Saturday, March 5, 2016

Suits 5x16 Review: "25th Hour" (A Man's Gotta Have a Code)

"25th Hour"
Original Airdate: March 2, 2016

Do you ever look back on decisions you made and wish you had a chance to choose differently? Occasionally, I dabble in thoughts like these. I wonder what my life would have been like if I had stayed at a certain college, or if I had taken a different job, or if I had just been at that coffee place one hour sooner. It's part of our humanity. We look toward the future with urgency and expectancy, but we also are very retrospective. It's not a bad thing to think about what has happened, but it is bad when it prevents you from moving forward with life. In the musical Rent, there's a lyric that has always stuck out to me: "Forget regret or life is yours to miss." In the Suits finale, everyone is panicking. Moreover, they're wishing that they could undo the damage that Mike's plea deal causes — for the sake of themselves and their firm.

What I found to be really compelling about "25th Hour" is two-fold: 1) Mike never wavers in his decision to turn himself into Anita Gibbs in order to let the rest of the firm go free. Does he get emotional about it? Yes. Does it take him most of the episode to finally realize the emotional ramifications of going to prison? Yes, absolutely. But does he think for a moment about turning his back on the firm and the people he cares about? No, not really. The second thing I found to be extremely interesting and compelling about this episode is the fact that the entirety of Suits has been building toward this moment for five years. We've been waiting for Mike's fraud to finally come to light, especially as more and more people began to discover his secret. But "25th Hour" finally gives us what we have spent five years waiting for... and it doesn't feel like a disappointment or a let-down. It's not underwhelming and, in fact, was way more emotional than I anticipated it to be (for me personally).

Let's break down the finale and discuss, shall we?


I'm going to spend the majority of this review talking about Mike Ross, and I don't do that enough in these reviews, which I find pretty funny. Mike Ross is the main character of this show, and it is his personal journey we are following (or are supposed to be following) more than any other character. And yet, sometimes I find myself so enveloped in Harvey and Donna's relationship drama or Louis' recent antics or Jessica's struggles that I gloss right over the man who started this whole series. When Suits began, we knew Mike was a fraud. And the only other person who knew that was Harvey Specter. As the series progressed, so did Mike as a character. He became more compassionate and driven and even though we all knew he wasn't a lawyer, sometimes it was difficult to remember because of the way that he acted. The thing about Mike is that he lied and committed fraud in order to have the life he always wanted for himself, but couldn't have. Though he doesn't always say or do the right things, he is — deep down — a good person.

And maybe that's why watching him turn himself in so that his friends (nay, his family) at Pearson Specter Litt will go free is so emotional and yet also satisfying. Not once did Mike agree to break his code and turn Harvey or Jessica or Louis over so that he would be safe. Five years after he told the lie that put him in this situation, Mike is willing to take all responsibility for what he did. It's not Harvey's fault. It's not Rachel's or Donna's or Louis' or Jessica's. It is HIS fault and he will take the fall for it, even though Harvey would happily go to jail in his place. That, precisely, is why I appreciated Mike's characterization in "25th Hour." It was this realization that he spent years of lying and making excuses and justifying his fraud that when it came down to the final hour, he couldn't run from the truth anymore: he messed up and he deserved to pay the price for it.

Now, Suits' whole premise is complex because we have watched Mike Ross lie (blatantly) to people about his fraud and we have spent years accustomed to his lies just being a part of his character — this giant act of being a lawyer, if you will. And it would be easy to assume that in his final moments, Mike would choose to stick to those lies and let a jury decide his fate. But he doesn't. Because if he doesn't have his code — if he can't protect the ones he loves at his own personal cost — then who is he, really? That's what makes this episode work, in my opinion: the knowledge of the audience that Mike deserves to be prosecuted, but our deep desire to see him NOT be sent to jail.

What happens when the protagonist of your story is also the story's source of conflict and tension? Do you root for them to succeed? Did we want Mike to beat Anita and get off free? Did we want to see him go to jail because of his crimes and lies? What did we, the audience, actually want? This is precisely the question that is asked in the undercurrent of the finale. Because even though we have spent five years waiting for Mike's lies to catch up with him, in the end, we also didn't want that. We deeply care about Mike and when the writers delivered his fate to us on a silver platter, we (or I did, at least) wanted them to take it back. That's why Suits' central conflict is so interesting: Mike walks in extremely grey areas of morality every day and we are asked — as the audience — to decide whether or not he's the hero or the villain of his own story.

