Wednesday, September 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'Suits' - Jessica and Rachel Fight for Leonard Bailey as the Firm Faces an Uncertain Future in 'P.S.L.'

USA's Suits - Episode 6.10 "P.S.L."

Jessica and Rachel fight to save Leonard Bailey's life. Meanwhile, Harvey and Louis must keep the firm's clients from abandoning ship by convincing their oldest and most loyal client to stay.

As soon as those flashbacks started playing, it became clear that this was going to be a big episode for Jessica. Couple that with this being a finale, the speculation definitely started about this perhaps being her last episode on the show. And indeed, that is what ultimately occurs. Sometimes knowing these narrative tricks lessens the effect over time. It's a twist that I saw coming. But the specifics of Jessica's exit still felt uncertain until the very end. The character could have been written off any number of ways. The Leonard Bailey case is deeply personal to so many characters. It's the prime focus of this finale. After a season of importance, it was going to have a big ending. An ending that would have a major impact on the characters. It represents Rachel's first time in court as a lawyer. But more importantly, it reminds Jessica of why she became a lawyer in the first place. There isn't some tragic ending to this story. Jessica and Bailey get Bailey off death row. The rush of that moment fuels Jessica's desire to step down from the firm. She then decides to leave for Chicago with Jeff. It's a fitting ending for a long-running character on the show while also leaving the door open for a return in the future.

This is certainly a complicated finale for the firm as well. Bailey's case isn't the only thing the lawyers have to deal with. Mike's early release is having an impact on the clients. It's not surprising at all. His conviction had extreme consequences for the firm. They nearly went out of business after it was revealed Harvey, Jessica and Louis were employing a fraud. They found some stability this season. And yet, most of that happened offscreen. The main action of the season was trying to get Mike out of prison early or trying to get Leonard Bailey off death row. Both of those stories were different than anything the show has done before. So, it's great that the resolutions to them are different than any previous story. It was such a huge celebration when Mike was released last week. All of Harvey's hard work paid off. But now, it's up to Harvey to keep the firm together. Jessica has largely done it by herself while Harvey and Louis were distracted by Mike and Tara, respectively. And now, it's up to them to do the same when she's distracted by Bailey.

Sutter isn't going away quietly after Harvey colluded against him to send him to jail. The firm always knew that Sutter would make noise as he fell. They were just convinced it would not have any kind of legal consequences for them. And yet, the unexpected problem comes from the other clients believing Sutter's claims and wanting to get away as quickly as possible. Jessica's longest client is still loyal to her. But his board is not. They stayed through the entire ordeal with Mike. They were the founding block that Jessica was able to build the firm up again. And now, she's not capable of fighting to keep that business because she's too busy defending Leonard Bailey. Jessica essentially has to make a choice here. It's a decision between her business and a man's life. She made the move into the corporate world after losing a death row case early in her career. That's the reason why she lost her way. Harvard didn't beat her ideals out of her. The realities of the job did that. She has been a very good attorney too. She knows how to bring the hammer down and win a case. But is that enough to completely satisfy her?

The firm has always been so important to Jessica. She prides herself on being the woman in charge. She loved being one of the top firms in the city. At the start of the season after the scandal with Mike, she didn't know if she had the strength to rebuild the firm one more time. The firm has seen so many changes over the course of six seasons. She has had to adapt so many times. Her fellow partners have put her through a lot. They have survived it together. But it's obviously starting to wear her down. Jessica is very appreciative of Rachel for making her work on this case. This arc has been absolutely wonderful because Jessica found the passion to fight for a man's innocence. It wasn't about a corporate transaction or professional business. It was able saving a man from death. It's a simple and scary prospect. She had to make sure Rachel was prepared to deal with the realities of the situation. And yet, it was Jessica who found Bailey's long-lost daughter and told her about his innocence. She put in that effort. So, it's not surprising at all when she ultimately decides to stay with the case instead of running away to a board meeting to save her firm.

