SUITS – Thursdays 10PM on USA
WHERE WE WERE: On a precipice. Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) was a hustler with limited formal education but a photographic memory. He used his talents, among other things, to take tests for those who paid him–including the bar exam, which he passed many times. Fate brought him into the path of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), a sneering, arrogant, brilliant partner at the firm of Pearson Hardman who was interviewing prospective new associates. Mike had no intention of applying, but he impressed Harvey with his encyclopedic knowledge of the law and his street smarts, and found himself hired as a fake Harvard graduate. At the firm, Mike immediately started a when-will-they? relationship with paralegal Rachel (Meghan Markle). He also came to the attention of Harvey’s assistant Donna (Sarah Rafferty), probably the only woman truly able to put Harvey in his place; managing partner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres); and Harvey’s always-in-2d-place rival at the firm, Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman). Although Harvey would be loath to admit it, Mike is his favorite, and rises steadily at the firm. But his past was lurking, and when Mike took up with Jenny (Vanessa Ray), the ex-girlfriend of Mike’s untrustworthy childhood buddy Trevor (Tom Lipinski), Trevor got revenge by torpedoing Mike’s romance with Jenny by telling her about a kiss Mike shared with Rachel–and even worse, by apparently telling Jessica all about Mike’s dirty secret.
WHERE WE ARE: Trevor indeed spilled the beans on Mike, and Jessica’s response is uncomplicated and harsh: she tells Harvey to fire Mike, or she will. Once again, though, fate intervenes. At the firm Pearson Hardman, Jessica is Pearson, but we’d never met Daniel Hardman. It turns out that he’d left the firm 5 years ago, driven out by threats from Harvey and Jessica to expose his embezzlements and adulteries, and then nursed his wife through a fatal illness. Now that she’s gone, he (in the person of David Constabile–Gale from Breaking Bad!) is ready to come back, purportedly a humbler man, but Jessica and Harvey are sure he means to wage war against them. To hold on to her position, Jessica needs Harvey’s help. And Harvey, a master of leverage, forces Jessica in exchange to accept Mike at the firm, fake Harvard degree and all. Meanwhile, Jenny has broken up with Mike, and although he and Rachel are currently having a sitcom-type misunderstanding (she left a romantic message for him and thinks he doesn’t return her feelings because Trevor listened to the message and never told Mike about it), it seems on the way to being resolved.
SUITS is the smartest show on USA. To be sure, that doesn’t put any series on HBO, Showtime, AMC, or quite a few other networks in any jeopardy–and it’s not overwhelmingly smarter than other USA dramas in the way that, say, The Good Wife is incomparably more intelligent than the rest of CBS’s line-up–but it has a wit and sophistication that the network’s other series rarely even attempt. (Next month’s Political Animals, starring Sigourney Weaver, may challenge that.) Even though the episodes always feature a procedural element, there’s a much stronger serialized current to the show than USA usually permits, and the dialogue between Harvey and Mike (and either of them and the other characters) sometimes crackles with intelligent one-upsmanship. (Tonight’s episode featured a running gag that turned on the meanings of the word “redundancy,” without anyone stopping to explain what those meanings were.)
The 2d season premiere, written by series creator Aaron Korsh and directed by Michael Smith, had to cover a lot of territory, because of the need to resolve season finale cliffhangers and introduce the important new character of Daniel Hardman. This left the procedural element–Mike had to push a merger forward by settling a copyright claim brought by one of the companies’ ex-employees–even more paltry than usual, explained and settled in a few scenes of bantering brinksmanship. The meat of the hour was in the continuing stories, and those sequences worked very well. The show has an excellent cast, all of them capable of conveying affection for one another even as they’re trading insults and threats, and that’s the default tone for the series. None of the characters are entirely admirable, but they’re all quite likable.
Suits isn’t the most successful USA show in the ratings, falling into the network’s 2d tier behind such hits as Burn Notice and Royal Pains. It’s easy to see why; nothing blows up, the comedy is verbal, and viewers have to pay attention to the words. It does well enough, though, to have earned renewal, and it’s a pleasure to have this gang back, with their barbed repartee and hefty egos. Compared to the rest of USA’s slate, Suits is the show that makes even the viewers feel dressed up.