Television Review – Truths and Lies in Suits 7.06 “Home To Roost”

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The last week seems to have flown by, but it’s that time of the week again for me to mull over another episode of Suits.

This week’s instalment was very much an hour revolving around truths and lies, with all of our main characters facing either the consequences of a lie (theirs or someone else’s), or some uncomfortable truths, all of which began to build a fascinating narrative that I assume will play out over the remaining four episodes of this first half of season seven.

As regular readers will know, I’ve been less than impressed with the direction of Suits during this seventh season, as old narratives seemed to be thrown out of the nearest window and I had a hunch this would be a make or break episode for me, once the synopsis revealed Home To Roost would include Harvey’s struggle to tell Donna about his “relationship” with Dr Agard. How they handled that and how they portrayed Donna was key for me.

So, let’s start there shall we?

Could two people be more confused about their feelings than Donna & Harvey?!

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This episode was perhaps the most revealing one so far in Suits history, when it comes to exploring Donna and Harvey’s feelings for each other. Yes, we had The Other Time, but that was the past and since then, things have been implied, or left open to interpretation. Home To Roost finally started to reveal some truths.

I’d been dreading Harvey telling Donna about Agard, not because I will have a tantrum at him being with someone else (well, not yet anyway!), but because I did not want Donna to be portrayed badly, falling to pieces in front of Harvey. I therefore breathed a huge sigh of relief on seeing the choices made on screen. First things first, Sarah Rafferty stole the show in 7.06, giving a beautiful, honest and very believable portrayal of a woman who is, after years of denial, finally facing the truth – that she loves Harvey and knowing he has chosen to be with someone else hurts her deeply, even though she wishes it didn’t. That is a hell of a lot of progress.

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I loved that she pretended she already knew about Paula, laying out to him exactly what he’d done in 7.01 so accurately and yet, making it clear to viewers that she was putting the pieces together as she was saying them. The look on her face as he left her office was utterly heartbreaking and some of Rafferty’s finest work on the show. you could see the emotional wheels turning in Donna’s mind.

We also finally had Donna voice the truth of her feelings to someone else and having it be Rachel was lovely. Meghan Markle and Rafferty on screen together is always a treat and it’s about time it was Donna opening up to her rather than the other way around and it was a good decision to have Donna wishing she didn’t have these feelings. I mean, it’s not ideal is it, when he is with someone else? I noticed the episode was written by one of the female writers on the show and I can’t help thinking that that was a huge benefit to such a key episode for Donna.

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That brings me to Harvey Specter. I still don’t like him this year (memberships for the Big Pile of Everyone Hates Harvey Club are open, just let me know if you want to sign up!), but we may at least be inching towards him finally acknowledging his feelings. I still hate how Agard is being used this year, but I actually enjoyed her putting a few truths to Harvey. Did you hear that Harvey? Even your girlfriend thinks you clearly have feelings for Donna. Hearing someone actually tell him that he has feelings for Donna and that she loves him was a huge step for this show and I’m excited to see how this plays out. The final scene between Donna and Harvey, in which they are both not being totally honest with the other was a heart-wrencher and full marks to both actors, the director and director of photography for that gorgeous last shot, of two people so close and yet still so far.

So, will Darvey finally happen this year? The door is either inching open or slammed shut right now. It’s all down to Aaron Korsh, but the narrative path must surely now be moving towards our favourite couple realising they are fooling themselves?! Surely?! Hopefully it’s just a matter of time now. I have my fingers crossed.

Mike is lying again – that didn’t take him long!

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While Donna faced some truths (and Harvey perhaps is starting to), Mike Ross was back to keeping secrets. He’s only been an approved lawyer five minutes for God’s sake!

Mike wanting to work on the prison case is admirable, but he made an agreement no to and in the real, adult world, that agreement means something. I’ve been a big fan of Mike this year; compared to Harvey and Louis, he’s been the only mature man at PSL, but this week saw the return of the more annoying version of Mike – the one who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

Sure, law firms take on pro bono, but not cases that could ever conflict with their clients and I don’t see how Mike’s desire to help those really in need can ever work at PSL. Rachel was dead right when she said he had to choose and it will be fascinating to see whether that is a choice he is forced to make before the mid-season finale. In the meantime, Mike yet again risked the financial security of his original client on the prison case and it didn’t pay off. It’ll be interesting to see where this will go now. Maybe he gets Robert Zane to take it?

Shout out to Meghan Markle for some fab work in her scenes with Patrick J Adams. The two have strong chemistry and seeing Rachel deliver some hard truths to him was very satisfying.

Louis Litt – On the road to recovery (I hope)!

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Louis Litt’s arc so far this season has been my favourite aspect of what, for me, has been a confused narrative and Rick Hoffman just keeps getting better and better.

