Television Review – Suits 7.01 – Skin In The Game (or as I call it, “WTF?!”)
Last night Suits returned to television screens for its season seven premiere. As one of my favourite shows still airing, I’d been looking forward to watching it, to seeing everything Suits does best, namely creating a fun and entertaining world around a close knit family of characters, while gradually growing their individual characters and the dynamics of the group. It had achieved this so much in the latter half of season six. Yes, some storylines were still farfetched (that character and fitness committee test does not exist in reality folks and “The Donna” itself was a tad nuts), but it still managed to keep the characters true to themselves and the journey they’d already been on since the show began. You could see the progression of their journeys.
In my view, the season seven premiere didn’t just stray away from some of these characters’s established personalities and storylines, but invalidated so much that had gone before. I’m determined to be constructive in this review, but I’ll be honest, it’s going to be a challenge!
Before I get in to specifics, I’ll start with a disclaimer. Yes, as the years have gone on, I’ve become a viewer hoping for Harvey and Donna to get together, which is in part due to the structuring of the relationship by the creator Aaron Korsh and their progression to date. It still seems to me to be the logical place for it to go, just as it was for Booth & Brennan in Bones, or Josh & Donna in The West Wing. I’ve always assumed they’d get there, but maybe not until the very end, until the ridiculous use of it by the network’s official sources even had me thinking maybe they’d be bold and actually try and write a real relationship for them some time this year.
However, being on “Team Darvey” as it’s known, does not mean I don’t watch the show hating any suggestion of other relationships for the characters along the way. I was a big fan of Zoe for example and would have loved to have met Mitchell. The key for me has always been that the storylines stay true to the characters and develop them in a logical, fulfilling way.
That is therefore why I had huge issues with last night’s season opener. I’ll take it a step at a time!
Timing is everything
First things first, Skin In The Game starts the morning after the end scene in the season 6 finale. We know this because Rachel says she’s worried about Louis after Tara dumping him the night before. Therefore, no time has passed, so you would expect there to be a gradual shift / ratcheting up of new storylines. Instead, we have Harvey, Donna and Louis acting in ways, literally overnight, that are simply not realistic, or in line with their personalities. Had there been a passage of time between 6.16 and 7.01, this may have made the entire episode a little less crazy, but without that, it makes some of the characters’s decisions seem rash and ill-considered.
Harvey Specter’s character being put in reverse gear and driven off a cliff
Harvey has always been my favourite character in Suits. I’ve loved watching him grow from the arrogant, cocky, emotionally-stunted man, to a more well-rounded human being. He may still sometimes act a little crazily, but his development has always felt organic and a natural progression, as he life has changed and he has matured. Season five and six added to this wonderfully. We had his anguish about losing Donna, his therapy helping him open up about his issues about her and his mother, his guilt over Mike taking the fall, his OTT behaviour to get him out of jail, his desperate schemes to get him admitted to the Bar and on a personal level, his willingness to listen to Donna’s advice about reconciling with his mother, enabling him to find closure for that part of his life. We last saw him uncertain about what Donna wanting more meant and then the following night celebrating Mike’s success.
I’m not sure what I expected from 7.01, but it was not to open with Harvey speeding around to his therapist’s house and declaring he’d got through all of these issues and he’d realised she was the one he wanted to share his successes with. Seriously?! Where do I even start?! There’s been no mention of Dr. Agard since season five, at which time he did flirt with her to deflect having to open up in their sessions and she shot him down, remaining professional throughout. Then, there’s the fact that her last interaction was with Donna about Harvey and since she was last on the scene, we’ve seen him dreaming about being intimate with Donna. Where is the consistency? If you’re not going to write Donna & Harvey together, fair enough, but don’t throw in signposts to it that even a blind man would see! It almost felt like Donna saying she wanted more freaked him out so much that she could mean him, that he literally sped off in to the arms of the nearest woman who already knew him and was still around.
To have Harvey suddenly declaring he’s been harbouring feelings for Agard is rather bizarre in itself, seemingly coming out of nowhere from the character’s standpoint, but he’s made some strange choices in the past, so you can chalk it up to that. However, what is even more crazy here, is that she suddenly has feelings for him too, declaring to him over dinner, in one of the worst scenes of written dialogue I’ve seen on television, that she’d fantasised about being with him in a scene out of a Richard Curtis movie! Really?! Did you see how messed up he was?
Plus, on a professional level, it seems out of character that such a successful, professional woman would act so inappropriately. I note the throw away line about enough time passing in the APA (I assume the American Psychological Association) guidelines. These seem to say two years and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been two years since episode 5.01, let alone since his last session in 5.10. Suits has never been a show famed for details of the law I know, but surely they know their own timelines if they’re going to through a rule in to try and justify their ludicrous plot line.
Donna and Harvey’s relationship aside, this new love interest for Harvey is simply not credible. If the writers has wanted him to be in a new relationship, fine, just make it one that’s believable, say if he’d reconnected with Zoe, sped back in to the arms of Scottie or a new character altogether. To bring back what was an interesting, strong, intelligent female character carrying out a professional role and reduce her to being a woman who’s all along been fantasising about this Richard Curtis-style ending (I’m amazed it wasn’t also raining!) with a man she knows has clear issues, invalidates part of her purpose, which seemed to be to treat a man in need of therapy! The Dr Agard from season five would never have entertained such craziness the way she was written. After a rewatch, I admit the last scene is pretty sexy, but it still makes no sense for it to be the therapist!
