Jun 26, 2014

[TV] Suits: Season 1

During one of my visits home, the parents were pretty busy watching Suits that weekend. Many friends have recommended the show time and again but I never got around to watching it. Then one lazy afternoon, I dug through my partner's hard drive and found the first three seasons ready for watching after some file-sharing party at work.

Legal dramas are quite the mixed bag for me. They tend to be very personality-driven and so if the casting is bad, the show ends up being a lot of annoying shouting in courtrooms. But when you get the casting mix right, then things really start to happen.

Suits is starting to feel that way to me. It had a decent enough initial premise, but it's not one that remains front and center throughout the season. And while at times it feels like they've almost forgotten about this core premise, it's also a relief since they recognize that there are far more stories to tell. And not being married to that one premise all the time has helped the show focus more on character development and bringing the narrative to more interesting directions.

Synopsis: Suits is legal drama created by Aaron Kosh for the USA Network. This first season debuted back in 2011 and the show is now on its fourth season.

First there's Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), who is a brilliant college dropout. He makes extra money by taking the LSAT for others - something he's brilliant at given his eidetic memory and his rather good grasp of legal principles. Beyond just memorizing anything he reads, he's also somehow able to digest and understand it just as quickly. But in an effort to make enough money to support the medical needs of his grandmother, he agrees to deliver a briefcase full of marijuana for his best friend Trevor (Tom Lipinski).

However he manages to stop the policemen in time to manage a narrow escape - and instead finds himself in a job interview for Harvard Law graduates hoping to become the associate of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), arguably the best closer in the city. Harvey entertains Mike and hears out the crazy story and seems to recognize something in him. And when Mike demonstrates his mental abilities together with his honest desire to become a lawyer, Harvey agrees to hire him and pass him off as a Harvard Law graduate at the firm. Now Mike is learning what it takes to be the kind of lawyer Harvey is while trying to maintain his secret.

As much as Mike is positioned as the central character, the first season seems to have a lot of things happening to him or around him but not necessarily because of him. Sure, he's technically a fish out of water, a man beyond his depth, but then you'd think that his life as a somewhat con artist would allow for him to be a bit more savvy about things. As much as he still has his moments of inspiration, he's typically beaten down with the whole "I need to keep my secret" premise as the typical excuse. And I'm not saying it's unreasonable - it's just not necessarily fun for a lead character.

Instead there's a lot more to be said about Harvey, who is really the central figure here. His legal dealings often seem to be overly harsh, plus coupled with his lack of concern for emotions. But that's what makes him a really good lawyer. And things really get interesting when we watch his interactions with other folks at the firm including the rather weaselly junior partner Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) and the big boss of them all, Managing Partner Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres).

The season suffers from the usual challenges of a new show. You can practically feel the writers stressing out as they try different approaches for episodes and see what sticks. Should we first stress Mike's amazing memory more and have the case depend solely on such tricks? Should we spend a day thinking that Harvey is a jerk and yet he'll be rewarded with a win precisely because he's a jerk. Should we have more romantic drama between Mike, the paralegal Rachel (Meghan Markle) and throw in the ex-girlfriend of Mike's best friend? Once more around the merry-go-round folks.

But as the show progresses and gets to the tailend of this season, things really come to a head and the show finds its stride. Sure, we still have a lot of Mike drama, but he's honestly learning to become a lawyer - it's just a question of whether or not he really wants to become someone like Harvey. Louis has his own ambitions and he seems to taper off hounding Mike about proving he was at Harvard. And Jessica is just a class of her own as she firmly demonstrates precisely why she runs the firm.

Suits is certainly an interesting show with a lot of promise and one that doesn't feel as dragging as some other legal dramas. We don't waste time with too many courtroom scenes and instead focus more time with the characters arguing or even badgering witnesses and clients alike. Thus the show's first run around the block gets a decent 3.5 strange movie quotes that Harvey bandies about out of a possible 5.

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