Television Review – Suits- Episode 6.12 “The Painting”
Last week’s mid-season premiere, saw the family of Pearson Specter Litt coming to terms with the departure of Jessica Pearson (we miss you already Gina Torres) and Donna approaching a usually off-limits subject with Harvey – his complex relationship with his mother and its impact on him as a person. The fact he even allowed her to discuss the matter demonstrates the steps he’s already made following therapy in series five, but the prospect of him finally confronting his past demons has been highly anticipated by fans of the series.
The great news is that episode 6.12, entitled “The Painting” not only tackles this emotional subject with sensitivity, but proves to be one of the strongest episodes Suits has ever had. The fact that six seasons in, the writers are still producing stories of this quality is a testament to the series as a whole.
The episode has two strands, one focussing on Mike and his pursuit of a fresh start following his release from prison and subsequent decision not to return to PSL and the other following Harvey, as he travels to Boston to try and reconcile with his mother, after 20 years of pain and anger.
After he receives an offer of work at a legal clinic from out of the blue, it’s great to see Mike getting his teeth back in to the law, with work that will truly make a difference to the lives of his clients. He said during his trial that it was these types of cases that made him want to be a lawyer, so hopefully this new path will help him to rebuild his life after prison. I assume his position there will at some point lead to conflict with his former firm, but I guess time will tell. It will also be interesting to see if Mike will ever be able to be a real lawyer, which would be a much steeper hurdle to overcome (although not impossible in the state of NY). In the meantime, this episode allows Mike to start again, with a clean and honest slate. It also lets him be the teacher in the same way Harvey was to him, which is fun to see.
We also potentially see a more mature Louis Litt in this hour, as he puts his anger towards Harvey aside for the sake of the firm and steps up to the reality of Specter and Litt being a team. I really hope this lasts and that the rest of the series sees more teamwork between these two.
The heart of this story, however, is Harvey and we see more character development here than we have to date. Those that view him as an arrogant, cocky, detached individual haven’t been paying attention to the facets of his character, which we have gradually seen since the series began. Hiring Mike helped give Harvey someone to protect and care about, having Donna in his life helps give him perspective, but even with such influences, Harvey’s emotional limitations have always remained and these were a direct result of his childhood and subsequent relationship with his mother as an adult.
I’ve seen some comments online about him having a childish reaction to his mother’s behaviour, but that’s too simplistic a view. It wasn’t simply the fact that his mother repeatedly cheated on the father that he adored (although had you understood that you’d caught your mum cheating from as young as he was the first time, then it would be bound to affect you). The real damage was due to his mother asking him to cover for her and putting responsibility for any fallout if he told the truth on him. He may have been a young man then, but the pain and mistrust and indeed guilt that would cause a person cannot be underestimated.
If you watch episode 5.10 before this one, it reminds you of just what past difficulties the Specter family had and when you combine this with the flashbacks here to his father’s funeral, you see what a mountain there is to climb to heal their wounds.
What the writers do wonderfully is show the past pain immediately before the current reality. It adds to the tension, as we know how much is at stake. Having the scene at his father’s wake directly before the dinner with his mother, really heightens how big a step this trip is for Harvey. A couple of years ago he would never have boarded the plane. It’s made all the more emotional and sad when we learn how he’d tried to make peace seven years ago, before coming face to face with Bobby.
Brynn Thayer is fantastic as Lily Specter and we see how she is similar to him in some respects, as they are both stubborn individuals; had she considered her son seven years ago, she perhaps could have foreseen what Bobby’s presence at his father’s funeral would do to Harvey. True, he could have handled it better, but had Bobby not been there, the last seven years may have been so different. Crucially their relationship and therefore the pain they each hold, feels very real and believable.
There is also a strong performance from Billy Miller as Harvey’s brother Marcus, who has always been in the middle of this broken family and has perhaps suffered more than anyone. He lost his happy family, which resulted in his later problems and then had to accept he could never have his whole family together. We’ve always been aware that his brother meant a great deal to Harvey and its his revelation that he didn’t bother to tell him he was seriously ill, which has the biggest effect. Harvey can no longer deny the pain his continued anger is causing to more than just himself.
Gabriel Macht is simply superb in this episode. He has always been able to display the many facets of Harvey’s character and I’m still irritated that his work during series 5 in particular wasn’t acknowledged at the awards. Yet, in this hour he manages to take his performance to another level, as we see both past and present Harvey and the pain they feel. However, its the raw vulnerability of the character that packs the biggest emotional punch. We’ve never seen Harvey this exposed and the final scene with Lily is truly heart-wrenching, as we see him forgive her as well as himself.
His journey then comes full circle; back to the office, back to Donna. She has been his strength and support all these years, gently helping to open him up to emotions and it’s lovely to see him acknowledge this, but also that he wants her by his side as he starts a new, more positive chapter in his life. Let’s face it, he could have put the picture up on his own, but he wanted her to share that moment with him. As someone rooting for these two, I’m excited to see how a more emotionally open and happy Harvey will choose to move forward, especially as we know that Donna’s life is going to change in some way over the next four episodes. Whether this leads them to one another, or if Aaron Korsh will hold this back until nearer the end of the show remains to be seen. However, no one can argue that Harvey has never been more ready than he is now to move forward with his life and allow himself to truly love someone.
After such a powerful, emotional episode, I understand next week’s is a more comedic affair, which I’m very much looking forward to. It may be season six of Suits, but the cast and creative talent behind this series is by no means slowing down and with a seventh season already confirmed, I’m excited to see what will unfold over the final four episodes of this year.
Suits season six continues its run on Wednesdays on USA Network in the States and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on Dave in the UK. For my more general thoughts on the show as a whole, feel free to read my series review. All comments very welcome!