Wednesday, January 27, 2016

REVIEW: 'Suits' - Mike Faces Major Personal Repercussions as He Stands Accused of Fraud in 'Blowback'

USA's Suits - Episode 5.11 "Blowback"

Jessica and Harvey must figure out how to build a defense for Mike, knowing full well that he's guilty of the crime for which he stands accused.

Ever since the show began, Mike's big secret about not really being a lawyer has been a problematic plot thread. It's always been this dangling threat hovering over his head that could come crashing down at any moment. The show hasn't been afraid to use it in order to create dramatic stakes for the characters in the past. People finding out the truth has been a pretty consistent source of tension. It's been a somewhat static plot device too. After awhile, the show would let someone else in on the secret and then spend a couple of episodes dealing with the fallout of that action. The show did that with Jessica, then Rachel, and then Louis. It was the exact same plot that happened in each case. And yet, the show has consistently been more entertaining when it spreads itself out and focuses on personal stories with these characters that aren't directly affected by this big secret. This past summer's run of episodes was the most consistent stretch of episodes of the show since Hardman tried taking over the firm back in Season 2. It forced these characters to look inward and truly analyze themselves and the actions they've taken over the years. That has all been fantastic. Once again though, the show is using Mike's big secret in order to drive the story forward. This time is different though because now he's actually in jail.

It was a thrilling cliffhanger in the last episode because it came completely out of the blue. Mike was starting to take some responsibility for his life and his decisions. He chose to get out of this life - yet again. He told Harvey that he was quitting in order to have a family and a happy life with Rachel without this worry constantly hanging over him. After that, he was immediately arrested. And now, the action picks up with him sitting in an interrogation room with a very determined prosecutor, Anita Gibbs played by Leslie Hope, looking to unravel the coverup at Pearson Spector Litt. It's not the typical angry seriousness that usually dominates stories about Mike's secret. Anita has no personal connections to the firm. She's just looking to put away a criminal. And Mike is a criminal. Everyone knows that but they are still looking for a way to get him out of this situation because he is still their friend and colleague - and they don't want the firm to come tumbling down because of him going to prison.

This certainly sets up a compelling story arc for the final six episodes of the season. It initially seems that he'll get out of this mess. That feeling comes from it already being known that the show will be back for its sixth season this summer. Mike's secret has been a defining story of the series. The show may be willing to completely change its narrative as it goes into its later years. That's an exciting prospect. How much will this experience change the characters? The threat of Mike going away for 60 plus years for his fraud doesn't seem like a reasonable threat. But how this case changes the personal dynamics of the firm is a very compelling thread that is already starting to become chaotic. Everyone is rallying around Mike as he faces his worst fear from when he decided to take this job. Anita is looking to destroy Harvey and Jessica as well for their knowledge of Mike's fraud. It's a tense situation that only gets more complicated as this hour goes along.

At first, Mike does look at his current imprisonment as a hopeless situation. He knows that he is guilty which forces him to look at the potential plea deals more seriously than the efforts to actually prove that he is innocent. He's determined to speak to his attorney before telling Anita anything that she wants to know. But the attorney that comes through the door isn't Harvey. It's Robert Zane. He's not connected in any professional way to Pearson Spector Litt. But he does have a very personal connection to Mike. That's what fuels their initially conversation. Robert isn't focusing on Mike's case. He simply wants to know whether or not these accusations are true. Robert looked at Mike as the son he never had. He saw a man who was good enough to marry his daughter. But now, he has learned all of these dark truths and sees nothing but a criminal. He believes Mike and Rachel are just living in this fantasy world that is just now hitting reality. That's certainly true to an extent. It was very foolish to believe that with everyone who knew Mike's secret that it wouldn't come back to hurt him eventually. And now, it is and completely altering Mike's personal relationships that he has formed over the past five seasons.

However, this episode doesn't reveal who tipped Anita off to Mike's fraud. That's Harvey's top concern and strategy once he finally does show up to defend Mike. They need to know how strong Anita's case actually is. There's plenty of potential evidence that she might have. She could have gotten it from any number of people. Any recurring character on the show has the potential to be revealed as the person who sold out Mike. The explanation better be worth the buildup though. There has been a lot of theorizing over the hiatus over who it was. In this episode, Mike and Harvey immediately reach out to Scottie and Trevor. They very much feel like credible suspects. However, both deny saying anything. It's also incredibly important that they won't say anything in the future either. Anita will be building a case against Mike and the firm which means she'll likely contact these people eventually - if she hasn't already. They may not have been the one to start this investigation. But they still play an integral role to it because of the knowledge they have. But whoever sold Mike out in the first place will be key to this case. Right now, it's still a mystery. The show better make that reveal meaningful in the future whenever it does happen. The explanation for that action needs to be so critical to this story. Someone wanted to hurt Mike so much that they were willing to betray his trust and reveal his secret.

The rest of this hour is largely about everyone coming together in order to handle this new threat to the firm while making sure not to undo all of the meaningful work they just did battling Jack and Charles Forstman. The show is able to back out of Harvey having resigned from the firm a little too easily. It should only be a temporary solution too. In order to keep Mike and Forstman at bay, they use Mike's legal situation in order to force Jack into not taking any action within the firm. It largely means that the sole focus of these next few episodes will be on this external threat. Anita proves herself to be very manipulative in court. She's a strong opponent. Everyone will need to be united in order to convince the legal system that Mike really is a lawyer - and discredit all the evidence Anita might have. It's a precarious situation. One that is already creating a lot of tension in Mike's relationship with Rachel. But this episode also showcases how much trust the firm has with one another. None of them are willing to sell each other out just in the hopes of getting immunity. That may not be able to last the longer this trial goes on. But right now, they are presenting a united front. They are the family that supports each other when this threat comes to one of them. It's an angle the show has done before. Several of these characters have gotten into personal legal jams over the years. But this one promises to be more complicated and potentially life-changing because the accusation is rooted in the truth.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Blowback" was written by Nora Zuckerman & Lilla Zuckerman and directed by Cherie Nowlan.
  • It's a tad disappointing that Donna returns to working for Harvey simply because Mike has gotten arrested - and those are details Gretchen can't be trusted with right now. That split was very meaningful in the summer. So it seems weird that it's fixed back to normal so easily here.
  • It's also nice seeing Louis do his best to protect the firm and Donna. He doesn't want any of the people he cares about getting caught up in the mess. He's not actively working against Mike. But his selfish tendencies are getting in the way of his friends actually helping Mike. At least he's big enough to admit that though and then step out of their way in the end. So, Donna will help Harvey and Mike while Jessica will remain managing partner.
  • Robert becomes Mike's attorney for a little bit because Rachel doesn't stick around long enough to hear that Harvey actually will help Mike. And yet, it still works because of the intensity that Wendell Pierce brings to the hour. He's fantastic as he learns the truth and wants Rachel to leave this criminal.
  • Another great Robert scene is when he just shows up in Jessica's office to tell her how much she has failed at being a good role model to Rachel.
  • Anita is really determined to get Mike to talk and role over on one of his bosses. She even gets a marshal to intimidate him both in lockup and outside of his home. It's because of him that Mike has doubts that Rachel won't stand by him through this ordeal.