Television Review – The gang is back! Suits 8.11 “Rocky 8”

Welcome back to the crazy world of Suits folks! When season 8 arrived last year, I wondered whether the show would adapt to the changes that would inevitably be needed, following the departures of Mike and Rachel and I was pleasantly surprised that, overall, 8A was quite a decent run. So, where did we leave things last September? Robert Zane had been considering that life was short, Harvey seemed to think life was long, Donna & Harvey’s relationship went from one extreme to the other and Louis became Managing Partner!

And so begins the reign of Louis Litt and what a fun start it was! Overall, I found 8.11 (despite its rather ridiculous title) to be a fun, light, promising start to these back six episodes of season 8. With the news that season 9 will sadly be the last (and a shortened ten-episode season too), it was bittersweet to sit down and enjoy the start to this run, knowing there’s not long left. I’ll miss this show when it’s gone.

Anyway, back to the present!

Louis takes the reigns of the firm and of Harvey…….!

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Ahhh Louis, I do love you! Rick Hoffman deserves a lot of credit for this fabulous character, who we’ve seen experience every possible emotion and to see him dancing his way around the newly-named (enough with the name changes, guys) Zane, Specter, Litt, Wheeler, Williams was a lot of fun. Yes, it’s bonkers and totally unrealistic (I’ve certainly never seen any law firm partners behaving this way!), but the early days of Suits always had a balance of silly and serious and I’ve felt that’s been lost in recent years. No, Jessica wouldn’t act that way, but Louis isn’t Jessica. He’s always been simply himself and it was an entertaining start and just when I thought I wouldn’t laugh more, there was the scene between Louis and Harvey! I needed a good laugh and that interaction certainly delivered! Gabriel Macht doesn’t have many opportunities in this role to showcase his comedic side and scenes like this one are a refreshing change to Harvey’s usual deadpan mood. I’m astonished he was able to keep a straight face (oh to see the outtakes)!

It wasn’t all fun and frolics though, as we also saw the difficulties that come with being at the top, difficulties that Harvey never enjoyed when he was in the hot seat. Caught between being in charge and not wanting to rock the boat, Louis tries to dodge his responsibilities as leader, leaving everyone to their own devices. It’s understandable, but couldn’t last and it’s Donna who has to act, this time as a sledgehammer instead of velvet glove when letting Louis know he’s doing a poor job. I may not have liked her approach (more on Donna later), but the message was accurate. Sometimes you can’t lead and be everyone’s best friend. It’ll be interesting to see how Louis fares for the rest of 8B. Personally, I hope he shines. He’s earned it!

Has Harvey finally found his place again?

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You couldn’t help but notice in 8A that Harvey Specter had lost his mojo. He seemed adrift in the place he’s been most at home for years. The loss of Mike, on top of Jessica’s earlier departure, the end of his attempt at a relationship (wrong woman Harvey) and the destabilising effect of his brother’s marital breakdown all combined to see Harvey lost and unhappy. I didn’t really like it at all and one of the highlights of 8.11 for me was seeing Harvey getting back in the ring (literally too, which should really happen weekly). Having  the case be about boxing, one of his passions, was a smart move as it allowed him to truly have fun while also trying to bring Andrew Malik down, as payback for him ruining Jessica’s reputation (although, PSL’s press release didn’t help with that either, Harvey….). Without Mike by his side, it was time for him to team up with Robert Zane and their bromance continues to flourish. First burgers, then drinks, now popcorn and a movie at Harvey’s place? Surely, there’s someone else you’d rather be spending this much personal time with Harvey???? Come on now! Talk some sense in to the man, Robert, I beg you!

Katrina stops letting people push her around! 

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I knew that Katrina helping Alex defeat Samantha in 8.10 would come back to bite her! Thankfully though, it seems a persistent feud between two women is off the table, with Katrina standing up to Samantha’s bullying tactics, with a little help from Donna. Not every lawyer wants to walk the thin line between legal and illegal, Samantha! It wasn’t only Ms Wheeler who met the new Katrina either, as she also made clear to Alex that she would never be put in that position again. Well done, Katrina. She continues to grow in this show and I love it.

It’s ladies night (can I come?!)

 

I had been a little worried that 8.11 would see bitchy women in the workplace, but thankfully the conflicts between Samantha and Katrina were resolved by the end of the hour and just in time for cocktail hour for the ladies of the firm. I’m just sorry we couldn’t watch them out on the town!

Alex and Samantha’s annoying rivalry is over (well, for now at least)

Thank God! The “whose name is going on the wall” plot line is at an end! That really did drag on, didn’t it? This opener marked a new start for the firm’s two newest named partners and their first scene of 8B was one of the episode’s highlights for me. Their competitiveness was still there, but in a fun way, while at the same time, it highlighted the difficulties both women and those from a minority background face when trying to rise in to positions of power. More of these two working together please!