This week, we watched Louis face the truth that his behaviour had consequences and that honesty was the best way to resolve it (did you hear that Mike, honesty, maybe you should look that word up in a dictionary). By the end of the episode, we saw the best side of Louis; a man who is kind, thoughtful and decent and his gift to Brian was superb. Suits USA, where can I order one for my friends?!

It was also fun to see the beginnings of Louis’s potential mentorship of his own associate. Maybe he’ll finally have his own Mike. I already like Brian, so I hope we see much more of him. My only complaint was that we haven’t seen enough Katrina yet this year.

Alex Williams – just how dirty is this guy?

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It wasn’t only Mike lying this week, as we continue to see Alex Williams’ actions indicate that he is worried about much more than losing a client. I was pleased for Harvey to finally wake up from his rose-tinted view of Alex at the end of this episode and see that he is hiding something. I look forward to learning just how dirty he is next week.

Looking Ahead to Full Disclosure

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So, next week’s title is an interesting one and from the promo, I assume this will be where we learn exactly what Alex Williams has been up to and how it involves his past with Harvey. We already know 7.07 is a flashback episode, so I’m guessing we’ll see the early days of their friendship and how whatever history they have is going to potentially screw them over now. As I’m still not a huge Harvey fan this year, I’m hoping it’s going to hurt, just a little!

We also know that next week’s episode sees the introduction of Mark Meadows (Jay Harrington) as Donna’s ex. After this week’s episode forcing both Harvey and Donna to really think about their complicated relationship and Harvey’s reference to it bothering him when she was with Stephen Huntley, I’m very much looking forward to him discovering her hot ex is back on the scene. That’s someone else to be the object of her attention and affection Harvey – how does that sound to you? Hold on to your seats folks, things are about to get very interesting!

Suits continues next week: Wednesday on USA Network at 9/8c in the USA and Thursday via Netflix in the UK.

 

Television Review – Suits 7.05 “Brooklyn Housing”

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I’m catching up with the latest episode of Suits a little later today, thanks to the terribly slow upload speed of Netflix UK. However, now I’ve watched it a couple of times, I thought I’d give my thoughts, as I’ve been doing for the previous episodes of this seventh season.

Did I enjoy Brooklyn Housing?

Yes and no. Overall, it was a strong episode of Suits and reminded me a lot of earlier episodes in its run. We had Harvey kicking ass at work, Mike showing what a great (now legal) lawyer he is, Louis showing the best side of his quirky personality and Donna and Rachel providing voices of reason when most needed. The episode did however give me concerns as to the direction the writers are potentially taking certain characters and storylines and if I’m proved right, I will be thoroughly disappointed.

I’ll start with the positives……

We are all proud of you Louis Litt!

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For the fifth week running, the strongest element of Suits at the moment remains Louis Litt and Rick Hoffman’s superb portrayal of him. He may have had a bumpy start this year, but Louis is really starting to show true growth and I’m excited to see where he will end up. As the weeks tick on, the view I had in season 6 that he would be better in charge than Harvey, only seems to be given more credibility. If he were able to get his emotions in check and find some happiness, he’d be more than capable of running the show. This week we saw him help Harvey, use his discretion to avoid causing any problems, successfully defend Agard and acknowledge improvements he still needs to make to his own character in order to be happy. As his therapist told him at the end of this hour, I’m proud of you Louis!

Mike’s prison case & its potential ramifications

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I’m actually really enjoying the prison case and am looking forward to seeing where it goes next. I still think Alex Williams is going to end up involved in this, causing problems for PSL and Harvey in particular. Mike working on this behind Harvey’s back also brings in the potential for some juicy scenes between our favourite on screen brothers, once Harvey finds out Mike has broken his trust. As Rachel pointed out, this could all end in tears. There’s also the addition of Frank Gallo. He already has a grudge against both Mike and Harvey and whether his involvement here ends up coming back to bite them both in the ass remains to be seen. After all, he could find ways to hurt both of them, whether directly or indirectly through those they care for. Mike needs to be careful here. It’s a fun storyline with exciting possibilities and that’s certainly a positive for this show at the moment.

Harvey back to kicking some ass (albeit, yet again with help from someone else)

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I’m starting to wonder if Harvey Spector was ever as good a lawyer / manipulator as I’d previously thought. This week we did at least see him back to doing what I aways enjoyed, kicking ass against those up to no good. However, this series we’ve seen him helped out of a jam by Mike and in 7.05, it’s only thanks to Holly Cromwell that he comes out on top. Maybe, he’s lost his edge? He was at least far less annoying this week, which is a relief.

So, those are the positives this week. Now, it’s time for my growing concerns……….

Donna Paulsen being portrayed as the poor, unloved woman

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I’ve always loved Donna. She has always been a strong, funny, caring, interesting female character, who is always brought to life so vividly by Sarah Rafferty. She has never been a victim, even when her boyfriend was a murderer, she wasn’t painted as a weak character. Yet, now, at a time when we should be seeing Donna at her strongest and most confident, following her promotion to COO, I have a horrible feeling the writers could be taking us down an unpleasant path for her.

