Having looked back on my favourite theatre productions of 2018 and a little later than I planned (sorry about that!), I’m taking a look at some of the exciting theatre already announced for 2019. It’s worth bearing in mind that at this time of year, we still don’t know what shows will be arriving in many theatres in the back half of the year, but there are already a number of productions on the horizon that should be on your radar. I also admit that my list is always weighted towards London, as it’s my base, but I’m always keeping an eye on regional theatres and have included some I’m planning to see within this list (as well as a few NYC highlights).
So, here’s my snapshot of 19 shows I’m excited to see in theatreland in 2019!
1. All About Eve (Noel Coward Theatre, 2nd Feb – 27th April)
Top of the list for 2019 for me is All About Eve, which moves in to the Noel Coward Theatre next month. There are a number of reasons I’ve been looking forward to this production. First and foremost, I’m a huge Gillian Anderson fan and having seen her in A Doll’s House and A Streetcar Named Desire (both here and in NYC), it’ll be thrilling to see her on stage once again. Throw in to the mix the director, Ivo van Hove, whose work I always find thrilling and I’m counting the days until my first visit.
2. Death of a Salesman (Young Vic, 1st May – 29th June)
Arthur Miller seems to be the trendy choice in London theatres this year, with a couple on this list as well, but I’m probably most excited about the Young Vic’s new production of Death of a Salesman, an Arthur Miller classic that I confess I’ve never seen. Director Marianne Elliott’s work is always superb (from Curious Incident, to Angels in America and rewriting Sondheim for the new production of Company), plus the cast includes Wendell Pierce (which is exciting for me as a Suits fan) and Sharon D. Clarke (who is certainly having a busy theatre year; more from her later). The Young Vic is producing such brilliant work at the moment, that I’m sure this will be another hit.
3. All My Sons (Old Vic, 15th April – 8th June)
The Arthur Miller continues just down the road at the Old Vic, which has assembled an impressive cast for London’s latest production of All My Sons, which includes Sally Field, Bill Pullman, Colin Morgan and Jenna Coleman. I always enjoy this play (the David Suchet one from 2010 my current favourite), so it’ll be fun to see how this one compares. If you’re hoping to pick up a cheaper ticket for this, then register for emails about the PwC previews, which will go on sale five weeks before the show starts, offering £12 tickets for the first few previews.
4. Three Sisters (Almeida, 8th April – 1st June)
The Almeida is another one of my favourite theatres right now and I’m incredibly excited that the dream team of director Rebecca Frecknall and actress Patsy Ferran are back together again for their new production of Chekhov’s play, following the superb Summer & Smoke (which finishes on Saturday, so you still have a couple of days to see it).
5. Grief Is The Thing With Feathers (Barbican, 25th March – 13th April)
There’s always something I was intending to book and then forget, only to find myself hoping for returns, or day seats later and on this list that award goes to Grief is The Thing With Feathers. I’d been tempted to try and go and see this in Dublin last year, so I’m kicking myself that, for the moment, this is sold out for its Barbican run. Cillian Murphy is a fabulous actor and I’d suggest that, like me, you keep your eyes peeled for tickets for this.
6. Betrayal (Harold Pinter Theatre, 5th March – 1st June)
I admit, I’m not a huge lover of Pinter, but I actually rather enjoy Betrayal and having enjoyed his performance in Coriolanus at the Donmar, I’m looking forward to seeing Tom Hiddleston back on stage again (no, I don’t count the RADA Hamlet that was near impossible to get tickets for!) and directed by Jamie Llloyd. This will hopefully be a strong end to the current Pinter at the Pinter season.
7. Dear Evan Hansen (Noel Coward Theatre, TBC)
Dear Evan Hansen was one musical I’d heard so much about and in 2016 I was fortunate to see it twice in NYC. It’s an emotional story, with a powerful message that no matter how low you feel, you’re never truly alone, if you reach out for support and I’m thrilled it’s finally making its way across the Atlantic. I’m sure the British cast will be fantastic and the musical’s message is universal, but I admit, as someone who saw Ben Platt in the lead role, I find it difficult to picture anyone else in the role of Evan.
8. Emilia (Garrick Theatre, 8th March – 15th June)
Emilia was another production that I missed during its first run at Shakespeare’s Globe which, thanks to a West End transfer, I now get to enjoy. Everyone I know who saw this story about Elizabethan poet, Emilia Bassano, (who I confess I knew very little about before this play arrived in 2018), loved it. Bassano wrote the first published work of poetry by an Englishwoman and is rumoured to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets, yet her life is just as fascinating and worthy of exploration and attention. I certainly won’t be missing out on this show again!
9. Blues In The Night (Kiln, 18th July – 7th September)
Currently wowing audiences at the Playhouse in Caroline Or Change, Sharon D. Clarke is heading back to North West London (having opened Caroline Or Change at the Hampstead Theatre last spring), to the Kiln (formerly Tricycle) Theatre later in the year, to star in this revival of Sheldon Epps’ musical, which was last seen in London 30 years ago. This is after she’s stopped by the Young Vic for a previous entry on this list, so she’s certainly keeping busy! She has an incredible voice and the Kiln continues to be a wonderful venue following completion of its transformation work, so this should be a treat for the summer.
10. When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other (National Theatre – Dorfman, 16th January – 2nd March)
I have mixed feelings about this entry. It’s absolutely one of the most talked about productions of 2019, which caused a great amount of grumbling when tickets were only available by ballot. The combination of Martin Crimp, Katie Mitchell and Cate Blanchett is intriguing though and having been lucky in the ballot, I’ll be seeing what all the fuss is about next week. A limited number of day seats are available from the National each day.
11. Dear Elizabeth (Gate Theatre, 17th January – 9th February)
This new play by US playwright Sarah Ruhl, whose In the Next Room (or “The Vibrator Play”) I saw a few years ago, has just started its run at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre. The play will tell the story of poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, who exchanged regular letters for decades. The production is also choosing to switch its cast, with two different actors taking on the play each performance. The list includes some brilliant talent including Alex Jennings, Jonjo O’Neil and Tamsin Greig.
12. A Very Expensive Poison (Old Vic, TBC)
No clear dates yet, but this forthcoming new play already sounds very promising and is certainly addressing current global tensions. It’s written by Lucy Prebble, whose wonderful work includes The Effect and ENRON and is set to tackle the story of the death of Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko. This is certainly one to keep an eye on for further details.
13. Come From Away (Phoenix Theatre, from 30th January)
Another Broadway musical opening shortly in London is Come From Away, which I thoroughly enjoyed a couple of years ago in NYC. Through just 90 minutes, it tells the heartwarming story of the community of Gander in Newfoundland, Canada which, on 11th September 2001, found itself the temporary home of thousands of stranded airline passengers. The link to 9/11 may make you think twice about booking, but it’s a lovely show, that reminds us of the goodness we are capable of, which is these crazy times, is something everyone needs to be reminded about.
14. Mother Courage and Her Children (Manchester Royal Exchange, 8th February – 2nd March)
Manchester’s Royal Exchange is collaborating with the theatre company Headlong for this new adaptation of Brecht’s work, which will see Julie Hesmondhalgh taking on the role of Courage. The website suggests that this production will bring the story “bang up to date” and I’m intrigued to see exactly what they have in mind.
15. Standing At The Sky’s Edge (Crucible, Sheffield, 15th March – 6th April)
I’m a huge fan of Sheffield Theatres, which continues to produce some fantastic shows and the one I’m most looking forward to from its upcoming season is Standing At The Sky’s Edge, which is a new musical about Sheffield itself, telling the story of the residents of Park Hill flats over 50 years (Doctor Who fans will recognise the buildings from the latest season too). Having grown up in the city, it’ll be fun to see a musical all about the lives of people in Sheffield!
16. Peter Gynt (National Theatre – Olivier, 27th June – 8th October)
Further details of this production have been released today, but this is a show that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. No, I haven’t seen Peer Gynt before, but I have seen James McCardle on stage a number of times and he’s such a superb actor that I’ll see him in anything and this will see him take on one of Ibsen’s most famous characters in a new “radical” adaptation by David Hare. I imagine I’ll be seeing this one more than once!
The Barber Shop Chronicles is another show that I was stupid enough to miss during both its runs at the National Theatre (I know, I know, I’m rubbish), but this regional tour will mean others, as well as me, will be able to see this story about a group of African men, gathering and exchanging stories in barber shops in six different cities across the world. The tour will visit Manchester, Leicester, Bristol, Sheffield and London’s Roundhouse.
