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Character Analysis: The Hot Mess that is Harvey Specter, Suits “Denial” 

Character Analysis: The Hot Mess that is Harvey Specter, Suits “Denial”
Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network
Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network
Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network

WARNING: Major spoilers

I’ve said this before but when it comes to USA Network’s Suits, I am super attached to all the characters. So when I heard this exchange in the Season 4 finale…

Donna: I’m leaving you, Harvey.

Harvey: What?

Donna: This isn’t working for me anymore.

Harvey: Donna, I know how you’re feeling but you just went through something with being on trial and, uh…you need to give it time. You can’t just quit.

Donna: I’m not quitting. I’m going to work for Louis.

Harvey: Donna…Donna, please…

Donna: I love you, Harvey…

…it simply broke my heart thereby instantly creating a painful hiatus. Now we’re in Season 5 and it’s time to find out what happens post-breakup. It isn’t pretty. Harvey’s a hot mess.

He immediately does the Harvey thing. He pushes Donna away. Who didn’t see that coming? Donna inexplicably thinks she’s going to put her two weeks in but that’s not in the cards. Harvey’s in hurt mode, which always sends him into defensive mode, which then results in apology mode. Because Harvey usually strikes out at whoever’s in front of him during defensive mode.

And while he does do that, he also does something else that’s surprising. But first, let’s step back a moment. At the beginning of the premiere, we see him walking with Jessica exhibiting his typical Harvey swagger. They’re talking about a case where he comes out on top. Things seem normal. But then everything falls apart. He’s missed an important meeting and it’s something he can’t fix. Jessica has lost faith in him. Donna’s not there for him. She says he’s on his own.

Apparently this is a recurring dream he has. We know this because we see him in an office talking to a therapist. Harvey’s told her he’s having issues sleeping and instead of easily doling out the prescription medication, she tries to get him to open up. Brave woman that she is. Thankfully, she’s good at her job.

Harvey’s confident this whole thing with Donna is going to end with her coming back to work for him. But as the episode progresses, we see that isn’t going to be the case.

The whole hour becomes about Harvey having to let go of this notion. Because even though Donna’s going through an adjustment period of her own as Louis’ assistant, she’s determined to make this team-up a success. Lord knows if she even tried to go back to Harvey, Louis would have a breakdown.

Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network
Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network

Rachel’s doing her best to help the Specter portion of Pearson Specter Litt — she even skips out on a law school test to stay late for him. Mike cuts him some slack after Harvey handles Mike’s engagement announcement horribly. Jessica offers to get Donna back for him.

Still, Harvey won’t hire someone to replace Donna. He’s in serious denial (hence the apropos episode title) and it takes a toll on him both physically and psychologically. His work suffers. He’s late for appointments. A big error happens on his watch. He’s having panic attacks. And he won’t take that list Donna offered up to him — the one she originally worked up for Louis.

The panic attacks we see in the episode are brutal. Harvey always has to learn life lessons the hard way but this is tough to watch. Case in point: the scene where he goes to Donna and tries to take her up on her offer for two weeks. Unfortunately, it’s too late. He admits he’s drowning but there’s no way Donna can agree to go back to work for him even for two weeks. She knows if she gives in on this one thing, he’s going to assume things are normal again. Then she utters almost the same exact words Dream!Donna did:

Donna: I’m sorry, Harvey, you’re on your own.

Cue another panic attack. And this one’s a doozy.

Harvey: I couldn’t think. I couldn’t see. I could…I couldn’t breathe.

Dr. Paula: What did you do?

Harvey: You know what I did.

Dr. Paula: I know. I need you to say it.

Harvey: Why?

Dr. Paula: Because the more you say it the less power it has over you.

Harvey: I made my way into the bathroom. My heart was pounding. My chest…cracked open. It was like I was under water. I looked at the stall and there was…shoes there…piece of s–t brown shoes tied to two guys laughing.

Dr. Paula: Yeah And then?

Harvey: I ran to the stall, I threw up and I just waited until it was over.

Dr. Paula: And that’s the night you came to see me.

Harvey: Yeah.

Dr. Paula: And you made up a story about having trouble sleeping in order to get anti-anxiety medication and you’ve been taking a pill a day since.

Harvey: Yes.

Have I mentioned how much I love Christina Cole as Harvey’s therapist, Dr. Paula Agard? The doctor doesn’t give her patient a full on prescription. Instead, she gives him enough samples to last him a week. Which means he’ll have to see her again.

Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network
Photo Credit: Shane Mahood/USA Network

Next thing we know, Harvey enters Louis and Donna territory and asks for that list of replacements. I know this is something he had to do. It’s the healthy thing to do. Part of me was crushed anyway. And as much as I love me some Louis Litt (and I do), it was very difficult for me to watch him and his new assistant enact a new pre-trial ritual. Nothing can replace the can opener! That’s how attached to Donna and Harvey I am. Hmmm…maybe I’m in denial, too.

Here’s what perplexed me a little bit. Harvey ended up throwing away his meds. He had a look on his face I couldn’t quite nail down. Is it a “Harvey’s back” kind of thing? Or is it an “I’m going to man up and do this on my own” kind of thing? Is throwing away the pills some sort of healthy dose of closure for him? Because I don’t think it works that way. I’m anxious to see how Harvey handles life after Donna from here on out. The therapist will be back — Cole is recurring this season. Will his panic attacks be back too?

As broken up as I am about this split, I’m actually happy this situation didn’t resolve itself in one episode. This “new normal” is going to be around for awhile. I love seeing a Harvey that’s thrown off his game. We have never seen him so rattled. It makes me want to find out about his past with his mother. Because what we’re seeing triggered are his abandonment issues. If the show doesn’t cast his mom (in flashbacks or whatever), can we at least find out about her in his therapy sessions? That is one of my big wishes for Season 5.

Oh and by the way, Harvey’s not the only one who’s in denial. In that confrontation Donna had with Harvey, she talks about how Harvey placing that can opener on the list of replacements for Louis fed into his nightmare that she’s going to leave him. Granted, this was a classic Harvey manipulation. But Donna knows her former boss so well. I’m shocked she doesn’t realize Harvey has his own issues with people leaving him. Maybe she’s too close to the situation?

What did you think of the premiere?

Suits airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on USA Network.

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1 Comment

  1. Heather M

    I couldn’t completely get a bead on the tossing of the meds except that maybe because he saw a little bit of fear from Louis when he got the list from Donna that he still thinks he has a shot? I definitely love that Gabriel is getting to work those muscles. Swagger’s great, but show me the heart, too.

    Best line of his was at the end with Mike, “That’s hurtful. I looked everywhere for that issue.”

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