And it’s all because of Harvey Specter. I’ve never really viewed Donna as the woman pining for her boss. Their relationship had been written to have so many more intricacies than that. Did I think she loved him? Yes, perhaps even when she didn’t really acknowledge it herself. However, crucially, I’ve never felt that that was unrequited. Especially from season four onwards, there have been so many nods to Harvey sharing those feelings, whether he is ready to act on them or not. Hell, he’s even started dreaming about her romantically.

Yet, this week’s episode seemed to be setting up a new, unpleasant narrative and that’s one of unrequited love; something that would, in my opinion, be a betrayal of the character of Donna Paulsen.

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Why do I think this? Well, the first thing Louis asks on learning of Harvey’s relationship with Agard is whether Donna knows about it. Why does he ask that? Harvey and Louis have never discussed Harvey’s complicated history with Donna and the very fact he asks, introduces the premise that Donna will have a problem with it, i.e. that she’ll be hurt/ jealous. There is no narrative basis for Louis to ask that! Had he said something to Donna, it would have made more sense, as she did tell him about hers and Harvey’s past, but it makes no sense for him to raise it with Harvey.

 

 

 

Secondly, there was all Donna’s questioning of both Louis and Harvey about what was going on between them and the awkward moment when she tells Harvey about the PSL family not keeping secrets from one another. The entire way Donna is starting to come across on screen is as the poor woman with feelings for a man who doesn’t share them and who is trying to find a way to let her down gently. If this is the way the writers are taking Donna in the series I will be furious, as it just doesn’t fit with the narrative I thought they had plotted over the previous six seasons. It also makes me continue to dislike the arrogant Harvey Specter. If this is the creator’s plan to make every viewer hoping to see Harvey and Donna get together change their mind, then congratulations Aaron Korsh, it’s working.

The weakening of Paula Agard’s character

I’m not going to cover old ground. I’ve made my thoughts on the crazy Harvey / Agard plot line this year very clear! I really liked Agard in season five and the more we see of her now, the weaker she comes across. The whole, I was worried you wouldn’t think I was loveable bit was just irritating. I do admit though that her chemistry with Harvey is at least improving. Hell, maybe they will end up living happily ever after.

Looking ahead – Chickens come home to roost

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Next week’s episode is entitled Home To Roost and we can expect to see the negative consequences of Mike’s involvement in the prison case come back to hurt him. I assume this will mainly be between him and Harvey, but the promo suggests this could also include difficulties in his relationship with Rachel. If he ruins that, he really will be in trouble!

So, I’ll see you back here next week, when I hope there will be more positives and none of my concerns will have come to pass!

Suits continues next week, in the USA on Wednesday at 9/8c on USA Network and on Thursday via Netflix in the UK. 

Television Review – Suits 7.04 “Divide and Conquer”

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I’m a little late with this review, but as this was, in my opinion, the best episode of this seventh season so far, I thought I’d take the time to enjoy writing some more positives about Suits while I can!

Back to business as usual

Divide and Conquer was back to the style of Suits we have known in the past. The team all pulling together for the good of the firm, making move and counter move to come out on top (well, for now anyway). The ridiculous side plots were nowhere to be seen and instead we were able to enjoy seeing everyone working together as a team. I love some conflict, but the constant fighting this year was getting tiring.

A big pile of people hate Harvey!

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Well, he said it! My opinion of my former favourite character has been my biggest disappointment in season seven and I have to say, seeing his terrible management style and attitude to those he supposedly cares about come back and bite him in the ass was very satisfying. Yet again, it was down to Donna to make him realise he was in deep trouble and then Jessica to help him grow up and fix things. He really would be lost without these two women wouldn’t he? I found the last scene with him alone in his office very telling. He is still struggling in this new role and has managed to isolate himself from those who have always been there for him due to his behaviour.

I’m hoping that we will start to see some of the old Harvey emerge now, but time will tell, if he’ll be able to stop being so horrid to Louis (I’m still not over his treatment of him last week), not lose it with Mike (when he learns he is disobeying him) and start treating Donna the way he used to until this season. Yes, he said she hadn’t let him down in 12 years, but other than that, he seems to have thrown their close friendship away and continues to act very differently with her. No, Harvey, she does not want to come back to your desk! Stop being so arrogant and show her some respect.

I still think he has issues he needs to talk through with a therapist, but look how well that worked out last time……..!

Is Alex Williams really one of the PSL family now?

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I still can’t decide whether I like Alex Williams or not. Is he genuine or does he have his own agenda that will only lead to trouble? He clearly has a history with Harvey, which I’m still curious to know more about and this week made it clear that he has skeletons in his closet that are likely to cause problems for him (and by default, PSL) later on. I have a feeling his involvement in Mike’s prison case is going to get very interesting indeed.

