September 18, 2013

THE SKED Midseason Finale Review: “Suits”


SUITS remains easily the smartest and most entertaining show on USA Network (not to mention one of its biggest hits), but its third season so far hasn’t been the equal of its second.  The series, which reached its “midseason” point tonight (actually 10 episodes out of 16, so closer to two-thirds of the way through) has been straining to pepper its rapid-fire plot reversals and repartee with emotional content, successfully some of the time and less so at others.

While last season’s central crisis (duplicitous former partner Daniel Hardman’s attempt to regain control of the firm) provided ready-made high stakes, this season has been somewhat more forced.  The merger with Edward Darby’s (Conleth Hill) firm, and the consequent transition of Pearson Hardman into Pearson Darby (and then Pearson Darby Specter and Pearson Specter) were played out in the context of a single set of convoluted cases, which had client Ava Hessington (Michelle Fairley, who along with Hill gave Suits a double dose of Game of Thrones class) variously sued for control of her oil company and prosecuted for overseas bribery and murder.  Old adversaries of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) were thrown in by the handful, with both ex-DA Cameron Dennis (Gary Cole) and Travis Tanner (Eric Close) making appearances, and Darby’s partner Stephen Hundley (Max Beasley) managed to be responsible for Ava’s purported murders and screw around with the personal life of Harvey’s secretary extraordinaire Donna (Sarah Rafferty).  It was all consistently engaging to watch, but without a strong figure like Hardman at the center of it all, you could feel series creator Aaron Korsh and his fellow writers laboring to make the pieces fit together.

Tonight’s semi-finale, written by Producer Rick Muirragui and directed by Kevin Bray, was action-packed yet anti-climactic.  The latest Hessington case, this time with her suing Darby and Pearson Specter for malpractice, was settled during a commercial break, as were the final terms of the merger dissolution. (Conleth Hill didn’t even appear in the episode.)  The focus, instead, was on the protagonists’ love lives. Harvey finally made a declaration of sorts to former love and Darby partner Dana (Abigail Spencer), telling her he wanted her in his life, and since he also gave her a job offer, it appears we’ll be seeing more of her in the season’s back-end.  Somewhat unconvincingly, managing partner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) became so freaked out by her discovery that Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) and paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) were a couple–supposedly became Rachel is the daughter of recurring firm antagonist Robert Zane–that she insisted Rachel sign an affadavit implicating her along with Harvey and Jessica in the knowledge that Mike is a fraud who never attended Harvard or any other law school.  This brought to a head Mike and Rachel’s struggle over whether she’d attend Stanford or Columbia (the latter, since the show wouldn’t want to lose Rachel as a character).  And Louis Litt’s (Rick Hoffman) declaration of exclusivity to recruiter Sheila Sazs (Rachael Harris) was just the long way around to Louis discovering his first hint about Mike’s secret.

These plotlines were uneven.  The show has never been committed enough to the notion that Dana is the love of Harvey’s life for his emotional breakthrough to have the impact that seemed intended, and all the Mike/Rachel squabbling eventually brought them to exactly the point you’d expect.  As for Louis, he continues to spend much of his time as the silliest aspect of Suits (although with occasional moments of depth)–his showcase episode this season featured a mock trail for custody of a cat.  Although the finale was fun, it didn’t particularly raise one hopes for the final half-dozen episodes; in particular, Suits has gone to the well so often of characters finding out about Mike’s secret that it’s hard to generate much excitement about Louis joining the conspiracy.

Even in an off-season, Suits is one of the most sharply-written shows around, and this crop of episodes was highlighted by a flashback hour that ingeniously filled in blanks about Harvey, Mike and Donna (Rafferty, in particular, was handed some strong material this summer, and ran with it).  If all else fails, it’s always fun to watch Harvey or Mike administer verbal slapdowns to mortals less brilliant than they are.  At its best, Suits is worthy of comparison to The Good Wife, TV’s high-water mark for legal drama.  This season, however, has been falling somewhat short of that best.


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."