In SUITS 6.12, after being asked by Donna at the end of the previous episode, Harvey Specter made the most difficult journey of his life. After some initial reluctance, he visited his family in Boston in an attempt to salvage some sort of relationship with his estranged mother. Through flashbacks and present-day struggles, what was already a well-known damaged relationship was shown to be even worse off than viewers may have originally understood; but by the end of the episode, Harvey had achieved his biggest win in the series’ history. Meanwhile, back home, Mike Ross was presented with a new job opportunity; and Louis Litt quietly kept the firm afloat.
Harvey Specter slays his demons. Show me a well-developed character, and I will counter you with one better: His name is Harvey Specter. When SUITS viewers first met him, Harvey was nothing more than the city’s best finisher; but over some eighty-eight episodes of the series, the most recent of which being the most important for the leading man’s development, the once emotionally closed-off hotshot became something completely different. He became human. He became a man who, instead of being unable to feel, had at one point simply cared too much. That point was, of course, when a teenaged Harvey stumbled upon his mother Lily’s betrayal and was forced to keep her secret for two full years.
In “The Painting,” the team at SUITS took that story one step further: Not only had Harvey’s family been torn apart by his mother’s infidelity; but seven years ago, after he’d lost the father he loved, Harvey thought he might bee able to rekindle some sort of relationship with his mother. Ultimately, though, he failed. And the reopening of those old wounds led to an estrangement so bad that he’d also missed out on a lot of important moments in his younger brother Marcus’ life. Harvey wasn’t able to watch his nieces grow up and wasn’t even told when Marcus was undergoing cancer treatment. It just wasn’t worth the extra family drama that was sure to ensue if Harvey and Lily were in the same place, even for something as important as Marcus’ illness.
The memory of Harvey’s initial failure almost prevented him from making the trip to Boston at all, but with a little encouragement from Donna (who else?) he found himself outside of his mother’s art studio, heart on his sleeve and a complicated mixture of feelings plastered all over his face. Although the initial meeting went well — much better than the venom-laced greeting from last time — setting up a time to talk to Lily didn’t go easily. Harvey had to choose between getting back to his firm to deal with the fallout of Jessica’s departure and actually getting to have dinner with his mom for the first time in years; thankfully, he chose the latter. A visit to Marcus’ restaurant to make reservations ended in Harvey being convinced to stay with family, rather than in his chosen swanky hotel; and Harvey even managed to enjoy the domesticity of putting his brother’s children to bed. But no amount of brotherly bonding could calm his worries about the following night’s dinner as bad memory after bad memory just kept coming back.
Harvey had been here before, after all: He stayed in town longer than expected following his dad’s funeral, only to unleash all of his anger when his mother’s partner showed up. Bobby, curse him, ruined everything. Or maybe it was just that Harvey wasn’t as ready to fix things as he’d believed at the time — either way.
When it finally came time to have that dinner with his mom, Harvey found himself in the same position he’d been in seven years ago. He wanted badly to have her back in his life; and, after an awkward start, things seemed to be going well. Harvey told his mom that he was ready to forgive her; and he even mentioned his someone special to her, grinning like a lovesick puppy as he did so. Things took a turn for the tragic and all-too-familiar, though, when Lily offered up her own forgiveness. It was as if all of that beautiful hope and healing that Harvey had brought to town just died right there in his chest. Back came the angry teenager whose mother had betrayed him, and on top of all of that bottled up rage, he was now facing the indignity of being told that he was the one who owed her an apology.
Cue Lily Specter breaking her son’s heart yet again. She accused him of abandoning his family, of leaving being what he did best, and of not growing up enough to be there for any of them for all of these years. Reminder: Harvey was in a low enough place to finally be convinced that he needed to go mend fences with his mom because he felt like he was losing his whole family, thanks to the fact that both Jessica and Mike were no longer in his work life. Harvey has always been characterized as someone who valued loyalty and standing by loved ones, but Lily hit him where it hurt by telling him that he was, essentially, a hypocrite. She had no way of knowing that she hit that particular nerve, seeing as how she didn’t know the man her son had become at all; but somewhere in the moment he closed himself off emotionally and fell back on his anger, she probably should have figured that one out.
