For weeks, Suits has been breaking all sorts of streaming records. And for weeks, I’ve been trying to find a way to bring something to that conversation that wasn’t simply just, “you’ll never get it.” Because, as far as I’m concerned, most of what I’m reading about this series’ return to the conversation is just so far off base, it’s even more laughable than that time Louis Litt said he ate cock for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Articles range from a series of backhanded compliments, to ignoring the work of a uniquely-talented group of actors and writers, to I don’t even know what else. And everyone wants to boil it all down to “people just want to see Meghan Markle” or “well, shucks! What else are people going to watch during the dual strikes?”
Certainly, a morbid curiosity about what…whatever Markle’s title is or was—I don’t care. She’ll always be Rachel Zane to me—and/or a sudden opportunity to catch up on one’s ever-growing “to watch list” could be a part of what brings people in. Nobody’s arguing there. Such things could very well be the way to open Pearson
Darby Specter Litt’s doors to a whole new batch of potential clients (if you will). But no, neither of those excuses is enough to keep people watching for billions and billions of streaming minutes.
“There’s nothing else to watch” (a lie, if I ever heard one) and/or “omgz! The royals!” are not going to close any potential viewer. Because closing is Harvey Specter’s job. And neither of those too-simple explanations is, or ever has been, what makes this series near and dear to some of our hearts. That’s a job for Harvey; it’s a job for Jessica, Donna, Mike, Louis, Rachel, and so many others. Basically, it’s all down to unparalleled talent and—here’s a sentiment that’s going to come up more than once—giving us a family and a place to call home.
Oh, let’s cut the bullshit. It’s near and dear to my heart. And I’m tired of seeing it framed in all the worst possible ways. “Please take care of my home,” Louis once said in his crushing resignation letter. Well, I’d like to beg the same. Because most of y’all are doing the opposite.
Oddly enough, it’s a recent interview with creator Aaron Korsh, he of the often-frustrating Twitter—no, I’m not calling it X—Q&As, that essentially read my mind. Like I said, I’ve been trying to find a way to write this piece for weeks. An early note mentioned how all my favorite characters, every member of my [Insert Firm Name Here] family, all have “some part of ME and/or who i want to BE in all of them.” Well. Enter Korsh’s THR interview, which scooped me on that point. (And was Exhibit A of why I should stop putting off things that I know are going to be difficult, just because I knon what I do will never be good enough.)
“I think with the characters in Suits, people either see themselves in someone and/or see who they wish they were, and it also has an inherent optimism to it, even though sad things do happen.”(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)
For once, I’m putting away the toaster (if you know, you know) because Korsh…simply gets it here. Crazy that, a creator understanding his own creation, I know.
But, well. There’s still so much to say. And it’s all so difficult to find the right words—which is kind of hilarious coming from someone who had thousands of them for nearly every episode from Season 3 right up until the bitter end. But it’s true. I may never find the words. The ones I have here will never be enough, and they’re, admittedly, all over the place.
It is what it is. I’m not Donna. I don’t know everything, and my brain is, far too often, not too busy being awesome.
Not just a
pretty face legal drama
Personal inadequacies and a late start in getting shit done don’t mean we shouldn’t at least try to explain the magic of Suits, though. First and foremost, it does not work without its stars. All of them, but especially the top five, in no particular order: Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Rafferty, Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman, and—yes—Meghan Markle. Throw in Wendell Pierce, D.B. Woodside, Amanda Schull, Dulé Hill, Katherine Heigl, and a rotating cast of recurring villains, and you really know the series. It is not the Meghan show, but it would also not have had the same early spark without her. Got it? Good.
It’s the story of so much more than just corporate law. Hell, sorry to anyone with delusions to the contrary, but it’s not really a “legal” drama at all. Sure, there’s drama. And that drama has to do with a law firm constantly being in a state of turmoil…but to explain this series as primarily about that would be to do it, and all of us who tuned in week after week, an incredible disservice.
