Television Review – Suits 9.04 “Cairo” – Strong writing, character development & acting make this a series highlight!

I’m a little late writing my review this week. Blame a combination of real life and the fact that I needed time to convince myself that the episode really did happen and isn’t something I made up!

For me, this latest episode of Suits contained so many elements that I’ve grown to love about this series over the years. It had a little bit of everything – comedy, drama and the importance of family, both the family we are born in to and the one we make for ourselves. Both types have always been integral to Suits, especially for Harvey Specter and 9.04 demonstrated just how far these characters have come over the years. Few episodes of television leave me this satisfied, but this was certainly one of them and I had a huge smile on my face as the credits rolled.

Right, where do I start?

The writing team’s attention to detail continues to impress

I’ve always admired the attention paid to the details by the Suits writing team over the years and this week was a perfect example of a team that know this shows so well, that story points from previous seasons are woven back in to the now, to make the narrative all the more satisfying, especially for longstanding fans, who likely know this world and those details as well as the team behind it! Their commitment to the characters and the series is something I will always be grateful for.

Donna & Harvey – proof that couples can be written in an interesting way on screen!

For those of us who have been waiting years for Darvey to finally end up together, season 9 is a true treat. I admit, I never expected a whole season would be available to this storyline, but I’m so pleased the writers made this decision. Why? It means we get time to see these two characters truly navigate their new relationship and all the ups and the downs and that’s fantastic television.

They may be together now, but Harvey and Donna (probably more so than him) are still adjusting to this new life together, in particular how to communicate with one another and 9.04 gave me something I’d been hoping for since realising we’d have 10 episodes of canon Darvey – arguments! Sure, the romantic elements are fabulous (more on that later), but I was also keen to see them fight, as they find their feet as a couple and this week was a great example of that, as Donna struggles to let Harvey in.

The key is that it was fascinating to watch. So many shows are terrified of taking the characters down the couple path after years of slow burn (I’m an X-Files fan since the 90s, I have bitter experience of this) and I admit, I thought Suits might follow that road too, until perhaps the series finale. Yet, in just four episodes, it’s already proven that, with strong writing and actors as talented and with such chemistry as Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty, that the show won’t suffer by the choice and will instead grow stronger!

Yet, it wasn’t just arguments this week between this couple (part of me still can’t believe I get to type that word to describe them!). Cairo offered me and many other fans so many moments we’d always hoped to see – Harvey telling his mother about Donna and her already knowing about her (I’ll let slide that you said Paula was a keeper, Lily and assume you were trying to be supportive of your son’s dreadful choice!) and going on to say she’s The One (Mike would be so proud); early morning domestic Darvey acting as if they’ve been together for years (one gripe – where’s the cactus?).

Then there was that simply perfect ending, all the way from Harvey letting himself in to Donna’s apartment with his own key, all the way through their sort-of proposal (look, there’ll be a ring before the season ends folks. I bet he bought it days ago!) and then the moment I’ve been hoping for for years – Donna is introduced to Lily. I can’t believe they won’t meet in person too, but hearing Harvey say “Mom, meet Donna. Donna meet Lily” was a huge moment in this series and in the lives of all three of these characters. It was very very special to see. Throw in the wonderful song choice and the incredible chemistry of Sarah and Gabriel and this is easily one of my favourite television scenes ever.

……..Let’s face it, Darvey was a huge element of 9.04, so I wanted to break this down further this week, which leads me to…..

Harvey Specter – a truly satisfying example of character development, which only keeps getting better!

Over the seasons of Suits, the emotional growth of Harvey Specter has been integral to the story. Sure, it was about him hiring a fraud, but I still always saw Harvey as the person at the heart of the series and we’ve been able to watch him truly develop over the years. Yes, I think there has been the odd stumble in how this was written (that opening scene of 7.01 will always annoy me), but without a doubt, the changes in his character have been a joy to watch, as has Gabriel Macht’s superb performance (one for which he doesn’t get nearly enough credit in the television world).

From “caring makes you weak” to the man who, this week, has grown so much emotionally that he was able to take all of Donna’s insecurities and hurtful comments thrown his way, her father’s judgment and Louis’s anger and deal with each one rationally and calmly. He is now so at peace with where he is in his life and where it will go, that situations which in the past would have lead to yelling, anger and possibly emotional withdrawal from Harvey, he is now able to talk through and resolve. It’s incredible to watch.

