June 12, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Suits”


SUITS:  Wednesday 9PM on USA

Because of the way USA scheduled last season’s episodes of SUITS, it feels as though Season 3 barely ended (it was just 2 months ago), and now Season 4 is already here.  The events of the Season 3 finale required a moderate reboot, as Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) left his mentor Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and the law firm of Pearson Specter that had been his home for 3 seasons to become an investment banker.  Tonight’s season premiere showed that series creator Aaron Korsh has the new (although not really new at all) dynamic of the series well in hand.

In the episode, written by Korsh and directed by Anton Cropper, Mike was now Harvey’s client, although Harvey continued to treat him with the same genial arrogance and condescension (and underlying affection and even occasional respect, although he’d be loathe to admit it) that he had from the start.  That didn’t play well with Mike, and by the end of the hour, the two had testosteroned each other into becoming adversaries, as Harvey made a show of spitting on Mike’s proposal to launch a takeover of a movie video company–making it personal by using Rachel (Meghan Markle), now a Pearson Specter associate as well as Mike’s girlfriend, as the unwitting conduit–which caused Mike to up the stakes by suspending the firm from representing his new company, which put Harvey into a conflict when another billion-dollar client wanted to go after the same takeover target.  Oh, and just to make everything a bit juicier, Harvey’s client is a guy who used to be Rachel’s married lover.  Since Mike is already under pressure from his new boss about not landing mammoth deals, it’ll be interesting to see how Suits plays this out, and whether Korsh’s end-game is to bring Mike back to Pearson Specter or keep them separate.

The idea of former legal colleagues now on opposite sides of a big case is all very The Good Wife, and the Suits B story could fit on that show as well, as a SEC investigator (D.B. Woodside) leveraged his assignment to go after Pearson Specter into a job at the firm–oh, and he happened to be Jessica Pearson’s (Gina Torres) new boyfriend.  So that’s certainly going to end well.  The C story featured Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), a step as usual behind the Harvey curve, as he plotted to play his knowledge of the SEC investigation into a name partnership, not realizing he was about to get aced out by the new guy.

Suits is an enormous amount of fun, with a groove of non-stop verbal repartee, and there’s no question that it’s USA’s showcase series, but it doesn’t really swim in the waters of The Good Wife.  The show is too committed to its signature move of “You thought you were going to shock me by [fill in the blank], but I saw you coming, so I already [fill in another blank]”/”Well, I knew all along you were going to [2d blank], so I got there first and [fill in a 3rd].”  Tonight it was particularly blatant in the final scene between Harvey and Mike, when he (supposedly surprisingly) turned up at Mike’s new office to get Mike to sign a waiver allowing them to represent opposite sides, and Mike had already written out and signed one before Harvey even arrived.  That one-upmanship doesn’t allow for a lot of nuance, and after 3 seasons, it’s still rare to see any of the characters drawn with genuine depth.  Suits hardly ever delivers the moments of profound character surprise that Good Wife threw at its viewers in practically episode last season, because the characters, while unfailingly smart and constantly trying to out-maneuver each other, tend to perform variations of the same strategies every week.  Even with Mike having moved to a new company and changed his position vis a vis Harvey, they’re still very much playing the same scenes.

With that being said, Suits is expertly accomplished.  Macht and Adams are marvelous sparring partners, and Hoffman is remarkable at pulling believable, complicated emotions out of a role that’s often just comedy relief.  Suits also makes sure that its women are as sharp-witted (if not quite as central) as the men, and Torres, Markle and Sarah Rafferty (as Harvey’s all-knowing secretary Donna), as well as Rebecca Schull as Louis’s acolyte associate Katrina, all have meaty roles–and now Mike has his own secretary, who’s another member of the fast and sarcastic banter club.

Suits had an odd year in the ratings last season–high numbers during its summer run, at a 1.0 level or higher, but then dropping to 0.7-0.8 when it returned early in 2014.  (It was competing with regular network programming at that point, but hadn’t had the same problem when it aired episodes in early 2013.)  Last season’s overall plotline was less compelling than the battle within the firm that had been the centerpiece of Season 2, and that may have contributed to the problem.  In any case, the show is still doing well by USA standards, and perhaps the new venue for Mike will spark some attention.  If TV drama weren’t as amazing as it currently is, Suits would be an A-level series.  As it is, the series is more like a B+, but that still makes it easily head of the USA class, and an extremely diverting hour.

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."