Unlike his seven years ago, though, Harvey didn’t run away. He finished out his stay with Marcus, even though it meant a nasty visit from Bobby and hearing some really tough truths from Marcus. Then — and this is very important — Harvey went back to Lily’s studio the next day to try one last time. In his toughest battle ever, Harvey found the strength he needed to lay everything on the table. He told Lily he’d always hate what she did, but he didn’t hate her. He’d learned to make that distinction after suffering through so much pain for so many years.
There was also this gem: “I don’t want to be angry anymore, but I don’t know how to stop.” Most importantly, though, Lily finally gave Harvey the real apology that he needed to hear. She also (finally) took responsibility for how she had failed as a mother: “I was supposed to protect you, not scar you.”
Yes. Protect Harvey Specter. Please. Special thanks to SUITS for utterly wrecking every member of its viewing audience with a soul, by the way.
The real emotional climax came when Harvey broke down in tears after noticing his mother’s painting, and Suitors everywhere ugly-cried right along with him. Harvey noticed Lily’s painting, admitted to both himself and her just how badly he’d missed the one he used to keep in his office, and fell into his mother’s embrace. By the time he went home to Pearson Specter Litt that with very same painting in tow, he had finally found some sort of peace. The amount of growth it took to go to Boston in the first place was immense; but for Harvey to stick around after it all went bad, then open himself up so much by the end of the trip…That was his biggest win yet. Easily.
Is Harvey’s life going to be perfect now? No. Is his relationship with Lily going to magically be perfect? Probably not. But just like Marcus told Harvey when he first tried to rebuild his relationship with Lily seven years ago, “you have to start somewhere.” Somewhere, in this case, happened to be the place that involved finding the courage to stay and letting the walls down long enough to share feelings, even when they might have made Harvey look or feel uncharacteristically weak.
The Donna of it all. Before Harvey Specter could have any kind of lasting relationship, he needed to fix his mommy issues. Viewers have been aware of that for a while. So, when Donna showed up at Harvey’s apartment at the beginning of SUITS 6.12, there was a lot of space between the two characters. Physical space. When Harvey was at his most unsure of his ability to make things work with his mother, he increased that space; but Donna was right there to close the gap by making him see that he could do what needed to be done in order to move forward. By the end of the episode, though, the two characters were so close that they may as well have been touching…but they’re not quite there yet.
So, when I mentioned in the teaser post that symbolism was everything, I was hinting at the importance of that choice — through directing, acting, or some combination of the two — for Donna and Harvey to have a clear distance between them before Harvey accomplished the great task of forgiving his mom, while being much closer together after the fact. But that’s not all. To take an even deeper look into where SUITS seems to be headed, Harvey told Donna he needed her help with something; and it turned out to be hanging up his mother’s painting. The painting. He wanted her to have some part in that new start for his family, and both characters seemed to be pretty pleased with what they saw once it was up on the wall.
These two characters have gone from staring off into an uncertain future at the end of the first half of SUITS season 6, to closing out the twelfth episode of the season with a specific picture in mind: A family picture. Whatever that means, it’s something positive. See also: that finale Harvey Specter smile, which was not the self-satisfied smirk of old but something entirely more warm and content.
Mike Ross and Louis Litt grow up. While Harvey was busy changing his entire world, Louis Litt was asked to put his differences with the man aside and work his magic for Teddy Doyle, a client who belonged to the Specter in Pearson Specter Litt. After initially pushing back against doing anything to help the man who had all-too-recently attacked him, Louis was eventually able to do the right thing for the firm and get the job done. Not surprisingly, it was a wake up call from Donna that made Louis see just how important doing that work for the good of the firm was…But still. It didn’t take the usual amount of pushback or self-destructive behavior to get Louis doing the right thing. And that, to me, means growth.
Special shoutout to SUITS for that renewed respect and mutual appreciation between Specter and Litt, too. Because viewers didn’t have enough to melt over, as it were. Maybe rename “The Painting” to “Harvey Specter Makes Amends With (Nearly) Everyone & Melted Hearts For All!”
…which brings me to the surrogate little brother.
