Wednesday, March 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Suits' - Mike Presents His Case For Why He Should Become a Real Lawyer in 'Character and Fitness'

USA's Suits - Episode 6.16 "Character and Fitness"

Mike needs Harvey and Rachel's help to overcome an impossible obstacle, or his dream of becoming a real lawyer is over. Donna's new venture hits a snag. Louis tries to patch things up with Tara.

It was well over a year and a half ago when Suits blew up its premise. Mike was arrested for fraud. He stood trial for his crime and went to jail for it. That arrest showed real forward momentum on the show's part. It no longer needed to really on the big secret in order to tell stories. Since then, it's been a fascinating journey for Mike, Harvey and the rest of the characters at the firm. It was clear that the show wanted to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. But it also wanted to properly analyze the cost of these characters' actions and make sure they dealt with the real consequences. That's why Mike went to jail. He sacrificed himself to save the firm and potentially have a better life once he got out. Well, he got out early and went straight back to pulling some morally questionable tricks in order to become a real lawyer. It was the journey the show was taking the audience on. It wants us to become invested in Mike becoming a lawyer. It's something he's wanted more than anything else. And now, he's doing so the proper way. He's appearing in front of the character and fitness board. He's presenting his case to a panel of people who will decide his fate. And that ultimately makes the journey satisfying because it feels like genuine character growth. His prison arc may have been shortchanged by the need to get him out as quickly as possible. But it's easy to get swept up in all the characters stepping forward to say that being exposed as fraud has made Mike into a new man.

Of course, this is still Suits after all. So there has to be some last-minute twist that throws all of this hard work into jeopardy. In this case, that happens to be the return of Anita Gibbs. She was the prosecutor who put him away in the first place. And now, she will be deciding whether or not he has changed. She has her own bias towards him. To her, Mike is a shifty con man who will do or say anything to get what he wants. She views Harvey the same way. She knows they've cut morally questionable deals in the past. She's not above using that as leverage to get what she wants either. Harvey would give her a case for corruption if it meant saving Mike. But things can't be as easy as that. There needs to be a personal stake in this conflict as well. At times, Anita can come across as a one-note adversary for Mike and Harvey to face at the last minute. But she has a genuine point-of-view as well. She's absolutely right to see Mike as a criminal who didn't have the time to change. He cut a deal out of self-preservation not because it was the right thing to do. She's able to see through all of the bullshit. That's a keen ability that should be rewarded. Instead, she's made out to be the enemy. It makes her a strong character for Mike and Harvey to spar with. It's just not as interesting as the first time she was on the show and presiding over Mike's trial.

And yet, Anita's presence is enough to make Mike and Harvey doubt their actions. Is everything that they've done worth it? Mike is presenting his case to the ethics board while Harvey and everyone else is tirelessly working to get Anita thrown off the panel. Harvey needs to find some dirt on the man she replaced. He needs to believe that there is some secret that he could leverage against him just like Anita did. But he's faced with the realization that perhaps this guy really is clean. That there is nothing he can do. He can act out but at the end of the day he's just flailing around not doing any good. That's a fascinating personal reflection on Harvey's part that doesn't quite get enough time to fully manifest into something. And yet, that's hardly a concern at all because Jessica makes a surprise appearance at the last moment to save the day. That's truly a shocking moment. She comes forward having known that Mike was a fraud before he was arrested. She doesn't believe the Illinois bar will do anything about that. When Harvey was faced with coming forward, it was a big deal. He had to question if he would throw away his life for Mike. With Jessica returning, the show is able to wave all of that away. She returns with the evidence that Anita leveraged to get on the board and makes sure she votes yes on Mike's acceptance to the bar.

That final sequence really is fantastic. It's simply all of the show's main characters waiting in an office to hear about Mike's fate. Mike has risked so much to become a real lawyer. His job at the legal clinic could be in question as well. He tells Nathan the truth about what he did because Oliver was pressing for him to. Nathan wanted to fire him even though Mike just brought in $50,000 to the clinic. Mike proved his worth and Oliver stood up for him. This is the reality Mike is fighting for right now as well. If he becomes a lawyer, he's not planning on returning to Pearson Specter Litt. He wants to keep working at the clinic and helping lawyers like Oliver and clients who need it the most. He wants to make a difference in the world even though that may not have the rush of being a corporate lawyer. That's the life that Harvey wants for Mike. He keeps pressuring him to return. Harvey has done so much for Mike this season. He's put his better judgment aside just to help him. He has risked his own career just to be there for his friend. He's willing to accept Anita's deal to help Mike. Mike won't let him. In a lot of ways, Mike is more mature than Harvey because he sees the world clearly. Harvey's judgment can still be clouded in a lot of ways. That's why he needs Mike, Donna and Louis in his life. But of course, he still has to make that final offer to Mike to return to the firm after he gets the tremendous news that he'll become a real lawyer.

It's also fascinating to see the show so easily shift back into its familiar foundation. Mike accepts Harvey's deal to return to the firm. He does so with a couple of requests. He still wants to work pro bono cases and help at the clinic. He wants to fund the place for the next two years. He still wants to do good in the world. But he also values the friendships he has at the firm. He also gives Harvey the clarity he needs to step up as a leader of this business. These last few episodes have really been swallowed whole by the arc to make Mike a real lawyer. And now, they've succeeded at that. It's a cause worth celebrating. Moving forward, the firm will be restored. Yes, Jessica is still gone. She's still living in Chicago with Jeff. Harvey and Louis will still be struggling to run a successful business. But there's a certain quality of the band being back together to this ending. Mike being a real lawyer takes away so many of the problems that would pop up back when Mike was first working at the firm. It complicated so many of the characters' lives. Some of them are still dealing with those consequences. So, the victory here is earned. But it's also clear that moving forward things can't be the same as they were before. Yes, the characters will still rely on each other for support. But they should be open to doing things in different way as well and not rely on the same tactics and behavior they've always done. Exploring that should be very fascinating for the already announced seventh season.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Character and Fitness" was written by Genevieve Sparling and directed by Roger Kumble.
  • Donna comes to the realization that she wants something more out of life. That seems to be the purpose of her arc with Benjamin and Stu. The business is compromised by a competing company. And now, she just wants more than money, being a good secretary/friend and casually dating guys offscreen. Will that lead to romance with Harvey? Who knows! But the possibility is certainly open.
  • Louis and Tara's relationship never worked for me. So, it's hard to feel anything about it ultimately not working out between them. And yet, the emotion and history that comes from the Louis-Rachel friendship really carries that final scene to excellence. It's great that she is there for him during this difficult time.
  • So, is Mike actually going to get Harvey's office while Harvey moves into Jessica's? It would be a huge step up for Mike. But it also seems like a lot for someone who'll just be a partner at the firm. 
  • Harvey also largely gives Mike whatever he wants just so long as he returns to the firm. That doesn't seem like a great business idea. So, it should be interesting to see if any of Mike's demands clash with the bottom line of the rest of the business.
  • Oliver was a huge motivator for Mike to do the right thing as of late. Julius returns to make sure that Mike's motives are pure as well. It would be fascinating to see if these dynamics continue moving forward. It would be good if there's a presence to constantly challenge the way Mike does things - and Harvey too.
  • That's it for Season 6. This has been a very interesting and busy season. Some things worked better than others. But the resolutions to all of the storylines were pretty great. The show returns for new episodes in the summer. I can't wait to keep watching and talking about it.