me, I think I’m off for another rewatch!