18. Richard III (Tour – multiple venues, 1st March – 25th May)
Theatre company Headlong will be bringing their new production of Shakespeare’s Richard III to multiple venues this year. I’m a big fan of the work of Headlong, as they tend to find original ways of telling classic stories. In addition, this production is also stopping at the newly restored theatre at Alexandra Palace, which is a venue I’ve been waiting to be finished. It’ll be thrilling to step foot in the space, now it’s been restored to its former Victorian glory. The play will visit Bristol, Northampton, Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford and will finish at Alexandra Palace.
19. The Color Purple (Curve Theatre, Leicester, 28th June – 13th July & Birmingham Hippodrome, 16th July – 20th July)
That’s already a promising list, with many more I could have included.
.…….And I haven’t even mentioned New York, although the first ones that spring to mind across the pond are:
(1) To Kill A Mockingbird, adapted for stage by Aaron “The West Wing” Sorkin, which continues its successful run until November;
(2) Ben Whishaw & Renee Fleming in Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, at new arts venue The Shed;
(3) Oklahoma at The Circle in the Square, which I’ve only heard good things about, following its run last year at Brooklyn’s St Ann’s Warehouse; and
(4) Hilary and Clinton, in which Laurie Metcalf and Nigel Lithgow, explore the dynamics of a certain political couple during 2008’s Presidential Primaries.
There’s also of course the transfer of the Almeida’s superb Ink, which I loved and of course, surely it’s only a matter of time before the incredible The Inheritance makes it way across to NYC?! If it does, I’ll certainly be following it (queue for day seats this Saturday for its final day in London if you can. You won’t regret it!).
Excited yet? Hopefully there’s plenty on the stage this year to appeal to everyone. I’ll be getting back to reviewing more theatre in 2019, so keep an eye on the blog for my latest reviews!
I have been wanting to write more substantially on the subject of Donna and Harvey for a while now and as we wait for the show’s return later this month, it seemed to be the ideal time to reflect on the complicated, yet fascinating relationship of Donna Paulsen and Harvey Specter. No one can deny that the actors, especially together have strong chemistry. I’ll go as far as to say theirs is some of the best I’ve watched on TV. It’s one of the reasons I was pulled in to this show and the superb work Sarah Rafferty and Gabriel Macht bring to the screen together as these characters, continues to be one of the most fascinating aspects of Suits for me as a viewer and over the years, the question that has continued to be asked by fans is whether Harvey and Donna will ever become more than friends.
Where do we currently stand? After eight and a half seasons, it’s still the same Darvey question. To quote Donna’s much-loved Shakespeare – is it “To be or not to be”? It’s the question that also divides fans of the show.
Before I get in to the nitty gritty, I’ll be honest – I am a big supporter of Darvey. It’s the endgame I am hoping for and I will feel very disappointed were the show to end without them together.
That disclaimer aside, I’m also someone who, despite wanting them together, wants the circumstances in which that happens to be true to their characters and the narrative of their journey (apologies, I hate the word journey, but for once it seems a valid word to use on this occasion).
So, as we await the final six episodes of season 8, I wanted to take the opportunity to dig a little deeper in to the craziness of Darvey! I have no further insight in terms of the content of 8B. I don’t have access to screeners, writing my reviews after the show airs, so this post (as with all my Suits ramblings) is based purely on my personal opinions and speculation.
So…….let’s start at the beginning…………
The Story So Far & Why We’re Still Waiting
We’ve come a long way haven’t we, Darvey fans? Some days it feels like an eternity with very little progress, but looking back, there has been movement in the right direction and all signs still point to the answer to this will they / won’t they being yes. Let’s face it, the signs have always been there. Had they not been, we’d have all focussed on the show’s other couple, Mike and Rachel and saved ourselves the pain!
So, let’s think about what progress was essential in order for Darvey to happen, which does explain the need for a slow burn, well, up to a point anyway. For me, this falls in to two significant story points and I’ll take each one in turn.
1. Harvey Wasn’t Ready
The first key element was the emotional development of Harvey Specter. Let’s face it, he’s the focal point of Suits. Yes, it was about him hiring a fraud and their bromance, but I always felt (and continue to think) that Harvey is at the show’s centre.
When we first met him he was confident professionally, but he was also emotionally closed off to most of the world, hurt and angry about his mother’s betrayals, resulting in him trusting very few people. Not all of that has changed. He’s still not going to trust everyone he meets after five minutes and we won’t be seeing him dancing along the corridors of the firm, without a worry in the world, but he has grown emotionally and he had to in order for Darvey to ever happen.
I remember an interview with Gabriel in which he recalled the creative team having to pull him back from changing Harvey too quickly, due to him having become used to working in film and when I watch Harvey now, I imagine this is who Gabriel was hoping he’d become.
Yes, he already had Donna in his life when season one began and this had no doubt been a key step in shaping him, together with Jessica’s arrival in his life, but as Donna admitted to Jessica early on, having to look out for Mike gave him someone else to care about, reforming the family bonds he’d let go of along the way. It opened him up and the more open to that brotherhood he was, the better a person he became. True, a lot of his “I don’t care about people” attitude early on was a front to some extent, but along the way, the front was seen less and less. Caring, it seemed, didn’t make him weak after all.
Harvey’s need to become more emotionally open was vital in order for him to ever be able to hold down any relationship, especially one with Donna. Look at his attempt to open up in 4.15 (one of the best episodes of this show) – he started off so well, but ended up making things so much more complicated through his inability to process his feelings and his fear of losing someone so important to him.
As this episode and the cracks it caused in Donna and Harvey’s relationship highlighted, Mike’s arrival alone couldn’t solve all of Harvey’s emotional problems. It became clear to viewers, as well as those close to Harvey, that the scars and resentments he had carried through adulthood continued to affect his psyche and the only resolution was one that involved his mother. Healing that rift, or at the very least, letting go of his anger, was essential to the growth of Harvey Specter.
Do I wish they’d addressed this sooner than season 6? Absolutely yes, but at least when they did, it was written in a way that made sense. Harvey was floundering. His longstanding constant support system had shifted due to the loss of Jessica. Without a mother, or close family connections, she had become family and having her looking out for him gave him professional freedom, but also personal security too. She was there when he needed her. It therefore made perfect sense that her departure in 6.10 caused him to lose himself and lash out (poor Louis, always in the line of fire).
However, timing is everything and had he not already become a more emotionally open man through his relationships with Mike and Donna, this could simply have been another one of those angry Harvey phases, after which nothing changed and perhaps things may have got worse.
I suppose I should also take a moment to acknowledge the role of therapy in his development. Harvey seeking therapy in season five was clearly a contributing factor in his progress, as this too opened up his hard shell and arguably without it, he may not have had the self-awareness to understand that Donna was right in saying it was time to deal with his mother. Let’s face it, in earlier seasons, any attempt to bring up his mother were shut down pretty swiftly. What is deeply frustrating, is that instead of building on what was a strong, important storyline in season five, which had been handled very well, the writers felt the best way to bring back his therapist would be as his love interest. I’ll never agree with that choice, but to the Paula Agard of season 5, I say thanks!
So, by the time we saw Harvey hugging his mother in 6.12, I cheered. Take season one Harvey and thanks to the effect of Jessica, Donna and Mike in particular and a dash of therapy, what we saw by the end of season 6 was a man who’d grown up. He was more emotionally aware, less angry and was not as terrified of being seen to care. For me, at this point, he was finally ready to give a real, mature and stable relationship a try.
Yet, although I would have loved Darvey to happen right then and it may be unpopular for me to say, the time still wasn’t right, which brings me to point number two…….
2. Donna Wasn’t Ready
Sure, Harvey may have been finally written in to a place in his life where a romance wouldn’t have seemed out of character, but the truth is, Donna wasn’t ready for a relationship with him at that moment.
When we were first introduced to Donna she stood out, despite her small amount of screen time, due to the talent of Sarah Rafferty. She made the audience want to see more of Donna. It reminded me a lot of the increased role given to another Donna, played by Janel Moloney, in The West Wing and thankfully the Suits creator saw what we all saw.
I still love those early days of Donna and Harvey. They had only known each other a short time and they were more free with their affection. Their (then unknown, but hinted at, to the audience) past didn’t seem to weigh them down as it did later. He’d make a suggestive joke, she’d straighten his hair and clothes and they had fun together as a team. Mike entering their lives was as if a couple was testing the waters with a puppy before starting a family!
