Tuesday, August 20, 2013

REVIEW: 'Suits' - Harvey and Donna's Past is Exposed in 'The Other Time'

USA's Suits - Season 3, Episode 6 "The Other Time"

Cameron's dirty tactics on Ava's case lead Harvey to recall why he left the D.A.'s office; Rachel visits law schools; and Mike looks back at what prevented him from earning a degree.

Suits first flashback episode - the second season's "Rewind" - was an experiment that was more fun than focused on a thematic purpose. It played with how the characters looked and had the big wick-and-nod of Harvey and Mike crossing paths before. It was a fine hour but largely just reaffirmed the past details of the characters. "The Other Time" is the much stronger of the two dips into the past. Sure, it largely falls along the same issues with being a simple rehash of information. But there's one story that just works well here: Harvey and Donna's past. Whereas the show has laid out the details of what has happened to certain other characters and stories prior to the start of the series, this relationship has always been hinted at but never explicitly talked about. That's what made it so much fun and exciting - but also frustrating during some moments earlier in season three. In particular, how Harvey has reacted to Donna's relationship with Stephen. Harvey is the lawyer he is today because of Donna. He respects and could not possibly do this job without her. And yet, he still has some pent-up feelings towards her that bubble up to the surface now that she is publicly so close to someone. Add to that Harvey's general disdain for the guy and how he is mucking up the Ava Hessington case - and he perhaps is letting his personal feelings judge his actions a bit too much. He does love her but he also wants to see her happy - but her being with the smug Stephen is just too upsetting for him.

The hour closed with Stephen flipping to the other side to give Cameron the key witness he so desperately needed for his case. I don't foresee it as simple as Stephen betraying the firm so easily - he must have an ulterior motive. But his helping with the enemy adds a new dynamic to his ongoing conflict with Harvey. It can now be fueled by much more than just their shared love for Donna. With the full knowledge of what happened between Donna and Harvey ten years ago out there, I'm perplexed as to why Donna started this relationship with Stephen when she had that no office relations policy. I know in the beginning she just thought it would be a short and limited fling but now I strongly don't understand why she became so charmed by Stephen in the first place. Sure, she needs to go live her own life. She just can't simply be tied to Harvey all the time. But why did she have to look inside the firm for that?

But at the same time as Harvey's past with Donna came to light, the show also did a strong thematic circle back to his ongoing issues with Jessica. Jessica staged her own coup back in the day and trusted Harvey with that knowledge hoping he would land on her side. He's uncertain about it all because he couldn't comprehend how she could so easily stab the people who helped make her in the back. Flash-forward to present day and Harvey is exactly in her shoes. Taking her up to the roof to tell her point blank that he put into motion a play for her job. Of course, her first reaction is anger. But the two will have to work together as Ava's murder trial begins before anything can happen. Their relationship is even more broken now in that moment - but it could be just as easily mended as completely severed. That's what makes this dynamic work and what makes me excited to see how things play out in the coming weeks.

The Harvey-Donna flashbacks work wonderfully because they fill in a missing piece of their shared backstory. They were also informative and added weight to the current going-ons at Pearson, Darby and Spector. On the flip side, Mike's flashback story was just there. Mike simply does not have the depth of a backstory to fill in a complete storyline when the series does a flashback episode. The details of his past have been clearly pointed out before. Seeing them actually happen on the screen doesn't change much nor offer us a whole lot of insight into his current predicament with Rachel. And their issues over her maybe going to law school at Stanford just seem considerably less vital than the stories happening everywhere else. The show tried to parallel Rachel's desire to go to law school with how Mike destroying his chance of going to Harvard has effected him in the present day. This is clearly evident when Rachel returns home and the two share just a brief moment together. But that moment simply does not work as well as it could have - largely because Mike spent all of his time in the current timeline working on the Ava Hessington case. In the present day, he was just in a legal procedural and in the flashbacks he was doing stuff we already knew about.

It also doesn't help that Trevor is the absolute worst as a character. He's always been a pain in Mike's side whose issues just weren't as compelling as the other stuff happening to Mike. The show wisely kicked him to the curb after the first season. But he ended up being a necessary evil to bring back whenever the show has chosen to do flashback episodes since the series had already set up how close their friendship had been for so long. Sure, there were little moments were the show justifies why Mike stood by him for that long amount of time. It was just largely a story that was unnecessary and distracting from some really great stuff happening elsewhere. But hey, at least we also got a return appearance by Grandma Ross!

Some more thoughts:
  • James McCaffrey was great as Harvey's dad. Their little interactions were very informative of Harvey's family life and why he is the one he is now. I really wish he wasn't dead now.
  • I'm glad the show didn't elaborate any more of Harvey and Donna's can opener ritual. The mystery of it all is definitely more exciting than any answer possibly could be.
  • Louis was only in two small scenes but he really made them count. Rachel had two as well - but barely made an impact.
  • Louis to Donna: "I need a day."
  • Donna to Louis: "And you have a cat who you love more than it loves you."
  • Donna: "If you want somebody to just sit at her desk, answer your phones and pick up your dry cleaning, then put out a want ad."
  • Seriously though, how many names has this firm gone through?
  • And it was very cruel to have the door shut before we actually see Donna and Harvey kiss! I guess the show still wants to leave some level of mystery to it all.
  • Speaking of editing, I just love how Suits executes its flashback episodes - with basic and seamless transitions and just subtle changes here and there (i.e. color saturation, styling, etc).