Suits (S08E01) “Right Hand Man”

Still standing

Source: Courtesy of USA Network/TVline.com

Pressing reset is always, even if calculated, a risk, because of the uncertainty of what change might do to the already established status quo. In such spirit, many people tuning into season 8 of Suits have definitely done so with caution. From the new (and fabulous) opening credits on, so much of what we are seeing now is different – the name and new partners, the lack of faces we have considered as integral to the show’s spirit till not long ago, and thorough attention given to characters we have come to adore through their guest appearances.

But one (read: me) can still argue, after the season premiere “Right Hand Man” that, albeit the show has gained some new and refreshing elements, it has managed to keep its own spirit alive – power play, growth and the underlying family dynamics that, at its best, make this show what it is and have pushed it to reach an eight season, are still present.

Powerplay

The changes in the firm, going from Pearson Specter Litt, later Specter Litt, now to Zane Specter Litt, pose an obvious challenge to the leading powers. On the one hand, merging means that Zane and Harvey get to join their expertise and bring together some of the best legal minds in the city, however, knowing them and the dynamic they have shared over the years – we are soon reminded it won’t be that easy. Not only does Zane, obviously, intend to take the managing partner role, which Harvey has continuously strived after through the seasons and only just recently obtained, but because this decision seems impossible for them to reach, they decide to send in their helping hands (Alex and Samantha) and let them fight it out, the winning side determining which one of them will take on the most important role. That leads us to the introduction of Samantha Wheeler, fighting on Zane’s side, posing a complication for Alex, and consequently Harvey’s status in the firm.

Source: Courtesy of USA Network/TVline.com

While most of the articles and promotion introduced this character very straightforwardly: her being thirsty for power and ready to mess with the other characters, I’d argue the premiere besides that, also showed a lot of potential for a complex and fierce addition. On the one hand, she is ambitious, unapologetically vocal about her smarts and very aware of her power and importance within the predominantly male world of legal storylines on this show. While on the other hand, she appears to be secretive, desires to be part of the team and cares, not only for winning within the well established playing field she created for herself, but also for having more – in her case being the name partner title. Hence, any critical fan response to her, before the premiere has even aired, has been (hopefully, at least for now) misplaced.

For the first episode, they have already shown a decent amount of complexity in her character, not only being a threat, but also a potential member of the family (the ending scene with Harvey!!), with brutal (and funny) honesty (“You two have a nice- meh I don’t mean it”) and a seemingly interesting and secretive past. Though, even if she doesn’t become more than a throat cutter for now, she would be no less (read: “would be more…”) enjoyable than most male characters that have been introduced on the show, carrying the same characteristics and much less appeal and charisma than she does, through the way Katherine Heigl portrays her in the premiere.

Growth

Source: Courtesy of USA Network/TVline.com

All that being said, while carrying the same amibition Samantha does – wanting to be the next name partner, Alex is not familiar with the way she fights and ultimately loses control of the clients keeping their manufacturing division and Zane’s dropping it. This results in Harvey not being able to follow through on his promise and be an exemplary managing partner – he doesnt let the situation play out, but rather interveners and takes over the fight against Samantha. Thus, Zane deduces that despite Harvey’s potential win in this legal battle, he is not the person cut out to observe from the back and lead well. And the power shifts from Specter to Zane…

But not before Harvey has a heartfelt conversation with his “right hand gal”, who tells him that stepping down is not a sign of weakness, but rather, following in Mike’s footsteps of self actualization. He is getting tired of the view from the top, and the thing that would make him happy, is being where he belongs – surely, not as managing partner, but definitely in the middle of whatever legal battle comes their way next, without having to sit back. Of course, Donna’s words resonate with him (because he just loves when she is “saving him from himself”), and following that conversation, Harvey gives his new “fearless leader” his office, and plans the return to his (and Mike’s, *sobbs*) old one, as senior partner.

Family

Along with the changes regarding the leading positions in the firm, came shifts among the other employees as well. Having to merge two groups of lawyers together, Katrina was trusted with the role of assessment of their productivity, in order to deduce who to let go. Knowing this experience would help her climb her way up the ladder one day, she also volunteers to do the actual firing, thus making this an important task to be done efficiently, for her own future within this firm. While using a completely objective system for ranking the associates, Donna (or as some cultures call it – God) points out that one of the people on the list is Brian, which won’t sit well with Louis. As always, Donna predictions come true, and being the exact opposite of objective, the name partner refuses to let Katrina fire him and pushes her to change the list. This obviously becomes an issue for her – a moral dilemma, having to fire someone instead of him in such a case, and a personal one – wanting to believe being at this firm and working under the guidance of these name partners should mean something more than just being on their good side.

This actually touches upon some important issues throughout the episode – from the question of objectivity and accuracy of any criteria when trying to assess someone’s dedication and work within such an environment, to the interesting conversation Katrina has with Brian, trying to find reasons not to fire him for herself. She questions his place within the firm, since he has been managing a hard working schedule with a newborn, portraying a line of questioning usually experienced by new mothers (honestly, I love that they had a guy being asked these questions for once, kudos for that lol) becoming completely relevant to this man’s work productivity as well. When Brian catches up on her intentions though, it quickly leads to lack of understanding on his part, and this is where the COO comes in once again.

Seeing Donna do work appropriate for her position was one of the best parts of this premiere, and furthermore, seeing her do it so well and with so much enthusiasm – made this a real fun episode to watch. After prior wisdom-sharing with Katrina, where she told her that objective criteria is not always the best way to deduce who makes this a better, more efficient place to work at (because she is exhibit A, didn’t we all get emotional when she talked about that?), she now also makes sure that her employees will have a good working relationship again. Because “COO is where I am meant to be”, she is successful at doing so, and gets Brian and Katrina to ultimately work together in making a different system for assessing who should be fired, accounting for more than just their numbers, but if and where they fit within this family.

Source: Courtesy of USA Network/TVline.com

That leads us back to the general plot the premiere established for the future episodes – people trying to find their space amidst the changes, dealing with losses and figuring each other out, while trying to maintain a sense of partnership and respect within the walls of Zane Specter Litt. Mike and Rachel might be gone, and with them, a lot of what the show has been about for the past 7 seasons, but this episode was nothing short of SUITS.

Source: Courtesy of USA Network/TVline.com

The show returns for 8×02 next Wednesday, at 9/8c on USA Network.

Random thoughts:

  • Every little mention of Mike and Rachel throughout this episode pulled on my heart strings so much it actually made me want to cry. From the picture she left behind for Robert, to Mike’s office. The fact that the situation doesn’t allow for Rachel to be back, these little things through her dad are even more so appreciated and necessary in the transition.
  • Donna and Harvey losing their besties being addressed multiple times, also known as: made me want to cry 2.0.
  • “I want more” – I am married.  Even Robert Zane knows what Donna said in 6×16 was romantic, see?! And apparently so does Aaron Korsh, since he wrote that joke. Let me have this one.
  • Samantha saying “kiss my ass”, showing the middle finger to Harvey, boxing, and just generally not having anyone’s shit. I love one (1) woman.
  • You know you are watching a good old Suits episode when the song hypes you up before you even see the scene (the Alex-running shoots).
  • THE INTRO!!! WE LOVE!!
  • Harvey and Donna’s work partnership dynamic as equals is truly beautiful and so full of mutual respect and love and (…)
  • Katrina and Donna, the new BROTP.
  • Finally, the last one goes to: Sarah Rafferty’s one million and one facial expressions. One could never get tired of watching her own that goddamn role in such a bubbly, flirty and simultaneously fierce manner.