Previously on Suits: Shadow of a Doubt.
The One Where We Go Back in Time to See How Everything Began, So That It May Teach Us All a Lesson.
A lot of the time, flashback episodes happen to make characters aware of what they’re doing, to open their eyes to something, to history repeating itself. That’s why, often enough, there are visual clues employed to, one, make the viewer aware that the narrative is jumping back, and two, to bind the flashback to the present by making the character conscious of the jump as well. Like that, it’s like the characters are delving back into their past to connect it to the present, to actively draw conclusions. That’s not what happens in this episode. The flashbacks don’t get reaction shots in the present, we don’t see anyone getting lost in thought, we don’t get pre-flashback close-ups. We get tracking shots, clever transformation of images. We slip from present into past and right back. This subverts both the narrative trope and the actual use that comes out of these flashbacks. It’s not the characters doing the work, it’s us.
And in the end, Harvey arrives at a conclusion and does something he should’ve done weeks ago. In the end, we understand his and Donna’s relationship a lot better, his and Jessica’s, and his and Mike’s. We also finally get the whole story on Mike and Trevor and how Mike nearly got into Harvard. We get another helping of the dish called ‘Sympathising with Mike can be really difficult because he tries to be the boy who had bad things happen to him when he’s really just the boy who made dumb decisions,’ which has been on the menu since the first thirty seconds of the show.
It’s funny how much young Harvey is like present Mike — the high five, god give me strength, just look at him. He was a baby (especially Gabriel Macht’s transformation into young!Harvey is masterfully executed, that is magnificent acting), an excited puppy all by himself! And then he had to grow up, very suddenly and very quickly. In the meeting with Jessica, and then at the diner with Donna, he’s slowly morphing back into the Harvey we know now. See, and there’s the clincher. He chose to work for Jessica because Cameron Dennis buried evidence in a murder case, knowingly breaking the law. What Jessica did, moving in the night when everyone’s sleeping, wasn’t breaking the law, but he did ask her about giving a respectful warning in due time, about honour. She told him that being a lawyer had nothing to do with honour — Harvey is big on his principles, but we know that he’s not above going behind someone’s back to win a case, or to use underhanded tactics. He’s made moves in the night on behalf of his clients dozens of times. Prompted by his quarrel with Donna at the beginning, Harvey’s memories present us with a lot of things — and what comes out in the end is that Harvey tells Jessica about his move in the night. He’s giving up, he doesn’t want to take her down anymore. He’s finally realised that he was driven by twisted pride and feelings of betrayal after a period of living in constant fear of losing the firm to Hardman, or completely. Again, we have a reminder that the relationship between Jessica and Harvey is what carries the show: they’re both close to tears after Harvey makes his confession.
Donna and Harvey is even more complicated, it seems. After Harvey’s resignation from the District Attorney’s Office, they are, for one night, free to pursue the more delicate facet of their relationship — but then, Harvey has this idea, and they agree to bury the past and move on. You can see how hard that is for Harvey. It hurts, he has to swallow convulsively before agreeing and asking for the second condition. Jus think about it, if they had gone to work for different firms, they could have kept seeing each other, they… gosh, they could have been married by now. That’s what Donna meant when she said, ‘The feelings just go away.’ And maybe they have, but that intimacy is still there, it always will. It’s not Donna being with someone that’s bothering Harvey, it’s being with someone she works with. Stephen became her exception after Harvey didn’t, and that’s less to do with who they were or who they are, and more with how much time has passed without them noticing. Donna’s living her life, she’s grabbing an opportunity that she denied herself years ago, and that’s just how it is. It’s legit, it’s her decision to change her mind. It’s not about not being able to resist, it’s about not wanting to resist.
We now know why Harvey indulges Mike when he prompts him into a fistbump. We also know how Mike managed to get himself kicked out of college and out of his transfer to Harvard. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m starting to lose the connection to Mike here. A lot in his narrative is about the past, about mistakes he’s made, about regrets. That’s par for the course, mostly, because his story is that he’s a fraud who never went to law school but who pretends he did, so he’s always in fear of his past catching up with him. That’s one thing. But the narrative has been focusing on the mistakes he’s made, and it expects the audiences to identify with him most, right? It’s easy to make Trevor the villain of the piece, or at least the asshole who got Mike into trouble all the time, but, come on. Mike’s a grown-up, he knew what he was doing. If you don’t want to get into trouble — because you can’t afford to, really, when you want to get into Harvard — you don’t go do dumb shit. Yes, Trevor is a vindictive asshat. But Mike also knew what he was doing, and although he always says that he’s finally owning up to his mistakes, it doesn’t always feel that way; because his hubris is still there. It was there when he accused Harvey of not fighting for him in Season 2, it was there when he gave Rachel shit for not telling him about Stanford this season. A lot of the time, Mike still accuses before he thinks or gives himself a reality check, and so far, the show has been letting him get away with it. I wonder how much longer that’ll hold.
Next episode: She’s Mine.