July 17, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Suits”


SUITS:  Tuesday 10PM on USA

SUITS is the class of the USA Network portfolio, as well as one of its biggest hits, although there are times when it can seem like an orgy of brinksmanship for its own sake.  Character after character faces down an adversary (whether professional or personal) and vows to defeat them (in life or in a court of law), then staggers the foe with a daring last-second gambit (sometimes a bluff, sometimes backed by evidence), either pulling off the maneuver or being double- (or triple- or quadruple-) crossed.   It’s often enormous fun, but also at times exhausting.

Tonight’s Season 3 premiere, written by series creator Aaron Korsh and directed by Christopher Misiano, stood right on that borderline, particularly because many of the face-offs related back to events of last season.  After a marvelous storyline that pitted our heroes, the fantastically arrogant partner Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and his brilliant associate Mike Ross (Patrick J. Wilson) against former senior partner and byzantine plotter Daniel Hardman (David Costabile), the end of Season 2 got somewhat bogged down with a series of possible firm mergers, particularly one with a British law firm, and what that would mean for Harvey and managing partner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), along with various intertwining lawsuits.  The climactic plot turn had Jessica extorting Mike to file a motion that was against Harvey’s interests by threatening to reveal Mike’s dark secret:  that he’s not a lawyer at all, let alone a Harvard graduate, just a sharp hustler with a photographic memory more or less adopted by Harvey.  Ultimately Jessica got the merger she wanted, leaving Harvey infuriated, especially with Mike’s betrayal.  In the ensuing emotional uproar, Mike told paralegal Rachel (Meghan Markle), with whom he’d been in permanent pre-romance mode since arriving at the firm, the truth about himself, which got her so angry that she had ferocious supply-room sex with him.

So when we rejoined our attorneys, just 2 days after the events of the Season 2 finale, Mike was at odds with both Rachel and Harvey, and for his part, Harvey was determined to prevail over Jessica and the firm’s new British head Edward Darby (Conleth Hill).  In case that wasn’t enough, the firm’s unloved partner Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) was in a death-match conflict with his British opposite number Nigel (Adam Godley)–and of course there was also a case to be dealt with, one that involved an oil company executive with special ties to Darby and a prosecutor refusing to cut a deal with Harvey.  That’s not even to mention Mike’s confrontation with Harvey’s superpowered assistant Donna (Sarah Rafferty), or Harvey’s with former girlfriend Dana (Abigail Spencer).  All parties spent much of the hour outsmarting and scheming against each other, with much of the dialogue consisting of variations of I-know-that-you-know-but-what-you-don’t-know-is-this-and-that’s-why [fill in the blank], which became a bit repetitive by the end of the hour.  You can only hear about the noncompete clause in Harvey’s partnership contract so often before it starts to feel like you’re actually sitting in on a legal conference call.

A lot of this was the particular Suits variation on the problem many season premieres have, which is cleaning up the mess left by the previous season’s finale.  (Much time was wasted on the dumb cliffhanger idea that Mike might resign from the firm, which had no teeth because clearly this wouldn’t be Suits if he did.)  By the end of the episode, a fair amount of the leftovers had been swept aside (Mike and Rachel are a genuine couple, and while Harvey hasn’t yet forgiven Mike, the road to their reconciliation is opening up), and foundations were being set for the new season’s storylines.  Perhaps the most promising possibility is that the season will put Harvey and Jessica openly at each others’ throats, rather than as the uneasy allies they usually are–at this point, Harvey has vanquished so many inferiors that Jessica may be the only worthy competition around for him, so that could be fun to watch.  Also, it’s a good idea to bring back Gary Cole as Harvey’s former boss, a vicious political lawyer with no moral code.

It may take another episode or two for Suits to fully return to form, but all its fine pieces are in place.  The dialogue by Korsh and his fellow writers crackles, and the cast handles smart, rapid-fire repartee as well as any group this side of an Aaron Sorkin series.  Suits has been an outstanding performer for USA, with 18-49 ratings in the 1.2-1.4 area, and especially in the quiet of midweek summer TV, it’s a pleasure to see these narcissistic hotshots return.



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."