I’ll talk more about Donna below, but look at how he dealt with Jim Paulsen. Realising getting on good terms with him mattered to Donna, he tried to fix it. Yes, he screwed it up the first time (another excellent writing decision), but he tried again, because he knew it mattered and with the moral support of his mother (a huge plot point in itself), he was able to demonstrate to Jim that, despite their complicated history, he was a man worthy of his daughter. Then there was Louis. In the past, the fact Louis was actually in the right with his argument that ultimately, this is all Harvey’s fault (sorry Harvey!), wouldn’t have mattered at all and Harvey would have never had the emotional awareness to not only understand his outburst, but to swiftly fix it. Yet, this week, that’s exactly what he was able to do. Yet again, Suits demonstrates why this series really is all about family.

I also want to acknowledge Gabriel Macht’s performance this week. He’s always brilliant, but in particular, I always love his ability to play the subtle moments and there were so many in 9.04 – the way he dips his had in hurt and frustration when his initial chat with Jim goes so wrong; the change in his voice when Donna lashes out in his office about the same meeting, displaying his guilt at messing it up and his hurt at her words; his expression after Louis’s outburst when Donna tells him to leave him be; right through to the way he conveys how she is Harvey’s whole world in that last gaze. We’ve been so very lucky to have Gabriel play Harvey.

And then there was Donna…….

Donna struggling to adjust to the new emotionally available Harvey – we understand Donna, we’d be a little thrown too in your shoes!

I’ve covered already Harvey’s incredible development, which has culminated in the man on our screens this week, but as well as dealing with difficulties with Jim and Louis, Harvey and Donna also had to navigate a few bumps in 9.04. Yet, what made this all the more interesting was that it was Donna, not Harvey, who had some lessons to learn.

So far this season, it has been Harvey who been the more open of the two. He’s been clear with her about his feelings for her and his commitment to them as a couple and it didn’t go unnoticed by me that it was Donna who was holding back. Yes, she’s been the one to explain his feelings to Harvey over the years, but I have never thought she was someone fully aware of her own. She’s been as confused as him and while Harvey has been all in since the end of 8.16, it’s seemed that Donna had yet to fully relax in to the fact that this is real. I wondered if it was just me, or whether we’d see anything on screen about this, so seeing her struggle to communicate with him this week was so satisfying. She couldn’t be honest with him about Faye, deflecting her frustrations at the unfairness of the choice put to her, by putting it all on her father and Harvey’s seeming unwillingness to get along with him. I felt sorry for Harvey, oblivious as to the real reasons for her anger in his direction.

Yet, not once, but twice, he took the argument calmly and once issues were resolved, finally called her out on her holding back. Having Harvey be the one telling her that she needed to be open with him about what she was feeling, so that they can tackle it together was clearly a surprise to Donna. Yet, she knew he was right and learnt something by the end of Cairo and now they are both absolutely on the same page about where they stand and where they are heading and I’m excited to see where the next six episodes will take these two complex and wonderful characters, both as a couple and individually.

Specter Litt Wheeler Williams really are a team now and I love it!

It may have been all change at the end of season seven, but 9.04 proved that this group of characters are now, without a doubt, a strong team, both professionally and personally. Watching the four named partners stride confidently down the corridor to stand up for Donna (who Faye really has seemed to unfairly go after recently) was an episode highlight. Yet again, the importance of the family unit was on full display in Suits. I loved hearing them all speak of the little details from the show’s history that bond them together (although if Donna’s going to be baby Litt’s Godmother, has Louis relented on the religion of his child??). Watch out Faye, they may be a bit renegade with their work, but try and come between this group at your peril!

Louis & Harvey’s brotherly bond brings a tear to the eye

Yes, the biggest bromance of the series will always be Mike and Harvey, but I’ve always loved the complicated relationship between Harvey and Louis. We’ve seen them go through so much. All that anger, jealousy and resentment from Louis, all of Harvey’s short tempered outbursts at him (many of my biggest series highlights centre around these two – the fight that had Louis go through a glass table, the end of 4.09 when Louis screws up and goes to Harvey, while he was on his way to him; the beautiful scene after Louis was mugged, to name just three). This week saw the two back in the bullpen, reflecting on the past and putting their latest fight behind them. With the series inching closer to the end, moments like this feel all the more touching and nostalgic and I’m so pleased that these two men will clearly end the series closer than ever.

