There comes a time in every suit's life that it must be hung up for good. In the case of the USA legal drama Suits, that time may be fast approaching.
With soon-to-be-royal Meghan Markle departing the series following the conclusion of its seventh season, Suits is at a crossroads. USA Network has yet to confirm whether or not Patrick J. Adams, whose character Mike Ross is engaged to Markle's Rachel Zane, is set to exit alongside his onscreen love interest, but if he does, the executives at USA would be wise to consider letting the Season 7 finale also be the show's series finale.
At its heart, Suits is Mike's story, and while the world of Suits has expanded and shrunk and altogether altered its shape since Mike first ducked into that fateful job interview with Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) to escape being arrested in a drug sting, it's still Mike's story. After seven seasons of myriad lawsuits, numerous threats, countless speeches, and limitless late nights, it always comes back to Mike, and specifically his relationship with Harvey.
As much as fans love the movie-quoting, debonair Harvey on his own, and as much as fans love the possibility of Harvey and the whip smart Donna (Sarah Rafferty) finally getting together, without the show's central bromance to anchor the narrative, the series would become unmoored. Suits derives much of its drama from the two men butting heads and later coming together; even after Mike became a legitimate lawyer — which altered the very foundation of the series — the series continued to use their relationship to build and drive narrative tension.
Over time Mike has become less dependent on Harvey as Harvey has come to be considerably more dependent on Mike, but their relationship remains a central, stabilizing force around which everything else revolves, including the ever-present office politics. And since the show has now dispersed Jessica (Gina Torres) to Chicago, Mike's exit would leave only Louis (Rick Hoffman) as a foil for Harvey. While that would probably make many fans' dreams come true, the two don't hold enough tension to carry the rest of the series. Louis is no longer the villain that he once was now that Mike's secret is well in the past and poses no threat to the firm. While he will probably always remain a bit jealous of Harvey and how easily everything comes to him, Louis is more of an ally than an enemy at this point. They have a relationship based on mutual respect that occasionally hits a speed bump, and unfortunately, there's just not enough there to base an entire series around.
Beyond the dramatic tension Mike and Harvey's relationship provides though, their chemistry and easy repartee is easily one of the best aspects of the series. Without it, fans are mostly limited to similar banter between Harvey and Donna. However, their relationship has become more complicated as time has gone on because of the romantic and sexual tension between them, which came to a head in the most recent midseason finale, when Donna kissed Harvey and realized she was, in fact, in love with him. Unfortunately, seven seasons in, this kiss doesn't hold the same pull it once did. Harvey and Donna's coupling is inevitable, but it will likely only come near the series' very end. This means the series could continue to tread water with them in much the same fashion as it has been for several seasons, leaving little to hold on to.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle a Mike-less Suits would need to overcome would be finding a new way to keep Harvey's worst tendencies in check. Harvey isn't quick to trust, which means he keeps most people at a distance, but in Mike he found a protégé and someone who would stand by him through thick and thin. Although he is demanding of Mike, Harvey is actually a better, more considerate person because of their relationship, since Mike's best qualities tend to temper Harvey's worst. Without Mike there to act as a tether, the show risks Harvey reverting to the ruthless, emotionally-stunted and sometimes reckless man he used to be. And in fact, we've already seen it happen; each time Mike has been in trouble or has walked out, we've seen Harvey scramble and go to the ends of the Earth to get him back, consequences be damned. It's not a good look for him, and although there's no real fear of the series completely erasing his progress permanently, there would be an obvious hole next to Harvey, and likely an obvious shift in his behavior, in the aftermath of Mike's departure.
So, clearly there are a number of reasons that Suits should not continue without one-half of its dynamic duo. But if the powers that be do renew the series for an eighth season — Suits is the highest rated program on USA, averaging 1.45 million viewers each week — Suits wouldn't be the first series to carry on after the departure of one of its stars. The Vampire Diaries continued for two additional seasons without Nina Dobrev, The Office survived without Steve Carell, and Vikings is still going strong without Travis Fimmel.
Suits can exist without Rachel in much the same way it's managed to soldier on with a limp without Jessica. Sure, it would be confusing if Mike stuck around without his fiancée — who will presumably become his wife before Markle exits the series for good — but it could be done. And although the series would shine considerably less, it could also survive without fan favorite characters Donna and Louis. But it would struggle considerably without the central relationship upon which everything else is based. Without Mike, the show — and Harvey — would be lost.
Still, there's one angle that hasn't been explored yet: the spin-off. If series creator Aaron Korsh is intent on continuing Suits' story, there still exists the possibility of moving additional characters to the in-the-works spin-off following Jessica in Chicago. While it might not make much narrative sense to move Harvey or Donna to the Windy City — their characters feel intrinsically linked to New York — the possibility does exist. In a new setting the relationship between Mike and Harvey would hold considerably less weight, making is easier to continue without the former. And plus, as an added bonus, USA could just give the spin-off the title the world really wants and needs: More Suits.
Suits will return for the second half of Season 7 later this year.