Oscars 2020 – My Thoughts

I know I’ve left this a little late, but my main reason was my desire to see as many of the nominated films as possible and today was my first opportunity to see Parasite (which has only just been released in the UK this week). More on that film coming up, but I’ll start by saying that, for the most part, it seems that this year’s awards are likely to be largely predictable, especially the acting categories and with only hours to go, the biggest question seems to be whether Parasite can be the first foreign language film to take Best Picture. Is that something the Academy is ready to do? I’m still not sure it is.

Yet, despite a lot of these “predictions” feeling rather predictable, I still wanted to set them out and see how many I get right (or indeed wrong). Full disclosure before I start – I’ve tried to see most of the films, but largely due to some films disappearing within a week from my local cinemas, I’ve not yet see Ford v. Ferrari (aka Le Mans ’66), Pain & Glory and Harriet. I’ve also been unable to see the film shorts, or the documentaries, so I’ll leave those categories out.

Right, that said, here are my thoughts on what I think will win and what I’d have voted for.

  • Best Picture

I’ll start with the big one – Best Picture. Of the eight I’ve seen, I’ve enjoyed most of the nominees this year, although I don’t think it’s as strong a year as other recent ones.

I enjoyed the epic scope of The Irishman, watching these lives over decades and thought Pesci was particularly impressive. It was perhaps 30 minutes too long though. Little Women was a welcome new interpretation of a story most of us have seen at least one version of by now and I enjoyed the way Greta Gerwig chose to move around the timelines here, giving the story a freshness I didn’t expect. It seems to be controversial, but I thought Joker was very good – for me, it was a powerful look at how someone, already vulnerable and in need of support from society, can spiral in to a frightening life. Did I think the violence was glamourised? No. It was far less violent than The Irishman (which was based on real events) and for me it wasn’t aiming to seek sympathy for a criminal; it simply forced me to ask difficult questions about the grey. It stayed with me for a long time afterwards. JoJo Rabbit was a real gem this year; a film you aren’t sure you’ll like, or should even like, but yet is one that becomes so much more than a film mocking Nazis. It’s a beautiful story of friendship, love and kindness conquering hate, which made me feel surprisingly hopeful by the end. 1917 was as powerful, moving and visually impressive as I’d been expecting. The one-shot style didn’t feel like a gimmick and I loved how it highlighted the incredible acts of bravery during WWI, alongside the tragic needless loss of so many young lives.

I didn’t particularly enjoy Marriage Story, despite appreciating the strength of the performances and wasn’t strong enough to win for me. As for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it seems people either love it, or found it rather tedious. I’m in the second group. It was so long (The Irishman felt like a short film compared to this) and not being familiar with the historical events that are changed, it didn’t resonate with me, the way it may do with others.

And so – my winner. Until today I wasn’t sure if there’d be a film this season that would really make me sit up in my chair and take a moment to acknowledge I’d watched something truly special. That changed earlier today, as I walked out of Parasite. I’ll review this separately, but I loved it. Clever, engaging, Shakespearian, filled with humour and darker moments in equal measure and able to convey so much about society and those at the top and the bottom in a way that hit home. For me, it’s the clear Best Picture. Will it win? I’m not so sure.

Will Win: 1917 (unless the Academy are brave and do the right thing)

My Choice: Parasite

  • Best Actor

There’s not too much to say here, as I think the winner is already obvious and in my view, rightfully so. All four (of five) that I’ve seen are very good, although not all would have made my top five. I was particularly impressed with Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes, which I really enjoyed (far more than I expected). I’d also say that, although I didn’t particularly like Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler’s performance was one that I do think deserved to be on this list and Michael B Jordan in Just Mercy should also have been in serious contention too. Yet, it’s ultimately moot, as no one was going to beat Joaquin Phoenix. He’s simply outstanding in Joker. The visual transformation is horrifying, yet it’s also the way he brings that character to life; every mannerism (the way he runs the same, whether or not he’s wearing the clown fit as one example), the different laughs and the sheer raw emotional power he brings to the screen. He’s always been a superb actor and he’s earned this one.

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix

My Choice: Joaquin Phoenix

  • Best Actress

This seems to be another category where the winner seems all but guaranteed and from the nominees listed, I’ll be happy to see Renee Zellweger win this year. I wasn’t hugely impressed by Judy (perhaps partly due to seeing the play it’s based on End of the Rainbow, which impressed me much more), but she was excellent in this. A close second for me is Charlize Theron in Bombshell. Yet, my biggest issue with Best Actress is that my Best Actress this year isn’t nominated and that’s Alfre Woodard for Clemency, playing a female prison warden of a men’s prison. It’s the performance that has stayed with me and impressed me the most and it’s incredibly disappointing she isn’t nominated.

Will Win: Renee Zellweger

My Choice: Alfre Woodard

  • Best Director

This is a tough one for me. I thought 1917 was terrific and a great achievement by Sam Mendes. Joker is also handled so well by Todd Philips, but for me the winner should be Bong Joon Ho. What he has achieved with Parasite is something very special indeed. This being the Oscars, I’m not sure who’ll win, but I have a feeling it’ll be Tarantino v. Mendes, so I’ll say Tarantino, as lots of Hollywood types seem to be in love with this film.

Will Win: Quentin Tarantino

My Choice: Bong Joon Ho

  • Actor in a Supporting Role

Having seen all five of this performances, none of them really stood out for me to be honest. They were all very good, but again, Jamie Foxx stood out in Just Mercy for me and he wasn’t nominated. It seems clear it’s Brad Pitt’s time to win, which I’m fine with and he was my favourite part of a film I didn’t really like.

Will Win: Brad Pitt

My Choice: Brad Pitt (notable mention for Jamie Foxx)

  • Actress in a Supporting Role
Laura Dern

Again, I’ve seen all four performances and they were all very good, in very different ways. It seems likely Laura Dern will win, but for me the best were Margot Robbie, whose performance in Bombshell really felt real, conveying the awful situations too many women have found themselves in and Scarlett Johansson, who brought humour, fun and a great deal of emotion to JoJo Rabbit. It’s close, but I’d go with Johansson.

Will Win: Laura Dern

My Choice: Scarlett Johansson

  • Cinematography

I’ve seen four of the five, but this surely has to go to Roger Deakins for 1917. His work is helping create the one-shot style of this film makes the film what it is. If that didn’t work, the film would have far less power than it does.

Will Win: 1917

My Choice: 1917

  • Orignal Score

Music is always hugely important to my cinema experience and a great score shines out, while not taking over the film. All those nominated do this very well this year, but it has to be Joker, as Hildur Guonadottir’s score helps to create the mood of the film and with some themes written before filming even started, the music really does feel as though it’s another character.

Will Win: Joker

My Choice: Joker

  • Original Screenplay

I’m probably starting to sound predictable by this point, but for me this should go to Parasite, for the sheer originality of the storytelling. Yet, I won’t be surprised if the Academy awards Tarantino.

Will Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

My Choice: Parasite

  • Adapted Screenplay

I think this will perhaps be where the Academy attempt to make up for that directing snub and acknowledge the work of Greta Gerwig, which I’m more than fine with, as the writing choices for this version of Little Women were a huge part of why I enjoyed it so much, although I do have a huge amount of love for JoJo Rabbit.

Will Win: Little Women

My Choice: JoJo Rabbit

  • Visual Effects

I’m assuming this will go to 1917, but for me I’d choose Avengers: Endgame; a film which deserves something for being such a damn good film.

Will Win: 1917

My Choice: Avengers: Endgame

  • Production Design

I’m less certain about this one, but I’d probably choose 1917, for creating such a very real world over the course of the journey of those characters. I’ll say the Academy will agree, but who knows!

Will Win: 1917 (maybe!)

My Choice: 1917

  • Makeup & Hairstyling

I honestly cannot decide who will win here, but personally, I think Bombshell deserves it, for all the effort to transform the actors in to those people, so that it was almost uncanny.

Will Win: Bombshell (maybe)

My Choice: Bombshell

  • Costume Design

Another one that I’m not confident about, but I’d give this to Little Women.

Will Win: Little Women?

My Choice: Little Women

………

As I’ve not seen the short films and documentaries, I won’t try and predict anything there and my knowledge of sound mixing and editing make these categories I’d be simply guessing. As for editing, I’ve heard a lot of talk about Ford v Ferrari, which as I haven’t seen, I can’t really comment.

I know this is late (blame the UK’s late release of Parasite!), but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

My films of the Decade!

I’ve reflected on my theatregoing over the decade and my top television choices, but before I look ahead to films and theatre I’m excited to see in 2020 (those posts will be up over the next few days), I thought I’d have a think about my film highlights from the last 10 years. I’ve seen some people have decided to choose one film from each year of the decade, but if this is going to be my top 10 films, then I’m giving myself the flexibility of picking more than one from any one year.

So, in no particular order, these are my favourite film since 2010. It’s a personal list. They may not be the most critically acclaimed, but they are the ones that I was most impressed by, or which I love watching again and again.

Inception (2010)

I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work (no other Batman is needed for me thanks) and not only did Inception impress me from the first time I watched it, but it is one of the few times I’ve experienced a regular public cinema audience applaud at the end of a film. It was clever, visually stunning and required its audience to focus and pay attention, not to mention a strong cast and a perfect score from Hans Zimmer.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

I admit, I struggled for a long time to choose between Infinity War and Endgame, but in the end, I went with the one that served as the final chapter of the Infinity Saga (Spiderman: Far From Home aside). I loved Infinity War, but the fact Endgame managed to tie up the stories of so many characters in one film, in such a satisfying way, was beyond anything I could have hoped for. It was also thrilling, nostalgic, and contained the right amount of emotional gut punches. Plus I could listen to the “Portals” music cue on repeat all day.

12 Years A Slave (2013)

From my first viewing at the London Film Festival, which received a standing ovation from the audience (I’ve still never experienced that since), I’ve never been able to forget this film. It’s always an emotional experience to watch it, as the shocking true story of Solomon Northup unfolds, anchored by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s utterly breathtaking and heartbreaking performance. Am I still mad he didn’t win an Oscar for this? You bet I am! An important story that needed to be told, which makes me cry every time. You can read my original review here.