Samantha and Alex – From rivals to friends, as well as partners

Talking of friendships and great writing, what is unfolding on the show between Samantha and Alex touches on both of these things. They were introduced to each other as rivals for named partner, yet now, they have one of the closest bonds on the show and having Samantha become a surrogate member of the Williams family has been a lovely storyline. It also continues to lay the foundation for where the series could end. The lives of Louis and Harvey are shifting, as they both grow up and start to see that life has more to offer than work and if by the end they decide to move on, leaving Wheeler Williams to lead a firm in to the future, it would feel like a natural progression. I’ll be curious to see if this happens.

Katrina continues to stand up for herself

It’s hard to remember how much I disliked Katrina when she arrived in Suits and this week continued to see her grow in confidence, not just in her legal ability, but in her ability to handle workplace dynamics. In Cairo we saw her confident enough in herself and her opinions, that she was able to stand up to both Faye and Louis and it was wonderful to see. Let’s hope her storyline continues down this path. It’s what this character deserves.

Rick Hoffman & his comic delivery continue to delight week after week

Year after year I find myself frustrated that Rick Hoffman isn’t acknowledged for his portrayal of Louis Litt. Perhaps it’s because the character doesn’t fall in to a comfortable comedy or drama bucket. Instead, he blends both perfectly and that takes such talent. This week, we again saw both of these side of Louis, with his fight with Harvey in the same episode as some of his funniest lines at the episode’s outset. The scene in which he terrifies Susan’s parents is just brilliantly written and performed (the pitch perfect delivery of the “Oh shit” as he leaves the room, a particular highlight for me), only to be followed by one of my favourite comic duos – Louis and Gretchen! What a pair! And the line that made me laugh out loud this week – “I’d be better off with the urn!” Oh Louis, I truly love you!

Alex Williams can finally leave the prison case behind

This was perhaps the weakest part of the episode for me and yet I also understand the choices of including an old story, rather than a new one. I really like Alex Williams and I do think he’s struggled to have as interesting a storyline so far, as say, Samantha, or Katrina and so having a closer look at him was definitely needed. So, I admit, I was a little disappointed that they’d chosen to have his story revolve around the prison case again. We’ve covered this a lot, having it be the focus of a large part of season 7 and we’d already seen Alex talk Mike through all of this week’s flashbacks. So, I found myself wondering why we were covering old ground again. Yet, with so little time, I understand it made sense to have this revolve around something that was already familiar, rather than to try and introduce something new.

That slight grumble aside, I enjoyed seeing Alex struggle with his guilt and have to face Rosalie when she learns of not just what he did, but that he kept it from her and the scene in which his anger and fear exploded in the direction of his so-called friend, who he was trying to protect too, by keeping him away from this client, was one of Dule Hill’s strongest moments in the series so far. It was also lovely that it was Samantha, not Harvey, who saved the day for Alex. I only hope we get to see a little more about him now that this plot has finally been put to bed.

Who doesn’t want to have Samantha Wheeler’s professional confidence?!

I liked Samantha Wheeler from the outset, but she continues to get better and better each week and watching her confidently put Alex’s dreadful “friend” in his place (Trevor may have a rival for crappiest friend on Suits) was a joy to watch! When she confidently declared that she was going to kick his ass the old fashioned way, because she was the better lawyer, it made me cheer. Next time I’m in a tricky work situation, I’m going to try and channel this woman!

Looking ahead!

So, next week will see us reach the halfway mark of season nine. It’s going so quickly! What do we know? Episode 9.05 is called “If The Shoe Fits” and will see the return of Mike Ross! Having him a part of this last run was on everyone’s must-have list and I’m excited to see him come up against the firm, with a case that sounds as though we’ll see him, Harvey and Samantha in some tense moments. It’ll also be fascinating to see if he meets Faye. As the fraud who went to jail, I’m sure she’ll have some choice words to say to him!

Well, I’ll see you all next week (and until then I’ll be watching season 9 so far on repeat)!

Suits season 9 continues next week with 9.05 “If The Shoe Fits” on Wednesday on USA Network in the USA/Canada and on Friday via Netflix in the UK. You can watch the promo here: https://youtu.be/YcuACGMry5Y

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