August 21, 2014

THE SKED Midseason Finale Review: “Suits”


SUITS is USA Network’s last remaining scripted hit, yet it finds itself in a bind:  with tonight’s midpoint of Season 4, it’s taken its original premise–Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) having been hired as a law firm associate by partner Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), even though Harvey knew that Mike had never attended law school or taken the bar–about as far as it can go as an ongoing storyline.  Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) became the last Suits series regular to figure out Mike’s secret, and since it’s no longer a surprise that despite his lack of a formal legal education, Mike is a brilliant attorney (for those of us who did attend law school, it wasn’t much of a shock in the first place), while the series end-game may well return to the consequences of Mike and Harvey’s actions, for the most part Suits will now have to move on.

The first half of Season 4 played out as a series of reasonable responses to this structural problem.  For much of the summer, Suits separated Mike and Harvey, having Mike leave Pearson Specter to become an investment banker–who, naturally, almost instantly jumped into a corporate takeover on which Harvey represented the other side.  It wasn’t a bad idea, but the execution was faulty.  Important characters like Mike’s new boss and Harvey’s client were barely sketched in, while Mike’s new all-repartee secretary felt like a lazy copy of Harvey’s invincible assistant Donna (Sarah Rafferty).  Suits never convinced us that Mike’s new job was anything more than a temporary stop on his way back to the firm, and ended up spending much of its time contriving an unconvincing love triangle with Harvey’s douchebag client turning out to be Mike’s girlfriend Rachel’s (Meghan Markle) old flame.  Only guest stars Eric Roberts and Neal McDonough, practiced smoothies, managed to glide through the tangled plotting as the heroes’ adversaries.

Soon enough, Mike had returned to the firm, with the ball of his career not having advanced at all, and the series moved on to Louis.  He’s been the show’s most unevenly conceived and yet sometimes most rewarding character, initially little more than a comic interest foil for Harvey and Mike, but as played by Hoffman, becoming one who in some ways has more emotional depth than either of them.  Louis wears his vulnerability on his sleeve (it’s right alongside his vanity), and it was believable that he’d take the risk of sacrificing everything by committing fraud (at the Roberts character’s behest) to finally impress Harvey and senior partner Jessica (Gina Torres) with his legal prowess.

The midseason finale, written by Executive Producer Chris Downey and directed by Roger Kumble, presented Louis as a desperate man, having resigned from the firm last week before Jessica could fire him.  It stretched credulity more than a little that he was unable to get a job anywhere in New York, but nevertheless Hoffman made Louis’s terrified belief in the abyss convincing.  There was even a bit of pathos in seeing Louis’s protege, the once-odious Katrina (Amanda Schull), go down with her hero.  Having Louis actually set up shop somewhere else–the episode suggested a partnership with Rachel’s father (Wendell Pierce), already established as a formidable attorney in his own right–might have given Harvey and Mike a continuing opponent worth their trouble.  Instead, the series went in a more conservative direction, with Louis using his new knowledge about Mike’s past to blackmail Jessica into not just bringing him back but making him a name partner.

That will presumably keep the whole gang together at Pearson Specter for the 2d half of Season 4, although with a great deal of hostility, which makes sense but also leaves Suits without much of an attractive central conflict.  Although the show’s development of Louis as a character has been admirable, it’s also pointed up the writers’ failure to deepen Harvey and Mike much more than they were initially.  The writing is still enjoyably slick and the plotting complex, but Suits runs the risk of becoming repetitious, an exercise in legal one-upmanship.

Suits has already been renewed for a 5th season, as the last remnant of USA’s glory days, but its own numbers have been slumping too–it’s been almost a year since the series hit a 1.0 in 18-49 ratings.  It’s in no danger, given the way the rest of the USA line-up is performing, but creatively it could use a tune-up.  Harvey and Mike are still a smoothly functioning team.  A rut, though, may not be far off.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."