Lion (2016)

Speaking of crying during a film, Lion is another example of a film which makes me cry every time I watch it! It tells the incredible true story of a young boy, Saroo, separated from his family in India, adopted by a couple in Australia who, 25 years later, finally sets about trying to find his roots and his mother and siblings, with the help of Google Earth (in its infancy back then). The film bravely leaves young Sunny Pawar, who plays Saroo as a child, to carry the film until it moves forward in time to the present day. It could have failed, but instead it draws you in to the traumatic and heartbreaking experiences he faced, which invests you so much more in travelling with him as he seeks to find where he comes from as an adult. With wonderful performances from Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, this remains a film I regularly recommend to people. You can read my original review here.

Arrival (2016)

Arrival may first appear to be just another alien invasion movie, but this is not Independence Day and I loved this new, intelligent and deeply emotional exploration of not just contact with aliens, but also of what it means to be human and the importance of language and communication. Linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams (hopefully the next decade will see her receiving some Oscar recognition), is tasked to find a way to communicate with the mysterious aliens who have appeared overnight in the USA (and in crafts around the globe). Aided by physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), the story starts in one direction and then takes you somewhere you didn’t anticipate and it stayed with me for a long time afterwards. You can read my full spoiler-free review here.

Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out may have been presented as a children’s movie, but it also speaks to every adult who sees it, highlighting how we change as we grow up and how our memories and how we feel about them can also change and the fact it works on so many levels highlights just what a superb film it is. Who doesn’t have memories that once were joyful ones, but have since been tainted by later life experiences? Yet, Inside Out reminds us that we need the difficult memories, just as much as the happy ones and it does this through a bright, colourful story about a young girl growing up and the little creatures that live inside all our heads, representing each of our emotions. I’m not sure what it says about me that Sadness was my favourite, but I loved this film and would recommend it to people of all ages.

The Hunger Games (2012)

Some may find this an odd choice, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games movies, especially the first one and return to them often. A largely faithful adaptation of the original book by Suzanne Collins, it includes a very strong performance by Jennifer Lawrence and shouldn’t be snobbily overlooked because of its blockbuster franchise label. Add to that the wonderful support from Woody Harrleson and Elizabeth Banks and this story of a dystopian world in which children are used in a fatal game for the entertainment of the wealthy and to keep the weaker of society in line, is one very worth your time.

La La Land (2016)

La La Land was always bound to be on my list of favourites of the decade. From the first time I watched it at the London Film Festival, I absolutely loved it. It was a fun, colourful, funny, love story, which brought the magic of the classic film musicals of the past back to the big screen for a new generation. The soundtrack is so catchy, the dance numbers visually wonderful and the central performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are captivating. It was a superb blend of the past and the present and I left the cinema smiling every time. You can read my original review here.

Free Solo (2018)

Another incredible film of the decade was the documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold, whose goal was to climb up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, but without any form of ropes, in what’s known as a free solo climb. The documentary digs in to his life, from his childhood and the reasons he first took up climbing, as well as his attitude towards life when his climbing goals are his main focus. Through those also in his life, whether friends or family, we also see the effect of his choices on those who care about him. Watching this on an IMAX cinema screen was quite something and the tension in the room was palpable as we watched his ascent. I kept having to remind myself that it really was real and not a fictional film!

The Lady In The Van (2015)

The stage version of Alan Bennett’s play was before my time living in London, so thankfully it was turned in to a wonderful film, again starring Maggie Smith as the lady of the title and is based on the unbelievable true story from Bennett’s own life – when an elderly lady, Mary Shepherd, who lived in a little van, moved on to his driveway and stayed for 15 years! It’s a charming British film, full of humour and poignancy, as we learn more about Mary and how she came to be living this way. Alongside that, we get an insight in to Bennett and his life as a writer, as he often discusses his predicament with an imaginary version of himself; a version he’d perhaps like to be more like if he dared. Boasting a cast full of British theatre acting talent and led beautifully by Smith and Alex Jennings, this is a film very dear to my heart.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

I was late to The Greatest Showman. I admit, the critical mauling when it first arrived in cinemas put me off and I just never made time to see it. That was until I watched in with my mum after it was available to rent on a streaming service and it was not what I expected. The main reason? I loved it! Yes, it’s a bit cheesy in places and yes, it’s not all true to the story of P.T Barnum, but it was hopeful, uplifting and made me feel lighter once I’d watched it. If I’m feeling a bit low, it’s still one of the films I turn to if I need a pick-me-up. Plus, the soundtrack is wonderful, ridiculously catchy and full of heart. I’ll be in line for tickets to the Broadway show when that finally happens too!

Paddington 2 (2017)

In the same way that The Greatest Showman brings a smile to my face as I watch it, the same is absolutely true for Paddington 2. I enjoyed both Paddington films, but it had to be the sequel on this list for the added joy of Hugh Grant! For those unfamiliar (surely there can’t be many of you), Paddington is a bear that lives with the Brown family in London (voiced by Ben Whishaw), who loves marmalade sandwiches and in this film gets caught up with the theft of an antique pop-up book and the treacherous antics of an ex-actor with a huge ego (played by Grant), trying to track down hidden treasure. It’s just such a wonderful family film, that deserved far more awards recognition.

……..

So, those are my film highlights of the year. They are personal to me and each one brings back memories that make them special. Hopefully the next decade will bring many more wonderful films too!

My Top Television of the Decade!

I’ve reflected on my theatregoing over the decade and before I look ahead to 2020, I wanted to look back at some of the fantastic television that appeared on my screen over the last 10 years.

For me, there was so much to enjoy and with the ever growing platforms, seeing everything is now just impossible and therefore I’m fully aware that my list probably won’t include some shows that you may think should have been included, so let me know what yours were. I might not even have watched them!

1. Suits (2011 – 2019)

There really could only be one show at the top of my list. Not only was Suits a series that I’ve found entertaining and engaging since 2011 when it first appeared on Dave (that’s a channel here in the UK), before later moving to Netflix, it also provided me with some of my favourite television characters and relationships of the last ten years too. For me to truly invest in a series, especially over 8 seasons, I need to care about the characters and Suits certainly provided so many characters to root for. Whether it was quirky Louis Litt, who you couldn’t stand and then loved, the complex emotional development of Harvey Specter, the bromance of him and protege Mike Ross, or the force that was Jessica Pearson, the determination of paralegal Rachel Zane, or the fabulous Donna Paulsen, whose self-confidence saw her soar, there was a character for every viewer.

Then of course there was Darvey. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know how much I loved the Donna and Harvey dynamic, making it my favourite on screen relationship (sorry Mulder & Scully). Not only all of this, but thanks to Suits and the positive aspects of social media, I’ve made some wonderful friends through the series, as well as it providing an excuse for some Toronto holidays. You were fabulous Suits. You’ll be missed.

2. Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)

I know so many people have declared the entire of Game of Thrones trash now, due to their annoyance at season eight and that’s fair enough, but for me, it’ll remain one of the best television series created and remains a favourite. Yes, season 8 was rushed. The story strands needed a few more episodes to breathe in the way they did in earlier years, but I genuinely didn’t hate any of it and mostly expected the conclusions that occurred, with the final episode not proving a let down for me (I’ve had that feeling with shows I’ve loved, so I feel for anyone who felt that way).

Crucially, I still view the series as a whole and in doing so simply see a series that brought wonderful characters to life, whether good or dreadfully unpleasant, or somewhere in between, by a superb ensemble of actors. With such a vast story to tell, any weak acting links would have damaged the series as a whole, which thankfully didn’t happen. Visually it was gorgeous (I would still happily pay to watch it on a big screen) and the accompanying score, especially in later years, was an extra character of the series. Lastly, it raised the audience expectation of what television should be and therefore helped raised the quality of television as a result.

3. Sherlock (2010 – 2017?)

They may be starting off 2020 with a new adaptation of a classic on BBC One, but its’s the first joint effort by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, which started in the summer of 2010, that I wanted to talk about now. Sherlock was another series that helped change television. It was clever, exciting, engaging and with two such superb lead performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, we shouldn’t be surprised how successful it (and its actors) have become. Yes, for me, the last series wasn’t as strong as previous ones (and certainly not the level reached by season 2), but it remained a must-watch drama that surpassed a lot of the competition. It might be back one day. I certainly hope so.

4. Line of Duty (2012 – present)

Bodyguard may have exploded in the US, earning recognition at the television awards, but it was Jed Mercurio’s first series that was unmissable viewing over the decade. Late to the party, I caught up as series two started and the interest began to grow following that shocker of a season two opener and I’ve been hooked ever since. Yes, series 3 was the pinnacle for me and those seasons since haven’t quite been as impressive, or as unpredictable, but Line of Duty is still one of the best dramas on television. Not only is the core team of Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar always brilliant, but the guest casts have provided some of the highlights of the decade, especially Keeley Hawes and Craig Parkinson. Roll on season 6!

5. Succession (2018 – present)

Having missed Succession last year, I finally joined the fan club this year, after a number of friends told me I was missing out. They were certainly correct about that, with the series providing some of the finest written and acted scripts on television at the moment. The fact the writing team includes a few playwrights doesn’t surprise me, with certain scenes feeling as if they are part of a stage play. Also, it’s very rare that a series only gets better and better, but that’s true of Succession, with its second series standing out as some of the best television I’ve seen. Its ensemble is also another big strength – Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong (who is being criminally overlooked by the awards), Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun all bring such life to these characters, as do the other supporting cast. Yes, I may not like many of them, but I love watching them. Hurry up series 3!

6. Broadchurch (2013 – 2017)

Olivia Colman may now be an Oscar winning superstar, but my favourite performance of hers of this decade is easily that of Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, alongside David Tennant. From the moment I saw episode one at a preview screening, I suspected this was going to be a very promising series and indeed series one went on to become a national talking point for weeks. The story of the murder of a young boy in a picturesque seaside town, it was tense (heightened by the superbly atmospheric score), emotional and yet still found moments for lightness, mainly thanks to the dynamic between Tennant and Colman. Later seasons may not have been as popular, but I enjoyed each series and was very sad to see it end.

7. Parade’s End (2012)

A second series for Benedict Cumberbatch on my list is Parade’s End, the five part series, adapted by Tom Stoppard, that aired on the BBC (and HBO in the USA) and his role of Christopher Tietjens is, in my opinion, in some respects better than his work on Sherlock. It was such a moving and powerful story, anchored by Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hill and Adelaide Clemens, telling the story of three people whose lives have such a significant impact on each other and are all affected by the First World War, especially Tietjens. Beautifully shot, this adaptation of a book I have struggled to try and read in the past, is a series I continue to return to every so often.