I'll tell you this: I realized more in "25th Hour" than any other episode of this show just how much I love Mike Ross as a character. He's snarky and witty, and is joking with Harvey up until the moment he enters prison. He's kind and compassionate, even if he is wrong. He doesn't intentionally hurt people often, and his loyalty is the very thing in this finale that needed to be highlighted. Mike is loyal to his firm not because they deserve it — he is loyal to them because that is who he is. When Rachel breaks down and tells Mike that he should have had faith in himself and in the jury, she's missing the point entirely. It's not ever been about whether or not Mike has faith in himself or his skills. That is secondary. Primary is the fact that Mike has finally looked at himself the way he would if he was the one prosecuting.

Mike Ross took a look at himself — a real, intense, hard look — and realized that he's spent five years trying to justify his crime and making people suffer because of his inability to own up to who he is and what he did. It's not about whether or not he has faith in who he is; it's about whether or not Mike is willing to live with himself for the rest of his life as a fraud. He says as much in this episode, too. He could throw the entire firm under the bus. He could have been let off by the jury (since they were going to find him not guilty). Rachel tells him as much and asks why he would throw away his future if there was still a chance he could be free.

And Mike's point is that he will never be free until he unshackles himself from all of the fraud and the pain and the baggage. He could walk around forever pretending to be a lawyer, but HE is the one who has to live with that day in, and day out. It's not Rachel's decision to make. She is not the one carrying the burden this time. It's not for Harvey to decide who goes to jail. This time — for the first time — it is all on Mike. That's why I got so emotional at the end of this episode, watching him walk into jail. Because we all love a hero's journey. We all love a tale of love and loss and sacrificing yourself for the ones you love. It's why we adore Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and every other movie where the hero makes an incredible sacrifice.

We love these stories because they fixate on redemption and grace and — most of all — love. Mike Ross goes to jail because he finally realizes that he has to stop running. He has to stop if he wants his loved ones to be free. But he also has to stop because HE, himself, needs to be freed.

(Narrative irony at its finest is the fact that Mike's redemption and "freedom" comes in the form of him being imprisoned.)


And then there's Harvey Specter and the rest of the firm in this episode. "25th Hour" might as well have been titled "Ohana," because the firm sticks together as a family and realizes that they need to do whatever it takes to try and save Mike. If they don't at least try, Louis tells Jessica mid-way through the episode, then who are they? What do they stand for if they step aside without hesitance and let Mike take the fall for them? So Jessica agrees and there's stuff that happens (namely stuff with Harvey trying to use the Liberty Rail case to get Anita Gibbs to take down murderers and drop the charges against Mike), but nothing goes according to plan. Still, the firm tried at least. And their decision to stick by Mike isn't without consequence — at the end of the episode, the entire firm is vacated. Everyone, from the highest up to those in the bullpen are gone. Eesh.

The theme of family also comes into play heavily when it comes to Mike's relationship with Rachel and his friendship with Harvey. The latter spends most of the episode trying to convince Mike to let him take the fall. Donna was right: Harvey was going to confess to Anita Gibbs so that Mike could walk free. He would have fallen on his sword to save his friend. But Mike won't let anyone take the blame for him. Not this time. And yet, Harvey spends the entire episode stubbornly trying to find some way — any way — to get Mike out. And he's fueled by the knowledge that the jury would have found Mike not guilty, had he waited a few more minutes. (Mike, of course, IS and feels guilty so that's not the point.)

There's a confrontation between the two in which Harvey tries to prepare Mike for prison, but also get him to emotionally break. And when Mike emotionally breaks? He really breaks down and admits that he blames Harvey. (He says: "It's YOUR fault" a few times and it makes my heart ache.) But in spite of the fact that Mike might have some pent-up anger and bitterness over how his life turned out, he still refuses to turn Harvey in. "I can't," he repeats. And that is the most painful thing of all to me — because he is in immense pain, but he won't let anyone else feel that pain for him or with him. It's fitting then, that Harvey is the one who drives Mike to prison and the one who I assume will be there first when he walks out. 

Harvey and Mike's relationship is the heart of Suits. It really is. I love me some Harvey/Donna, but it is the bond between these two men that really lays the groundwork for the rest of the show (as Mike leaving the firm and turning his back on Harvey proved). And so, watching these two start their (fraudulent) journeys together and end them together was fitting in a way that made me realize how far they had come as individuals and as a partnership. Harvey and Mike are family. There is no doubt about it. And sometimes being family means you have to deal with the hard stuff and deal with it alone.