Welcome to the madness, Thomas Kessler!

 

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We’ve known for quite a while that 8B would also see the introduction of a new love interest for Donna and 8.11 saw the introduction of the man himself, one of Louis’s oldest clients, Thomas Kessler and the inclusion of this man has certainly caused much fiery debate in the Suits fandom. My first thoughts? I think he’s great! Confident, without being arrogant (it’s not attractive, guys, trust me), witty, charming and seemingly a decent man too! Should he have backed off as soon as she turned him down? Not necessarily. It was immediately obvious she found him attractive (you couldn’t miss her expression when she first saw him) and she readily admitted that she would have said yes to a date if there was no connection to the firm, so his advances weren’t unwelcome (far from it), just unworkable for her (for now anyway – we’ll have to see what changes her mind). Plus, I liked that he was clear about feelings – he’s interested and he’d like her to reconsider, but won’t push again if she still says no. That’s fair. He should give Harvey and Donna lessons in expressing themselves!

 

Do I wish Donna and Harvey had danced off in to their future in the season seven finale, rather than the writers opting for the most obvious Darvey dodge? Of course, but I’ve moved past it for the sake of my sanity! I’ve already set out my thoughts on Darvey separately for anyone interested, but the short version – I believe we’ll get there by the end and this new relationship for Donna might be exactly what they both need to finally come together. In the meantime, I’m all for Donna having some fun with a decent guy. They’re both adults. She isn’t his lawyer, so she isn’t working for him (sure, she’s COO of the firm, but she’s not the one who’ll be providing him the services he’s paying the firm to deliver), so why not? Maybe it’ll make Harvey think twice about focussing all his energy on convincing Robert Zane to come round to Netflix and chill!

………

It would be impossible to not have some grumbles when watching any hour of television (well, unless it’s season 2 of The West Wing perhaps) and 8.11 did throw up some areas that I didn’t particularly like and as much as I hate to say it, they all related to Donna and Darvey……

Enough of the out of character Darvey & Donna moments!

Let’s start with the obvious – I love the character of Donna Paulsen and Sarah Rafferty’s performance is always fantastic. However, the aspects of 8.11 that I found myself grumbling about all revolved around our favourite redhead.

First, we had her waiting for Harvey at reception. For two hours? Really? How does that work? She brought him coffee, found he wasn’t in, so waited by the entrance for him to arrive, or does she have security in the lobby call her when he’s in the elevators and she comes hurrying out to meet him? Either way, it just seemed strange to see her waiting there, with cold coffee. Then him asking her to help him by reheating his coffee?! What on earth was that about? That’s not Darvey. That was never Darvey! Their relationship was all over the place in 8A and this scene just added to the strangeness. Perhaps this was to juxtapose her interaction with Harvey, with her flirty banter with Mr Kessler? This week it’s cold coffee, Harvey, soon it’ll be an emotional bucket of ice when you see her with Mr Smooth……

As for her banter with Thomas, as I’ve already said, I like him and I liked the freshness he’s bringing to the show. I could focus on being disappointed about Darvey, but the truth is, for me the scenes between Donna and Kessler had a freshness to them that was very welcome. We’ve hardly ever seen Donna flirty with anyone else and now she’s feeling more confident in her new role, it was fun to watch her showcase how great she is at it, while also allowing herself to flirt with a man who she knows immediately is attracted to her. Donna has always known she’s a desirable woman and I’m all for her enjoying that. My one complaint in all of this – calling a client “stupid” was just, well, stupid. Sure they were exchanging banter in his office and he was clearly enjoying it, but answering the phone to him later with “Hello stupid” was unprofessional and out of character for Donna. It was more a line to say to your husband. She knows he isn’t Harvey, right?

Finally there were her harsh words to Louis. Yes, he was doing a bad job and yes he needed to be told, but I think the Donna from a few years ago would have handled that much better. I see what they’re doing, throwing in that obvious parallel to Harvey’s crass comment to her in 8A about putting her in her job and I did like that she had enough self awareness to recognise she crossed a line in her approach with Louis, apologising to him in the way I’m guessing she’d like Harvey to apologise to her, but it did make me worry a little about the Donna we’re going to see for the next five weeks. Successful women don’t need to be hard, Suits writers. Let’s not reinforce that misconception through one of my favourite characters.

……………………….

So, all in all, I thought this was a strong start to this all too short run. With so many familiar faces returning over the next few weeks, there’s clearly going to be a bumpy road ahead and what will Donna’s love life do to Harvey. Everything? Nothing at all? Who knows at this point with these two idiots, but I’m excited to find out!

Suits continues next week, with episode 8.12 “Whale Hunt” on Wednesday night on USA Network in the US and on Thursday via Netflix in the UK. You can watch the promo here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmpQ1to9qY8

(Photos via: Suits / USA Network)

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