Despite the abundance of shows out there for my viewing pleasure – some good, some bad, some freaking exceptional – I recently realized that, out of all the TV favorites I’ve loved over the years, few are actually still airing, and even fewer out of those remain up to the standards they set themselves.
There’s TWD, the last episode of which was quite disappointing.
There’s GoT, which only has about 15 episodes left – and despite the decision to stretch them out into 2 seasons, the end is definitely near.
There’s Better Call Saul, which is no BB, but still plenty interesting.
There’s The Leftovers, which is going to take a while to air its (sadly) last season.
There’s The Affair, which kind of lost its initial authenticity last season.
And then there’s all those other, new-ish shows that may be promising, but with those it’s either too soon to tell, or just not exciting enough to count down the days until their new episodes are released.
Stranger Things was amazing, but I almost wish they would have ended it at the finale of season 1; Jessica Jones was great, but how much excitement can I drum up over a noir superhero show? The Man In The High Castle was unique but not entirely edge-of-your-seat dramatic. Bosch is cool, but how suspenseful can it be when you have already read the dozen-plus books it’s based on?
Fargo‘s first season was great but the second one seemed much less interesting so I never got around to watching it all. Shameless has been around for a while but I only discovered it fairly recently, and as much fun as the first few seasons were, the sixth one wasn’t really impressive and I’ve yet to start watching Season 7 for fear it just goes downhill from here. Girls was pretty original when it came out but every single character is so unlikable I just get irritated watching them (especially Lena Dunham, whose supposed wunderkind status baffles me just as much as Amy Schumer’s supposed comedic genius).
And speaking of comedy, there’s really nothing that grabs me out there right now. There will never be another Friends, Arrested Development, nor HIMYM for that matter, and every sitcom I’ve tried to stayed loyal to has been disappointing, because those older ones set the bar so high. Silicon Valley is nothing spectacular, The New Girl has some funny moments but Zooey Deschanel’s cutesy schtick is just annoying and 2 Broke Girls is far too aggravating to sit through, between the bad acting and Kat Dennings’ nails-on-a-chalkboard voice.
I’ve never been one to look down on procedurals, no matter how repetitive and corny they may get – CSI was entertaining before it became another 583-season-long franchise; Blue Bloods is still enjoyable to watch and, although nothing to write home about, there’s something about an all-around decent family of cops that keeps me watching.
Bones is incredibly cheesy (and the Deschanel sisters definitely have the annoying factor down pat) but it did have its moments in the first few seasons, so hopefully they’ll just wrap it up soon while it still retains some dignity. Grey’s Anatomy has pretty much lost whatever originality it once had, but it’s one of those shows I just can’t give up on, no matter how bad recent seasons got in later years (this one’s shaping up to be quite interesting though). [Can’t say the same for How To Get Away With Murder, which instantly lost whatever unique quality it had in season 1 – and features the most unlikable lead in Shondaland]
And then there’s Suits, a show I’ve loved and have watched religiously since day one.
When Suits first started, it was mostly about lawyers doing their thing. A big NYC firm that only employed Harvard-educated lawyers was looking for new recruits, and ‘closer‘ Harvey Specter was the very reluctant partner appointed to choose the right one. Instead of going with any of the preppy, humorless, boring applicants, he hired Mike Ross, a guy who made a dramatic entrance by barging into the interview room with a briefcase full of drugs, which promptly spilled open. Aside from being a small-time criminal, Mike also happened to have a photographic memory, which he employed to make a living out of taking other people’s LSATs for them (and being handsomely rewarded for his efforts).
This secret was the central plot point to the show, but it was never only just about a fraud working at a law firm in danger of being found out.
We got new cases each week, new conflicts with the named partners at the firm or between Harvey and his arch nemesis/frenemy Louis Litt; we got Harvey’s assistant Donna and her witty, fierce attitude; we got Mike’s efforts to win over his crush, Rachel, the firm’s top paralegal with daddy issues and a chip on her shoulder for not making it to law school. Between all the subplots and standalone storylines, we got plenty of legal jargon and impossible cases and courtroom shenanigans to balance out the character drama.
Over the years, we’ve watched the firm change hands, the struggle to keep it together, the close-calls when Mike was almost revealed as a fraud, the cunning ways Harvey & co. handled things when people inevitably found out.
The show kept things interesting; the more invested we got in these characters, the more complex their relationships became, and the added danger of Mike and Harvey’s deceit blowing up in their faces kept everyone on their toes (ourselves included).
