Wednesday, July 27, 2016

REVIEW: 'Suits' - Mike Learns a Surprising Detail About Frank While Harvey Goes After a Big Client in 'Back on the Map'

USA's Suits - Episode 6.03 "Back on the Map"

Mike tries to stay safe without violating Danbury's unwritten rules. Jessica and Harvey try to land a whale. Louis searches for an office tenant. Rachel goes up against a fellow student.

Mike being arrested for fraud provided Suits with an opportunity to become more introspective about its core premise. The whole point of the show was that Mike was working as a lawyer without actually being one. He has accomplished so many great things alongside Harvey and the rest of the firm. But does that happiness and success offset the crime at the root of the character? The show was very smart in realizing that it needed Mike to face some punishment for his actions. He took the blame. He fell on the sword in order to protect the rest of the firm. Him being in jail could provide him with the time to truly reflect on his actions over the past five seasons. It's an experience that could really change him as a person moving forward. But in "Back on the Map," it seems like Suits is desperately trying to get back to the familiar and routine as quickly as possible. It's exciting that the firm is starting over and Mike is in jail. But now, it's introducing new storylines that can potentially bring them all back to the status quo from the previous seasons.

Last season Harvey was able to reflect and address his issues from the past by going to therapy. It was a narrative choice that proved very beneficial for the character. Sure, it became complicated in the end when his therapist was given more importance. But it was still vital in getting Harvey to confront his past and changing his behavior. Of course, he can only change so much. He's been more forgiving and nice to Louis but he still boasts about getting under his skin for the fun of it. The same story function could be happening with Mike as well. It's at least been set up that way. Julius wants to rehabilitate the inmates. He wants to talk with them about the problems that landed them in prison and how they can leave as better people. He wants to help Mike. And yet, Mike's story this season has been so predominantly focused on Frank Gallo and the immediate threat he poises to Mike's safety. It's a life-or-death story. It's something the show might have thought it needed to do by being set in a prison this season. It's not abundantly clear. It provides a bigger and more urgent connection to the outside world. But it's also a distraction from the fact that Mike needs to be in prison right now and reflect on his past actions. So far, there has been very little of that.

That's made even more troublesome by the final reveal that Sean Cahill may have found a way to get Mike released early. If that's the case, it would really undermine so much character work over the past two seasons. The show purposefully chose to pick up the action this season in the immediate aftermath of Mike taking a deal and going to prison for two years. It always felt inevitable that somehow Harvey would find a way to get him out early. But it's happening way too soon. Mike hasn't even done anything in prison. Things have been done to him. He's feared for his safety. But he has had no personal growth in the place. He's still largely the same person as when he first surrendered himself. It's not surprising that this reveal of early release happens. The show wasn't just going to leave Mike in jail for two seasons! But it also can't be as little as three episodes. He should spend a good chunk of this season in lockup. Right now, he's being given an easy solution in trying to get his cellmate to testify in a crucial case. That will get Mike released and away from Frank. It's set up as this big final reveal for the characters. And yet, it seems like Mike's story in jail is just getting started. So, it doesn't particularly track well. Things have continued to be rough with Frank but Mike may have found a way out of it. It would be nice if the show could relax into this new situation. But right now, it largely just feels like a temporary distraction that won't be around for that much longer.

Meanwhile, the firm is retreating to business as usual. Harvey finds himself in a plot where he's trying to land a big client for the firm. His choice is between a corrupt official, William Sutter, and a smug bully, Nathan Byrne, he previously said he'd never work with. Both of them represent characters the show has done before. When describing William Sutter, Harvey refers to him as worse than Charles Forstman and Bernie Madoff. That certainly paints a picture of this man and why Harvey wouldn't want to represent him with his legal troubles. And yet, the story goes the predictable route of William becoming the latest legal foe for Harvey to face within a corporate structure. A corrupt businessman who knows how to game the system to his own benefit. Wouldn't it have been more engaging if Harvey had to take on William as a client in order to salvage his firm? It would go against his morals but it would have been an exciting new direction for the show. It would be something the show has never done before. William fits into the antagonistic type the show loves for extended arcs. This won't be the last the audience sees of William and Nathan this season. In fact, Harvey is only helping Nathan now because he's a man of his word and wants to keep William from taking him out of his own company. It's just too familiar and too expositional in this hour to really feel exciting.

And lastly, Louis' story is just completely ridiculous. Its the show embracing the broadest aspects of the character without really providing any further insight into his actions. It's just off and weird. Plus, it doesn't completely track with how he was feeling in last week's episode. He needs to find tenants to sublet office space in order to help the firm financially. Of course, he would be picky about who could invade this deeply personal space. But would that really keep him from finding tenants for the firm? He finds little details to turn every potential tenant away. It's over completely silly stuff that Louis has never had any real interest in too. It's rooted in his desire to keep everyone from using his precious bullpen space. That has been important to him many times over the years. But here, it's just presented in some weird ways. It's all in service to a conflict building between him and the money managers he gets to sign a lease. He made a crucial mistake in letting them work here. He didn't realize the people using the space would be so young and arrogant. But again, how is that a mistake Louis would make? It's all in service of Louis clashing with these money managers over his OCD-like obsessions over the office. That isn't rewarding in the slightest. And yet, it's apparent that it's going to be a major story this season as well. Louis tries to evict them and fails because Harvey needs them. So, Louis will continue to struggle to feel at home at his own firm. That could be interesting. But here, it's pretty ridiculous and bad.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Back on the Map" was written by Rick Muirragui and directed by Cherie Nowlan.
  • As if this episode doesn't have enough stories, Rachel finds herself in a mock trial for one of her new classes. A situation made difficult because of Mike's reputation. That's an exciting premise for a story. The show doesn't really spend any time with her schooling. It's wonderful to see her in that world. But it's all too little because the show needs to get back to what's familiar.
  • Rachel's story also offers her the promise of working on an Innocence Project case with her professor. So, she'll actually be able to help a real person instead of just arguing fake cases in class. Hopefully, that means a fully realized story by herself this season.
  • It's not surprising at all that Rachel eventually wins her mock trial though. She has been learning from some excellent lawyers. And yet, that brief mentoring moment with Jessica was a little weird. Rachel's reaction to Jessica's advice made her seem a little too naive and like she hasn't been paying enough attention over the years.
  • Mike and Kevin's bond really has grown quickly. It needs to be that way because they are the only protection each other has against Frank. That will make it difficult when Mike is eventually presented with the deal to turn Kevin into a cooperative witness.
  • Julius does eventually help Mike out by getting Frank kitchen duty for the same two-hour window. And yet, Julius is incapable of helping Mike with so many of the problems he actively faces in prison. Plus, Kevin doesn't trust the guy because of what happened to his previous cellmate.
  • Way too many jokes about the frequency with which Louis goes to the bathroom. It's more than just one silly interaction between Donna and Gretchen. It's actually a full-on plot point with his war with the new tenant.
  • Jessica boasts that she, Harvey and Louis are making a new map during the toast. And yet, it sure does seem a lot like the old map.