8. The Crown (2016 – present)

I’ve already spoken about the quality of television upping its game over the decade and another example of a series whose quality would in the past have been reserved for the big screen, is The Crown. Chronicling the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it impressed me right from the start (with its first two episodes remaining some of the best television of the decade for me). The production values are crazy on this series, whether the sets, costumes or score, everything is superb. Not only that, but without the talent of the original cast, including Claire Foy, Matt Smith. Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and John Lithgow, it was easy to forget this wasn’t real! Although I preferred the earlier years of the first two series, the third series (led by Olivia Colman) was still excellent television. Whether I’ll be able to sit through later seasons, as it delves in to the tragedies of the 1990s is yet to be seen, but The Crown was certainly a highlight of the last decade.

9. The Good Wife (2009 – 2016)

I admit that I didn’t love the last two seasons of The Good Wife, where I felt it lost its way a little, but it was still a firm favourite of the last ten years. This was an intelligent and engaging legal drama, during which we watched Alicia Florrick navigate a return to the legal profession after taking years away to raise her family, all for her husband to thank her by humiliating her on a national scale. Not only were the cases interesting, but the relationships of the characters kept me invested, as I rooted for Alicia to ditch her dreadful husband (Chris Noth) and pursue a relationship with colleague and old friend Will (the superb Josh Charles). Yet, my favourite relationship of The Good Wife? The friendship between Will and Diane (Christine Baranski). I loved them and could have watched them for years more.

10. The Hour (2011 – 2012)

I still don’t understand why the BBC stopped making The Hour after only two seasons. It was well received, won awards (including in the US at a time when this seemed less common) and had one of the finest casts of the time – Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, Dominic West, Anna Chancellor all helped bring this series about a television news programme and its staff, set in the 1950s, to life. I know writer Abi Morgan has spoken in the past about her desire to return to the story, perhaps in a film and I still hold on to hope that we’ll see that one day.

11. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)

Yes, this series straddled two decades, but seeing as it only continued to get better and better, culminating in such an incredible final season, it had to be included on this list. A series fully deserving of all the acclaim it received, everything about Breaking Bad lives up to expectation – the writing, directorial choices and cinematography, combined with such phenomenal acting, doesn’t come around too often. Plus it ended perfectly. It may not be a show I’ll return to as often as others on this list, whose characters I loved more, but Breaking Bad was comfortably one of the best shows ever made for television.

………

So, those are my television choices of the last decade. It really has been an impressive period for the small screen. Hopefully the 2020’s will continue to maintain this level of quality!

Television Review – Suits 9.10 “One Last Con” – Suits says farewell with a beautiful episode that is easily my favourite television finale

Well, as much as I didn’t want to get here, there’s no avoiding it. Wednesday night saw Suits fans around the globe spend one final episode with these characters, as they bid us farewell with One Last Con; an episode crammed with content that it’d be impossible for me to pick a favourite moment!

Suits has never been a legal drama to me. Sure, it’s set in a law firm, but the law has never been its focus and what pulled me in 8 years ago and has kept me coming back, season after season, was the relationships; how these work colleagues were so much more to one another; how they’d do anything for each other. That sense of loyalty, respect and love was Suits’ biggest hook for me and is the reason I feel so sad to say goodbye to this world. Few shows have a heart like Suits does.

I’m not quite ready to stop writing about the series yet, so expect a couple of reflective posts in the near future, but first, after writing about my favourite series since season 6B, it’s time to dive in to the detail, one last time……

Good riddance to Faye Richardson!

She’s gone! Finally! It’s a testament to the impact of the character of Faye that it feels as though she has been around a lot longer than ten episodes, but it was such a relief to finally see her ousted from a position making everyone’s lives miserable. Yes, when she arrived I quite liked her approach and she was right in everything she was saying.

Yet, as the season went on, she became more and more of a villain, seemingly enjoying all the hurt she was causing. Also, even when she’d witnessed first hand the morals of this family and how they cared about people and weren’t as ruthless as she claimed (when they chose not to hand her in to the Bar so it wouldn’t hurt her daughter), she still seemed hellbent on seeing things as black and white. I mean did she seriously call Harvey a snake oil salesman this week?! That’s so far from who he is, it made me want to throw something at my screen.

In Suits style, the team banded together to try and finally come out on top against Faye, first in court and then through the One Last Con of the title, which saw Harvey, Mike, Donna, Louis, Alex, Samantha, Katrina and Gretchen join together to try and force her out, admittedly using the very methods that she was there to put an end to! The staged conference room scene was great fun, especially when Samantha punched Harvey and Donna’s supposedly shocked reaction to it! Plus, seeing Gretchen (Aloma Wright has always been fabulous in this role) so enthusiastically getting behind the plan was fun too.

Yet, in the end, the only way to save the firm was for Harvey to fall on his sword for the good of his work family. I admit, I’d been worried about this, that the show would end with Harvey leaving in disgrace, so it was at least a relief to see that he left on his own terms, while also finally sacrificing something for those he loves. It was his turn, after all. Mike went to jail, Jessica and Robert lost their licences. Heck, even Donna once lost her job doing something that has since been used to try and tarnish her character, in order to protect him. It made sense that before the series ended, Harvey would finally do something for the firm, guaranteeing Faye was out, Louis gets his title back and Samantha and Katrina get to return. I’m just pleased he was happy with that choice (more on Harvey later).

Finally a happy (if somewhat bittersweet) ending for Louis Litt

We’ve certainly been on quite a journey with Louis, but I’ll save that for my reflective post. For now, I’ll say it was lovely to see him finally happy after all his ups and downs and 9.10 saw him get married, become a father to a gorgeous little girl (welcome to the world Lucy Litt!) and regain his title as managing partner. 

It’s funny, but a few years ago I’d never have imagined him as someone capable of being the calming head of the firm, but in recent years he really proved that he was capable of such a role and I’m pretty confident that the future for Litt Wheeler Williams Bennett is bright. Plus, after all the jokes over the years about his name coming last on the firm’s name, Litt no longer comes last! Litt comes first and seeing him standing by the new name on the wall was quite lovely.

Yet, the end was bittersweet for him too, perhaps more so than for Harvey and Donna, as despite all he gained this week, Louis also had to accept he was losing his two closest friends and the scene in which he hears that news made me cry, for all of them (actors included), but especially Louis and Rick Hoffman really nailed his sense of loss here (especially as this episode had also seen these three acknowledging how they were the last left from Pearson Hardman), as Hoffman also did as Louis stared at the new firm name, with a mix of pride and sadness on his face.

Thankfully, Louis being Louis, we were still treated to some comedic moments in the finale. Seeing Harvey wind him up at the top of the aisle was classic Suits (Mr Peanut! You’re not the Prince of England – I see what you did there Mr Korsh)! The washing your back comment to Stan and his continued nutty relationship with Rachael Harris’ Sheila. There was a little bit of everything. Plus the Cinderella moment during the brief ceremony cracked me up. And that’s the beauty of Louis Litt – he can make you laugh and cry (I mean who didn’t, when he was told he had a daughter?!) in mere minutes. Rick Hoffman has helped create such a uniquely quirky character and I’ll miss him dearly.

Katrina gets a promotion as the firm changes name…again!

I admit, I’d seen the spoiler online, so Katrina getting to be named partner didn’t come as a surprise, but it was still a wonderfully satisfying moment in the finale, recognising all her hard work and loyalty to the firm. With Katrina, Suits yet again demonstrated how good it was at developing its characters in an organic way that sometimes took them in directions we didn’t expect. I mean, Katrina was not hugely likeable in the beginning was she?! Yet, here we are at the end, cheering her on! 

With Alex and Samantha by her side, great things are sure to be ahead. They have all become a work team in their own right this season, which has been lovely to watch, seeing Alex develops bonds with both women and Samantha and Katrina work side by side in 9.08. Dule Hill, Katherine Heigl and Amanda Schull have truly been a pleasure to watch (and maybe the firm’s name will actually stay the same for five years)!

……right, that covers everything doesn’t it? Oh wait…..I missed something……!

Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Paulsen Specter! The greatest television couple ever!

Well, again I knew this spoiler too (I honestly hope the Suits USA promo team apologised to Aaron Korsh for that huge blunder, revealing both Darvey’s possible engagement and marriage in their promo photos), but in a way, knowing it would have an ending I would love made watching the finale a little easier.

And did I still enjoy the conclusion to what is easily, in my opinion, the greatest television couple ever created (on the page and the screen)? Of course I did! I rarely say something was perfect on TV, but this storyline in 9.10 was the perfect way to have us leave Donna and Harvey. It didn’t feel like an end. It was the beginning of a new chapter that we simply won’t get to see.

Taking it step by step, we had that incredibly sexy scene when Harvey returned home after drinks with Mike! I mean, that was hot! Then there was the subtlety between them as the plan against Faye unfolded. It was clear to me what Harvey’s ace in the hole was (I knew his name was off the wall at the end too don’t forget) and knowing they talked it through as partners was a testament to their relationship. Don’t forget, the last time Harvey was planning to leave the firm when Jessica refused to back him for partner, he simply expected Donna to follow him. This week, as Harvey realised he had no other choice left, I loved the expression on Gabriel Macht’s face and also on Sarah Rafferty’s, as he glances to her and she gives a very small smile to say she’s with him, before he gave the smallest of nods back. Details like this make me long to see these two on stage too. I have no doubt they’d be fantastic.

And then there was a proposal AND a wedding! All in one episode! I admit, I’d always assumed the writers would put them together at the very end, something I’d have been frustrated by, when you have actors as talented as Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht. I’m so pleased Aaron Korsh and the team were brave enough to go for it with season nine. Sure there will always be little things I still wish we’d got to see, but when you get so much more than you could have hoped for, then what can I really complain about?! 

And 9.10 truly delivered for these characters and the fans who love them. We got to see them, yet again, walk down the aisle over another couple’s vows that seemed written to describe them, before we were treated to the most beautiful proposal I’ve watched on screen. It’s hard to pick just one scene in the finale, but I adored this proposal – the way Harvey said he loved her and had deep down always wanted to marry her, calling her beautiful (something fans have wanted ever since season 2, when he says it to Jessica and we, alongside Donna, for a minute thought he was talking to her), giving her the ring that was his grandmother’s (just like Mike!) and the way he asks, his tone dropping as he does so. I mean, it was simply perfect.