Crucially, Donna seemed happy with her place at the firm back then. She was working for the best closer in the city, had a stable job she excelled at and probably the best salary of any legal assistant too. Everyone knew Harvey, so everyone knew Donna and her skills and abilities supporting him from her place outside his office were never in doubt.
Yet, it made sense that this couldn’t go on forever and ironically, I’m again drawn back to a moment in The West Wing where that Donna’s position as an assistant (to a character most fans were hoping she’d end up with) is questioned by a colleague and friend who points out she’s outgrown it and is really only still there because of her boss, not the job. We all love Donna for many reasons and one is her ambition. She wants to be the best at what she does and ultimately, by season 4’s end we all knew she was (I’m overlooking the committing a crime for now).
I’ve also always disliked the cliche story of the boss dating the secretary. It is, for me, outdated and not the message that should be celebrated in the 21st century. Therefore, despite desperately wanting Darvey to happen, Harvey and Donna romantically involved while she continued to sit outside his office and answer his phone did not appeal to me at all and it limited what the writers could do with Donna in the show. Therefore, having her leave to work for Louis was fantastic! It gave them space professionally. With Harvey now in therapy too, the pieces could slowly start to come together. Perhaps the end was in sight……………
Then came Mike’s arrest and the focus, understandably, story-wise moved elsewhere. I get it, I do, despite my annoyance at the time and at least Donna’s awareness of her need to progress in her career was returned to once Mike was out of trouble. Yes, “The Donna” was a bit cheesy (although I wouldn’t say no to its return), but it served a narrative purpose. The itchy feet she’d felt and put on ice, that had only been fuelled by Harvey’s inability back then to express himself emotionally to her, were back and she could see that her current role was no longer enough. I strongly agreed with this narrative choice. Someone as ambitious and driven as Donna would absolutely be looking to spread her wings. Plus, if she wasn’t working for Harvey anymore, well then that was one less obstacle in the way of a romance!
The end of season six left the Darvey question wide open. What was her “more”? Would they face their feelings (don’t forget we’d already seen Harvey’s dream of their blissful morning not too long ago by now)? What was Harvey thinking in that moment of honesty and vulnerability from Donna, especially this new more emotionally open Harvey and not the one from years gone by?
Season seven had the potential to bring the final pieces together; Donna to find a role that gave her the same satisfaction and fulfilment she’d had in earlier years and become an equal to Harvey professionally and Harvey to finally allow himself to love and be loved by the woman he’d even described to his mother as being someone very special to him and not run from it.
And this ladies and gentleman, is where I get frustrated!
The Season 7 Cruelty!
Up to this point in Suits, I’d been able to appreciate the Darvey story arcs and rationalise why the slow burn torture was continuing. I was a hard-core X-Files fan after all, this is not my first time dealing with this nightmare and I could at least see reasons why it made sense that it had taken this long to get these two characters to this point! I won’t linger too much on season seven, mainly as it’ll make me want to throw my notepad across the room, but I couldn’t delve in to the challenge of Darvey without addressing the season where I lost faith (for a while) in the Darvey narrative.
By my own reasoning, Donna still wasn’t ready for a relationship with Harvey when we started this season; she had other aspects of her life to focus on, so opening 7.01 with them in bed would have felt a bit odd story-wise. Yet, as I’ve already said, Harvey, thanks to his new-found family ties, seemed ready to build a relationship, so I was open to him exploring that in the meantime. The problems for me were the timing and the choice of Paula Agard as that someone (no not his someone special, that position is filled remember)!
I still honestly cannot believe 7.01 happened and I shudder at the very memory of those ridiculous lines of dialogue, whereby Harvey recounts all his emotional progress and that Paula was the first person he thought of to share his life with! Come on now. I know the man is a bit slow in the emotional uptake, but that was just insane! All that progress and at the first sign of Donna leaving him, or wanting more in some way still unclear to him and he ran LITERALLY OVERNIGHT to his therapist FOR A DATE?! The horror of it!
Looking back now, I can see what the writers were trying to achieve – have Harvey get serious with someone and watch the effect on Donna and their relationship. My problem (besides the ethical choice of his therapist, former or not, in his bed) was that he was arguably in the right place to start that with anyone. The need for her to be someone he’d already opened up to just seemed lazy to me and the same goal could have been achieved through the introduction of a former flame we’d never met.
Unless of course, it had to be with a character with whom a relationship was destined to fail, due to how ludicrous it was…………Surely there’s only one reason why that would be crucial………But I see what I want to see apparently……
Overlooking the identity of the woman and the fact it happened the very next day after 6.16 and the storyline did make sense for Darvey log term. They both weren’t ready at that time, so why not let Harvey show Donna that he’s now a man who isn’t running from a serious commitment (well perhaps with her, but not with someone else)? The fact Donna gained a new role out from the shadow of his desk by early season 7 also meant that having her finally start to, perhaps unwillingly, acknowledge her feelings for Harvey made sense too.
I could spend hours discussing my dislike of how quickly Donna’s career change was dealt with (which, in my view, diminished the logic and satisfaction of the change) and how I still think there were more suitable and indeed credible roles for her (Head of Personnel, or even working somewhere else), but I’ll move on.
Despite, the narrative veering off of course in 7.01 and 7.02, by the time we reached that kiss at the end of 7.10, it felt like the natural next step. Harvey was actually giving love a serious shot. That’s great, except him being oblivious to the fact he was dating the nearest copy he could find to Donna (in terms of her connection to him, that is).
Donna meanwhile was setting out on a new career path, giving her a renewed sense of purpose. With that ticked off, all there was for her to focus on was what was still missing – love, and seeing Harvey seemingly finding it with Paula was understandably confusing for her, especially when the reappearance of Mark perhaps raised truths about her feelings for Harvey that she’d buried years ago. No, I don’t think she’s been pining for him for over a decade, but I do think there’s been that niggle of hope buried deep down, which every so often has scratched the surface of her heart. After all, she admitted to Rachel that she’d wanted to try all those years ago, so she’d clearly developed feelings for him while at the DA’s office and we didn’t imagine her comment to Louis about losing the love of your life twice in 7.08! Hmmm, that’s Mark and……..I wonder who else?
They’re not young and carefree anymore either and although NOT ideal to kiss someone seeing another woman, Donna’s spur of the moment action made perfect sense for her character in that moment. After all that she’d been thinking about, to then have Mike and Louis mess with her mind too, well, it was inevitable. The question then was would this be it, the moment we’d all been waiting for, or would the writers chicken out?
We sadly all know the answer………
The Darvey Delaying Tactics Really Begin
It’s talked about quite a lot amongst fans that the writers keep finding excuses not to put Donna and Harvey together romantically. I agree that this is true, but my problem with it is that up until recently I thought it could be justified by the narrative, due to the points I’ve mentioned. There was a point, however, when the writers’ reluctance to go down this path seemed frustratingly clear and that point for me was the end of season seven.
Personally, I loved 7.11 – 7.15. This run of 7B contained two of the strongest episodes of the series in general for me (7.11 and 7.13) and the added Darvey factor was a bonus added to already strong episodes. Yet, what makes this period of the show so frustrating for fans hoping for a Darvey ending is that even cynical fans like me, who’ve suffered through such shipping hells before, started to think this was it. The final countdown!
What was in their way?! Harvey was a better man, Donna was now his professional equal in the eyes of the wider world, there was no Mike drama to distract them and the show’s only couple was leaving. Add to that Harvey giving up his relationship for Donna, before even knowing if she’d come back, the reminder of his “someone special” chat with his mother and it all felt right, not just from a potentially biased fan’s perspective, but from a narrative one too! Hell, we even had Scottie pointlessly brought back to effectively hit Harvey over the head with the fact that he’ll never make a relationship work because of his feelings for Donna! We may all “see what we want to see” but there’s no other way to see that scene!
Yet, despite gazing across the aisle at each other, after walking down it arm in arm and dancing cheek to cheek, season seven ended with no real progress. Sure, the arguments that they are just friends are diminishing (who dances that close with their friend?!), but fans still saw nothing significant happen! I admit that I was very disappointed. I felt tricked. I’d moved from my cynical stance to an optimistic one and been stood up! The fact Mike and Rachel’s swan song also didn’t give them the goodbye they deserved was just the bitter icing on the already disappointing cake.
It was the right time for Darvey to be explored, alongside the other changes about to happen at the firm and not having the courage to let that storyline finally flourish will always seem a mistake to me.
