A stylish legal series follows a predictable formula but provides good entertainment.
Here are some things you should know about Suits, which is going into its second season on M-Net. It is a stylish and well-written legal drama, but it doesn’t do anything particularly innovative within the confines of its genre. It doesn’t try to push boundaries or deconstruct the legal genre in the way that Glenn Close’s ground-breaking series Damages did.
This doesn’t seem to have hurt its popularity with audiences, however, which is probably why M-Net is showing the first two seasons back to back. And this is a good thing because Suits is evolving into a surprisingly good show in its second season.
It is centred on Mike Ross (Patrick J Adams), a boyish and likeable legal savant with a photographic memory. Mike has taught himself everything there is to know about the law, but unfortunately he has never been to law school, which casts a dim shadow on his future employment prospects. Luckily, he catches the attention of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), a smooth corporate lawyer whose brilliance causes him to be resented by everyone else in his law firm. Harvey takes Mike under his wing, gives him a job as his associate and conceals Mike’s lack of credentials from the bosses at his firm.
This is probably a good time to mention that realism is not one of Suits’s strong points. On the contrary, the series take place in an exaggerated, fantastical version of reality. It’s a world in which legal research is sexy, complex patent disputes can be resolved in a single 42-minute episode and the partners at a New York law firm dress like European royalty.
On some level, Suits is an exercise in wish fulfilment. The writers are desperately in love with their own characters: everyone is smart, witty, hip and well dressed. The office scenes are interspersed with aerial shots of gleaming cityscapes and the series is set to a fashionable indie-rock soundtrack. Wouldn’t it be great, the show’s creators seem to ask, if this is what the world was actually like?
Of course, if Suits had nothing more in its favour than visual style and self-affected coolness, it would be intolerable to watch. Instead it succeeds, mostly because a combination of good casting and good writing has created genuinely compelling characters. The end result is a fun, energetic drama series that is well worth watching.
The quality of the storytelling has also noticeably improved in the second season. The previous season operated according to a regular, predictable cadence. Harvey and Mike would take on a new case in every episode, argue over their conflicting approaches to the law, learn from each other and then triumph over their adversaries. Although elements of the old template still remain, Suits is now increasingly willing to move away from the case-of-the-week formula and experiment with more complex narratives that are spread over several episodes. It feels like a show that is becoming more confident in itself, and that’s a good thing.
I do still have one caveat about this series, however. The Suits world is indeed a pleasant place to spend time, but there’s also a strange lack of hardship here, which is a key element of all great dramas. Everyone in Suits makes a big deal about how harsh and demanding the legal profession is, but viewers see precious little evidence of this. The cases are meaningful, nobody ever looks tired or overworked and moral compromises are entertained but always avoided. The biggest source of personal conflict is Mike’s agonised decision over whether to date his co-worker. Unfortunately, all this means that Suits stops short of being a truly great legal drama, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good one.
Suits is broadcast on Saturdays at 20:00 on M-Net