I’d have been satisfied by just a proposal, but yet we also had a beautiful wedding in a gorgeous setting, officiated by one of the best guest characters on Suits, Dr. Lipschitz (Ray Proscia, is now even cooler – he married Darvey!), with their vows tracing through so much of their history. Harvey talks about being a gambler, which was exactly the first image we had of him in the pilot and Donna highlights all the facets of their relationship – he’s made her laugh, cry, crazy, but crucially, happy. Let’s face it, there could never have been anyone else for these two and hearing Harvey say he wanted to dance with his wife with such joy, before seeing them happily dancing together in each other’s arms, something we’ve seen before, but now comfortable in knowing their future is together, was wonderfully acted and shot (bravo to first time director Aaron Korsh).

Yes, I’d have loved to see Jessica there, but I understand why that wasn’t able to happen due to Gina Torres’ Pearson publicity schedule, so I choose to believe she did call Harvey and / or Louis to give her thoughts on the last con and to wish them well. And as for Meghan Markle? Rachel not being there for Louis’ wedding felt stranger to me than Jessica not being there, due to their close bond, but we knew it’d never happen under the circumstances. We did at least have Wendell Pierce back one last time (and he still has the photo of her on his desk). I never expected to get everything.

That could have been enough of an end for them, but having them decide to leave to go and work alongside Mike and Rachel in Seattle felt like another natural progression. My biggest worry for the finale was seeing Harvey disgraced, or forced out and although they’d have maybe stayed had he not needed to play his ace in the hole, it didn’t feel forced, which was emphasised as they told Louis the news. Harvey looked excited and happy. As he said to Sean Cahill in 9.08, he’s good with what’s in his soul. Their involvement with Faye didn’t make him want to change who he is, but over time, largely thanks to Mike, he’s realised he could be using his skills to help those less able to help themselves.

Also, the Harvey of season nine is no longer the man who relishes ruling the world of New York law. I think he may have started realising this when he knew managing partner wasn’t for him in season 7, but it’s only now that he has more than work success in his life that he understands that his happiness lies in another direction. It’s less clear to me what Donna’s role will be. COO again? Maybe, or maybe she’ll support the new firm, while also exploring other avenues for herself, but she’s mentioned how much she misses Rachel a few times these last two seasons, so knowing they’ll be reunited is lovely. What we can be sure of is that these two have a happy future ahead (and maybe the scene of Donna holding little Lucy was a way of suggesting another possible event for them in time – honestly, them being with Louis to see his little girl, was a scene I never thought we’d get, but it was just gorgeous). 

I’ve had my share of TV couples I’ve enjoyed watching and rooted for and one I dearly loved in a Mulder & Scully, but what Suits has proven with Donna and Harvey, is that you can shift a slow burn, to a relationship and continue to tell interesting stories, if you have strong writers / creators who care about their characters and talented actors like Rafferty and Macht, who bring them so vividly to life, that you feel as if you know them. I’m so grateful with how satisfying their resolution on the series was, but I’m so sad we won’t get to continue the journey with them. What isn’t in doubt though – they are the finest couple created for television and I’ll dearly miss spending time with them.

One last montage before we end with the foundation of Suits – Harvey Specter

The end of Suits. No matter how many times I watch this finale, if I haven’t teared up already, the last few minutes get to me every time. Harvey and Donna watching the everyday life of the firm continue in the bullpen. I didn’t need the reminder from Harvey to recognise the call back to Louis and Jessica in season five and it’s those little touches that help make Suits special, especially for those who’ve watched and rewatched since the show began. 

Then there was the last scene for Mike & Harvey. I’m so pleased Mike came back for the end. I didn’t love him in 9.05, but the series couldn’t have ended without him (and Patrick J. Adams) and having him and Harvey hatch one last plan, have him get to witness the proposal and marriage of his friends after all his matchmaking efforts and then have him welcome Harvey on board the team in Seattle was so satisfying. And what better way than through an interview, mirroring exactly his first meeting with his mentor and friend. We know Mike has an incredible memory, but seeing Harvey remember too was lovely (and him admitting he wouldn’t know anything from the book made me chuckle). 

And then the end. The last scene of Darvey in Harvey’s office and him saying how he couldn’t have done any of it without her. Knowing this was the last scene these two actors filmed together only added to the emotional impact of it for me. Then we saw Donna make a last walk through the halls, where she’s risen from Harvey’s secretary to COO, proving how important it is to believe in yourself, before leaving one last time with Louis (the elevator has seen many a moment between these two after all). It was such an emotional few minutes, until those elevator doors closed for the last time.

Yes, initially I was surprised her and Harvey didn’t leave together, but it made sense to give that final moment to the character who has been the centre of the series – Harvey. It’s been his journey, from a guarded, emotionally closed off man, to the man who now understands work success isn’t everything and that caring doesn’t make you weak, but strong. Seeing him spend his last few moments looking at his mother and the past he found so hard for so long, while letting the memories of the last nine seasons go through his mind was lovely. Some may dislike the montage, but it added to the nostalgia for me, although I did question including moments Harvey wouldn’t have witnessed, but hey, I’m nitpicking. Finally, what better end than Harvey picking up the never to be touched basketballs, glancing around his beloved office, before finishing a final scotch and striding out in to his new future. It was hugely emotional to watch and I think it always will be.

He’s the reason I fell for this series, due to his complexity as a character and what the writers and the incredibly talented Gabriel Macht have achieved over nine seasons is a feat few shows achieve. It’s probably the most satisfying character development I’ve ever watched and I say thank you to all involved in bringing him to life. 

…….and I suppose that’s it. No looking ahead section. Yet, as I’ve already said, with such a satisfying, happy and hopeful finale, it almost doesn’t feel like the end. They’re continuing on somewhere and we can tag along in our imaginations. This series has seen me through many ups and downs since I started watching all those years ago (thanks to a friend who watched the pilot on a plane and told me this new series would be starting soon on UK television) and I’ll miss it very very much, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world. It’s brought my comfort, escapism, laughter, tears and some incredible friends who I’d have never met without joining the show’s fandom. 

It’s more than a show to those who helped make it and to those who’ve watched it – it’s a family and I’ll be forever grateful I was a part of it.

Television Review – Suits 9.09 “Thunder Away” – as we near the end, Suits delivers another strong, satisfying episode

This week we’ve reached the penultimate episode of Suits. I hate that I’m having to write that sentence. I’m still a little in denial. Yet, before we look ahead to the finale, through episode 9.09 the writers and cast treated us to one of my favourite episodes of the season, if not the series, as the whole Suits family came together to try and rid themselves of Faye, while Harvey tried to deal with his grief, following 9.08’s heartbreaking loss.

Okay, let’s get in to the detail

Watching Harvey Specter grieve for his mother made everyone cry, right?

I maintain that Gabriel Macht doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his performance in Suits. He’s such a complex, richly textured character and this week truly highlighted how much he’s changed over the years, in large part due to him learning to let people in to his life and allow himself to be vulnerable and not see it as a weakness. Thunder Away also provided another storyline for Gabriel Macht to shine, as we watched Harvey try and come to terms with his mother’s death.

I was worried that with so little time left, it would be glossed over, either with a time jump of a few weeks, or by the need to move the story along, cutting short the time given to Harvey’s emotional state. Thankfully, writer Genevieve Sparling did a wonderful job of weaving Harvey’s pain through the storyline. Yes, there were moments he seemed his usual self, yet these were quickly followed by moments where his raw emotions caused him to lash out and struggle to hold himself together (poor Katrina was really in the wrong place at the wrong time). It was a very authentic portrayal of someone dealing with loss, which I’m sure many viewers could relate to and Macht delivered in each and every scene.

The heartbreaking eulogy at the funeral, where he reflected on how his mother had been there for him and how he wished he’d realised sooner, was so difficult to watch (especially as it also caused me to think back to the scene in The Painting when we saw him trying to deal with his father’s loss, as his mother gave the eulogy). Then there was the moment Harvey saw Mike standing at the back of the mourners, where gratitude mixed in with his grief in such a real way. The fact so many friends were there for him was so different from his father’s funeral too, again highlighting how he has let people in over the years. Then there was the moment he first looks in the envelope his brother gives to him. It’s such a delicate performance that not many actors could deliver so beautifully – the way he reacts to seeing what’s inside, trying not to break down while conveying to Marcus that he isn’t able to talk about it.

Let’s all hope that this is the last of the sadness for this wonderful character and as we know that he now has a ring in his pocket, it seems that he may finally be able to find some much deserved happiness.

……..which leads me to something that needed its own section!

Harvey has an engagement ring! I can’t quite believe it!

This is not a drill folks! Harvey Specter has an engagement ring for the woman he loves! I admit, I wasn’t sure what Darvey content we’d get this season, but I had been hoping for a proposal at the very least and now it looks like that’s a certainty for the finale!!

The moment Marcus gave him the envelope (it was so lovely to have Billy Miller back one more time), I knew what would be inside it and the scene in which Harvey read the last words he’d ever hear from his mother, while holding the ring she had hoped to pass on to him for the woman he loved, was so beautifully scripted and acted. Yet again, Gabriel Macht gave a performance that was so relatable, as sadness, mixed with a smile on knowing how much Lily wanted to meet his someone special, passed across his face in those few seconds. Plus, I appreciated the acknowledgement by the script of the fans’ excitement at the thought of seeing Donna meet Lily, through Harvey telling his brother they’d been making plans, combined with his mother’s own words. It made the fact we were never able to enjoy this moment a little easier to bear.

The Harvey / Louis relationship continues to be one of the highlights of Suits for me

I’ve said in previous reviews how much I love the evolution of Harvey’s relationship with Louis. We’ve been through so many ups and downs with them and yet this week, we reached the moment Louis Litt had been waiting for – for Harvey to acknowledge that he loves him. In a way, my reaction was similar to Louis’s. As Harvey declared Louis was someone he loved, I couldn’t stop smiling and Louis’s immediate reaction, looking up in surprise and joy was some superb acting by Rick Hoffman.