This is a show about family. It reminds us about the value of things like loyalty, love, and strength through vulnerability. But that’s not all, no. It’s also a show about perseverance, about finding a way back to your dreams—even when you’ve long-since decided you’ll never get to live them. Even, maybe especially, when you find out there’s a way to live them that you never even considered.
The series also features many different types of Strong Female Characters™, none of whom are constantly put through physical torture to prove just how tough they are. Sure, there’s plenty of emotional pain—what the fuck were “Intent” and “Not Just a Pretty Face,” y’all? Are we ever getting over that pain?—but the men go through it, too. There’s a balance, and while the series walks right up to the “toxic masculinity” line, it never fully crosses over. Because the writing—and the criminally underrated performances—create a story that goes so much deeper than some show about a corporate lawyer hiring a super-brained fraud ever had any right to.
Suits is an incredible balance of high-stakes drama—kind of perfect for a binge as it turns out—and humor. But even the comic relief can cut straight to your gut if you’re not careful. See also: Pretty much any time Sarah Rafferty—brilliant, brilliant artist she is—and Rick Hoffman share screen time. They will have you switching between unhinged laughter and broken tears so fast, you won’t know what hit you.
Donna and Louis’ struggles and triumphs, as well as their quirky, yet poignant friendship, have no business being such a strong aspect of this series. But they are. Of course, that’s what makes the times when they’re at odds—most notably, when Louis first learns Mike’s secret—that much more able to destroy you. And make no mistake: These two masters of their craft will absolutely, at every opportunity—whether with one another or in some other capacity—destroy you.
It’s a show with heart, with a storyline that had no right to resonate so well with so many people—who really wants to see a bunch of rich people constantly bending the law for their personal gain and getting away with it? Normally, I’d be like “fuck that.” But this is Suits. So. Sign me up.
But why? I’ve often asked myself what makes this formula the one that just works. What made this show build roots within me the way this one has? What made this show one I can’t seem to cut out of me? All I can say is, you had to be there. You have to go to that firm, visit with these characters that feel as if they might just exist in the real world after all, and take home whatever it is that sticks with you. That’s it. You just had to be there. And you just had to be ready to rip your guts out when you were.
Case in point: There’s actually a moment, at the end of the fifth season, where Rafferty’s (queen) Donna Paulsen tells Harvey she wants him to see himself as worthy. And she emphasizes that she believes he’s worthy. I am an ugly mess of sobs every time I see it. Not just because of the story of these characters, or Rafferty and Macht’s as-always stellar performances, but because I swear to God, I just think we all need a Donna to tell us we’re worthy. The world is full of people and experiences that will knock us down, but having our own, one-of-a-kind, Donna in our lives? That’ll build us up. It’s priceless—she’s priceless.
And Rafferty herself…let’s just say if you were incredibly online during the live tweets, or if you’re just discovering her now, you know she might just be even cooler than Donna. Jot that down.
But back to the “worthy” discussion. Because that illustrates yet another highlight of this show. Namely, it speaks to us. There’s a little something for everyone, always a moment that might dig down into the depths of our insecurities and tell us we’re not whatever failure we think we are. Suits tells us we’re worthy in our lowest moments. It shows us our people, if they’re really “our” people, will always be there for us when it counts. At the same time, it also shows us it’s ok—encouraged, even—to celebrate our successes with our loved ones. To take time when and where we can. (Maybe don’t “take the pot” at work if it’s illegal in your area, though. Or do. I’m no narc.)
Perhaps most importantly, this series shows us, over and over again, that no person is “just” their job. And no job should be looked down upon either. The secretaries—first Donna, then Donna and Gretchen—and the sole paralegal (Markle’s Rachel Zane) on this series hold far more power than society at large wants us to see. But Suits sees them, sees anyone who does those jobs, and says “you’re worthy.” Which, of course, is a total reversal of the scene that started this part of the rambling.
