[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Wednesday's Season 5 finale of Suits. Read at your own risk.]
Orange is the new Mike.
Yup, Mike (Patrick J. Adams) took the two-year prison term deal with Gibbs (Leslie Hope) to protect Harvey (Gabriel Macht) et al on Suits' Season 5 finale. And the biggest twist is that he is actually now behind bars.
Upon learning about the deal, Harvey makes it his mission to get Mike out of it. He has Donna (Sarah Rafferty) locate the jury foreman, who informs Harvey that the jury was going to find Mike not guilty. Wanting to reassure a jittery Mike that he made the right decision, Harvey initially lies to him about the verdict while he and Donna buckle down to try to find a way to cut a new deal with Gibbs. No dice. Harvey finally tells Mike the truth after he asks Harvey to be the best man at his hastily planned, pre-prison wedding to Rachel (Meghan Markle).
And the truth hurts. Mike beats the crap out of Harvey (mostly at the latter's urging), and then decides, right before Rachel walks down the aisle, that he can't go through with the wedding under these circumstances. So instead of hopping into a "Just Married" car, Mike hops into Harvey's car for a ride to Danbury Federal Prison. Before walking through the gates, Mike tells Harvey that it's not his fault and he'd "do it again."
"I think he knows he had to put a stop to this," Adams tells TVGuide.com. "Would it have been good if he was just found not guilty? It would be an interesting show — well, he's a lawyer now and everyone who watches the show knows he's not, but then it'd just be a lawyer show. I think the show has always been about more than that. This is really gonna expand the show. ... There's something of a hero's journey in [his decision], where someone just has to man up and say there's an out here. He's found a family in these people and the last thing he wants is to have a decision he made out of desperation to be something that rips them all apart. And if he has to take the bullet for two years, then he's gotta do it. I'm really excited to see what that does for Mike from this point on."
Elsewhere, Rachel's dad Robert (Wendell Pierce) appears to be breaking a non-compete to poach from Pearson Specter Litt, but he points out that per PSL's moral clause, any partner can leave if a name partner participates in a crime. The ace in his pocket? Louis' (Rick Hoffman) former protégée Katrina (Amanda Schull) had secretly recorded him admitting that Mike is a fraud. As Mike heads to the big house, Jessica (Gina Torres), Louis and Donna arrive back to a completely empty office.
So how long will we see Mike in prison? Why did it have to happen? Will Mike and Rachel ever get married? Executive producer Aaron Korsh answers our burning questions.
I kept thinking they would find some loophole to get Mike out or renegotiate the deal. Was it always the plan for him to go to prison?
Aaron Korsh: This was always the plan. We decided at the beginning of the season. We questioned it at times along the way, but never really wavered. If doing something really scares the sh-- out of me, I think that makes it a good idea because it means that it's something that people will probably not expect and on top of that, provide for something new next year. Obviously this will be something that we've never done before. People always say this or that is game-changing, and I'm guilty of that too, but in this case, it really is for our show. We are both very scared and very excited about it.
When you started the show, did you ever envision Mike paying for this at some point?
Korsh: No. When I started the show, I originally wrote it as a spec script. I never in a million years thought it would get made, so I never bothered to think about the consequences. I didn't have a five-year plan. When I wrote the original script, he was never a fake lawyer. He just lied about having gone to Harvard Law and he was gonna be an investment banker. And in that job, if he was great and they found out he didn't go to Harvard, they would've promoted him. [Laughs] They wouldn't have cared. But this was something we came up with at the beginning of the year. We wanted him to get arrested at the end of the first 10 [episodes] and the plan was for him to go to jail.
Did you also plan from the beginning for the verdict to be not guilty? Add more salt to the wound.
Korsh: At some point, the idea was, should we show the verdict to the audience? You know, you could've shown the piece of paper being thrown in the trash. My preference was if we were going to find out what the verdict is, then Harvey is going to find out what it is and Harvey is going to tell Mike. Then we came up with, what if Harvey lies to Mike? ... We did discuss what [the verdict] should be. We just got so much mileage out of it being not guilty. Harvey tells Donna, Harvey tells Jessica, Harvey tells Mike, Mike tells Rachel. They all have to live with that. The irony is both Rachel and Donna were right to tell their men to have faith in themselves and they didn't. I've been getting a lot of tweets about this, but Rachel, in that scene where she breaks the glass last week, never said to Mike to rat them out. She said, "Have faith in yourself and let it go to verdict." But it seems like everyone who watched that thought Rachel was telling Mike to rat them out.
Faith has been a big theme on the show and in Mike's life. For a guy who had enough faith and confidence in himself to fake it as a lawyer, how much of his decision was because of a lack of faith in the verdict and how much of it was guilt and wanting to do right by his friends and Rachel?
Korsh: I don't think he was confident about the verdict, but I think a lot of it is guilt. [Rachel] even points out, "Is this your way of punishing yourself?" He says, "Maybe that's part of it." She says, "It seems like all of it." He wants to protect them. He could be found not guilty and they all continue on, but I think he realizes that something else could happen down the road to them. He's trying to take responsibility. I actually wish they hadn't teased in the teasers, "Someone's going to jail." But since they're so used to fooling people, people might not definitely be sure. I had a conversation with my brother a couple of weeks ago. I asked him why he liked Season 5 and he said, "It's relentless, it keeps coming and they can't get out of it." And I said, "What do you think is going happen?" And he said, "You're going to concoct something that gets them out of it." And I thought to myself, "No, we're not!"
I think some people are going to be surprised, but a lot of people will also be happy. There is a segment of fans who are like, "How long can this go on?"
Korsh: Yes, exactly. That's why we planned it from the beginning [of the season]. It felt like we've really built to this over the years of someone finding out and it's culminating with this case. We had to pull the trigger. And this is a loss for Harvey. He couldn't get him out of it and he lost Mike. It's as emotional for him as it is for Mike and Rachel.
What is Season 6 going to look like? Are we going to see him in prison? Are you going to find a way to get him out of prison early?
Korsh: [Laughs] We're working on figuring that out right now. It is our plan currently to have Mike be in prison next season. We don't know at the moment when he's going to get out. We haven't gotten there yet. We're not rushing to get him out and we're not jumping ahead in time to when he gets out.
What kind of strain is this going to put on Mike and Rachel? She was adamantly against the deal at first, but she seemed to understand when he called off the wedding.
Korsh: Gabriel mentioned to me, "What if they didn't get married?" I had originally not wanted them to get married, but ... I heard the arguments to have the wedding and then have him go to prison to give something sweet to the fans in addition to something bitter, so we changed it. The reason I had not wanted the wedding was because it seems better for next year for them not to have gotten married. But I didn't know that we had earned enough of Mike calling off the wedding in this episode. When we reread the script after Gabriel said something to me, I said, "Wait, maybe we have earned it." That was my original inclination ... so we changed it back. ... They're going to be apart for a two-year-ish period of time. That's going to be tougher than not going through with the wedding. She doesn't hold that against him; she understood. It's more that he's going to be in prison that's going to affect them.
What's the status of the firm? They need some bodies in there.
Korsh: We're going to pick up not long after the events of the finale. You saw they got back and everyone was gone. Our current plan is to pick up with an episode that takes place throughout the first night of Mike being in prison and everyone at the firm finding out everyone's gone and them figuring out what to do and how to adjust to life in their new situations. It's hopefully going to be a different episode of Suits, but still with some emotional turns and hopefully a surprise or two. I know people might not believe this, but even though Mike's in prison, the trial being over means there will be more humor next year. At least on the firm side of things, most of the drama is gone.
Suits returns in the summer.