I can’t put my finger on when, exactly, the show changed gears, but at some point along the way, the variety of cases dwindled to almost zero, the story became all about the firm, and pretty soon the central conflict – Mike being a fraud, Harvey trying to protect him – became the ONLY plot point.
Which brings us to season 6.
The first half wrapped up last summer, and it was different from anything we’ve seen on Suits so far. Mike spent the entirety of the season in prison, while everyone on the outside tried to get him out. Meanwhile, the firm was in a bleak situation, with all its clients running off after the big scandal was exposed. With Harvey trying to get Mike out and Jessica and Louis having to resort to renting out office space to keep up appearances and pretend the firm wasn’t in shambles, the entirety of the first 10 episodes of season 6 basically dealt with one single case.
It’s not that the story became less interesting, it’s that it became much less about courtroom antics and more about secrets and manipulation. Every major player in the story was conveniently linked to Mike’s plight to get out of prison – and away from a very dangerous inmate who was out to get back at Harvey through Mike.
With Mike’s cell mate being the key to not only bringing Harvey’s enemy down but also getting Mike out of prison and his shady father in law behind bars with the help of federal prosecutor and Harvey’s frenemy Sean Cahill, this left Louis, Jessica, Donna and Rachel dealing with their own minor subplots: Jessica and Rachel worked on a Project Innocence case to get a wrongly convicted death row inmate out while Donna helped Louis get the girl he – rather suddenly – fell head over heels for.
The storytelling is always compelling on the show, even when the acting is a little bit wooden and stiff (I’m looking at you, Gabriel Macht), but the fact that this season strayed so much from what we’ve come to expect from Suits in the past five years has left me on the fence about whether I’m actually enjoying this shift in direction.
On the plus side, we got far more character development than we did in seasons past – or at least in a more condensed form. Harvey and Mike’s relationship has always had its ups and downs, but ended on a major high this season, and this time it really felt deserved. It was good to see Harvey and Louis finally on the same page for longer than a couple of episodes. I have to admit I’m gonna miss the snarky comments and those two sabotaging each other, but after years of watching them wage war against each other, some maturity on both ends was definitely called for. Their evolving relationship was testament to the fact that, above their childish drama and endless competition, when the going gets tough, they’re ultimately on the same team and have each other’s backs.
I also enjoyed the fact that this mid-season finale didn’t end on a cliffhanger like it usually did, but instead in what is essentially the end of an era. They could have ended the show on S06E10 and it still wouldn’t have felt like cheating.
What did felt like cheating, however, was how quickly everything was turned on its head. Aside from the obvious – Mike and Harvey’s success in getting Mike released from prison – every other character arc seemed to progress at lightning speed, but for one notable exception: Donna’s role this season was simply to be Louis’ wingman in his quest to win over Tara, while all we learn about her personal life is that she had been dating someone for a while. Okay…?
Speaking of the lovely architect: we’ve been watching Louis pine over Sheila for years, and over the course of a few episodes he meets, woos and proposes to a woman who’s not only obviously out of his league but also in another relationship. And, miraculously, he somehow …wins her over? Suits was never a show to indulge in silly rom-com story arcs and most relationships were ruined in some way or other because of the main characters’ secrets and behind-the-scenes drama, but Louis effortlessly gets the girl because, with Donna’s help, he’s suddenly risen above his usual shenanigans.
Or take Rachel, who’s miserable because the love of her life is behind bars; all it takes is a death-row convict to make her forget her personal drama and lose herself in her work. She’s a law student, but is entrusted with saving a man’s life while her professor is seemingly indifferent and the only actual lawyer on the case, Jessica, is too busy trying to save her firm. It’s not the most far-fetched scenario we’ve seen on the show, but it’s not exactly a believable situation, either.
And then there’s Jessica, who stubbornly and consistently put her firm’s interest above anyone and anything else for so long, but it takes one single pro bono case to remind her why she became a lawyer in the first place… and then give it all up to follow her ex to a new city. There might have been worse ways to write someone off the show, but this still isn’t the most satisfactory explanation.
What every one of these subplots lack is significant payoff. None of these new developments feel earned, because they all came about too suddenly and too soon.
As much as I’m excited to see where we go from here, the way things neatly wrapped up at the end of the first half of this season feels rushed, and too… easy, somehow. We started off with a prominent firm that ran like clockwork until Mike entered the scene and all hell broke loose. Hopefully now that everything has almost come full circle we’ll have a re-imagined version of Suits, with a tight team of our favorite characters battling against the odds to rebuild the firm from the ground up, and with that we’ll have a new batch of challenges for our protagonists. But with the rumors that Gabriel Macht might also be exiting the show, it might be better to just call it a day.