…….which brings us to……….
Season 8 so far – Did the Darvey narrative lose its way?
I’m a realist most of the time and having seen the Darvey dodge so clearly at the end of 7B and with season eight, particularly the first half, effectively being a reset for the show, I’d begrudgingly accepted that Donna and Harvey becoming a couple was about as likely in 8A as Louis and Robert Zane hooking up!
I told myself that would be acceptable, provided the narrative path already walked by these characters held. No repeat of the horrors of 7.01 please! Images of the series starting with Harvey in bed with Esther had crossed my mind, but it seemed nuts. The Agard hell had served a purpose. His next relationship had to be with Donna. The end.
I know many dislike 8A and feel there wasn’t enough Darvey content after 7B’s promise. However, when it didn’t happen then, I wasn’t expecting miracles from 8A and I still enjoy watching Suits for multiple characters. An episode isn’t terrible for me just because Donna and Harvey don’t have scenes together. The new dynamics were fun, Samantha was a great addition and we were able to see how Mike’s absence truly affected Harvey, now he has a more well-rounded personality. Harvey caring about the cleaning staff? Season one Harvey would be shocked!
Therefore, for me, 8A started surprisingly well. As for Donna and Harvey? They were working together at times, but also separately and Donna was able to grow in confidence in her new role, while interestingly, Harvey struggled to deal with the new world order and his place. As he seemed to struggle, Donna seemed to thrive, which was an interesting shift to watch. They also seemed to be in a good place again and arguably they were both in the right place for a relationship with each other. At long last. Plus they were both single!
By 8.05, the flirting had even returned. We’d had jokes about pulling pigtails, stealing food, but then Harvey raised the stakes. Friends don’t think of each other when they’re alone like that, Harvey……..Actually friends don’t have kinky sexual histories to think about in the first place! Had I been wrong on the no Darvey development in 8A?! Had I reverted to being too cynical?!
And then came to the next glaring Darvey dodge by the writers…… Harvey’s brother’s marital breakdown.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved it as content. Domestic Harvey is a huge draw for me and Gabriel really nails those scenes. The episode even ended with Harvey acknowledging a weakness to Donna, but being okay about it. Hello character development! It was so satisfying to see and was a highlight of 8A in my opinion.
……and here comes the But!
However, what followed for the rest of the season from a Donna and Harvey perspective, for me anyway, was nothing more than a slamming on of the brakes, when the train had barely started to pick up speed.
We went from the flirting and the sort of talk a married couple would have, to…….Harvey being a total douchebag. Yes, I’m talking about the moment when he threw in Donna’s face the she was only in her role because he put her there.
This was where the rush-job on Donna’s ascendency at the firm came back to bite the writers, as I suppose he was right – technically she is only COO because he agreed to it. It wasn’t a natural progression, as it would be from junior associate to partner, or senior partner to managing partner. It wasn’t a role she’d have likely been given elsewhere either, but the fact also remains that Harvey wouldn’t have given the COO role to her had she not asked for it! Had she not demanded more recognition for her contribution to the firm, he’d have never thought to move her from outside his office! That’s what made my blood start to boil at his words. He’s lucky she didn’t slap him and although COO is still the wrong choice in my view, Donna had earned a career step up. Plus, there was nowhere else to really take her character if she stayed where she was and as Sarah Rafferty has said herself, in the world we’re in, we must be championing women in positions of power and value their contributions.
For all of those reasons, I was infuriated by the way the writers now seemed to be writing Harvey. He’d come so far and this comment felt more like season 3 / 4 Harvey than the man he’d seemed to become since then and the whole story strand felt shoe-horned in to find a way to push them back apart. With no real obstacles int he way of Darvey, having him act in a way that, at this point in the narrative, felt so out of character, screamed cowardice to me. Sure, he’s frustrated at all the change and feeling unsure of his place, but disrespecting Donna in that way? That’s not the Harvey we’d seen after 6.13 and it infuriated me!
Now I’m all for angst. I love angst, so I’m not against that at all. Had the writing team chosen to pursue this storyline choice in earnest for the rest of 8A, having Darvey griping at each other, building to fireworks, or setting the scene for an emotional showdown in 8B, I’d have been thrilled! I thought that was what they were doing. We saw a shift from the flirting and innuendo, to Harvey lashing out due to his own struggles to deal with his place in the new firm and Donna carrying anger and resentment as a result, perhaps added to the pain she had already recently suffered when he asked Stu to offer her that job. Sure, he ultimately chose her, but I bet that action still cut deep down. That had to be what they were thinking……..
Yet, what really drove me mad was that this tension seemed to be dropped by the mid-season finale. Donna’s anger wasn’t addressed and we didn’t see much interaction between them after that argument. That makes sense if you’re giving space to let those resentments (and the confused feelings never properly dealt with by these two EVER) build up to something.
Yet, how did 8.10 end? Donna and Harvey arm in arm, off for drinks, while she calls him pretty?! Really?! Had 8.05 been the mid-season closer then sure, but it wasn’t! Since then Darvey had not been in a buddy buddy place at all and that whole last scene felt tacked on as a carrot to Darvey fans. It was totally wrong based on the narrative we’d been watching develop over 8A.
…….which leaves me to the future………
8B – Will they? Won’t they? This needs to be the time to move this storyline forward
We know Donna’s going to start a new relationship with Thomas Kessler. Absurdly, having dodged the two biggest natural points to put Harvey and Donna together so far, this storyline isn’t a strange choice. In fact I’m rather pleased about it.
Am I crazy? Maybe, but although I do think Harvey is emotionally ready for a relationship with Donna (even if he doesn’t realise it yet), having missed the 7.16 boat and after Harvey’s crass, disrespectful comments about her career, he’s now got work to do to make it up to Donna. Say sorry and mean it, Harvey. You are the man who can do that now.
Also, let’s not forget, Donna did make a move. She kissed him! She then went to his office to discuss that moment. He shut it down, made her promise it wouldn’t happen again AND said he didn’t want more! Sure, she said she felt nothing, but anyone would say that to save face in that situation! So, combine that with his latest insult and of course she should be looking elsewhere for love!
If Donna were my best friend and I’d watched her go through all of this over 13 years with a man as emotionally unreliable as Harvey, then of course I’d encourage her to find someone lovely to date! From her perspective, Harvey has made clear he is not a romantic option, so it’s right she takes a chance to find happiness when it presents itself. Not to mention the fact that we’ve never seen her in a proper relationship on screen. All we’ve had is the brief dalliance with Stephen (that she thought was short term, even before his shady side was revealed) and a flashback to better times with Mark (no, I don’t count his “be my mistress” offer as a love interest plot line). Hell, we never even met Mitchell! So, I’m excited for the arrival of Mr Kessler and seeing a new side of Donna’s life outside the office and how that affects her at work too.
Oh and of course, we had the “Harvey’s moving on, what will Donna do?” plot, so I’m hardly surprised that they are now going for a role reversal scenario. It’s predictable, but I’m all for Harvey getting a taste of Donna settling down with another man. Not a criminal lying to her, or a man who doesn’t respect her enough to leave his wife before making a move, but a man who I hope is decent, respectable, successful and who is proud to show the world how special she is. Now THAT’s a real threat to Harvey! That’s someone who should make him sweat!
So, are we heading to another season finale where all the set up will be in place ready for an endgame, as we seemed to be in season seven? If Harvey properly apologises for his mistakes then all he needs to do is make a move. Let her know how you feel, you idiot. Take a risk. The ball’s firmly in your court and if 8B is truly mirroring 7A, then will we see Harvey taking the same action as Donna did in 7.10? Is it time he has to know too? For me, it has to be, if there’s any justice, or indeed any logic to the show’s narrative. If it isn’t, I fear that the writers are at risk of writing these characters in to a corner that will be impossible to write them out of! They risk them seeming so ridiculous that we all give up!
Yet, this is Suits after all. We have Scottie back in 8B, even though I think 7.15 was an ideal ending for her. Is she back to reinforce her last message to him, or is she going to be back running after Harvey? If the show has longer to run and they are looking for more Darvey dodges, then maybe. Do I think 8B and its season finale need to build to Darvey and kick start a new phase of their relationship at long last? YES! OF COURSE! Especially if season nine is to be the last season. In my view, 8B is vital.