Scenes of these two together are always so loaded with history and 9.09’s moment in the bullpen was one of my favourites. There was humour, affection and even an attempt to quote movies (until Louis ran out of knowledge) and it was a scene in particular that reminded just how much I love these characters and how much I will miss them.

It was a tough week for Samantha, but her and Mike make quite a team!

Mike may have acted like a jerk in 9.05 (like Samantha, I too was raging when he called her second fiddle!), but I was thrilled he came to the funeral to lend his support to his friend, especially as the one person who understands what it’s like to lose both parents. Yet, that wasn’t all he was back for in 9.09, as he teamed up with Samantha to try and rid the Suits world of Faye Richardson, who has become more and more horrid as the weeks have passed. Having buried the hatchet, they certainly made a strong team and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one conflicted watching the court room scenes. I was rooting for them, while also knowing that Harvey and Louis winning would hopefully get Faye out once and for all (I still don’t totally trust Faye’s word though).

Having Harvey and Louis represent a woman they can’t stand, while also pitting them against their close friends (all while Harvey struggles to grieve) made for fantastic television. I had no idea where the episode would go and that kept the tension from start to end. Plus, having this follow on from the last couple of weeks, in which we’ve seen Samantha go on a road trip with Harvey and then support Louis when he needed to help his sister made it feel all the more cruel for her. Having seen her and Louis working together last week, it made his brutal attack on her in court all the more difficult to watch, yet also created some wonderful drama. I remember thinking how cruel Louis was during Donna’s mock trial in season 2, but he took that to a whole other level against Samantha.

Donna reminds Faye that no one hurts Harvey and gets away with it!

Donna was the instigator of the plot to try and remove Faye, determined to try and bring some stability back in to their lives, especially at a time when Harvey was coming to terms with such a profound loss. Not only that, but it was also Donna who reached out to Mike, knowing Harvey needed him and would clearly feel unable to ask while they were against each other in court. Yet, my favourite Donna moment this week had to be when she towered over Faye and let her know she’d be coming for her if she hurt Harvey. It was such a powerful moment between these two women and Sarah Rafferty nailed it!

Katrina makes a mistake that costs her everything

Out of all the main characters on Suits in season nine, Katrina has been the one least likely to cross lines. She’s been clear about the type of lawyer she wants to be and so it was difficult to see her crumble on being fired by Faye towards the end of the episode. After being unfairly kept out of the loop this week, it was Katrina who unknowingly made Louis and Harvey’s lives harder, by helping Mike and Samantha. Her actions were understandable. If I’d had to see Louis so cruelly go after Samantha in court, without any explanation as to why it was necessary, I’d have also felt the need to help. Yet, despite her honesty, Faye still refused to change her pattern of behaviour, instead firing yet another member of the firm. Now it’s two jobs they need to save next week!

So much nostalgia!

With two episodes left, I fully expected the Suits writers to start ramping up the nostalgia this week and I wasn’t disappointed. We had movie quotes, Harvey and Mike reflecting on the good old days, the duck painting proudly hanging in Harvey’s apartment, a reference to the can-opener, a reference to Louis’s mankini and the best one of all – Donna’s line about where it all began – Harvey taking on a fake lawyer!

Looking ahead – one last time….

I still can’t quite believe we’ve reached this point, as we wait for the finale of Suits and have one last opportunity to speculate about what might happen in the finale, which is named “One Last Con”.

First things first, I’m aware of the HUGE spoilers out in the world, but in case anyone reading this review isn’t aware of them, I’m not mentioning them! That seems fairer to me.

So that aside, what do we know? With all the personal storyline elements that need to be included in a satisfying way, I’m assuming the Faye storyline will be dealt with pretty quickly, although I’ve still no idea how that’ll conclude. Will Mike’s testimony somehow mean Samantha loses in court, but somehow keeps her reputation, allowing her to rejoin the team? And what’s the One Last Con of the title that Mike refers to in the promo? He isn’t in the loop on the deal with Faye, so is this personal in nature instead of work-related?

Faye out of the way, we have to cover Louis and Sheilas’s wedding, Harvey and Donna’s engagement, Katrina’s unemployment and the setting of the foundations for the future, so we know where our characters are likely going in their lives once they leave the screen. Will Donna and Harvey move to Seattle to join Mike and Rachel, as was raised in the last scene this week? Or maybe Boston to be closer to Marcus? Will we see Baby Litt? Will Jessica appear? Will Rachel appear? Okay, I know the last one is clearly not going to happen (no matter how much I’d love to just hear her voice on the phone)! Yes, the finale is confirmed to be a little longer in length, but that’s still a hell of a lot of plot to get through!

So far, season 9 has been one of the strongest of the series and I have all my fingers crossed that the writers have found a way to bring the series to a close in a satisfying way, that makes me laugh and cry. Let’s face it, I’m going to cry whatever happens – it’s the last episode of Suits for goodness sake!

I’ll see you all here in a few days for one last review. We can console each other!

The series finale of Suits, episode 9.10 “One Last Con” airs on Wednesday night in the USA on USA Network and will be available in the UK on Friday via Netflix. You can watch the promo here: https://youtu.be/RvUmWNJUiIA

(All screenshots thanks to Suits USA / USA Network)

Television Review – Suits 9.08 “Prisoner’s Dilemma” – a strong episode of victory & loss

I know I’m ridiculously late posting this review (so much so that 9.09 will follow not too far behind!). I blame a combination of a crazy period of work and my reluctance to acknowledge that we’re almost at the end of a series that is so very close to my heart.

After 9.07’s road trip, Prisoner’s Dilemma took us back to the familiar territory of Harvey Specter’s many enemies looking for payback and here it wasn’t just one, but the combined force of three such foes! It was an episode that reminded me how damn good Suits can be at the adversarial game-playing and even though you’re always 90% sure our Suits family will come out on top, watching the twists and turns is always so much fun. Yet, just as I was smiling along with Harvey at his latest victory, the worst possible news was around the corner, for him and the audience; news that I admit took the shine off the episode a little for me and took me quite a long time to get over.

We may as well start right there.

Another devastating loss for Harvey Specter that had me shouting at my television

Oh Harvey. Yes, he may have gloated to Faye Richardson at the start of the season that he’s the guy it always works out for, but these words seemed ominous to me then and just when I’d forgotten about them, the world turned upside down for Suits’s central character. As many know, I’m a great lover of angst and drama in storytelling, as the possibilities are so exciting, but I truly hated the choice to have Harvey lose his mother. It just seemed so unbearably cruel. They’d finally found peace and were starting to get to know each other again and there were all those moments we’d been hoping to see, in particular Lily meeting Donna. Sure, we had the phone call at the end of 9.04, but she met Paula (and inadvertently helped dismantle that disastrous relationship) and I’d been so looking forward to her possibly telling Donna about how Harvey had said how special she was.

Yet, it wasn’t to be. Seeing Donna’s face in the window (a beautiful shot from director Julian Holmes), my only question was, is it her parent or Lily? I still wish it had been one of Donna’s parents, as we could have still had the realisation for Darvey that life is short, but we’d have also seen Harvey support Donna emotionally for a change. Plus, I understood the parallels of Donna telling him of another death, but having Lily die in exactly the same way as his father and Donna telling him in almost the same way, felt a little lazy story-wise. Robbing Harvey (and also Donna) of years of being a family with his mother was a truly impactful gut punch at the end of 9.08, emphasising so tragically that even after the sweetest of victories, tragedy may not be far away. That all being said, Gabriel Macht is so superb in these moments of vulnerability and I was almost said the camera pulled away from his performance.

Not one, but three enemies from the past are determined to bring Harvey down!

This episode was also able to demonstrate just how strong a supporting cast Suits has built up over the years and had not one, but three of the shows best villains back in some way. Front and centre was Usman Ally as Andrew Malik. He’s already humiliated Donna in court, taken away Jessica’s license and tried to ruin Harvey and yet he was back to try once again. Personally I was thrilled to see him back, as he’s a character that truly stirs up trouble and tension in the best possible way and his scenes with Macht are always fizzing with animosity. Were Suits not ending, I’d have been certain we’d have seen him again in the future!

The same goes for Fortsman (played by Eric Roberts), whose history with Harvey is so deeply rooted that it’s fun to see what games he’s trying to play. Having these two team up, using the information from William Sutter (another member of the I Hate Harvey Specter club) made for such a fantastic storyline, especially when it meant that Neal McDonough’s Sean Cahill was also able to return. Another Suits favourite, he’s been involved in some of the shows most pivotal moments, especially surrounding Mike Ross’s release from prison and his and Harvey’s complex relationship was another dynamic on the screen in 9.08. Despite their differences, they can’t help but respect each other (even after Harvey punches Cahill in the face)!

In any other week, this would have been where the episode ended – Harvey dodging another bullet and now having someone waiting for him at home to celebrate with and although I couldn’t bear the decision to kill Lily, the juxtaposition between the fight to come out on top and the thrill of that success against the heartbreaking loss was very good drama.

Faye Richardson continues to become more and more detestable!

It’s funny, when she arrived at the start of the season I actually liked Faye. The way she marched in and shook the members of the firm by the scruff of their necks and let them know she wouldn’t take any crap was fun to watch and the undeniable truth was that she was totally in the right. Yet, despite that start, over the weeks, Faye has become very different, losing that veneer of fairness and in a way, like Malik, acting more as if she has a vendetta against our favourite work family. There was no reason to make Donna a secretary again and it was inappropriate and disrespectful to her professionally. Plus the way she seemed to take delight in publicly embarrassing people, or trying to undermine them. This week she seems on Team Malik, willingly taking action that could have cost Harvey his licence and seeing Donna’s confrontation with her in the bathroom was fantastic. I’m so intrigued to see how Faye exits the series. At one point I was sure it would be on a positive note, with her actually helping them, but that seems almost unimaginable now!

Suits bravely takes on one of the most important current events – the Me Too movement and succeeds

The lead plot in 9.08 was clearly Harvey’s run-in with Malik and co, but it wasn’t the only strong storyline in Prisoner’s Dilemma. While Donna and Alex were helping Harvey, Louis, Samantha and Katrina were helping Louis’s sister Esther finally get some form of justice against the former boss who assaulted her and was now seeking to take over the company she’d worked so hard to build up.