Mike Ross straddling two worlds

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The idea of Mike being able to do both corporate and pro bono work against large multinationals was never realistic really was it? His desire to do good in the world has always been a little at odds with the corporate clients and this week was the start of the storyline I assume will continue over the next few weeks. Oliver is certainly not as good a lawyer as Mike and the idea of him being able to fight a class action single-handed was crazy. It was only a matter of time before Mike went back on his word to Harvey. We all know how Harvey feels about loyalty and I assume there will be fireworks when he finds out Mike is hiding this from him, especially if it brings Mike in to conflict with Alex.

Can we all work for Robert Zane instead?

 

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I’ve always liked Robert Zane (brilliantly played by Wendell Pierce). You really could believe he runs a law firm, unlike Harvey and Louis who seem to be playing at doing it! He makes them just look like fools! It was lovely to see Zane willing to try and help PSL, clearly out of respect for Jessica (anyone else think they may have had a history in the past?!) and his love for his daughter.

I’ve always felt sad for Rachel regarding her desire to prove to her father she is a great lawyer. Wanting our parents to be proud of us is an emotion most of us can relate to and it was lovely to see Wendell Pierce and Meghan Markle on screen again. They have such a genuine and believable relationship and seeing them become closer by the end of this hour was a real delight. Maybe Rachel really should consider going to work for her father. His firm is certainly more stable than PSL right now!

Looking ahead – the Agard episode……(I can’t wait….)

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So, the promo for 7.05 makes it clear that part of the episode will deal with a case involving Paula Agard, which Louis is going to handle. Is she being sued and what is she hiding from Harvey? I’m already bored of this storyline and I just hope this new plot point actually starts to make the whole crazy narrative make sense.

As well as Agard, it looks like Mike’s run of playing by Harvey’s rules is over (that didn’t take long did it?), so I imagine they’ll be fighting again before the hour is over.

Enjoy the new episode tonight in the USA (on USA Network at 9/8c) and tomorrow in the UK (via Netflix).

 

 

Television Review – Suits 7.03 “Mudmare”

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Thursday morning means it’s time for a new episode of Suits, as season seven starts to find its feet. There was thankfully lots to enjoy this week, particularly if I ignored the elements of the current narrative that drive me nuts (you know what I’m talking about)!

So, on to my thoughts this week (all screenshots are thanks to Suits USA and Netflix UK by the way)…..

Mudmare for Louis, a dream for viewers!

IMG_6902Well, we can finally tick off off our wish list, the dream of seeing Harvey and Louis mudding together! It may only have been a dream (unlike 6.11, I saw this one coming Aaron Korsh), but visually it was everything I had hoped for and Gabriel Macht played it wonderfully. The fact they managed to weave this scene in to Louis’s anxiety about losing his friend was perfect and this opening provided some much needed light relief, which has been lacking from Suits for far too long. While we are talking about Louis….

The brilliance of Rick Hoffman

IMG_6911I’ve already commented this season about how superb an actor Rick Hoffman is and he continues to be one of season seven’s biggest strengths. His ability to move so comfortably between comedic and serious, emotional moments is hard to beat and this week was a rollercoaster for Louis Litt. It was lovely to see him and Donna playing off one another again, albeit briefly and I hope Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty have many more scenes together. As usual he also had all the best lines!

Louis has come so far as a character and at this point, the one thing that keeps pulling him down is Harvey, who continues to treat him with a level of disrespect that infuriates me. Louis may be emotional, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t right a lot of the time, especially the concerns he raised the week (as well as last week) about Harvey’s decisions for the firm.

I predict an explosion coming between the two named partners and the powerful ending of Mudmare made me a little concerned that Louis may be headed for his biggest breakdown yet. If I were Harvey, I’d keep out of his way, but as a viewer I hope we see him learn to regret his mistreatment of his so-called friend.

Women in power finding their feet

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This week was also a strong episode for the women of PSL, with both Meghan Markle and Sarah Rafferty having a chance to explore each of their characters’ new roles in the firm.

I tended to agree that Donna as a Senior Partner was rather silly, but having her now in a senior managerial / personnel role is a much better fit. Having her still finding her feet in this new function and admitting when she doesn’t always get things right was authentic and Harvey should take note of admitting when you mess up! I assume there will be more challenges ahead for Donna, but she’s more than up for the challenge.

Seeing her stand up for herself with Harvey was very satisfying too. They may have been a unit before, but it was great to see that she won’t blindly follow when she thinks he is wrong. How arrogant of Harvey too, to think that he can speak for her on all things!

Having Rachel take over the associates was another aspect of episode one that I found a little silly (I won’t repeat all my moaning about the premiere, don’t worry). Yes, she has been in the firm a long time, but in reality, a newly qualified lawyer would never be in charge of those years ahead of her. However, this is Suits and we need to suspend reality, so in this world, it was great to see her want to step up, especially when Louis was incapable of doing the job. I’ve always viewed Rachel as one of the most mature characters in the series and seeing her understand that a supervisory role was perhaps not right for her at this point in her career seemed very true to the person she is.