Mike Ross started a new job doing exactly what he wanted, and he even started at a supervisory level. The thing is, though, the annoyance that might have come from seeing this come so “easily” to him was instantly erased by the fact that he earned his job at the legal aid clinic by telling the truth on his application. Not only did Mike get to act as the do-gooder who went above and beyond for someone who really needed his help, but he also earned his colleagues’ respect by telling them the truth about why he no longer worked for Pearson Specter Litt. When his new boss said that he hadn’t needed to tell everyone about his fraud case — which, apparently, they had never read about. So much for Mike Ross Celebrity Lawyer — what was Mike’s answer? “Yeah, I did.”
Harvey would be so proud of you, Mike…if only you’d actually speak to him like he’s a human being again. Whatever, though. Harvey’s real brother lets him share beer and wear his Casual Harvey sweater while they about children. So there.
As if that weren’t enough of actually providing some forward movement for Mike Ross, he did the unthinkable and kept his mouth shut in court, even when a case that he’d worked on was not going well. He kept both his ego and his tendency to do the wrong thing for the right reasons in check, no matter what was at stake. It’s almost as if, despite everything SUITS has tried to say about this character, Mike can’t just do whatever he wants. He’s not allowed to practice law, so he’s not actually practicing law. Now, he just needs to learn how to communicate this to the man who risked everything for him without being a jerk about it. To be continued.
- Gabriel Macht was at his absolute best in this episode. Whether it was in Harvey’s insecure moping around his apartment before leaving for Boston, his rage whenever confronted with Bobby, or his absolute breakdown upon admitting how much he missed his mother’s painting, Macht made every ounce of emotion vibrantly real to the point where it was difficult to watch. All of the struggling made those few moments when Harvey had the chance to be happy or hopeful that much better — especially since those feelings were far more genuine than ever before once they had actually been earned, rather than simply donned as part of the traditional Specter swagger.
- Seven years away from family is a long time — so long, in fact, that neither Harvey’s brother nor his mother had any idea who he was anymore. Marcus jokingly said Harvey was “older, fatter, and douchier,” while Lily called him “the same self-absorbed, childish man you always were.” If only they’d seen him grow up the way that the team at Pearson Specter Litt had over the past seven years. Harvey Specter has come so far from the self-absorbed douche he used to be. Maybe the Specter family should simply watch SUITS?
- Speaking of seven years: SUITS started with Harvey hiring Mike Ross. We’re in the sixth season, so it would stand to reason that, in any logical progression of time, it’s been about six years since Harvey found himself a new little brother. That would mean that, just about a year after losing his connection to both Marcus and Lily, Harvey built himself a new family with Mike and (to a lesser extent, since she had already been his mentor) Jessica. And then he lost them both, one right after the other, just as he had with his original little brother and mother. Ouch. Talk about filling in the gaps.
- Even more to the point, Harvey lost what felt like everything (his father seven years ago, then a huge chunk of his work family this time around) before turning to his mother and brother. That’s a man who is desperate to have his family but only able to reach out to them as a last resort. I do believe that this man has since grown and changed enough that this won’t happen again.
- Since Harvey always punches people for insulting or otherwise mistreating Donna, I think it’s time Donna took a trip to meet Bobby and punched him. Kitchen-appliances-turned-weapons welcome.
- Brynn Thayer was the perfect choice to play Harvey’s mother. Between Thayer and Macht, something just…clicked. It was really as if an actual mother-son pair were battling their demons on screen.
- I like this Marissa. There’s something Season One Rachel about her in the way that she doesn’t put up with any of Mike’s crap, but I really hope this doesn’t become some sort of relationship…thing.
- “Because the truth is, this family works better without you.” Absolutely not. Harvey Specter is beautiful inside and out, and any family would be lucky to have him. Protect him.
- “Listen to me: Every day, you go out in the world, and you find a way to win. It’s who you are. It’s what you do.” Yes, listen to Donna. It’s what Harvey does.
- “Someone very special to me convinced me that I needed to.” Sixteen-year-old Harvey just got to tell his mommy about his first love.
- “I mean, you never know when she’s going to want to come back, right?” We miss you, Jessica, and we’re glad your name’s still on the firm.
Make sure to tune in to more of SUITS season 6.5 on Wednesdays at 10:00 EST/PST on the USA Network.