Everyone is aware of the Me Too movement and the determination to shine a light on the experiences so many women have had to endure during their lives; behaviour that until recently was seen by many to simply be a part of life. Times are indeed starting to change and I was thrilled to see Suits tackle this subject. Having met Esther before, we know how successful she is and having her need Louis’s help to protect her business meant we were able to see the impact of such an assault on a familiar character and also on Louis.

His reaction was totally understandable and Louis from seasons ago would have refused to even understand Esther’s reasons for not coming forward. Yet, Louis has grown over the years and was able to admit he’d made a mistake in how he’d handled the situation and then go on to fix it, with the help of Samantha and Katrina, which was a partnership I’d dearly love to have had more episodes to watch develop. I mean, that moment the two women confidently stride through those offices to take on such corrupt power was thrilling and had me smiling. No one messes with these women!! Well done Suits for taking this subject on and keeping it in the public consciousness. I hope more shows do the same.

Louis & Sheila – how many proposals is that now?!

Seriously, how many is it? Is it three? Or has there been more? I certainly feel as though there have been more, whether that’s true or not! Don’t get me wrong, I love Louis and I’ve always wanted to see him happy. Plus he went through such a tough time in season six (him sobbing in to Rachel’s arms broke my heart) and in to season seven, that he was due a change of fortune. My only grumble will be if the finale keeps the focus on Shouis – proposal, wedding, baby and we only get a few seconds of Harvey and Donna finding similar happiness. I guess we’ll find out next week how happy, or not, I am on this front!

No looking ahead this time!

Okay, as it’s taken me so long to post this review, I removed the looking ahead section, as you’ve no doubt all now seen 9.09. So instead, look out for my next review posting very shortly!!

Thanks as always for reading!

(All screenshots thanks to Suits USA / USA Network)

Television Review – Suits 9.07 “Scenic Route” takes us on a reflective trip in to the past

Personally, I was grateful for last week’s hiatus from this final season of Suits. With so few episodes to go, I’m happy for it to last as long as possible, but as this week’s episode was one I had been looking forward to for some time now, I was also keen to see what an episode promising to delve in to the emotional psyches of at least two of the characters would deliver.  

Aptly entitled “Scenic Route” the episode clearly had a central focus, which was Samantha’s roadtrip with Harvey to go and see her father, but as with every episode of Suits, there were also a couple of sub-plots ticking away back in NYC while they were on the road. Overall, I enjoyed 9.07, finding that each of the story strands moved the narratives on for a number of our favourite characters, which with so little time in this world left, was good to see. I did however have a few niggles about some dialogue and story choices and would also say, that although this was an emotional episode, I’d expected it to be more emotional than it turned out to be, but perhaps that’s a result of my expectations being raised in advance of the episode airing.

Anyway, time to break it down a little more.

Samantha finding some closure on her painful past was lovely to see

We may have only known Samantha Wheeler for a season and a half, but I’ve very much enjoyed her presence within the firm and have been interested to gain more of an insight in to her past over the episodes. We’ve learnt about her difficult childhood and the foster mother, Judy, who finally helped her start her life again, but it was always clear she’d suffered as a child and 9.07 gave us a glimpse in to that, seeing the foster parent who hit her and who she refers to when talking to Robert Zane after her mugging last season.

Harvey has previously commented that they were similar characters and here we see Samantha struggling to make peace with the past and move forward in much the same way as we watched Harvey grapple with the same emotional burdens over the years and therefore it made perfect sense for it to be Harvey, now freed from such pain in his own life, to go with her for support.  More on the effect 9.07 had on his story narrative shortly, but when it comes to Samanatha, I was so pleased to see it had a positive outcome. This is Suits after all, but having her father not reject her, or have even abandoned her in the first place was the ideal conclusion and on knowing her mother didn’t either, hopefully Samantha can now move forward with her life without the weight of the rejection of her parents on her shoulders. 

With the focus being on her character this week, Katherine Heigl did a great job of conveying Samantha’s fear of what she’d discover, while also allowing us to see her fun side, as her and Harvey prank Louis (more on that later). Also, top marks to the young actress playing Samantha,  who I thought did a great job of realistically portraying a younger version of Heigl.  My one grumble with this plot line – did she have to have an affair with a married family man? I totally understand the fact none of us are perfect and sometimes we do things in life we’re not proud of, but with her past, it did surprise me that she’d even consider such a fling, although it does add a new dimension to her previous encounters with Eric Kaldor, which will prove interesting on my next rewatch.

It wasn’t just an emotional episode for Samantha, as Harvey reflects on his most important relationships along the way too!

I feel as though every week I talk about Harvey Specter’s remarkable character development, but it continues to be a strong element of this last season (not to mention the series as a whole) and 9.07 further added to his 9 season arc. It may have been a trip for Samantha but, personally, I found the effect it had on Harvey and the insights we see in to his thoughts, the most exciting aspect of this plot line and which I’d been most excited about leading up to Scenic Route.

Take a minute to let it sink in, that the emotionally closed off man from season one, who pretended not to care and who kept most people at a distance, while letting the pain of his past damage his adult life, willingly volunteered to accompany a colleague on a personal trip, during which the subject of parents and childhoods was unavoidable; a trip which also required him to be the suportive voice, encouraging Samantha to forgive the past and let go of her anger. Not only that, but he enjoyed it, finding it a positive opportunity to move past his own recent run-in with Samantha too, while treating viewers to some wonderful insights in to just how he feels about Donna.

I loved all of these scenes with Harvey this week, from his call with Donna, in which they were able to joke together, before freely saying that they missed each other (he loved speaking to her so much, he forgot what he was supposed to be doing, which was just hilarious!), to him admitting to Samantha that on some level he’d always wanted to be with Donna, but couldn’t access it. Now that’s what I call validation for those of us who’ve thought this for years! My only grumble in this story element was that I wanted more of it! I’d have happily seen his conversation with Samantha delve a little deeper in to all of this material, but I suppose there isn’t ever time for everything.

The episode also threw in another satisfying strand for Harvey, which was him coming to see that his father wasn’t perfect, that he’d sometimes let him down as a parent and that his mother had clearly tried her best to protect him from such disappointments. Seeing Harvey be so well developed emotionally now, that he can come to these realisations without Donna having to point them out, is a testament to the years of writing and Gabriel Macht’s ever-impressive performance, culminating in my favourite scene of the episode, when Harvey calls his mother to say sorry and to tell her he loves her and feel that love and acceptance from her in return. For me, this was the most emotional scene of 9.07 and I loved every second of it, as it truly felt like the final piece of the puzzle for Harvey letting go of all of that pain. Also, this was a lovely callback to last week, where he discovered Faye had done exactly this for her own child. Yet again, Suits emphasises one of the show’s founding storylines – family. 

…….There was another key aspect of 9.07 that involved Harvey, but that deserves its very own section…!

As Donna & Harvey’s relationship continues to grow, we saw the return of a very important canvass!

The iconic duck painting is back folks! I admit, I’d missed seeing it hanging on Harvey’s wall. It was always such a strange addition to Mr Cool’s world, until it’s importance was laid out for us, only for it to be so cruelly taken from him in 6.02. Yes, it was replaced by the photograph of his mother painting it, which had powerful significance all of its own, marking the start of Harvey’s new relationship with his mother, but I’d always hoped the painting would come back home and who better to get it back than Donna! The fact that the writers were able to weave Alex in, thanks to his former client’s art world connection and Katrina with her cultural contacts, again highlights the attention to detail the Suits writers include in their stories and it’s these touches which add to the enjoyment of watching the show for loyal fans.

There’d been plenty of discussion online about whether it could be a new painting, but for me it had to be this one for it to make sense and I was relieved to hear Donna confirm that Harvey has the real version, not the copy. We don’t need to know how she swapped them, she’s Donna!

This storyline also gave me scenes with two of my favourite pairings in the series – Darvey (obviously!), but also Harvey and his mother.

Over season nine so far, I’ve felt Harvey has been the more emotionally open one out of the Darvey pair and I’d been keen to see Donna show a little more emotion and vulnerability towards him, so having her tell him she loved him, not once but twice this week was lovely. Hearing them acknowledge to others and each other in 9.07 that they missed the other was also a sweet addition, further highlighting just how far they’ve come at communicating how they feel and having Donna retrieve such a special item for Harvey was also a beautiful way of her showing him just how much she loves him. As for his reaction? I loved him calling her perfect and that he seemed somewhat overcome by his emotions (which Macht always delivers so damn well) and as I’ve already said, I liked that he wanted to call his mother.

However, I was disappointed that, having missed each other and then seeing this incredible gift and hearing the woman he loves say she loved him, Harvey didn’t even look at Donna. It seemed a bit odd to me. No loving smile? No quick kiss before he made that call? This wasn’t my only Darvey grumble this week either, as I personally didn’t love the opening scene. The I love yous were both sweet, but again, no kiss? Also, what was that “most women wouldn’t like their men doing this” dialogue?! It felt very out of character for Donna and Harvey. Why would she be jealous of Samantha? Why would he feel the need to say it and “their men”?! Maybe Harvey likes the idea of Donna being possessive, but for me it was just a bit cringeworthy.

……..speaking of cringeworthy…….

Louis Litt is…………..Harvey Specter????!!

Maybe the writers understand how much we’ll all miss the quirkiness that is Louis Litt and that’s why this season seems to have taken him to another level when it comes to bonkers behaviour. We’ve had the blindness to Darvey (which I can accept seeing as they’d messed about so long, it may have seemed impossible to him that they’d ever sort themselves out!), the mankini, the Cinderella role play and now we’ve had Louis Litt donning a wig and acting like Harvey.

Was it fun? A bit, but it also felt a step too far into fantasy land for me. I kept expecting him to be dreaming and wake up (similar to the bonkers court scene earlier this season), especially during that surreal lunch scene. I’ve always loved the complexity of Louis’s character, who has been nasty, vindictive, caring, vulnerable and so very quirky, all of which Rick Hoffman has nailed over the years, but he’s never felt like a joke and this storyline was taking him down that path. It was also a little strange to see how Louis supposedly sees Harvey in this episode, as he portrays him as an arrogant, rude, greedy person during that lunch scene. Also, referring to Rachel as Mike’s woman?! No Louis. None of this is Harvey and hasn’t ever really been Harvey. The Louis of a few seasons ago, I can buy viewing his friend this way, but season 9 Louis? After all they’ve been through? Is this really how he still views Harvey, or thinks the world views Harvey? I wasn’t convinced.

