Monday, February 23, 2015

Suits 4x14 "Derailed" (Superheroes, Humanitarians, and Liars)

Original Airdate: February 18, 2015

I like flawed characters on television, but I also like genuinely good characters, too. I like characters who are driven to help the people around them, no matter the cost. I like characters who want to make the world a better place and not just serve their own agendas. I like characters who sacrifice things for others -- be it time or pride or their own prejudices. I like these people, these people who want to change the world and who often fail, who try to do good and sometimes get frustrated. And so "Derailed" is one of my favorite episodes of Suits this season because of that. In this episode, everyone is trying their best to be the best versions of themselves: Harvey is trying to let Mike have his own case and make his own decisions; Mike is trying to genuinely help someone else; Donna is trying to help Mike; Louis is trying to make amends with Jeff; Jeff is trying to trust Louis; Jessica is trying to be upfront with Jeff.

The beauty of "Derailed" is that so many characters in the episode spend so much of their time trying to be heroes -- they try to do right by the people they care about and put aside their own egos and pride in order to make Pearson Specter Litt better. Unfortunately for a few of these characters, their willingness to protect the people they care about ends up backfiring. So let's talk about that in light of the episode, shall we?


I absolutely loved the Harvey/Mike/Donna story in "Derailed." And here's why: I love when Mike returns to genuinely wanting to help people. The reason he became interested in law was to help people. Sometimes I forget that Mike Ross's backstory is actually tragic. He lost his parents in a car accident. He recently lost his grandmother. And for a long time, Mike lived a life that seemed to be entirely focused on himself and serving his own interests: he wanted to do what he wanted and didn't care who got hurt by his lies in the process. But over the past few years, we've begin to see Mike not only soften with compassion toward others, but genuinely step into his own. His arc with Harvey at the beginning of the season in which the two were essentially enemies was really enlightening in terms of Mike's character. I saw a fire and determination and anger in the character that I had never seen before. I saw that he wasn't just willing to fight for the things he wanted, but would go down swinging if it came to it.

So in "Derailed," Mike is insistent on taking a case of a supposed whistleblower who says that he knew a train that derailed and killed innocent people was faulty and brought it to the attention of his company, but was then fired for it. Mike spends a lot of time in the episode valiantly fighting for who he presumes is the underdog. He doesn't believe that the man is a whistleblower, out for money and vengeance against the company that fired him. The problem is that the train company backs Mike into a corner and when Harvey notices this -- Harvey who has, meanwhile, managed to step back from the case and let Mike handle it -- and insists on shutting Mike down (which then enrages Mike). "Derailed" finds Mike telling Harvey that his time left being a lawyer is probably very short. And while he IS still a lawyer, he wants to try to do some actual good in the world and help people. Harvey is all about helping people, too, but his focus in this episode is on protecting his own: he doesn't want the naivete of Mike or his case to jeopardize all the other clients they have at the firm.

And Donna? Well, Donna is caught in the middle of all of this. Here's the thing: Harvey and Mike both genuinely care about Donna and she about them. She protects her team. She fights for her team. So when Mike is backed into a corner, Donna comes out swinging for him and manages to procure evidence that the train's company knew their trains were faulty and had parts replaced mere weeks after the accident occurred. There's only one problem: the way that Donna procured those documents was not entirely legal.

That's a character trait of Donna's: steadfast loyalty. She protects her own and she does so in any way possible. The reason, too, that she protects Mike in the episode is because she genuinely cares about his relationship with Harvey. She doesn't want them to fight. She wants Harvey to treat Mike as an equal, not a child, and she wants Mike to be more confident in himself as a lawyer. So she fixes their broken messes and unfortunately ends up creating a mess for herself once Evan -- the representation for the train company -- shows Harvey a video that proves Donna got the reports illegally. Harvey blanches at that and it's terrifying to us, too, because for the first time in two years, Donna is in real, quantifiable trouble. She never tells Harvey what she does, because she tries to play mediator between he and Mike throughout most of the episode. Because she removes herself from the situation, Harvey and Mike have some amazing moments of bonding and growth -- Harvey decides to trust Mike and stop trying to stifle him. Mike learns to throw his emotional investment into a case but to not let it blind him from truth and facts.

Donna's actions have real, tangible consequences and it looks like the next episode will heavily feature them. But I loved this story BECAUSE of that. I loved seeing how much Harvey, Mike, and Donna have grown recently. I loved each character having a believable motivation for the way that they acted and I'm both nervous and anxious to see how Donna's story unfolds. Because though she may be a superhero to the people in her life because of her unwavering loyalty and her instinct to protect, in the case of "Derailed," that superhero is also a criminal.