Rafferty and Markle don’t have nearly enough scenes together and so it was lovely to see them play both confrontational and conciliatory with one another this week. I hope we get plenty more of them over the coming weeks.

The enigmatic Alex Williams

IMG_6910He may have only just joined the PSL family, but I’m already questioning exactly what history Alex Williams has with Harvey. In every episode of this season so far, he has managed to flag up to Harvey some favour, or past incident, that he let go. It clearly must be significant and has the ability to influence Harvey’s decisions as managing partner, which I assume is only going to have further ramifications later on. Dule Hill is a fun addition to the cast and I’m intrigued to explore his character’s past with Harvey and how it will continue to impact on the present, as well as his relationships with Mike, Louis and the others in the firm.

The maturity of Mike Ross

IMG_6907While the new managing partner continues to falter in his role, it’s lovely to watch Mike flourish. We knew conflicts between corporate and pro bono would  arise and no doubt this week was only a flavour of what’s to come, but Mike has a new lease of life, free of the secret that limited his life in so many ways and the interview was a great way of acknowledging his past, without having to bring it up every time he works on a case.

We didn’t get much of the bromance between Mike and Harvey this week, with the exception of the fun scene in which Harvey’s creative headlines papered Mike’s office (Big Boy Pants: The Mike Ross Story was my favourite)! We did however see Mike continue to grow in confidence and stature and at this rate, he’ll be the one running the firm when Harvey and Louis kill each other! Bravo Mike, you win the award for Most Mature Male in the show for a third week running!

Then we come to Harvey………if you can hear me giving a deep sigh, then you’d be right….

The continuing decline of the once great Harvey Specter

IMG_6913Can someone please find the real Harvey Specter? He must be around here somewhere! I’ll get to his bizarre relationship, but that aside, we are still seeing a terrible version of Harvey this year. Is this setting up that perhaps, like Rachel, he’ll realise managing partner is not the right role for him? I still think Louis is the better choice for seeing what is best for the firm as a whole, but that’s a whole other topic.

Harvey (or Henry, as some of us fans are calling this imposter), may be starting to feel comfortable behind Jessica’s desk, but he is still miles away from being the leader she was and this week saw him using some unpleasant tactics to exert his will. Harvey has never been great at hearing opposing views, only ever really listening to Jessica and Donna and watching him use Louis’s personal insecurities against him in a business context, in front of Donna, only made me miss the old version of him more. It was cruel, unprofessional and is, I hope, something that will bite him in the ass.

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Then there is the as yet unknown cards Alex Williams is holding over him. He only needs to mention it and Harvey is falling over himself to do whatever he asks. Should corporate work come before pro bono at PSL? Yes, absolutely (sorry Mike, it’s business), but as Mike pointed out, this wasn’t a direct client conflict and it seemed clear Harvey would never have folded had it not been Alex’s demand. It will be interesting to see what other questionable decisions his past with Alex causes him to take and the divisions these will cause.

And then there is his insane “love” for Paula Agard. I’m not going to repeat myself from previous weeks (read my other reviews for that), but this plot line continues to baffle me. “Darvey” aside, I still don’t know where the writers are going with this. Yes, you have a connection with her Harvey – she was your therapist!! At least this week, Agard herself started to voice the questionable reality of their relationship (yes, it’s a terrible mistake, yes, it won’t work out and yes, you’ll look like a fool Paula). Why couldn’t she tell her mentor about it? She knew she would have told her it was unethical and unprofessional, that’s why and she’d be right! Oh, and if Harvey thinks it’s crazy to care what others think about their relationship, why didn’t he tell Donna about it when he had the ideal opportunity? Hmmm, Harvey? Nothing to say?

I will always hate how Agard has been reduced from the strong, professional woman that she was in season five, to simply being a plot device in the journey of Harvey Specter, but I truly hope Aaron Korsh and co have a way of having Harvey learn from this dalliance (it cannot last, surely?!). Whether that will ultimately lead to him and Donna getting together, who the heck knows these days, but I certainly don’t see that coming any time soon, if at all. Right now, I’d just like to see him being the type of man he used to be, before he fell and hit his head (or whatever happened literally overnight between 6.16 and 7.01)!

Looking ahead?

acfd389d76f022db4a8078bf92aeThe promo for next week doesn’t give us much detail, other than a battle with Alex’s former firm, who are looking to divide and conquer PSL. Maybe it would have been better Harvey, if  you hadn’t already opened a huge divide between you and Louis (who I expect will prove to be the better man than Alex come the end of the year).

Will we start to see the return of the old Harvey? Who on earth knows. I’m just thankful that, at the moment, I continue to love the other characters enough to keep watching.