Will it happen? All I can say for sure is that, with Suits and Darvey, literally (and scarily for fans), anything could happen. This isn’t made any easier by Aaron Korsh’s continual comments about how he has no plan for their endgame either way. I find that hard to believe. We’re eight seasons in now and the show doesn’t seem likely to run and run, so surely he has some idea of where all of this is heading. Not to mention the fact that, when you step back on really look at the way the show has been written, there are so much that points to them being together. We’ve had direct parallels between them and Mike and Rachel’s relationship, we’ve had practically every other character allude to them being more than friends, we’ve had declarations of love, or to people being the love of their life and we’ve had so much jealousy. But it doesn’t mean……..YES. YES IT DOES!
All we fans can do, is continue to believe that they’ll get there in the end. That has to be the plan, just one no one will ever admit to. It’s the only narrative ending that makes sense after all of this. Just please writers, please give us more than a resolution in the last five minutes of the series finale. That would just be mean! Buckle up, Darvey fans. On 23rd January the rollercoaster continues!
Blimey, that took longer than I expected! Is anyone still there?! If you are, thanks for reading! I’ll be back with my Suits reviews once it’s back on our screens.
Suits season 8 retunes on Wednesday 23rd January in the US and Canada and on Thursday 24th January via Netflix in the UK.
It’s just under two weeks until Suits returns to our screens, with the final six episodes of season eight, or as many refer to it, 8B. I had already written most of this post before the latest promo came out, so I’ve had to do some tweaking to give me initial thoughts on what we also saw in those 30 seconds.
Overall, I enjoyed 8A. The new dynamics were given time to settle in, Samantha Wheeler is already an interesting addition to the team and as I’d started to notice along the way, Louis had grown up so much, that by the end it made perfect sense for him to step in between Robert Zane’s and Harvey Specter’s egos! We already know some plot lines, particularly Donna seeing a new man (more later), a few guest stars returning in some capacity and the promo also suggested other possible storylines, a few of which I admit, I was not thrilled about.
So, I thought I’d take some time to set out what I’d like to see and what I really don’t want to see. If nothing else, it’ll prove amusing to look back on it and see how this list measured up with the reality of the back six.
We are also of course, still in the dark about the show’s future. I’m assuming were these the final stories, we’d already know by now, but the question still remains as to whether season nine will be the last and if so, whether it’ll be a full 16 episodes or a shorter run, of say 10. Hopefully the writers already know if the end is near and can therefore ensure the ending is satisfying for characters, cast and fans.
So, back to 8B. Let’s start with the positives.
What I Hope To See in 8B
1. A united front at ZSLWW – enough of the in-fighting. Yes, new personalities and dynamics needed to be established and there were bound to be some clashes in the process, but it went on a bit too long for my liking and I hope to see a new, united team, pulling together in 8B, drawing on each other’s strengths to succeed.
2. Louis being a fantastic Managing Partner – I accept 8.11 will very likely have him making some mistakes and rubbing people up the wrong way, but I want to see Louis showing the maturity and leadership we saw towards the end of 8A. He doesn’t have to be dreadful at it to provide comedic content.
3. A further insight in to Samantha’s past – We’ve already learnt a fair amount about Samantha Wheeler in a short time, but there’s certainly still some enticing questions. How did she serve her country? I’m assuming military service? Are those sealed records referred to in 8.10 juvenile or military and why was she so keen to keep whatever is in them hidden? What assault happened in her past that Robert was there to support her through? There’s plenty to delve in to!
4. The old Sheila Sasz – I really haven’t enjoyed the recent incarnation of Sheila. She used to be fun and a bit nuts, but her and Louis fitted with their quirkiness. They seemed to be equal in that respect. Since she returned in 7B, Sheila has become much less likeable. She’s constantly putting Louis down and walking all over him, but not in a fun way. I miss the old Sheila and I hope I enjoy her presence more in 8B.
5. Harvey finding his feet again – Rewatching 8A over Christmas really reinforced that one of the big arcs over the ten episodes was just how adrift Harvey was. It was great to see Mike’s departure affect him and it would have been unrealistic if it hadn’t, but on top of that, he’s found himself being knocked from all sides in 8A, from Louis, Robert, Alex, Samatha and even Donna. I do think he needed some knocks to keep things interesting, but I hope he finds his mojo again in this run. Please let him keep seeing Dr Lipschitz!
6. More of an interesting role for Alex – I love Dule Hill and I do like Alex Williams, but I’m still not that bothered about him. I hope they find a way to make him more interesting.
7. A personal life for Donna – We know this is going to feature in 8B and I’m actually looking forward to it, as Donna’s personal life had barely been covered so far in Suits. Sure, we know her father lost his money and she wanted to be an actress, but besides that? Nothing. After all this time, it’s madness! So, I’m all for seeing her outside of the office, thinking about her own needs for a change. It’s also about time she had a decent, respectable, successful man ready and more than willing to let her know how special she is.
8. Katrina continuing to be fabulous – Katrina has become one of my favourite characters and it’s been lovely to have her become a series regular. Personally, I think Katrina’s struggles at finding her place in a position of seniority has been one of the most enjoyable of season 8 so far and I hope we see more in 8B.
And of course…………
9. Darvey progress that makes sense – The ball’s in Harvey’s court. Donna is dating someone else. It has to build to something, or at the very least, set something up for next season. Plus, I want it to make sense, unlike that last scene in 8.10, which just didn’t fit with where Donna and Harvey were at that point in time. I’m in the process of finishing a separate post on Darvey, so look out for that over the weekend.
And now for the negatives (and that new promo didn’t really help put me at ease)!
What I Hope I Don’t See in 8B!
1. Brian & Katrina Being “More” – No, writers. Don’t you dare. This would leave a very sour taste in my mouth. Fair enough, Katrina is realising a career isn’t all she wants, but that doesn’t mean she wants Brian! She wants someone as decent as Brian and he has a wife and a new baby! Does every relationship in this show have to have a cheating element?! From the promo, it seems they have a “moment” – I’m already unhappy about that idea and if this truly becomes a storyline, it’ll ruin two characters that I really like. Please don’t do it! The below image from the promo better not be what it looks like. You’ll hear me yelling from London if it is!
2. Harvey and Louis taking three (million) steps back in their friendship – Yes, Harvey will want to kill Louis initially as Managing Partner. That’s inevitable, but I don’t want to see these two go back to the nastiness of earlier seasons. That’s not who they are now. They’ve both grown past that and it’s far more satisfying to see them as friends (think about that scene in 8.04).
3. Donna Having a Relationship that serves no purpose – As I’ve said, I’m all for Donna’s new man, but if it serves no purpose, I’ll be beyond frustrated. If he’s a one episode wonder (which doesn’t seem to be the case from his filming time), or she simply decides he isn’t for her and ends it quietly, I’ll riot! This romance has to serve a purpose and I see that as being one of two things – (1) someone she can actually be genuinely happy with if that’s what she truly wants, or (2) to be the final kick Harvey needs to wake up and be the catalyst for Darvey! I can’t believe the writers won’t have decided by now on which path is endgame, so this relationship needs to serve that overall story if it’s going to have a satisfying conclusion.
4. Samantha holding a grudge against Katrina – I’ve watched this show long enough to work out that Katrina impersonating Samantha to help Alex in 8.10 will come back to bite her! All I hope is that a huge nasty cat fight is not on the horizon. I like Samantha and I like Katrina. No stereotypical grudge holding between women please!
5. No tragedy for Louis and Sheila – At the moment they are expecting a baby. I’ve no idea whether we’ll see the arrival of Baby Litt in 8B (I assume not), but I do not want to see any tragedies for these two.
6. Scottie coming back & still running after Harvey – I loved Scottie’s return in 7.15, as she seemed to finally realise that he’ll never be able to make a relationship work with anyone else other than Donna. It’s always been Donna. It always will be Donna. We know she’s back in 8.14 and I’d hoped she was back to reiterate that point, yet the promo possibly hints that she’s still trying to get Harvey’s attention. Please, can we just not have her continuing to run after him.
It’s true that 8B is brimming with possibility and that’s been exciting to look forward to. There are only six episodes and yet we know that there’s a whole heap of returning characters in the mix (and who knows who we don’t know about). Here’s the current list that I can remember:
possibly Daniel Hardman (based on the last shot of the promo)
On top of that, we know we’re meeting Thomas Kessler, as Donna’s new man. That’s quite a lot of content to cover without rushing anything! My fingers are crossed that whatever these six episodes hold, the narrative makes sense and there’s a satisfying end to the season. That’s not unreasonable………is it………?!