I haven't been extremely invested in the Jeff/Jessica romantic story this season, but I have appreciated how much it's allowed Jessica to grow as a character. For a long time, she was (to me) calloused and tough. She runs her own firm and has had to endure trial after trial and pain after another pain in order to get to where she is, career-wise. And I admire her tenacity. I admire how strong she is and how confidently she leads other people, even when it's difficult. But I love how much this romantic story has made Jessica more humanized, more humbled, more vulnerable. The problem in "Derailed" for Jessica is that she isn't sure how to completely let someone into her guarded heart. She's been lying to Jeff (lied to him, recall, about how Louis got his name on the wall) and as a result, she's continued to place distance between them. "Derailed" finds Jeff asking Jessica to go away to France with him and the woman is hesitant at first. But then she agrees.

There's something standing in the way of her and total happiness, though, and it's the fact that she cannot be honest with Jeff. Not completely, anyway. Jessica and Harvey have a great conversation though in this episode (two, really) about being honest with those you care about. Harvey knows how much Jessica cares about Jeff and tells her, honestly, that he wishes he would have told Scottie about Mike's secret sooner. Since he didn't, he'll never know what could have happened between them -- he doesn't know if they would have been happy, long-term, instead of fractured like they currently are. Jessica's humility in approaching Harvey for relationship advice -- honest, heartfelt advice -- was so wonderful. I love that these two have such a complex and interesting dynamic. They irritate each other occasionally, but they do trust one another. And they want each other to be happy.

Unfortunately for Jessica, when she decides to tell Jeff about Mike's secret... it's too late. Jeff went out for drinks with Louis (who cannot hold his liquor) as a way to bridge the gap between them that had been built on anger and resentment. Jeff and Louis's story is actually pretty awesome in this episode because Jeff plays a prank on Louis that is used to mask his disgust and disrespect. But Louis knows. Louis knows what it feels like for someone to disrespect him and he knows that Jeff doesn't see him as an equal. So they bond over drinks and actually have a good time until Louis accidentally lets it slip that the stuff with Hardman? That Jeff thinks got Louis's name on the door? It happened two years ago.

Jessica tries to explain, but it's too late. Jeff doesn't care. All he knows is that Jessica lied to him -- that their entire relationship was based on a lie. And he just cannot be with someone who would let a lie like that go on for so long. So he ends things between them, painfully, and Jessica is left to clean up the wreckage. She's not the only one -- the episode ends with Harvey realizing that even though Donna tries to fix and help and save everyone else... this may be the one time he's unable to help save her.


And now, bonus points:
  • Everyone was an MVP in this episode, honestly. If I had to choose, though, it would be between Gabriel Macht and Gina Torres for their scenes together. Gina Torres, especially, was outstanding in her final confrontation with Jeff.  You could just see how vulnerable and upset she was (also evidence of vulnerability was her earlier conversation with Harvey) over everything that happened and her lies unraveling. It was heartbreaking to see her so close to the brink of happiness and then having it ripped away from her just as suddenly.
  • Why do Mike and Rachel still have a landline? I literally know of no one in their age group who still has one of those.
  • "I can't believe it. You have no idea what to say. What's the date today? I want to write this down."
  • "If I gave you something too needy, you would just let it die."
  • "Well it wasn't harassment because it wasn't sexual!"
  • "... I'm gonna regret asking this..." That mumble under Jessica's breath was HILARIOUS.
  • "You don't know one word of French, do you?"
  • "Right now, I don't care about the case. I care about you." Mike/Donna friendship, for the win!
  • Harvey hilariously smitten with Evan was absolutely perfect, especially his delivery of: "I think I'm in love."
  • "Maybe you should take the rest of the night off." "Why?" "Because that's what superheroes do."
  • Harvey's face when he sees Donna on the video though. He's crushed and extremely worried for her, you can tell.
What did you all think of "Derailed"? Are you anxious or worried about Donna Paulsen's fate? Hit up the comments below and let me know what you thought. Until then. :)

1 comment:

  1. Argh I know, the look on his face when he saw that video ... it was brilliantly played by Gabriel Macht. I was just expecting him to be hopping mad, but geez ... I mean in addition to the shock, I thought his expression was also just so very tender as he stared at her on that video. It was beautiful.