Another brilliant season of Suits comes to a close, and we get all verklempt about not being able to enjoy and disassemble and be moved by such a great show every week. And while the show didn't deliver the ultimate bullet that it could have, it still does a fine job - perhaps the more appropriate job - of pushing all its main characters forward into a new world.
Harvey's still in a brooding mood after the events of last week, which this episode follows almost immediately on the heels of. As he and Donna drink to Mike's change of heart (after Harvey calls Donna out on not being entirely behind his relationship with Scottie), Mike has to break the news to Rachel, who demands an explanation. He tells her that the thought of leaving the firm is hurting him more than the thought of staying. But Mike is about to have bigger problems than an unhappy girlfriend. The next morning, two generic guys from the U.S. Attorney's Office want to have a private conversation with him.
That news makes it way to a friend of Donna's, who calls Donna, who tells Harvey. Cut to U.S. Attorney Woodall (played by Zeljko Ivanek, who once played a District Attorney on Homicide: Life on the Street), who wants not only to bust Mike over the Ava Hessington case - but he also wants Mike to roll over on Harvey, too. Seems the opposing counsel from last week didn't keep his word. Harvey immediately comes to Mike's defense, not realizing he's also coming to his own defense, until Woodall gives his whole semi-threatening spiel.
Having freed Mike, Harvey looks up Allison Holt (returning guest star Diane Neal), who reveals she's the one who went to the U.S. Attorney after the opposing counsel came to her asking about the Hessington case. She fired Harold an hour earlier. Harvey makes his unhappy face.
Back at the firm, Louis brings up Harvey's absence to Jessica (although he's worried for the wrong reasons). This forces Donna to explain what's going on to the boss lady. She takes Harvey to task, which Scottie just conveniently happens to overhear (does anyone knock in this office?). This prompts yet another disagreement between her and her boyfriend.
And when Mike gets back to the firm, he has to explain the situation and the stakes to Rachel, who immediately tells him, "I knew you should've taken that job." After Mike further reveals that he had Lola Jensen hack into the Bar Association records last episode, she definitively puts him in the doghouse. Face it, Mike: you can never really win with Rachel Zane.
Mike's headache is compounded by a panicked Harold pleading for his help - which conveniently puts the two of them in one place to be arrested for conspiracy to defraud the federal government.
Donna meets with her friend at the U.S. Attorney's office to find out about the opposition; she discovers that Woodall "hates dirty lawyers" and will "definitely" bend the law to bring them down. So basically, he's the second coming of Cameron Dennis, except rather than being a dirty lawyer, he targets them. Cut to Woodall taunting Mike in another interrogation room, where he's being held under the Patriot Act. Yep, that thing that was meant to fight terrorism. He plans to subject Mike to a "thorough background check," but not before he lets Mike see Harold losing his marbles in another interrogation room. You don't have to be a genius to know that Harold is going to break in short order.
As Harvey is trying to save everyone's bacon, Jessica reveals to him that Scottie is looking to leave the firm, and that she fears she's turning into Edward Darby with all the things going on that she doesn't want to know about. "If she doesn't want to be here, let her go," Harvey says decisively, before he gets into a literal fight in the lobby with the opposing counsel from last week's episode. When he says he'll break every bone in the guy's body, we believe him. Gabriel Macht was in S.W.A.T.: Firefight, after all.
Harvey and Louis - who's put the pieces together - race to the rescue while Woodall continues his efforts to break down both Mike and Harold. "If Harold's broken, then when we get there, Mike's going to be on his way to prison," Harvey informs Louis, telling him that he needs to get in there and help his former associate. If Louis can't convince Harold to shut up, the whole ship is going to go down.
The waiting period allows for a great scene between Harvey and Mike, where Mike continues to refuse to roll over on Harvey, even as Harvey tells him to do it. And then Harvey breaks a surveillance camera with a chair. And then he rattles off every single questionable thing they've ever done together. You realize at that moment that it's a pretty long list of transgressions. But never fear, because Louis has sprung Harold and therefore, saved them all.