Darvey? Machel? Yes.
And, yes Suits is an epic love story. Sorry to anyone who didn’t see the power of Darvey, from the first second Rafferty and Macht shared a scene. It is frustrating, and angsty, and so undeniably beautiful. No, we shouldn’t wait around for 12* (y’all know why the asterisk is there if you’ve seen it all) years for the love of our life to finally let us all the way in…but Donna doesn’t really wait around. Neither does Harvey, not really. They just…they need to learn and grow to get there. Which they do. And when they do…it really is something to behold.
Or, ok. It’s a pair of epic love stories…because Mike and Rachel were hella god tier in their own right, especially in the beginning. A show where both major ships win? Now, that’s a miracle.
The “P” in PSL…and much more
I haven’t even gotten to Jessica Pearson yet. For a woman, a Black woman no less, to constantly weather the unceasing storms thrown her way…it’s so inspirational to see. She’s managing partner, mentor, reluctant mother to two constantly-bickering little boys (Harvey and Louis, obviously), and so much more.
While my love for Suits knows no bounds, I will also say this: It was never the same after it lost Gina Torres, and with her, the “P” in PSL. The strength, the poise, and—yes, just like her protegé, the hidden vulnerability—were powerful in a way that stood out even on this show, with all its many rich characters and all its unbelievable performances. She was a calming presence, an authority, and the voice of reason.
Even so, she couldn’t help falling into the trap that was Mike Ross. Because he was just that good, and you couldn’t help but be taken in by his charm. It was impossible, and Patrick J. Adams made him someone we had to root for. Jessica found herself a soft spot for that smart-mouthed kid, that mini Harvey, that Mike “Goddamn” Ross, just the same as we all did. And because, at the end of the day, Jessica would do anything to keep her people safe, even if it meant keeping that secret and constantly being in danger as a consequence. Imagine having someone who loves you this much, who will fight for you as hard as Jessica fought for PSL, in your life.
There’s another important point hiding in that all-too-brief description of Jessica above: Even the best of the best, the leader, was flawed. As we are all flawed. She’s a hero to worship. Yet, unlike other heroes, she is not too good for us. Because we, too, get to have our moments—our chances to be on par with our heroes.
Back to seeing ourselves in this family…
Even Louis, the overlooked, left behind person in all of us, gets his chances to save the day. To show where he shines. Sometimes, Jessica has to admit she was wrong, and Louis was right. Or any other person “beneath” her did a better job than she might have, because we all have our strength. We all have our value. Jessica sees the value in her people, knows when they’re best suited to step in, and manages to even forgive some of the worst betrayals. Because, maybe, she would’ve made those same moves herself—already has, in some cases. And that is what makes her, and everyone else on this series, feel real. It’s the complexity, the flaws mixed in with the utter perfection in a way that should be a contradiction…yet isn’t.
At the end of the day, these characters may not all resonate with everyone in the same way they do with me. It would be really weird if they did, actually. But it’s that deep, personal connection viewers can forge with them that makes Suits the type of series people simply can’t stop watching—even when, as I once named the draft of one of my reviews during Harvey Specter’s ill-fated relationship with his former (abusive, unqualified, garbage…) therapist, “I’M TIRED.”
I am Jessica, often betrayed. But I want to be Jessica—never taken down until I say it’s time to go and leave on my terms. And I am Louis, never recognized for my worth and eager to lash out in anger to cover my pain. Like him, “all I ever care about is for people to see me as more than I am.” But I am also Donna, who is far more than how others might view her position. And I am Mike, who “got knocked into a different life, and [has] been wishing for a way back ever since.” The walls, and the hurt, and the hiding behind self-confidence, sometimes real and sometimes false, well. Yeah, there are a million ways I’m Harvey…which..kinda weird, considering he’s a rich white male. And I am…not that. On many levels.