Jessica easily could have made that decision. She could have gone away with Harvey and Louis to secure this business. She could have left this case in Rachel's capable hands. And yet, she doesn't because she's personally invested in seeing this case through until the end. She rewarded Rachel with a chance to question Bailey on the stand. Even though she's still just a law student, that was an incredible and deserving moment for Rachel. She got this case rolling in the first place. So, it seems fitting that she be a crucial part of his trial. That inherently created an out for Jessica. Because Rachel got to question Bailey, she could have continued on this case by herself while Jessica saved the firm. She doesn't do that. It's not because she doesn't have faith in Rachel's abilities as a lawyer. Instead, it's because she was the one perfecting the strategy to effectively prove Bailey's innocence. Rachel knew the strategy. But Jessica knew how to produce the A Few Good Men moment. It's because of her skill and confidence that she is able to trap the victim's father in a lie about paying to send Bailey's alibi witness to rehab. That's enough for the judge to set Bailey free. Jessica does that. That's a high that reinvigorates her professional ambition. And yet, it's a new type of energy for her. One that gets her to question her future at the firm.

Jessica doesn't decide to leave because the firm is in peril either. If the firm was at risk of falling apart, she would have stayed and fought. Instead, everyone is fine. Her absence from the board meeting wasn't as big of a deal as it first seemed. In fact, Harvey and Louis enacted a new strategy that was able to save this professional relationship. They just got Stew to buy a substantial share in the company as a way of making it up to the firm for breaking the lease and moving out. The solution was just that simple. It wasn't something that comes completely out of the blue. Stew's interactions with the rest of the cast haven't always been great or particularly meaningful. And yet, this action at least recognizes that the two sides came to an understanding and appreciation of the other by the end. So, the firm is safe for now. Harvey and Louis want to celebrate when Jessica shocks them with her news. It creates an uncertain future for the firm. However, as Donna notes, they are done fighting for and being distracted by other things in their lives. They now have the time to fight to make the firm the best in the city again. Now, they just have to do it. Jessica believes that they can.

The finale closes on a couple of key romantic moments as well. All of them are very simple but very effective. It's great seeing Jessica back on Jeff's doorstep wanting to build a life with him. That romance really was such a strong story. Sure, it was complicated by all the needless secret keeping. But he also represents a solid and happy ending for Jessica. Meanwhile, Mike gifts Rachel with a picture of her first victory in court. It's hopefully the first of many. The future is still uncertain for both of them. Mike still has a key decision about what to do next. But in this moment, he is just proud of Rachel and what she was able to accomplish for Leonard Bailey. Elsewhere, Louis actually proposes to Tara after she reveals that she is pregnant and the baby isn't his. Yes, it's too silly to work because they've barely been dating. But it fits in thematically with what these final moments are trying to do. And lastly, Harvey is all alone in his office. He's mourning the loss of a great mentor and even better friend. He and Jessica were so close. This will be such a personal loss to him. And yet, Donna is there for him. She will comfort him in any way that he needs. He appreciates that. He's not afraid to be vulnerable with her. It will be interesting to see if there is anything to read in that final hand holding moment. It could be reigniting the spark between the two. Or it could simply be the two being there for each other when they need it the most.

Some more thoughts:
  • "P.S.L." was written by Aaron Korsh & Genevieve Sparling and directed by Kevin Bray.
  • This really isn't an important episode for Mike at all. Harvey presents him with a job offer to work at the firm as a consultant. He certainly acts like one with Bailey's case. But he still hasn't decided one way or another.
  • Mike ultimately chose to go to jail. He took a deal instead of waiting to see what the jury said. So, does he even still want to practice law? Does he want to offer legal office? He was more than comfortable doing it to help Kevin and get out of jail himself. But things would be different if he was back working in the corporate system of the firm.
  • Robert Zane is the one who alerts the firm to their longest client looking elsewhere for representation. He does so because he misses the competitiveness of their relationship. He even makes an offer to merge just to keep Jessica, Harvey and Louis employed as respectable lawyers.
  • There was a time when Jessica would have taken Robert up on his offer to merge. But now, she no longer wants that kind of relationship. She was on top. And now, she's figuring out what comes next.
  • The flashbacks were helpful in understanding that this would be an important episode for Jessica. But they really didn't provide a whole lot of meaningful context to her backstory or the actual story.