Suits returns for the remaining episodes of season 8 on Wednesday 23rd January in the US & Canada and in the UK on Thursday 24th January via Netflix.
There are some films I knew very little about on booking them at last year’s London Film Festival and Papi Chulo was one of them. Having recently seen Matt Bomer on stage in Boys In The Band on Broadway and being impressed by his heartfelt performance, I decided to buy a ticket for this and I’m so pleased that I did.
Papi Chulo is a beautiful film, which reaches out to its audience regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation and that’s because the themes within it are universal – love, friendship, loneliness and that feeling of being adrift in life, not quite knowing where to go next, yet learning how to move forward, no matter how impossible it may seem.
The film centres on Sean, a young LA weatherman, who one day breaks down on live television in the middle of a forecast. The result – he’s put on leave, out of concern for him and the image of the network. His first task on arriving home is to sell the beautiful potted tree on his outdoor deck; a purchase made by his ex Carlos; someone whose absence is weighing heavily on him and who he is struggling to be without, frequently leaving him voicemails and staring at his photo on his phone.
Clearly a little lost and yearning for company, he enlists the help of a middle-aged Latino migrant worker, Ernesto, who he sees waiting for work with a group of others by the local hardware store. He’s tasked with the simple job of touching up the paint on Sean’s deck, yet what follows is a heart-warming friendship of sorts.
Muddling through on their limited knowledge of their respective languages, we see how very different men from very different lives make an impact on each other and the film works so well largely because of the genuine warmth and connection between Bomer and Alejandro Patino who plays Ernesto.
Writer (and director) John Butler’s script perfectly balances the more emotional moments of the film, with the more light-hearted, comedic scenes, particularly captured through Ernesto’s initial confusion and then bemusement at the surreal connection he is forming with Sean, which he conveys to his wife Linda via amusing phone calls, updating her on his days, which shift from painting and sanding, to spending time simply keeping Sean company. A scene in which he takes Ernesto for a row boat ride is particularly fun.
The film needs you to care about its central character and you certainly do through Bomer’s beautiful performance. His ability to express Sean’s vulnerability and openness of emotion as the film moves forward and we learn more about him and his ex, enables the audience to truly connect with and invest in Sean’s life and hope he’s able to find his way through and when the dam breaks alongside the LA drought, you feel the emotional release Sean experiences.
This film was a true highlight of the films I saw last year. It reminded me how we’re all capable of helping each other through simple acts of kindness and its heartwarming and positive message that simple human kindness can exist between us irrespective of our differences, whether language or background, is a very welcome one in these strange, difficult times.
If it’s in a cinema near you this year, I strongly recommend you buying a ticket.
Papi Chulo currently has an initial release date in the USA of 8th March 2019. UK release date is not yet confirmed.
Last night, I had the opportunity to watch a preview of one of the year’s most anticipated films and I have to say, I was not prepared for the emotional response it would illicit from me. So viscerally real is the emotional gut punch this film delivers, that I left the cinema feeling as if I’d just experienced a story first hand, as is often the case following a powerful theatre show. It is almost as if you are standing backstage watching the story take place in front of your eyes.
For those who, like me, have not seen any of the previous three versions of this story, A Star Is Born sees internationally successful musician and singer, Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), struggling with the pressures of a career in the spotlight, the worsening of his tinnitus problem and toughest of all, an addiction to drugs and alcohol. One night, after a concert, he stumbles in to a bar and is captivated by the raw vocal talent of Ally (Lady Gaga) and the two have an immediate connection.
What follows is an incredibly moving exploration of two careers at opposite ends of the spectrum – as one takes flight, the other falls to earth and how the pain and heartbreak of addiction affects not just the addict, but those closest to them.
The question I’ve been asked most since seeing the film is whether Lady Gaga can act. The answer is an emphatic yes and she delivers a confident, beautiful performance as Ally, from her early, slightly nervous interactions with Jackson, to a woman taking a hold of her chance at success and shining. I admit, I’d wondered whether I’d be able to see past the extravagant image we all know her for so well. Yet, the film perfectly takes those pre-conceptions and discards them, as we see Ally first perform La Vie En Rose, on stage at a drag show, in full make-up, only for this to be stripped away, in part literally by Jackson, to reveal the person underneath and you soon forget she’s ever anyone else.
It’s no surprise her vocals are stunning, from the intimate gig, to the vast stadiums, but Lady Gaga also brings the soul of her character to the forefront, as we see her struggle to first believe her good fortune, before also finding herself in love with a man she’s trying so desperately to help. Many have wondered whether she’d be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand (both of whom have starred in previous versions). They needn’t have worried and I fully expect award nominations for her performance, which will no doubt introduce her to a whole new audience.
Another key to the success of this film is the chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. From their very first scene together, you can feel the connection between them and it certainly adds credibility to a story in which two people almost instantly fall in love. It doesn’t feel contrived or forced. You believe the passion and love they share, which is essential if you are going to invest in the journey of these two characters. Watching them move through the highs and lows, I felt as if I was observing real lives; that’s how strong their relationship on screen is and the trust and affection they clearly have for each other as actors feeds in to their performances. Together, they make you laugh and cry.
As for Bradley Cooper’s performance in the film, in my opinion, it’s his finest performance to date and should undoubtably earn him a fifth Oscar nomination. Not only does he look different, but his voice is lower and more importantly, he is able to convey the complex palette of emotions that are constantly battling within Jackson as an addict. The combination of his hearing difficulties and need to rely on drugs and alcohol to simply exist in the touring world he inhabits have made him a lonely figure and it’s a joy to see the difference meeting Ally brings to his life. You see the light in his eyes at having a new reason to live. Jackson, in the hands of Cooper, is a gentle soul, struggling to keep going and the vulnerability he brings to the role is utterly heart-wrenching to watch, as we see a man with so many personal demons he’s trying to overcome and I confess, there were moments so emotionally raw, that I could barely watch. At this point in time, I can’t imagine a finer performance beating him to next year’s Oscar and 24 hours after watching the film, his astounding performance is still on my mind.
The film also draws on strong supporting performances, most notably from Sam Elliott, who plays Jackson’s older brother Bobby, who stepped in to the role of the father figure his brother never had, due to their father’s own problems with alcohol and this relationship forms another touching facet of the story. Bringing a lightness and humour to the film is Andrew Dice Clay, as Ally’s father, whose pride and utter joy at her success brought a smile to my face.
A Star Is Born is also the directorial debut of Cooper and what a superb achievement it is. Yes, it’s perhaps a little too long and drags slightly in places, but it’s clear that Cooper had a strong eye and clear vision of what he wanted to bring to the screen. His choices in certain scenes, whether the framing, or the focus on which the camera rests in order to maximise both the stunning scale of the bigger moments and the quiet intimacy in others, is certainly impressive. If this is what he can achieve with his first film, I cannot wait to see what else we’ll see from him in the future.
A film centring on the love and lives of two singers, also required a strong soundtrack and the original songs written for the film are stunning and crucially, filmed live for the scenes. This decision adds yet more authenticity to the piece, as we see Cooper and Lady Gaga performing in front of audiences at actual venues (including Coachella in California and Glastonbury in the UK). The biggest surprise musically, is perhaps the vocal ability of Cooper, who has a fantastic voice and you can sense the pleasure the two leads had performing together. As well as Lady Gaga and Cooper, collaborators include Luke Nelson, Mark Ronson, Dave Cobb, Diane Warren, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. I can easily see the film vying against itself in the original song category at next year’s Oscars!
The film isn’t perfect of course. I’ve mentioned it’s a little too long and although my view may be clouded by his later decisions, which left me so angry, the character of Ally’s manager seems rather two-dimensional.
That being said, my response to A Star Is Born is overwhelmingly positive. In fact it exceeded all my expectations, delivering not just a wonderful love story, but also a very real, painful and heartbreaking insight in to the struggles so many people suffer when caught up in cycles of addiction. Writers Eric Roth, Will Fetters and Cooper himself, have taken a classic story and brought it in to the twenty first century, ensuring it feels utterly relevant for today’s world. I laughed, I smiled, I held my breath during both the highs and lows and I shed quite a few tears. This is a film that will stay with me for a long time and I’ll be returning to see it again at the earliest opportunity.
A Star Is Born opens in cinemas in the UK on 3rd October and the USA on 5th October. Running time: 136 minutes. You can watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/nSbzyEJ8X9E
Well, we’ve reached the mid-season finale of Suits season eight. It’s certainly come around fast and this week’s episode tied up some plot lines, but left others (it’s obvious which one sticks out) frustratingly at a standstill.
