Suits returned last week for the first of six episodes that will close out the series' sixth season. The midseason premiere of Suits largely dealt with the professional aftermath of Mike's stint in prison and Jessica's decision to leave the firm. Season six, episode 12, titled "The Painting," further explored Mike's transition to life outside prison, but spent considerably less time on Pearson Specter Litt. Rather, this was an emotionally charged episode that gave us a rare glimpse into Harvey's family life.
(Editor's Note: Spoilers ahead for season six, episode 12 of Suits.)
In the later moments of Suits' midseason premiere, Donna tells Harvey that it is time for him to patch things up with his mother. Harvey's relationship with his mom has been on the rocks since he caught her cheating on his dad years before the series began.
To make things even worse, she asked Harvey to lie to her husband (his father) about what he saw. And we learn in "The Painting" that this mother-son relationship is even more fractured than we imagined. "The Painting" was a loaded episode, switching between multiple storylines, while also juggling two timelines (we will get to whether or not that worked in a moment).
Can Harvey forgive his mother?
In a flashback to seven years ago, we see that Harvey almost decides to skip his father's funeral in an effort to avoid seeing his mother. The fact that Harvey would even consider doing such a thing shows what he thinks of her.
Fortunately, Donna convinces him that he would regret such a decision for the rest of his life. "The Painting" then switches between Harvey's past and present trips home several times: the past one, which was seven years ago for the funeral, and the present one, which is his attempt to patch things up with his family.
While I will always believe that Suits is at its best when Harvey is kicking ass in either the boardroom or the courtroom, episodes like "The Painting" are needed to prevent the series' characters from becoming too one-dimensional. And in "The Painting," you can see why Harvey has relied so heavily on his firm-family for so many years. But this story of reconciliation, largely removed from Pearson Specter Litt, only works because Gabriel Macht delivers one of his better performances as Harvey Specter.
In an emotional final few minutes, Harvey does end up forgiving his mother, after almost leaving home for good when she posits that he owes her an apology as well. While I am looking forward to seeing what role Harvey's family has in future episodes, now that they have begun to bury the hatchet, I assume (without evidence) their appearances will be mostly sporadic. Still, even if Harvey's family does not appear frequently, that does not diminish the importance of this episode.
Mike gets to work
When we were not spending time with the Harvey of past and present, we got to see things work out rather well for Mike Ross. Like, really well. In the Suits midseason premiere, Mike learned that finding work as a convict would be no easy task. Not only did Anita Gibbs claim she would do everything in her power to prevent him from establishing any connection to the legal field, he even got fired as a teacher at his church when a parent learns that he spent time in prison.
For a moment, it really looked like Mike would have some difficulty finding work. But only a few minutes into "The Painting," he ends up being offered a job at the legal clinic he applied to in the midseason premiere. The funny thing is, he gets the job largely because of his prison history. Essentially for $35,000 per year, the clinic gets the legal mind of a former Pearson Specter Litt partner. Talk about a bargain!
Honestly, I would have preferred Mike's unemployment to last a bit longer. His initial struggle after prison presented the opportunity for several compelling arcs that may now go unrealized. Still, I understand why this was not the direction the series took. And fortunately, Mike's transition into his new job was not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Rather, there was some backlash from his new colleagues, who were not too keen on a former corporate attorney taking over the office.
Mike actually earns the clinic workers' respect, though, when he comes clean about his fraudulent past. What will be interesting about Mike's new job going forward is how he adapts to not being able to take part in the legal proceedings.
We see in "The Painting" that Mike cannot intervene when his colleague, who helped Mike get the job, has trouble in the courtroom. This is, of course, because Mike is not an attorney. And while he rectifies the loss in the courtroom by paying for his client's rent, we cannot expect that this will be the solution each time (especially since his income has been drastically reduced). I am particularly curious whether or not Mike will continue to long for more. Is merely being connected to the law enough? Or, does he remain determined to become a lawyer?
Season six, episode 12 of Suits delivered some strong emotional punches, but at times I could not help but feel that too much was being jammed into one episode. Harvey's reconciliation with his mother and Mike's adjustment to a new job are both significant storylines that could have been saved for individual episodes. While these stories did not take away from each other, the result was very little time for Rachel, Louis and, to a lesser extent, Donna.
The two storylines took up so much time that the episode was forced to gloss over Louis and Rachel's attempt to solve a considerable problem for one of Harvey's clients. That is the type of subplot that would normally have a larger presence in an episode of Suits, so it was a bit surprising that it was given so little screen time — especially since it played an important role in a bonding moment between Louis and Harvey.
Ultimately, "The Painting" was a solid, if a bit overpacked, installment in the hit legal series. I very much enjoyed the exploration into Harvey's family life, and the several hurdles it took for him to finally forgive his mother. The episode did not make light of how difficult it can be to patch up a broken relationship. While I believe Mike's transition into a new job would have worked better in a subsequent episode, it still sets up some compelling drama going forward, continuing Suits' push in a fresh new direction. I for one am plenty excited to see what happens next.
Suits season six, episode 13, titled "Teeth, Nose, Teeth," airs Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 10 p.m. Eastern on USA.
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