Suits season seven continues on Wednesday nights on USA Network at 9/8 c in the USA and for UK fans, you can watch on Netflix every Thursday. 

 

 

Television Review – Suits 7.02 “The Statue”

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Well, after last week’s episode seemed to drive most of this show’s previous narrative path off a cliff, I confess I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing what they had in store in episode two. I was therefore relieved that, for the most part, the storyline of The Statue made sense, especially in the new landscape in which we find ourselves in season seven. Yes, there are still things I don’t like (more on that shortly), but it was a hell of a lot better than the premiere (feel free to read my thoughts on that here).

Harvey Specter – A child beginning to grow up?

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As those who read last week’s review know, I couldn’t stand Harvey last week. His character literally changed overnight, which did a disservice to him and all of his previous character development. This week, saw a mini journey for him over the course of just one episode. At the beginning, he makes so many mistakes I was shaking my head in despair – throwing his new-found power at Louis, throwing out offers of named partner to whoever he pleased, shouting down Donna’s concerns and insulting Jessica to her face. Someone get him to a therapist…….oh wait…… (I’m getting to that don’t worry).

As my main complaint last week was poor narrative structure and plotting, it was a relief that this new, not improved version of what was my favourite Suits character, actually experienced some growth over the hour. He messed up, a lot, but he learnt from those errors in judgment and is slowing beginning to put things right and most of the final decisions he made, including with regards to both Alex’s and Donna’s positions at the firm, were the correct ones. I can only hope that season seven continues to have a plan for him, which is consistent and believable (and sorts his personal life out once and for all).

All hail Jessica, the voice of reason & sanity!

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Raise your hand if you miss Jessica Pearson! This week saw the welcome guest appearance of the superb Gina Torres, with both present day and flashback Jessica playing a part in the narrative (yes, an actual narrative this week). In a week where we watched Harvey stuff up, the voice of reason yet again was Jessica. Harvey has always listened to her and she finally made him see sense and start to act like a man capable of being in charge of PSL.

Gabriel Macht and Torres always had wonderful chemistry on screen and that continued here. We still know very little about the origins of their friendship, but its depth and meaning to both characters is always clear, strong and an asset to the show overall. I assume we won’t see her again until the 100th (she must be in it, surely?!), but they should try and bring her back as much as possible in my opinion!

We all got Litt up!

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Thank god! After his stumble last week, Louis Litt was back on fine, fun form and I for one was thrilled to see it. From a professional, PSL perspective, he was yet again absolutely right, highlighting why I still think that in the end he should be in charge of running the firm. He may be emotional, but he sees the bigger PSL picture. It took Jessica to make Harvey see sense on brining over Alex Williams, but she didn’t say anything that Louis hadn’t already expressed. I only hope the truce and understanding that seemed to exist between Harvey and Louis at the end of this week remains. They work better together than when at each other’s throats!

It was also lovely to have some of Louis’s wit back. Most of the times I laugh out loud when watching Suits is thanks to the superb Rick Hoffman and this week was the same. Stuffing a cat?! I’ve missed this version of him and Gretchen is the perfect sidekick for him now that Donna is moving in to a different place in the firm. Now all we need is for Louis to find some happiness. Oh, and more of his therapist please. I can see that dynamic getting quite fun!

Donna Paulsen – COO (much better than Senior Partner)

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I’ve seen criticism about the lack of realism in a secretary becoming a senior partner. I would agree with this, although in a show with a premise like Suits (and which never delves in to any realistic legal detail – go watch The Good Wife for that), moaning about Donna’s storyline not being realistic is hardly logical. Have those people been paying attention to Mike all these years?!

By the end of this week Donna has a position that makes more logical sense and respects the show’s narrative (it’s that word again). As COO she can act as a director of personnel and handle the administrative elements of management that Harvey will clearly have no time for (and would most likely be terrible at). I hope this allows her to build a role and a level of success and respect that she deserves. I also hope she finally finds some independence from Harvey and maybe even some happiness too.

Putting the ghosts of the past behind Mike

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Mike is really stepping up this year, which is wonderful after the petulant, demanding version of him we saw in season six when he was in prison. Seeing him get out on his own and be successful, was lovely to watch and Harvey was right that he needed to confront his ghosts and take control of his narrative going forward (see, creative team -narrative is important)!

If this is anything to go by, Mike is shaping up to be a formidable opponent, which I imagine will make things even more interesting when he inevitably has to go up against Harvey (that corporate / pro bono conflict must be around the next corner surely?). There wasn’t much of Rachel this week, but hers and Mike’s mature and genuine relationship is a joy and only highlights the craziness of the show’s new “relationship”.

You knew I’d have to get to the show’s weakest link eventually……..!

Love is not in the air Harvey. Wake the hell up Paula Agard!