But of course, all is not well in the Suits universe. That would be too easy. Harvey gets back to his office to find a waiting Jessica, and admits to her that she was right; they do have cause for concern about their actions. His next task is to have a long-overdue conversation with Scottie, telling her that they are going to let her leave the firm. He also decides it's appropriate to inform her about Mike's secret, because he wants her to know that he - not Jessica - was the responsible party. "I still can't stay, Harvey," she tells him, and with that, we're finally free of this subplot that's never once worked.
Donna already knows everything, of course. She reassures Harvey that he's not becoming Satan incarnate; in fact, she called in a favor at the U.S. Attorney's office to stop him from destroying the career of the guy they thought was responsible for everything that's just happened. "Sometimes we need a little help," she says by way of explanation. Donna gets another gold star.
The biggest bombshell, though, is that the entire situation has changed Mike's mind for a second time. "I'm tired of putting the people I care about in jeopardy," he tells Harvey, before informing him that he's accepted Jonathan Sitwell's job offer and will be leaving the firm after all. With a handshake, he gets Harvey's permission to end their partnership. At least, as lawyers. Since he's working for a client of Pearson Specter, he's still going to be hanging around. But will that dynamic really change? We'll have to wait a few months to see.
"No Way Out" is the antithesis of the commonplace season finale - which usually involves things like character deaths, huge arguments for the sake of having arguments, and if you're an action show, giant action setpieces. Granted, if there were an explosion on this show, it'd be terribly out of place. But as season finales go, this one is so much less in-your-face than the usual, and that's something to appreciate. It demonstrates a confidence in the show, that it doesn't need to make a huge play to create that season finale level of suspense. That level of suspense already exists just by the show being itself.
It acts as a satisfying capper to the season, in that it gives us something to chew upon (although the impact is slightly lessened just because the next season is going to start in practically no time at all), and also wraps up things that needed to be dispensed with. We can now hopefully put aside any mention of the Hessington Oil case and its fallout, since that took up most of this season. And we can also dispense with the whole relationship between Harvey and Scottie, which never worked as a recurring component of the show and didn't do her character any favors. Besides, it sounds like Harvey has some serious self-discovery to do, anyway.
And that's the beauty of it. For a few minutes, we were disappointed that Suits didn't take this prime opportunity to settle the 'Mike gets exposed' threat once and for all. But if you take the extra minute to think about it, what the show did is actually the better move, long-term. The strongest tension in the episode, the moments that most had us on the edge of our seat, weren't the ones between Mike and Woodall. They were the ones between Mike and Harvey. Hearing them go over all the things they've done, the audience realizes how much these two have been through, and how much they've changed.
And it's that change, as both Jessica and Harvey point out, that is now where the real drama is. Far more interesting than any external threat is watching what's going on with these characters internally. To see even the cocksure Harvey Specter hold a mirror up and say they need to do things differently is pretty telling. What we want to see in Season 4 is if these characters are really going to change, and what it's going to take for them to do that. Will the show be bold enough to have Mike really, truly leave the firm? If this were any other show, we'd say no - but this is Suits, so we're not willing to bet against it. And that goes right back around to why we love this show: it goes where other shows won't, and it digs deeper than other shows do. We're not so much keeping score on who won and lost at the end of the season, as we are reading a proverbial book, more excited to get into the next chapter.
If there's one criticism we have in this moment, it's the fact that Season 4 is just two months away. It's always great to have more Suits, but season finales are the time when you usually step back, relax, and come down off the high to really appreciate the series as a whole. They're the episodes that we're supposed to think about for a long time. And then we get to enjoy the anticipation of waiting for the show to come back around. Compressing that experience into two months somehow lessens the effect for us. But it doesn't take away from the fact that this is still a brilliant, beautiful series that can't be touched by anything else out there.
Suits will return with Season 4 in June - just two months away. In case you missed it, you can also check out 5 Writing Lessons We've Learned From Suits.