In a less fun story, I'm still upset with Rachel who acts like Mike's fraud is the biggest impediment in the world for HER. It also concerns me that Suits might go the "Rachel gets pregnant and has a kid while Mike is in jail" route, based on the emphasis of their last tryst together.

I don't know, guys. I just really used to like Rachel and it seems like the show has made it a point over the years to make her more naive. I understand the reason he made the decision that he did, and I understand the reason Rachel is upset.

She wants to marry Mike before he goes to prison, but Mike realizes that he can't. And honestly, I'm so proud of Mike for that. He recognizes that Rachel's parents don't want to be at the wedding and are both only there because they are forced to be. He can't start a life with her like that, and he can't be the one thing holding her back from success anymore. He would never be able to live with himself if that was the case. And so, he leaves the church and he leaves Rachel and he leaves his future behind him because the past has finally caught up.

That's really the whole crux of "25th Hour" — do you continue to run from what you've done? From the hurt you've caused? From the lies you've told? Can you live with yourself if others prove you innocent but you know you're guilty? A lot of the episode asks that question. We wonder, like Harvey and Rachel, whether Mike is punishing himself out of guilt, when they know he's a good person. But Mike Ross, beautifully, realizes that everyone else around you can see you as innocent. But if you don't see yourself that way, you'll live with that burden until you die.

And that is something you just can't run from.

And now, bonus points:
  • Patrick J. Adams' acting was on-point in this episode. Everything he did, from the emotional breakdown in Harvey's apartment to that final shot of him walking into prison, was so great and so beautifully done.
  • I'm really worried this show is going to go that pregnancy route with Rachel, you guys.
  • We got the return of a few minor characters in this episode: Robert Zane, Katrina, and Jack Soloff. None of them were super duper important to the plot as a whole, even though they each contributed a little bit of a thread.
  • "It's not worth being willing to do anything to make a name for yourself."
  • There was very minimal Harvey/Donna this episode, which is to be expected since this was a really big Mike-centric finale. But there was the affirmation from Harvey that he wasn't going to trade Donna being prosecuted for the Liberty Rail stuff in order to save Mike. He might want to rescue his BFF, but Harvey would never sacrifice Donna for anyone or anything. Additional cute moment, I guess, is the fact that Harvey and Donna were Mike and Rachel's best man and maid-of-honor, respectively.
  • "There's no way I'm letting you do this alone." <3
  • The music in this show is always so impeccable. The song that played over Harvey and Mike driving to prison and Jessica, Louis, and Donna discovering the completely empty firm was so great.
  • "Even knowing how it all turned out... I'd do it again." "I guess I would too." And at that line of dialogue, I melted a little bit because of their friendship and love for each other.
  • Do we think Suits is going to do a time-jump? If so, what do you think the two years forward would look like?
Well, Suits fans: that's it! I'll see you again this summer as we head into season 6A! (Cable shows are so weird with their scheduling.) Until then, hit up the comments below and let me know what you hope for when the show returns. :)


  1. I am proud of Suits for going all the way with the consequences of Mike being exposed as a fraud. Now I wonder where the show will go from here. Will Mike try his hand at being an actual lawyer after his time in prison? Will he be able to? How will Pearson, Specter, and Litt recover from a massive loss of staff?

    I would prefer the show did jump ahead two years later and explore how those years have changed the characters, especially Mike. But I heard that the show won't be doing that. Instead, they are actually going to show Mike's life in prison. I have mixed feelings about that direction.

    I'm not a fan of how the Rachel character has been handled lately. She seemed less like the smart, confident woman she started out as in the show.

  2. I love what this finale has set up for Season 6!

    I'm hoping for a few things:

    - Harold comes back (you know Louis misses him)
    - Jimmy comes back (hello, the guy is probably going to get fired after committing perjury for Mike)
    - Jessica doing some actual work as a lawyer (instead of just striking power poses around the place)
    - Rachel working cases at PSL with Jessica (since she is the only paralegal/associate left in the building lol)
    - Gretchen comes back (she belongs now)
    - Harvey gets a new associate (I really don't think Harvey likes Rachel much)

    So many possibilities, and so many months to wait to find out what will happen!