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I’ve previously asserted my stance as a believer that Harvey and Donna belong together. In the words of Donna, this series is not my first rodeo and I’ve watched enough “will they / won’t they / should they” on screen to know when the answer is clearly yes. I still think that is the case here, although whether the writers of this show will ever have the courage to follow their own narrative is another question.

As for Harvey’s new relationship with his former therapist (I still cannot believe it, to be honest), it just stands out from the rest of the show as being crazy and illogical, unless it is being used to continue the long game of having Harvey Specter finally admit where his feelings truly lie. Last week, I could not understand why it was included. Not because I was inconsolable that Darvey wasn’t a reality in the first five minutes, but because this romance made no sense, having had no build-up or signposting in the entire previous season.

I’m going to put my lack of faith in the creator of this show on hold momentarily and hope that the very fact this relationship has come out of nowhere and seems nuts, is actually the point. The whole first scene was so saccharine and the polar opposite of the very real connection between Mike and Rachel. That has to be deliberate….surely? Yes Harvey, she knows you better than anyone in some respects – that’s because she was your THERAPIST! I’ve seen lots of chatter this week about transference and in my book, that is the only thing that makes sense for this storyline. He needs an emotional anchor and he does not feel that that can be Donna (in my opinion, because he is still too afraid to face how he really feels about her). The scene in which Donna accurately predicted that he would seek out Agard was gold! He looked terrified!

That leaves me to say one more thing on this topic – WAKE UP PAULA! I still think it’s a disgrace that the writers have reduced what was a strong, intelligent, professional woman, who took part in one of the show’s most compelling plots, to a bedfellow for Harvey. She deserved better and I hope she sees sooner rather than later, that Harvey (whether he realises it or not) is using her as an emotional crutch and an escape from someone else. Non-Darvey people can mock me all they want, but I’m simply following the narrative that has been set out over six seasons (and especially since season four). Time will tell, I suppose.

And finally – welcome Dule Hill!

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As a worshipper at the altar of The West Wing, it’s fantastic to have Dule Hill join the cast. We didn’t see much of Alex Williams this week, but the markers were set that his past with Harvey is perhaps about more than friendship. What does Harvey owe him for and how will he try and collect? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out, as well as watching him interact with Louis (I assume the flowers come next week)!

So, overall, 7.02 was a much better viewing experience than the premiere. There was structure, a narrative that made sense and it gave me a sense that perhaps Korsh and co do actually have a plan. I certainly hope so. I dearly love Suits and have all my fingers crossed that they don’t let themselves, or the fans, down.

Suits continues weekly on Wednesdays 9/8c on the USA Network in the USA and on Thursdays on Netflix in the UK (thanks again for that Netflix)!

 

 

 

Television Review – Suits 7.01 – Skin In The Game (or as I call it, “WTF?!”)

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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!

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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

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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

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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)

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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?

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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. 

 

 

 

 

Review – Bold and daring television from the BBC – King Charles III, from stage to screen

 

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So, tonight saw the airing of the BBC’s adaptation of 2014’s critically acclaimed stage play, King Charles III. It was one of my theatre highlights of that year (you’ll find my original review here) and I was thrilled to hear that such a daring and though-provoking drama was to be brought to the screen, particularly with most of the original main cast.

Now it has aired and after reading such diverse comments about the programme on Twitter,  it seemed only right to review this new version and compare it to my experience of Mike Bartlett’s original material.

On seeing it for the first time in the theatre, I imagine I had the same thoughts many tuning in to BBC Two had; starting off with unease and discomfort at what I was watching. These are after all, some of the most familiar people in our lives in Britain. However, the cleverness of the style, structured as if a History play by Shakespeare, in verse, means that although real people, the drama is a step removed from reality, allowing the audience to be absorbed by the characters in front of them, rather than focussing on who they were based on.

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Many are also saying that it is disrespectful, but I disagree. I support the Royal Family by and large (especially the Queen and the younger members) and yet I loved this play and equally enjoyed the screen version. It isn’t autobiographical – after all it’s set in the future! Like any good drama, it causes its audience to discuss and debate its content. It requires you to focus and engage with the questions it raises. None of us know what will happen when the Queen passes away and the crown moves to Charles and yes, this is a heightened reality, which I doubt would ever come to pass. However, as a drama, it asks some intriguing questions – Would Charles, who we know has given his political views in the past, resist giving his assent to a law he personally disagreed with? If he did, what would William do? Would he say nothing, or would he in fact do what was necessary in order to preserve the future of the Monarchy if it was put at risk by his father’s actions? Should we even still have a Monarchy, or does the stability of the Monarch actually hold Britain together?

Ultimately these are simply people, just like the rest of us and King Charles III treats them as such, as people with flaws, weaknesses, ambitions and desires. Yes, there are aspects I remain uncomfortable with (in particular, putting words in to the mouths of William and Harry about their mother), but I cannot take offence at something that isn’t claiming to be anything but fiction. In fact, I find myself thinking about the actual Royal Family and their lives in a whole new light.

