Suits signs off USA tonight after nine seasons, and the Suits Season 9 finale marks the end of one of TV’s most special and underappreciated series.
When Suits ends tonight, it will be one of the most bittersweet goodbyes in the history of television. The USA series is saying farewell after nine seasons, more than a hundred episodes, and the kind of TV—not to mention cast and crew—that only comes around once in a while.
This is more than just another TV show ending. This is a TV show that dared to do things differently, that genuinely subverted expectations, and wasn’t afraid to admit when it fell on its face. It set the standard for what we should expect from our series while breathing life into ideas and archetypes that had been status quo for too long now.
It introduced audiences to a number of great talents who, while they never got awards-show acclaim, probably should have. It kept USA on the map while the network transitioned away from its original “blue sky” theme. And it was also, always, a heck of a lot of fun.
But it started in a pretty unlikely place.
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On paper, Suits could have been just another generic legal drama. We’d seen this before: quirky outsider comes into someplace and shakes it up. The trope is particularly popular in shows about cops and lawyers—see CBS‘s Made in Jersey, FOX‘s The Grinder, and NBC‘s new Bluff City Law, to name a few. Then there’s the common setup of two contrasting characters who end up working together, which happens in pretty much every genre.
Yet Aaron Korsh (the best TV writer short of Aaron Sorkin) executed his vision in a way that was entirely new. He recognized the potential pitfalls and the stereotypes and worked around them. Not only that, but he wasn’t afraid to go completely off the cliff and see what happened. And he continued to do that season after season, showing that expectations ought to be broken rather than catered to.
The special aspect of television is that it allows audiences to watch the characters and actors grow each season. With Suits, we got to see the whole show evolve.
When the show’s central concept of Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) not having a law degree was running out of steam, Korsh and company chucked it aside by having Mike thrown in prison. They had Mike take a job as an investment banker one season. Multiple characters were fired. And the firm has gone through a failed merger and so many partners that its name changes turned into a running joke.
Suits always made the choice that scared the heck out of everyone. It dared to be bold and brave and occasionally frustrating.
But at the same time, it never forgot where it had been; the writers have done countless callbacks to old plots and past characters, constantly weaving the firm’s past into its present. Not just a quip or a cameo—utilizing these resources to tell a new story. It’s been a pleasure to watch characters from early seasons, like Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) and Katrina Bennett (Amanda Schull), come back and become significant parts of the series.
Even as the show ends, the ending feels natural, like this is the place where we have to leave the characters and they have to leave some part of themselves. The writers have always brought so much to the table, even if it hasn’t always worked.
It’s television for viewers who want to engage, who want to see those faces again, remember all those details, and be challenged by what’s going to happen next. For nine seasons, the show has always done more.
Speaking of character, one can’t speak highly enough about Suits‘ core ensemble. When this show started in 2011, they weren’t household names. There was Gabriel Macht with his impressive film career, and Gina Torres was recognizable from Firefly. But chances are, everyone else was new to you—particularly Patrick J. Adams, because this was his first starring role in a TV show.
But it’s amazing how far they’ve come. They stepped into these roles with no expectations or any predispositions, and they made them completely their own. As much as the writing kept the story moving forward, the actors kept their characters growing in such an organic way that it was a joy to see them flourish—both the fake lawyers and the people playing them.
Suits didn’t succeed for almost a decade based on its snappy one-liners and expensive wardrobe; it had a special place in our hearts because audiences could watch, every season, these characters get better and learn more. The characters we’re saying goodbye to Wednesday night don’t look an awful lot like the ones we met eight years ago.
Harvey Specter started out as another hotshot attorney who could say and do all the right things, but where was the depth? Gabriel Macht was excellent as he unwound Harvey to reveal that his perfect exterior was a bit superficial—his success was a balm for numerous emotional issues and voids in his life that he didn’t have the courage to face. Until, in the middle seasons, he finally did. Harvey was one of TV’s most real and interesting characters, and it had nothing to do with charm or his ability to quote Top Gun.
Mike Ross underwent the show’s biggest changes, for obvious reasons; to go from stoner with no clear future, to fake lawyer, to prison inmate, to now head of a legal clinic—audiences have seen him literally grow up. Which was exactly what he needed to do, and it’s been incredibly rewarding as fans to see Mike fulfill the potential his grandmother urged him to pursue in the series pilot. He changed his entire life, while also changing the lives of others, too. Everyone at that firm is better because of Mike Ross.