My immediate reaction to 8.10 was a feeling of being underwhelmed. First, it’s a weaker mid-season finale when compared to many of the others we’ve had in the past (think Louis finding out about Mike, Mike getting arrested, Jessica leaving, last season’s kiss) and that did surprise me. I’d been expecting a big moment to keep us dangling over the next four months and although I’m relieved in a way that there isn’t something to drive me nuts about over the hiatus, it also felt rather anti-climatic.
On that note, I’ll delve in to the specifics.
Alex vs. Samantha – Part 2
I have to say, I’m so pleased the “fight” for Named Partner is over! It’s taken up so much of 8A and I’ve not been hugely invested in the outcome, so I’m very happy everyone is moving on. Louis spoke my exact thoughts when he said he was “sick of this shit.” You’re preaching to the choir, Louis. In itself, the case in which Alex and Samantha fought this out wasn’t bad, it was just a bit dull and what became the most interesting aspect of the whole storyline was the further insight we saw in to Samantha (more on that later) and the consequences that flowed from the battle for the firm as a whole.
Samantha Wheeler’s history continues to unfold
To say she’s only been in the Suits world ten episodes, Samantha Wheeler has certainly made herself very much at home and I’m a fully paid-up member of Team Wheeler. This week provided deeper insight in to Samantha’s history, her own and her history with Robert Zane and both elements proved fascinating.
We’ve all known that Samantha and Robert’s history clearly ran deep and very likely involved something shady and this week we saw that this was partly true. Zane has indeed been her mentor and surrogate father for 12 years (what is it with this show and 12 year periods?!), but we also learnt how that relationship came to be. For a split second, I thought Robert was going to be shady, but thankfully that wasn’t the case and instead, it was his dodgy fellow partners, who had pulled a Forstman on him to keep him quiet. The reveal that it was only with Samantha’s help that Robert took control of his firm was a lot of fun and truly gave validity to why he’d be so keen to back her, no matter the promise.
We also discovered some further information about Samantha’s personal life, all of which provide plenty of possibilities for further storylines. We now know she has never known who her parents are, so having them reappear could be explored (although, no cheesy shocker of her being Harvey’s half-sister or something, please). I was also intrigued by the line of dialogue in the flashback, which suggested that she may have spent time in the military, as the federal agent referred to her previously serving her country. If she had no family and moved through the foster system, perhaps joining the military provided her the family she’d never had. Again, this is something else that could be explored in future episodes. It’s all very promising and I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for the newly-branded Named Partner.
Congratulations to Louis Litt!
First of all, let’s all take a moment to enjoy Louis Litt finding some happiness! It wasn’t too long ago that he was sobbing in to Rachel’s arms over the loss of Tara, or was being mugged at gunpoint. Yet, by the end of 8.10, we welcomed the new Managing Partner and I was thrilled to see I actually got something right when it comes to the plot, as I mentioned in my review of 8.09 that I thought Louis should be in charge. That’s not something I’d have contemplated before season seven and yet, since then, Louis has slowly started to show he’s the right man for the job at the moment.
Right from the start of this week’s episode, Louis was the mature leader. He made clear the fight between Alex and Samantha needed to be clean, something Harvey and Robert couldn’t stick to. He then advised Katrina not to risk destroying the firm by getting involved; advice Donna gave to Harvey in the same episode. He was putting the firm above anyone’s own personal need. So, by the time the battle between four people was coming to a head, Donna’s strategy was the clear and obvious solution and hearing Louis lay down the law to Harvey and Robert was fantastic. He was calm, serious and a leader. Jessica Pearson would be so proud, Louis!
On the personal front, we also learnt that he and Sheila and going to be parents. I’m pleased for Louis, even though I’ve not really been a huge fan of the way Sheila has conducted herself this year. I can only hope that all the unresolved questions hanging over them (religious upbringing, who will spend less work time etc.) don’t create any insurmountable hurdles. I certainly wasn’t a fan of his guilting Sheila in to giving up work. Not cool, Louis. Finally, highlighting just how much Louis has grown up recently, his last scene with Harvey was a delight to watch and top marks to Gabriel Macht and Rick Hoffman. Harvey telling Louis he’d be an excellent Managing Partner and outstanding father was one of the best bits of 8.10. These two used to be so aggressive and angry with one another and now their friendship is very real and the affection in that hug was lovely to see. Hopefully this will survive Louis taking the reigns!
We all know who the real Managing Partner is (and it’s not Louis)!
In last week’s review, I commented that the title of 8.10 could refer to Donna, based on all the relationships she’s managing so damn well and that proved to be partly true. We saw Donna, yet again, keep the firm from turning in to a pile of rubble, this time by convincing Louis to step up. It makes perfect sense. Harvey has already acknowledged that, deep down, the role isn’t the one for him and I agree. Plus, last week suggested Robert may be starting to re-evaluate his priorities and he also knew that it needed someone else to step between him and Harvey. It was fantastic to see Donna demonstrating her talent for reading the situation and the personalities involved and saving everyone from themselves!
It was also lovely to see Katrina come to Donna for advice about Harvey’s proposition, which I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with. Harvey, Alex, Samantha and Robert can play their games, but dragging Katrina in to it was crossing a line in my view. I was also a little surprised that Donna advised her to do it, especially as she has first hand knowledge of the risks of pretending to be someone you’re not to obtain documents. From now on guys, leave Katrina out of your dodgy shenanigans! Even Harvey by the end realised who the true managing partner is and he looked pretty impressed by the realisation too.
So….No review would be complete without discussing Donna and Harvey, so let’s do it…..
The frustrating Darvey dance continues (insert deep sigh here)
It’s ironic that I’ve ended this first half of season eight feeling frustrated when it comes to Darvey, as I’ve been one of the few people who has remained fairly positive throughout the last nine episodes. For me, I’m happy as long as I can see some sort of narrative plan and this seemed to veer a bit off course by the end of 8.10.
The subject of Darvey probably needs a post all its own (shout if you’d like one!), but in essence, I’ve enjoyed seeing some tension this season. Following the wedding not everything was resolved. They’d been through a lot and hadn’t really moved past it, but season eight began with them trying to get back on decent ground, which with these two includes the flirting of years gone by. When that blatant flirting was replaced by arguments rather than a resolution, after 8.05, I could understand it. Harvey’s abandonment fears resurfaced and affected his emotions and we saw some of the underlying resentments both still carry in the wake of season seven.
It felt as though we were building to something credible. There was no after works drinks and they became more and more distant, as Donna grew more independent in her role as COO. Clearly, I knew we wouldn’t see something definitive to close out this half season; that would be too simple, but I did expect something that made sense and as much as I enjoyed the last scene between them, it felt out of sync with the tone that had been building between them. It was a scene that would’ve fitted up to 8.05, but coming at the end of 8.10, I sensed it was more of a “we should give the fans something” moment, which personally, I’d have been happy without. Is the tension and resentment behind them? Are they “back to normal” again? Who knows now.
I think the back half of season eight is going to be crucial for this particular relationship, especially based on the information we now have on what is to come. Do I think Darvey is endgame? Yes, but I may change my mind come the end of 8.16.
Speaking of the future. Looking ahead to 8.11-8.16 (WARNING: Spoilers ahead!)
I end each post looking ahead to the following week’s episode. As we won’t see the series return until next year (I’m guessing January, as there’s no Winter Olympics in 2019), we have less to go on. All we really have is the information gleaned from the interviews that have surfaced in the last day and the very brief promo.
First, we know the firm will become Zane, Specter, Litt, Wheeler, Williams. The stationery firm responsible for their branding needs must be thrilled by how much money all these changes bring in! It was never about beating someone else to the job for Alex. He just wanted the title and so I’m not surprised that the choice Samantha gave him at the end of 8.10 has resulted in him putting himself last.
Second, something covered last season is going to come back and apparently “sort of rear its head for one or maybe more episodes.” Time to start thinking about season seven again if you can bear to. As long as it’s nothing to do with Paula! That’s a dealbreaker for me!