It wasn’t just this aspect of Harvey’s character that took a reverse turn tonight. I’ve often thought he took advantage of Donna (which to some extent she’s allowed), but I always believed he respected her. Tonight, we saw him refuse to give her the time to discuss what she wanted (more on that choice later). He brushed her off and only gave in under protest and when he selfishly saw it would benefit himself. Nothing he did was because he wanted to support Donna, which after 13 years of being as close as they are (romance or not) seemed horribly insulting to her and their friendship.
For the rest of the episode we had him running around trying to be the cock-sure player of old because he was scared of having to fill Jessica’s shoes. I had no problem with all of that though, as it at least made sense in the context of where he is in his life in that moment. He seemed to be having one last wild ride, before he had to step up and be the serious boss and that did fit with the person he is.
Sadly though, the fact I now desire someone to run him over with his fancy car, when he was my favourite character, says it all.
Donna deserving more and much more than she’s getting
After Harvey, I’ve always loved Donna, for the confident, loyal, witty woman she is, played wonderfully as always by Sarah Rafferty. I was excited this year to see what Donna’s wanting more would lead to. It needed to be credible and thought out, so that path for her would surely take a few episodes to be established right? Wrong! Literally overnight, Donna has decided more means a partnership at the firm. Again, seriously?!
Now I know big law firms can have managers or COOs, which I suppose is what they are lazily labelling as a senior partner here, so that type of position is not totally bonkers, but I’m not sure she’d be able to invest in the firm. Legal detail has never been Suits’s focus, but for such a pivotal storyline for a lead character, I expected better. I just don’t buy that Donna would rush in to this overnight and it seems to have been done in part to stir up unnecessary tensions between her and Harvey and her and Louis. I am all for Donna having a larger role in the season, with her looking out for her own interests for a change, I just don’t think this was really the best choice. For non-lawyers it’s confusing, but also it just seems a bit excessive even for Donna. She could have been office manager or Head of HR (as many online have suggested) for example, still giving the same input, but from a more logical position based on her previous role. To be fair to Harvey, I can understand his surprise and indeed reluctance.
Plus, the end of the episode had Donna unpacking her office alone. It didn’t seem to be a particularly satisfying result for her and I found myself wishing she’d taken time to find something away from the firm and more specifically out from Harvey’s shadow, both personally and professionally. If they spend the rest of the season having her waiting for him to be ready, while he’s off having a fling with Dr Agard, I’ll be very annoyed. Too many woman in the show are starting to become present to service the needs of the men.
Louis – unbalanced yet again
Poor Louis Litt. I find myself saying that a lot. I’ll start by saying Rick Hoffman is a superb actor and is the main reason I like Louis so much, even when he’s being irritating as hell and his performance in 7.01 is excellent.
I agree, it’s natural, knowing Louis’s explosive personality, that following his break up, which cost him his fiancé and the chance at starting a family with her, he’d become unpleasant, but again, it’s the fact this happens instantly and with such venom. I found myself doubting that even Louis would be so awful to Donna and Rachel when hurting. The constant cycle of crazed Louis, to bumbling silly Louis is becoming annoying and they owe the character so much more writing-wise.
The positives (see, I’m trying to find some balance)
It was no surprise that the best bits of this episode came from the women, with Donna, Gretchen and Rachel making the men look like weak little boys. I particularly enjoyed seeing Rachel step up and stake her position more. Keep the strong female dynamic coming, especially now Gina Torres is no longer a permanent feature in the show.
Shockingly, I also ended the episode really liking Mike. He really does believe he is trying to help the clinic, despite being blinded by the conflicts that will be unavoidable between working in the corporate and clinic worlds and he also stood up to Harvey, giving him some home truths in one of the best scenes in the hour. On top of that he was the only man in what used to be a supportive family, actually pleased to see Donna achieving something for herself. I’ve missed Mike’s scenes with Donna and this was a lovely moment.
I also enjoyed the bromance back between Mike and Harvey. It was one of the key attractions to the series when I first started watching it and there hasn’t been much room for it in recent seasons. As I assume it won’t last, I enjoyed these brief moments of fun, interspersed between all the frustrations set out above.
Oh, and the soundtrack to Suits remains one of the best on television.
So, what’s next?
I admit I’m less enthusiastic for next week than I thought I would be before watching the premiere. I can only hope the writers start to find their way back to who these characters were at the end of last year and return to the stories aiding their development, rather than reversing it. There is also the arrival of Dule Hill to the show, which I’m hoping will be another positive for next week’s review.
I’ve always loved Suits and even if a storyline hasn’t quite worked out how I wanted it to, I could see the reasoning that had led the creator Aaron Korsh and the writers in the direction they had taken. My biggest concern right now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a logical direction for some of its key players and if previous development is suddenly meaningless, then I start to ask what the point really is.
Suits continues on Wednesday nights on the USA Network.