We’ve seen Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) go from Harvey’s assistant—though every Suits fan would say she was never just an assistant—to the firm’s chief operating officer. She made Donna into a verb. Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) rose from paralegal to actual attorney. Most importantly though both characters wound up in romantic relationships with Harvey and Mike respectively, the show never allowed their love lives to define them. They were always three-dimensional and the romances were just a part of who they were.
Then there’s Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), whom Suits developed as the comic relief and a foil for Harvey. Over nine seasons, the two have fought more than a bad marriage. But audiences got a chance to see a different kind of arc with them: a friendly rivalry that soured, then slowly picked itself back up, compounded by Louis’s hero worship of Harvey. And though Louis has gotten his fair share of odd plotlines, he’s now an impending father who’s realized he doesn’t need anyone else to validate him.
Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) left the firm and got her own spinoff, Pearson, but kept coming back so many times it was like she never departed. Katrina started as a rival, became an ally, ended up at another firm and she came back. Robert was a force to be reckoned with, then was brought into the team and fell on his sword for them instead. The list goes on, but Suits developed characters in a way many TV shows never do.
Which brings us to the actors of Suits, who deserve to be spoken about as much as the characters they play. Allow me to digress here, dear readers, as I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with them in the past nine seasons and so can tell you first-hand how remarkable they are.
One of the most fun things about this show has been watching Gabriel Macht work. It’s been mind-blowing to realize he hadn’t been a TV series regular in over a decade before Suits, and to see him take all of his subsequent experience in film and pour it into deconstructing one single character. He made an unbelievable transition—and he’s also an incredible person off-screen.
A highlight of my entire career happened during one Suits set visit, when he literally borrowed a line from something I’d written, then told the entire room he’d said that way because I said it first. He makes everyone feel like part of the team, even while I was embarassing myself in front of him most of the time.
This might have been Patrick J. Adams’ first TV show but it certainly won’t be his last. He stepped up and took on a leading role on Suits both on and off-camera. Patrick is one of the most genuine, thoughtful, and creative people you’ll ever meet.
Not only could we talk about Mike’s journey, but when I had to make an important medical decision that changed my life, Patrick was one of the rare people who reached out to me and let me know I wasn’t alone. He’s got a bright future ahead of him because he’s always going above and beyond.
Sarah Rafferty, Gina Torres, Meghan Markle, and Amanda Schull are sterling examples of strong and amazing women. Every one of them carries themselves with grace, poise, integrity and as a positive force in the world, well beyond the show. When we say we need more strong women on TV, we should look to them—not just the characters they play on Suits but who they are.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rick Hoffman, who’s always been game for anything and has never ceased to make me laugh. Rick’s one of those actors who’s been around on more TV shows than you can count, and to see him get his due playing Louis is so well-deserved.
Last but certainly not least, I want to tell a story about Aaron Korsh. I hope he doesn’t mind me telling it, but Aaron saved my career. A few years ago I almost quit, after another series with two of my closest friends was canceled early in its run. It was a show I had poured everything I had into and genuinely loved, and when it failed I took it incredibly hard. If I couldn’t support the people who mattered most to me, I felt like I wasn’t good for anyone.
That night, when I was deciding what I was going to do with my life, I got a message from Aaron. He had seen me on the Suits set and wanted to make sure he said hello because he was a fan of my work. To read those words from someone whose work I admire deeply gave me the courage to keep going.
But I’m not saying these things to talk about myself. I’m saying them to prove that Suits is more than just a TV show. The people who have worked on this show for the past nine seasons are a tremendous group of actors and crew, but more than that, they’re amazing people. They’re some of the best that I’ve ever worked with, and I know I’m not alone in being affected by the work that they’ve done. A show doesn’t stay on the air for over 100 episodes if it hasn’t touched the lives of fans somehow.
Suits is what happens when a creator who strives for more collaborates with actors who deliver the top performances of their careers. We’re going to look back on it as a show where everyone came together at the exact right time to get the best out of each other. And we should look at it, hopefully, as one of the best shows on TV in the last ten years.
The Suits series finale airs tonight at 9 p.m. on USA.