Finally, creator Aaron Korsh has stated that in the back six episodes they’ll be delving in to Donna’s backstory AND giving her a love interest. Taking these two elements one at a time, I’m thrilled that we’ll be learning more about Donna on a personal level. We still know very little, so there’s so much scope here. Will we meet her mother? Does she have a sibling we’ll meet? Will we see her first starting out at the DA’s office, before Harvey, or get a glimpse in to her life away from the firm and the people in it? I want all of it, but I’ll settle for some of this list! We’ve explored Louis, we know all about Harvey’s issues, so it’s time for a focus on Donna and it’s the element I’m most excited for in 8B.
As for the love interest? Well……..I’m torn about this, which is driven by the uncertainty about the show’s overall future. The consensus seems to be season nine is looking good and if that’s true, then I’m all for Donna having the chance to have someone come in to her life and give her another possible path. If season eight was to be the last, then this idea seems nuts, as it would mean they only had six episodes to resolve everything (including Darvey finally coming together). So, assuming we have the time, who could this love interest be? Someone new, or someone from her past, with whom she’s already deeply connected? We’d get to see another side of Donna and also, I hope, another side of Harvey. Perhaps, seeing someone else take her attention and affection is what he needs to realise what he could lose. It took Paula’s presence for Donna to evaluate her feelings for Harvey. Having him do the same, perhaps in therapy, would be a brilliant parallel. Plus, it could set them up for the moment most of us are waiting for!
It’s now a waiting game. See you all in 2019 for new episodes, but expect a couple of Suits-related posts before then! Thanks for reading!
Suits season eight will return in early 2019 (I hope) on USA Network in the US and via Netflix in the UK
As I am writing this review of last week’s episode of Suits, the day before the mid-season finale airs, the irony is not lost on me that the episode on which I’ve been delayed in posting my thoughts is entitled Motion To Delay! Interestingly, 8.09 was the first episode of season 8 that linked back to the old seasons, through the inclusion of the ghost of Frank Gallo. There were also a number of different plots within the episode, but the writers were able to keep all the plates spinning, resulting in quite a satisfying hour and one that I found much better than last week.
As always, let’s dive in:
Congratulations to ZSL’s newest Senior Partner, Katrina Bennett!
It was so lovely to see Katrina achieve her dream of being senior partner this week, with Louis escorting her, in his own special way, in to her new office. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Katrina’s journey so far this season, as she navigates the harder elements of rising the ranks in such a competitive and life-consuming profession and it was lovely to see her able to take on a case that truly mattered to her, now that she had the power to do so. However, it was also satisfying to see her not succeed without a struggle and her seeking Harvey’s advice (don’t forget it was him that brought her to the firm originally), was particularly lovely. It also demonstrated how much he’s grown too, in a scene where he really was a sounding board to someone junior to him.
There was another element to Katrina’s story this week and that involved her newly-blossoming friendship with Brian. I don’t know about you, but I spent most of the episode with my fingers crossed that they weren’t going to take this plot strand in to the cheating sphere. It really would sour my opinion of both characters and having them simply by great friends, supporting each other through the chaos, will be far more interesting in my view. Thankfully, the writers haven’t chosen what would be the cliched route yet and the more we see them together, the more it seems Brian isn’t looking for anything more than a friend (and no doubt an advocate for his career progression down the line). As for Katrina, I’m still not convinced she has romantic feelings towards Brian; rather he’s more of a symbol of what she knows is still missing in her life and which was only highlighted more in her lovely final scene with Louis. I’ve missed them together, so it was heartwarming to see him there to support her and congratulate her on such an incredible achievement.
Alex vs. Samantha – Part 1
It seems that the mid-season finale is going to spend a lot of time on the battle for Named Partner between Williams and Wheeler (more on that later), so this week could be seen as the warm-up round, as they found themselves on either side of a case between two clients. It only made things more interesting to have one of those being the shady client Samantha can’t stand and Alex was stupid enough to take on. I have to say, based on what we’ve seen of Gavin Andrews, I agree with Samantha that whatever happened to the painting was probably deliberate! I also didn’t think she was out of line suggesting the firm drop him. Hasn’t PSL / ZSL had enough of dodgy clients? This was the perfect opportunity to legitimately ditch another one!
Donna’s conversation with Samantha was also fascinating, as I too was initially surprised to hear Donna suggesting to another woman that she hold back from what she wanted. Coming from someone who’d fought so hard recently to achieve a more prominent position, independent of a man, it seemed a little out of character for Donna to do this, although her ultimate goal seemed to be firm harmony, which has always been something she’s been involved in too. What I did love though was the dialogue here and how, by the end of the scene, Donna understood and respected Samantha’s position and not that it matters, but I’m still Team Wheeler.
Life Is Short (No Matter What Harvey Says)
Motion To Delay also saw the firm, yet again, under threat. This time is was from Tommy Bratton, still annoyed that his criminal activity had been curtailed and his career halted. Shouldn’t he just be grateful not to be in prison?! This could have been yet another episode where we have someone make lots of threats and then have the team find a way to beat them. Let’s face it, Suits does that A LOT! However, the writers chose to incorporate the sentiment that none of us are here forever and you never know what’s around the next corner, with the revelation that Bratton was dying, followed by his unexpected death later on.
What was most interesting to me in this plot strand was how Bratton’s death affected Robert Zane and Harvey quite differently. Harvey acknowledges how if you found out your days were limited that surely you’d make the most of them, but he was more detached from the reality of what happened and it didn’t seem to cause him to reflect upon his own life, unlike when he was faced with Louis’s changing circumstances earlier this season. He also even commented to Katrina that “life is long.” No, Harvey, that’s not the lesson you should be taking from this! Life is not long. You do not have all the time in the world, so hurry up and tell Donna you love her! Mind you, the comment seemed to sum up his current frame of mind, as this season he’s seemed to be struggling with the changes around him. Perhaps every day feels like a long struggle to him right now?
Robert on the other hand, took the news of Bratton’s death very badly. Yes, he’s older and had known the man personally for many years, but it seems to cause a bigger shift in his outlook on life. Just as Louis has started putting more of a focus on his personal life this season, Robert too seemed to be weighing his choices for the future by the end. Will we see him stepping back from the office? I think it’s very possible.
What’s going on in that brain of yours, Donna? Just ASK HER, Harvey!
We didn’t have much between Donna and Harvey in Motion To Delay, with the scene we did have being quite formulaic when it comes to them – Donna gives helpful insight, Harvey realises she’s right and follows her suggestion. In this case, it was Donna pursuing a lead of her own with Frank Gallo’s daughter, but let’s face it, we’ve seen this same scenario hundreds of times. I did find Harvey’s question and overall mood in the scene interesting though. As I’ve said already, he seems emotionally exhausted this year and the interaction lacked any spark, or banter and as for the question, I certainly think Harvey would like the answer to that to cover more than just work!
It’s not quite the same as the Mike and Harvey bromance, but I do love Zane and Specter!
We’d heard creator Aaron Korsh say that, just because Mike was gone didn’t mean the movie quotes would disappear too and sure enough, this week saw Harvey find a new partner in crime when it came to the movie quotes. I loved this more light-hearted scene between the two characters and it reaffirmed that they may have their differences, but there is still an affection and respect there.
Looking Ahead – we’ve reached the mid-season finale already!
Blimey, time flies! We’re already at episode 8.10, which will leave us with a few months to ponder what awaits us over the final six episodes of season eight. Entitled “Managing Partner” we already know that the episode will involve a fight for named partner between Alex and Samantha. Who’ll win? The obvious answer would be Samantha (perhaps using her mysterious past with Zane to her advantage?), but perhaps things won’t work out the way we expect. Also the title could suggest Robert does choose to step down, leaving the managing partner role open again for either Harvey or Louis. Part of me honestly thinks Louis would be better placed to take this on right now, but we’ll have to see.
Or the title could simply relate to Donna, who manages so many partnerships in the office at the moment, whether with Harvey, Robert or the other characters. The synopsis suggests Donna has to make some sort of decision for the good of the firm, which intrigues me. Will Harvey see this as a betrayal, only solidifying the distance that’s existed between them so far this year? They certainly look quite serious and a little sad in the promo photos we’ve seen. Plus, the cast includes landlord David Fox. Is he back with more work for Harvey? Is he still trying to get Donna to have dinner with him? He did redeem himself a little last time, so it’s not totally ridiculous is she said yes.
I honestly have no clear idea what’s going to happen and whether or not we’ll be left with as excruciating a cliff hanger as we were this time last year! Not long to find out!
Suits continues tomorrow with 8.10 “Managing Partner” on USA Network in the US and on Thursday in the UK via Netflix. You can see the promo here: https://youtu.be/odjg7v3_eLU