The seventh season of Suits begins with a sequence in which Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), now the managing partner of his law firm, drives around in an expensive vintage Ferrari, all so he can hit on his former therapist, Paula Agard (Christina Cole). “Is that supposed to impress me?” she asks coyly. “I hope so. It sure as hell impresses me,” he quips. It’s an empty, emotionless exchange, one that demonstrates how badly Suits wants us to be impressed both by its fancy accouterments and its stylish banter.
Moreover, now that Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), Harvey’s brilliant and autodidactic protégé, is an actual lawyer and not a well-intentioned criminal pretending to be one, Suits no longer has that Damoclean sword hanging over viewers, distracting us from the preening narcissism of its characters. When everybody was struggling to keep Mike’s secret, or to later get him out of jail and legally instated in the bar association, they shared a common goal that made them seem like a tight-knit family. Despite picking up a day after the end of the previous season, the new episodes quickly dispel that illusion.
These characters claim they care for one another, and yet when Harvey’s business partner, Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), has an emotional breakdown, the primary concern of his so-called friends is less with his well-being than in taking steps to make sure the firm doesn’t get sued for his hazing of the associates. Even Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), Harvey’s all-knowing executive assistant, to whom the characters are constantly expressing their undying appreciation, gets short shrift from both her colleagues and the writers. Her bold attempt to become a named partner (despite not having a legal background) is firmly relegated to a C plot and then hastily resolved almost as an afterthought. Secondary characters like Lewis’s secretary, Gretchen Bodinski (Aloma Wright), don’t even have inner lives; they exist purely to dispense perfectly timed wisdom or sass.
When the series isn’t bogged down in relationship drama, it’s focusing on ill-defined backroom deals and coercive, no-fault settlements rather than exploring meaningful courtroom arguments that draw a clear line between the murky ethics of corporate law and the personal stakes of desperate individuals. It’s the disappointing formulaic stuff that a deus ex machina thrives on. Watch as a character who seems hopelessly submerged in work and besieged by unscrupulous lawyers somehow, at the last moment, manages to turn the tables. That’s a far cry from the way in which the superior Better Call Saul meticulously builds to and earns its courtroom showdowns.
Suits is left with just a single, distractingly flashy bit of legal magic—a last-minute strong-arming of the opposition. And as the series itself too glibly admits, different costumes don’t change that basic trick. Suits can claim to be about redemption all it wants, but that’s just a new narrative coat of paint for the same old stories, from returning would-be senior partner Katrina Bennett (Amanda Schull) fearing for her precious reputation, to new hire Alex Williams (Dulé Hill) ambitiously gunning for a seat at the firm’s table. In the end, it’s all just a bunch of boilerplate arguments between empty suits.