Of course, I also understand that the writers wanted a plot line this week which lightened the mood, to balance against all the emotional content and I didn’t dislike all of Louis’s storyline in 9.07. Donna’s reaction to the wig was a classic, as was Louis’s comment about how Harvey can eat so much and still be so thin while he needed a nap. I also loved seeing Harvey and Samantha pranking him over the phone, especially as this allowed us to see Harvey practically crying with laughter! Plus, it was lovely to see Louis and Harold reunited, when their dynamic was such a big part of earlier years.

It also seems clear that this had a bigger purpose for Louis’s narrative as, it seems, he finally realised that he doesn’t need to be Harvey (or what he thinks being Harvey means) and is comfortable and happy with who he is. I hope the Louis we see for the rest of the season is one people can take seriously. It’s what he deserves.

A few final observations

This week there were also a few moments that I wanted to comment on, but which didn’t fit in to any of the story narratives.

  1. Someone please give Harvey a burger! The man has been desperate for them for nearly two seasons now!
  2. Someone (I’m looking at you Donna) take Harvey on a proper vacation. If he thinks this 2 day road trip is so much fun, the man clearly needs to take more time out!
  3. The hilarity of the Suits timeline continues – this week with Louis suggesting in the last six months Zane has been disbarred, Faye arrived and he lost his title. Umm, 9.01 and 9.02 followed straight on from 8.16 and in 9.05, they said it had been a month since Harvey gave Samantha his client in 9.02. Then 9.06 followed straight on, as did this one, so six weeks yes, six months? Nope!
  4. I loved the Gandalf references, especially Katrina thinking he’s connected to sports!
  5. Where was Faye when Louis was strutting around the office in that wig?! Did she have the day off?!
  6. Oh and during that lunch scene with Louis, did anyone else immediately think of Chris Pratt on hearing the song used in Guardians of the Galaxy?!

Looking ahead!

Next week is called “A Prisoner’s Dilemma” and from the promo we know that Malik is back, arresting Harvey for conspiring with a federal prosector. Is the prisoner Harvey, or could it be someone like Forstman, trying to get a deal for release by ratting out Harvey? We also know Sean Cahill is back this season and I assume he’s the person Harvey is accused of colluding with, which means this could all track back to their dealings surrounding Mike’s release in season 6. I bet Malik would love to nail them both for that, but why is Harvey punching Cahill in the face in the promo released last week? Has he turned on Harvey?

The episode also looks to see Donna going up against Malik, which is going to be a charged scene after he accused her of sleeping with Harvey to get to COO and now they are together, I bet Malik has something to say about that! I also don’t think it’ll be Faye who’s turned on Harvey, that feels too obvious, unless she fires him immediately, as she did with Samantha.

From the promo photos for 9.08, we also know that Louis’s sister Esther is back as well, which is interesting, after her coming up in conversation between Harvey and Samantha this week. The synopsis says she has a problem only Louis can help with. Is it business, or personal? I’m guessing the promo scene of Louis asking Samantha for help links to this plot line and probably also Katrina wanting to help too, seeing she’s always there to support Louis. I guess we’ll find out next week!

Suits season 9 continues next week with 9.08 “A Prisoner’s Dilemma” which airs on Wednesday on USA Network in the US and Canada and will be available in the UK on Netflix on Friday. You can watch the promo here: https://youtu.be/w78Fc3ibLvs

Television Review – Suits 9.06 “Whatever It Takes”

After the firing of Samantha in the final moments of last week’s episode, it seemed clear that this week would centre around the fight to get her job back, inevitably putting the gang of Specter Litt Wheeler Williams at odds with Faye Richardson.

Overall, comparing it to the rest of the season so far, this may be my least favourite instalment. It just felt a little flat to me in a way I find hard to put in to words, but that aside, it was still an enjoyable episode of the series, with plenty to discuss.

There are certain lines they won’t cross – family ones

For anyone who has watched Suits for any period of time, but especially those who have been here since the start, the importance of family and loyalty to family, has always been a key element of the storylines. Therefore, it was great this week to see that thread pulling our favourite work family in two different directions – the desire to help one of their own family vs. the fact that to get Faye, it will mean harming her family. Seeing that struggle, especially for Harvey, was fascinating to watch and it took Donna voicing the truth they both knew for him to let it go. Louis already seemed uncomfortable with the plan and ultimately, as Donna tells Faye, there are some lines they won’t cross.

I’m starting to really believe that Faye’s reputation for ethics will prove a help to the firm before the season is over. She may be the one person whose opinion, if vouching for any trouble they get in to by the end, would be taken seriously.

The Samantha & Alex bond continues to strengthen and I love it

I’ve said in previous reviews how I’m enjoying the building up of Samantha and Alex’s friendship and that I wonder how much this is setting up this pair leading a firm at the end of the series. This week that bond continued to grow, as we saw Alex taking some risks to help her try and set up Gavin Andrews (let’s face it, he deserved it). All too aware that she was set on doing something that could blow up in her face, this time Alex was all in, doing all he could to help her. Mind you, neither of them thought to draw up an immunity deal for the FBI to sign?! Seriously?!

…..which brings me to……

They’ll always need Robert Zane!

When I saw Wendell Pierce at the theatre following a superb night of his London stage debut (he’s back in October and I urge you all to come and see him), after me telling him that we’d miss him on Suits, he said he’d be “slipping back there” and this week saw the return of Robert Zane! He may not have been gone long, but I’ve already missed him. Together with Jessica, they always felt like the adults keeping the kids in line and I’d already missed that element on the show.

Case in point this week – him verbally spanking Harvey on the street to make sure he was doing all he could be doing for Samantha! When he told him to get upstairs and get on with it, it had me laughing. Not many people could boss Harvey around, but Robert is certainly one of them! Also, without his dynamic with Rachel in the series anymore, his affection for Samantha was a lovely way of keeping that type of relationship present in the series’ narrative and so bringing him back when she was in trouble made perfect sense. And as I mentioned above, thank god he was there to sort out that immunity agreement! Hopefully we’ll see him again before the series ends, but for now, welcome back Wendell Pierce!

…..From a welcome return, to an unwelcome one…….

Go away Brian!

Honestly, I really liked Brian when he was first introduced and his friendship with Katrina was sweet. Then came perfume sniffing and longing looks while holding his baby and I couldn’t stand him! So having him back was a little irritating, especially when it meant I had him AND Susan in one episode, but thankfully Katrina didn’t do anything stupid. Well done Katrina. You can do much better. I’d still be wary of Susan though.

Then there was the call back to what is probably my favourite episode…

I sometimes change my mind and who knows what I’ll say once the series ends, but I always tend to return to season six’s The Painting being my favourite episode. It was such a pivotal story for Harvey and Gabriel Macht was so damn good. Therefore, the call back to that episode included in 9.06 was wonderful. Gabriel Macht is so underrated by the television awards circuits for his performance in the show and it’s a shame, as I can’t think of a more satisfying example of character development. Seeing the new Harvey struggling to do something the old Harvey would have done, was wonderfully executed, culminating in him and Donna in the same office, gazing at a photograph of a painting that meant so much to him and her giving him permission to let it all go. She didn’t want him to be that man and they both knew he didn’t either. Seeing him on the verge of tears, the two of them side by side was just beautiful and quite emotional.

On the subject of Donna and Harvey’s growing romantic relationship, I’ve seen a lot of online discussion about the lack of physicality and I admit, I’m in the middle on this. I love everything we’ve seen so far, all the initial milestones they’ve navigated about communication and their future and overall I’m satisfied so far. Yet, I can also understand those feeling frustrated by the lack of physical intimacy between them. We’re not talking passionate scenes in the bedroom, but the holding of a hand, or a quick kiss. In a way the lack of those moments in the last two weeks perhaps only emphasises just how much they’ve always been a couple in almost every respect, as their behaviour towards each other hasn’t hugely changed, but equally, I’d love to see a little more too. Time will tell as to what else is planned for Darvey, but as someone who was certain they’d get together in the last episode, season 9 is a huge bonus!

….and lastly……

Harvey throwing Louis a baby shower? Hell yes!!

This was a storyline I didn’t know I needed until the mighty Gretchen suggested it. It’s such an unexpected addition, which I assume means we’ll see it before the end, or perhaps that’ll be how it all ends; all the gang together at the baby shower. Whatever the circumstances, I loved this scene, from Harvey’s initial reaction, to Gretchen’s scolding (between her and Robert, Harvey really was put in his place this week) and then Louis’s response. Rick Hoffman has given us so many character traits that are so very Louis and his hugs is a favourite of mine, as are the reactions they get from the recipients! Plus if planning this party helps Donna and Harvey to open up to each other more about whether they’d want a family, that would be fascinating to see too.

Looking ahead!

Suits is taking a break from season 9 next week, instead airing the pilot, plus some new cast interviews, but we have a clear idea of what we’ll be seeing in 9.07, called Scenic Route. As was set up at the end of this week, we’ll be seeing Harvey taking a road trip with Samantha, as she goes in search of her biological father. We all know how important family is to Harvey and how close he was to his own father, so I think it’s a great choice to have him go with her.

From the newly released photos, it also seems that Donna has picked herself up a large painting. Has she managed to get back Harvey’s cherished duck painting, or has Lily created a new one for them? By the looks of the shot above, whatever it is certainly strikes an emotional chord with Harvey and I’m keen to find out! Although not too keen. With only 4 episodes left, I’m happy to wait a little and enjoy having Suits on my screen a bit longer!

Suits season 9 continues with 9.07 “Scenic Route” on 4th September in the US on USA Network and on 6th September on Netflix in the UK. Next week, USA Network are airing the pilot episode with new cast interviews. Watch the promo here: https://youtu.be/o8RAbdWPJFM

Television Review – Suits 9.05 “If The Shoe Fits” Welcome back Mike……well, sort of….

So, we’ve reached the midway point of the final season of Suits. How on earth are we here so soon?! Going in to 9.05 and there was one element that was the focus – the return of Mike Ross! The idea of the show ending without him seemed unthinkable. But…..was his return worth the wait? That’s a different question (more below).

If The Shoe Fits was an episode that allowed all of the show’s central characters to have a significant slice of the storylines and as with many Suits episodes, the title played on a number of levels, from direct fairytale (albeit a dirty one), to a bigger question about the personalities of our gang. Behaviour that used to “fit” certain characters, was, this week, being tested out by others, not always for the better, while others were questioning whether their characters actually fitted them anymore. There was certainly lots to think about.