As for the transition from stage to screen, overall, Mike Bartlett has done a great job in adapting his play for television. There have of course been cuts, mainly to long soliloquies to save time and certain scenes have changed locations (Jess no longer comes to the Palace after her first night on the town with Harry, which I actually think makes much more sense), but on the whole the text and the spirit of the play remains the same, something that I was a little worried may not translate from the stage. Director Rupert Goold (who also directed the play) is perfectly placed to ensure the Shakespearian tone of the piece remains – dramatic in places, mildly comedic in others. I also loved the moments in which characters spoke to camera, preserving the sense of theatre (which is becoming more common on television, with dramas such as House of Cards) and the use of the original music from the play, particularly the haunting Latin singing during the Coronation (which in the theatre gave me goosebumps).

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Although, I did prefer the stage play due to my love of theatre and the powerful atmosphere the play brought to the stage, there are elements that, in my opinion, work better, or are improved by this adaptation. The biggest example is the ghostly presence of Diana. I never enjoyed this on stage, finding it rather cheesy and uncomfortable (even though I understood that a Shakespearean History play needs a ghost to steer the fates of the characters). Rather than a woman walking across a stage, here through the use of lighting and echoing voices, these moments actually work much better. Also, the inclusion of scenes showing the rest of the family’s reactions to Charles’ dissolution of Parliament were also welcome television additions, raising the stakes of the unfolding drama.

The acting remains strong in this 90 minute drama, with the key players from the stage stepping back in to their roles (Charles, William, Harry, Camilla and the Prime Minister all the same). I’ve seen a fair amount of comments on social media criticising the acting, but, in my opinion, to think that is to miss the complexity of this piece. This is after all a fictional story, depicting a family we all know incredibly well. Therefore the actors had to find a balance between conveying a realistic portrayal of those we know, but without becoming caricatures of them. This isn’t after all Spitting Image, which would indeed have been cheesy!

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Central to this is the incredible performance by Tim Pigott-Smith, whose recent death makes watching this even more poignant. He brings to the screen a man whose whole life has been geared towards this one job and on finally getting it, he faces choices which affect the stability of the whole country. It’s interesting that the law he opposes is one restricting freedom of the press, which may be seen by some as admirable. Yet, the monarch’s role is not to stop laws, but to give their ceremonial assent and it is this decision, followed by his dissolution of a Parliament that he feels opposes him, that results in civil unrest. Over the course of the story, you move from admiration, to frustration and then to deep sympathy for Charles and this is thanks to the rich depth of Pigott-Smith’s performance. The last few scenes are heartbreaking and remind me how much he will be missed.

My favourite role on stage was that of Kate and she is just as strong here (with Charlotte Riley replacing Lydia Wilson). Kate is strong and an equal partner to her husband and her soliloquy to camera captures that strength of resolve. I’m not sure I agree with the Lady Macbeth comparisons, but every Shakespearean History needs an expert manipulator! Oliver Chris also does a fantastic job at playing a conflicted William. He loves his father and yet, ultimately has no choice but to effectively betray him, in order to restore stability. I’ve never seen them as evil as many are saying tonight, as although cruel to Charles, their actions seem necessary to preserve the monarchy that the current Queen has worked decades to protect above all else. This drama now includes their two children and by having William hug his son, as he is faced with the such a hard choice, added an extra layer of emotion to the story. Crucially, the final confrontation between William and Charles was just as powerful to watch on screen, which is all due to the work of the actors.

Adam James (a favourite of mine for years), is back as the Prime Minister, placed in an impossible situation and privy to the later emotional scenes. His interactions with Pigott-Smith and Oliver Chris remain very believable. Margot Leicester provides strong support as Camilla, while Richard Goulding returns to the role of Harry. His was a difficult role on stage, as Harry’s plot line acts as the less weighty aspect of the drama and because of that, comes across as weaker and a bit farfetched. However, the more you think about it, the more sad it is, to see someone adrift and ultimately forced to give up what may have made him happy. It’s a performance that I think you have greater appreciation for the more you watch it. The newcomers to the main cast, Tamara Lawrence as Jess and Priyanga Burford as the Opposition leader were also very good too and I particularly liked the gender switch, meaning the Conservative leader here was also a woman!

Clearly, this drama won’t have appealed to everyone and will have its critics, which is fine by me, provided all those criticising it have actually watched it. It’s also true that theatre will never have the same impact on screen as it does live. However, I applaud the decision of Mike Bartlett, Rupert Goold and the BBC to be bold enough to take such a daring piece of theatre and make it available to a wider audience, while ensuring that those of us who loved the play get to see it again in a new form, for which personally, I’m extremely grateful!

King Charles III is now available in the UK on BBC iPlayer. It will also air in the USA on Sunday 14th May on Masterpiece on PBS. The text of the play is available from Nick Hern Books here.