Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Bechdel Test: Suits (Season 1)

The Bechdel Test so far has been about shows that I have already seen, and so for our newest installment, I’m going to mix things up a little bit and throw in a series that I have never seen, so I’m not sure how this will turn out.  Suits, which premiered in 2011, is about one man pretending to be a lawyer (Mike, played by Patrick J. Adams) and his mentor (Harvey, playbed by Gabriel Macht) who helps him along with this plan.  The show is surprisingly great and snappy, considering the complete lack of awards love it has received (USA must not have great award campaign skills), and the two leads have terrific banter and are sexy as hell.

The show has a strong roster of supporting female characters, four in the first season (as I’m just watching this show for the first time, I’m not aware if one of these women ends up disappearing into the land of never-return).  They are Jessica, the firm’s managing partner and Harvey’s boss, Donna, Harvey’s gossipy personal assistant, Rachel, the beautiful paralegal Mike starts to fall for, and Jenny, Mike’s best friend’s girlfrend (and after a while, ex-girlfriend).  With four significant supporting women, one would assume this would be easy-going, right?  Let’s investigate!

Pilot (#1.1)
Despite the epic length of the first episode (which must have initially run the gamut of ninety minutes when it aired on USA), this is a FAIL on the Bechdel Test.  As someone who has just signed up to see the next twelve episodes (and perhaps more), this is an aces pilot, though.  It set up at least five characters I want to see again (Mike, Harvey, Jessica, Donna, and Rachel), at least one more I’m curious about (Louis), and somehow manages to have you rooting for the characters from minute one.  If cable television can create serials this compelling (one of the few formats that network television still has the upper hand on), I have to assume that CBS is wringing their figurative its hands wondering why it didn’t get this show onto its lineup instead of another CSI.

Errors and Omissions (#1.2)
Definitely another fun episode, though I’m hoping that we don’t have to have too many more “Mike Quits, Harvey Convinces Him to Stay” episodes, as that will get a little bit old (and also, can we have more Jessica, Donna, and Rachel, as I’d love for a show that I’m this smitten with to stop FAILing our beloved test).

Inside Track (#1.3)
No Mike quitting this episode, which is an excellent sign, but apparently the women in this firm simply do not talk to each other.  Rachel, Jessica, Donna, and the milquetoast Jenny all had moments throughout the episode, but none were with each other, so we’ve got another FAIL.

Dirty Little Trick (#1.4)
We’re getting one step closer on the Bechdel Front, as Lisa and Jessica both talked to each other, but this time about the respective man they love, Quentin, and Rachel chats with a female real estate agent, but she never gets her name.  So it’s a near pass, but still a FAIL.

Bail Out (#1.5)
Can I just say how glad I am that Trevor, who was such a pointless character, is now out of the picture?  I’m hoping that this also means Jenny will soon be gone, as she’s not much to talk about, in my book, and I heart Rachel.
That said, I’m starting to get a little bit nervous that this show is never going to expand its supporting roster.  We’ve seen a little bit into Jessica’s life in the last episode, but Donna, Rachel, and Louis all are complete mysteries aside from their promising banter.  Either way, even though the client in this episode was a woman, because she never actually talked to anyone other than Harvey and Mike, we have a fifth straight FAIL.

Tricks of the Trade (#1.6)
I swear, it’s not just because this is my first PASS that this is, in my opinion, the best episode since that sensational pilot.  I loved the broadening of some of the supporting characters-I like Mike and Harvey’s chemistry, a lot, but it was great to see Jessica with Louis, as well as Rachel outside the firm with her friend Theresa (thus giving us our pass, as they discuss Theresa cheating on the LSAT’s).  Now if only Donna would get her own episode, I’d be set!

Play the Man (#1.7)
I’m not 100% certain that this should count, but I’m using my judgment and calling this a PASS, as the conversation between Jenny and Rachel about Jenny being nervous likely crossed the line into thirty seconds, and enough of that conversation wasn’t about Mike as it was.  This was a telling episode, not just because we saw a different side of Mike, Harvey, and to a lesser degree Jessica, but it set up that inevitable love triangle we knew was coming at some point, which Jenny, who is still too vanilla for my taste, is certain to lose to Rachel.

Identity Crisis (#1.8)
An easy PASS for the Bechdel Test, with Jessica talking with the client Lucille multiple times about Lucille’s case and business.  Overall, a little bit of a letdown after the past two episodes, with much of the whimsy gone, and a couple of rivalries that deepened, but relied on television clichés (jumping to conclusions, stupid decisions by smart people) to get there.  Also, for all of the talk about Harvey being a cad and a scoundrel, both he and Jessica are oddly forgiving and good people (watch Jessica give Louis another chance when her persona certainly wouldn’t have).

Undefeated (#1.9)
We’re back in business after a poor episode, but unfortunately, we’re at a loss on the Bechdel Test, as the only interaction between two women was the conversation between Rachel and a client (who did have a name), but they discuss the client's disease only briefly, and then it’s on to a discussion about Mike.  Overall, though, this was a fun one-with a clever mystery, Harvey meeting his match and getting a bit unethical (though never pulling that trigger, which is odd for a man who knows that his associate isn’t a licensed attorney), and an awesome Terminator exchange between Mike and Donna.  FAIL, but solid episode otherwise.

The Shelf Life (#1.10)
Though it had one little slip in the last episode, we’re back on the PASS track with Jessica and once again a client (this time a corrupt accountant named Tori) discussing Tori’s duplicity in overcharging Jessica’s firm.  The episode also took a big step in the forward direction on the Mike, Jenny, and Rachel love triangle front, a triangle that Rachel is almost certain to win, right?  I mean, how can she not be the victor, as she’s far more compatible for Mike.  I started to, while not necessarily “like” Jenny this episode, at least start to feel bad for her.  The show also continues the weird conundrum of Harvey being about as honest and caring as they come-helping throw yet another client under the bus (seriously, how does this firm have clients if they keep screwing major corporations?).

Rules of the Game (#1.11)
We settle into an episode that was teaming with female interactions (Donna/Jessica, Jenny/Rachel, Alexandra/Jessica), but since all of the conversations were about Mike, Harvey, Cameron, and sleeping with identical male twins, this is a FAIL, even though we learned just what an upstanding character Harvey is and we finally got Donna to talk to another woman (I almost want to give it a pass just for that).  Also, are we ever going to see Louis’s secretary?  And can we maybe get a less polar side of Louis, who was just a bumbling idiot earlier, and is now a ruthless villain-isn’t it possible to find a happy medium?

Dogfight (#1.12)
We finish out the season with a PASS, and finally every one of the six main characters have shared a scene.  I will say that while the easy answer of Jessica finding out from Trevor (hadn’t we exhausted that story episodes ago?) was easy to see coming, I’m hoping that it doesn’t have too much impact on next season’s caseloads, as it would be disappointing if we don't get to see more casework.  Anyway, our pass came from some great scenes with Rachel and Donna, who admittedly discussed Harvey and Mike, but also discussed drinking and their need for a drink, so we got through (also, can we please have more scenes between the two in Season Two)?

Final Scorecard
Bechdel Test: 5/12 (42%)
Bechdel Grade: F

So, yes, we have another fail, but still a worthwhile show that, if it lets its female characters breathe a little bit (particularly Jessica and Donna), we could see a pass in one of the upcoming seasons.  And can I say, adorkable Patrick J. Adams is about as much fun to see onscreen as it gets-why is this man not getting more work?

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