Yes, it’s a legal drama. But no, that’s not what has me sobbing through scenes I practically have memorized as if it’s the first time I’m seeing them. It’s the human quality of it all, the ability to look up at the screen and say, “they get me.”
It’s Gabriel Macht’s performance as Harvey Specter, all false bravado one minute and barely-contained emotion the next. And yes, it’s his growth, which I wrote about four years ago and still marvel at every time I watch it unfold. Harvey, much like this series in which he’s the central character, is the epitome of “AI could never.”
And, actually, maybe that’s what’s making Suits the show of the moment right now—you simply can not create this beautiful, if sometimes frustrating, thing without real, human talent. Without real, human emotions. In the middle of dual strikes, which are all about how the artists involved in creating this series—and many others—are facing forced obsoletion, viewing a series that you absolutely could not make with a generative AI prompt is a pretty fun, if tiny, act of rebellion.
“Best closer in the city knowingly hires a fraud to practice corporate law. The firm is constantly in trouble, because of that secret and so many other scandals—both of the petty personal type and of the huge legal consequences type—but everyone always survives, in their own way, in the end. Oh! And make sure to throw in some secretaries who always seem to know when to appear to make things all better and a paralegal who wants more or whatever..”
Trust me. You’ll never get Suits out of that, no matter how many bots are trained to plagiarize existing legal dramas. The series even tried it with “The Donna.” She tanked. Because she wasn’t The Donna.
“Harvey, you didn’t just give me my dream. You gave me a family.”Mike Ross, episode 5×10, “Faith”
So, where were we? Ah, yes. The family story, with all the fully-fledged characters and such.
No matter how you connect with these characters, it’s inspiring to see them always find a way to survive. To, when they’re backed against wall after wall, break every goddamned one of them down. (Yes, that’s a paraphrase. I hope Harvey wouldn’t mind…much.) No matter what life throws at them…they find a way. And no matter how much they might fight amongst themselves—and wow, does it get ugly on occasion!—they come together to figure their shit out. Jessica, and Harvey and Donna, and Mike and Rachel, and Louis…they aren’t just their archetypes. Each and every single one of them is part of a family, a home.
Perhaps the best way to sum that family aspect up is just to look at Louis and Jessica’s commentary Lord of the Rings. “I mean, it is about power,” Louis says in episode 5×11. But, Jessica counters, “that’s funny. I always thought it was about friendship.” That’s it. that’s the show…if you will.
Put another way, the best stories are the ones that make us feel something, and the best characters are the ones we’re almost fooled into believing are real. That’s Suits; that’s these characters. Somewhere out there, I like to think there’s a Harvey waiting to give me, or maybe someone else, a chance at unprecedented success. And maybe he’ll be someone who just needs a slight nudge in the right direction to open himself up to healing, to love, to maybe even finding a younger sibling/surrogate kid. Or maybe I’ll find a Mike to show me a better way, or a Donna to be my rock. In a perfect world, I’ll even get a Jessica to put me in my place when I need it. (And save my ass when I need that, too.)
The final verdict
I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve just said it’s a fun little series. The ships are iconic, and the bromance features banter that includes of the best movie references ever. Don’t get me started on the shit count either. These writers can write some dialogue that has no business working, for what it’s worth. Somewhere in there, there’s even a painting that might or might not break a little piece of your soul when you lose it.
Basically, there are a lot of words here that, still, say nothing at all. But, here’s to hoping they do a better job of explaining…something about this series. Here’s to
trouble figuring out something about why people are obsessing over it than the uninformed conjecture that’s out there. Because, well. A lot of that shit sounds like Paula Agard’s interpretation of facts. Take from that what you will.
Anyway. Enough of her.
So, why is Suits “suddenly” popular on streaming? To borrow from The Donna Paulsen: Because every single actor, writer, and crew member involved in creating it for us, and every fictional character who made us feel alive, and every viewer who found a home here over 12* years, “fucking earned it.”