So……..let’s get in to this!

I’ve missed you Mike! Actually………maybe not……

That pretty much sums up my current thoughts on Mike Ross this week. Don’t misunderstand me, I love Patrick J. Adams and having him back on Suits is fantastic, but only to a certain extent, because by the end of 9.05, I was happily waving Mike off again. Need help packing Mike? Let me call you a cab. The reason? Well, let’s start with all the great elements of having Mike back, before I get to the grumbles.

First and foremost, I’ve missed the Marvey bromance so much! The relationship between Harvey and Mike has always been a series highlight and indeed shaped the show from the start and Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams always clearly enjoy playing off each other on screen. It was fun to see that again and it made me feel incredibly nostalgic, which seems appropriate during the final season. The opening scene was particularly lovely. “The lock was broken. Your brain is broken.” I’ve missed their banter and having them back, as if no time has passed, was a joy (I did miss the movie quotes though). I would have loved a little more chat about the Darvey romance too. Mike was the lead cheerleader after all!

I also agree with the writers that having Mike simply come back for a visit with no purpose wouldn’t have been very dramatic and watching him and Harvey come up against one another is always fun. But, the Mike Ross that arrived this week seemed to be wanting to try on daddy’s clothes and see if they fitted. Mike has never seemed to want to be Harvey. He admired Harvey and wanted to learn from him, but he was always his own person. Yet, the way he swaggered in and threw his weight around, felt very much like the son trying to beat the father and it didn’t feel quite right for the character of Mike. Sure, he’s driven and passionate, but he came off as arrogant and, to quote Samantha, a douche.

The way he dismissed Samantha from the start particularly grated on me. I’ve seen first hand so many times women are disregarded like this by men at work and seeing Mike so casually assume she was beneath him in terms of ability was annoying. Plus, it’s fine having him come all the way back to take on Harvey. I get that. They were competitive to some extent, but to spend ages planning how to get the better of your old friend and mentor just to get a win? Again, it didn’t feel like the Mike we knew.

And then there was how things were left between him and Harvey. This new emotionally intelligent Harvey Specter is not obsessed with winning all the time and having been beaten fair and square, he took the defeat with grace. Heck, when he thought he’d won, he still prioritised going to Mike to make sure they were “still good.” Again, the friendship mattered more than the business to him. Yet, on Mike discovering Samantha had beaten him (albeit in a shady way), he took it out on Harvey! Sorry Mike, but Harvey did nothing wrong. You lost to a woman you stupidly dismissed and Harvey simply wasn’t prepared to screw her over to help you out. That’s fair! You wanted to be on opposing teams. You can’t suddenly expect him to switch sides when it suits you! The “You’ve lost yourself, Harvey” line really annoyed me. That shoe certainly fit Mike by the end of 9.05, not Harvey Specter.

Having said that, it was great drama to watch, but what could have made it more enjoyable for me? If Donna had gone and told him he was in the wrong (although it was nice to see a scene between Mike and Louis), or if Mike had actually realised Louis was right and that leaving in a huff, without making things right with someone so important to him, was just out of character. Where’s Rachel when you need her?!

I think the only reasons I’m not more disappointed by how this storyline ended is that it was lovely to have Patrick J. Adams back and because I already know he has been filming for the finale, so at least I know that the last time we have them together is not going to be this argument. Hopefully when we see you again Mike, you’re acting like yourself and not trying to channel a version of Harvey that doesn’t exist anymore.

…..Talking of Harvey……….

The week where Harvey Specter didn’t get anything he wanted

Photo: Shane Mahood/USA Network

Poor Harvey. He’s come so far emotionally in recent episodes and is clearly ridiculously happy with where he is in his life now (and who he is sharing it with). Yet, 9.05 saw him not getting anything he wanted once that first scotch with Mike was finished. His night in with Donna and a pizza watching his favourite TV show? Sorry, Harvey. Not tonight. Being able to trust one of his partners to not put them / the firm at risk under the scrutiny of Faye Richardson? Nope, no luck there either. How about a wine and cheese night with your girlfriend and your adopted son? Yeah, sorry Harvey. That’s off the table too.

Seeing Harvey so angry with Samantha on hearing what she’d done and then watching him still have her back was lovely and very him, as was him immediately going to tell her what he thought of her actions. He’s loyal to his team after all. Yet, I felt so sad for him when his clear excitement at spending the evening with Donna and Mike (he sounded like an excited child when Mike arrived) quickly fizzled out and ended in disaster. You were mean, Mike Ross! I can only hope Donna cheered him up after the credits rolled.

…….Talking of Donna and Darvey……

Donna was back to supporting everyone else this week

Photo: Shane Mahood/USA Network

Recent episodes have more heavily focussed on Darvey and Donna too (look at last week when the partners marched together to defend her), so this week it was perhaps understandable that both of these aspects took a slight backseat. We were still able to enjoy seeing Donna trying to recreate her fun nights out with Rachel, before realising that’s not actually what Katrina needed (I did love her reaction to Katrina downing that shot too!). We also saw her defend Harvey to Mike, albeit that was far too brief for my liking and it would have been nice for her to say more then, or afterwards.

As for Darvey, 9.05 was light on the most recent Suits romance, but that was okay with me. What we did get to see added further layers of authenticity to their relationship. Chatting on the phone about just enjoying a night in, sharing their favourite, secret television pleasures, seeing how Harvey already knows the weird pizza toppings she likes and then seeing true married couple behaviour, as they prepared for their night with Mike, bickering playfully about who did the shopping! Sure, it would have been nice to see a little more physical affection, but what we are getting between these two is so much fun and continues to truly settle them in to what will be their future once we say goodbye. That scene seeing them bickering about groceries? That’s what we can picture them doing for the next 40+ years!

Katrina Bennett steals the show!

I’ve mentioned in previous weeks how much I’ve enjoyed seeing more of Katrina and this week Amanda Schull really stole the show! I was not a fan of the direction they chose to take Katrina’s friendship with Brian and I certainly don’t want that to be revisited (she can do better), but the scene in which she leaves the voicemails was the episode highlight for me! Your F-buddy! Plus the inclusion of Mother of Pearl, which Schull herself seems to use when she doesn’t want to swear was just fabulous and really let us see more of her comic timing.

The scene in which she had drinks with Donna was also lovely, with Donna for once not judging the situation correctly. Plus, having had drinks in that same bar, it was fun to see it on screen! Oh and just when it couldn’t get any better Katrina is going to ballet class, another nod to Schull herself. Let’s hope Katrina gets to have some more fun this season. Personally, I still think she should go out on a date with Stu!

Finally an episode where I liked Sheila

I liked Sheila when she was initially introduced, but in recent seasons I found her character changed so much, becoming a rather unpleasant person, who frankly was causing Louis emotional heartache. So, it was lovely that this week I actually started to like her again. The role play scenes with Louis were good fun and it seems clear that Racheal Harris and Rick Hoffman get on well and I loved the moment in therapy when they both dropped the roles and were themselves with one another.

Yes, I do feel conflicted about how I feel about Sheila’s 360 degree change on having kids. She’s gone from not wanting them, to now seemingly not wanting her career anymore in favour of her child. For Sheila this week, it was her own character and life priorities that didn’t seem to fit anymore. That does feel a bit of a stretch of her character in my opinion, but seeing her and Louis open up to one another in the end was rather lovely (with the exception of her calling Dr. Lipschitz a Nazi. That wasn’t funny the first time and it’s still not funny). Hopefully baby Litt arrives before the season is over and we get to see these crazy role-playing kids happy and settled.

Alex continues to be the voice of reason on all fronts

Alex Williams has really started to come in to his own this season and his growing friendship with Samantha has been lovely to watch. What has also been interesting is his positioning as the most responsible of the named partners, heightened this week by Faye Richardson wanting him to keep an eye on the battle between Harvey, Samantha and Mike. He may not agree, but it’s interesting that he is perhaps the steady hand the firm needs. Yet, my favourite Alex moment this week was his scene with Louis, in which he acts as the voice of every fan watching, when he declares how screwed Louis is! Chances of Louis taking his advice and doing nothing when it came to Sheila – we all knew there was no chance that would happen and seeing Alex chuckling about the impending disaster was great fun to watch.

Is this the end of the road for Samantha Wheeler?

Well, with five episodes left, I think it’s safe to say that Samantha won’t be fired for long! Let’s face it, almost everyone at the firm has been fired, resigned, or been forced to leave at some point – Louis, Donna (x2), Katrina, Gretchen nearly resigned, Harvey, Robert Zane, Jessica. Heck, it’s almost a badge of honour!

I’ve loved Samantha from day one and seeing her get fired was tough, but Faye wasn’t wrong. Samantha made the wrong choice and as a result she put the firm, herself and Harvey in a difficult position. The fact Faye was suggesting it was Harvey who had been shady was also interesting. She’s a smart woman. Did she know it was really Samantha and was testing her, to see if she’d let Harvey take the fall? Either way, it was great to see Samantha not let that happen. It shows just how far she’s come becoming part of this family. Next week is certainly going to be a rollercoaster!

………which leads us to speculation for next week…….

Looking ahead!

Next week is called “Whatever It Takes” and I assume will focus on the firm fighting for Samantha’s job. I can’t believe she won’t be reinstated over the next couple of weeks, but it’ll be interesting to see how that happens. Behind the scenes photos from filming have also suggested that Harvey and Samantha go on a road trip in a future episode. If true perhaps it’s a way for them to build trust again, having seen it broken this week, as she searches for her biological parents. The promo also shows that the mighty Robert Zane is back, which makes sense when Samantha is at risk. It’ll be great to see Wendell Pierce on the show again.

The worst part of next week? It’s 9.06, meaning we are starting to inch ever nearer to the series’ end (filming will also be finished by then too, which is far too sad to think about). Seriously, maybe the next five episodes should be shown every other week to make this last longer!

See you all next week!

Suits season 9 continues next week with 9.06 “Whatever It Takes” on Wednesday night in the US/Canada on USA Network. Episodes continue to arrive in the UK on Netflix each Friday. You can watch the promo for 9.06 here: https://youtu.be/TdB9mY8xUvU

(All screenshots courtesy of Suits/USA Network)

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