The Suits Season 6 premiere is titled "To Trouble" — a phrase several characters utter over the course of the hour as they take stock of their various predicaments.
You could argue that a certain type of trouble is what the show now finds itself in, after sending Mike (Patrick J. Adams) to prison for two years in the Season 5 finale and depleting Pearson Specter Litt of its partners, who bounced in the wake of Mike's trial.
When shows blow up their premise like Suits did, the reset can be an acquired taste. Though he was open to all ideas for Season 6, creator and executive producer Aaron Korsh tells TVGuide.com he followed his "gut" to keep Mike in prison and forego the easy way out — e.g a time-jump or a loophole to spring him early.
"What we've always tried to do when we do something is deal with the consequences, the fallout, just like our characters do," Korsh says. "I've said before, if [doing] something scares me, it's probably worth trying. Having Mike go to prison is scary and so is keeping him there. ... [But] I want to see Mike in prison and I think people do too."
To that end, the show wisely takes things slow on Wednesday's premiere, which covers Mike's first night in the clink, where he connects with his cellmate Frank (Paul Schulze) and butts heads with the prison counselor (Malcolm-Jamal Warner). Meanwhile, Harvey (Gabriel Macht), Jessica (Gina Torres), Louis (Rick Hoffman), Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Donna (Sarah Rafferty) try to pick up the pieces of their empty firm after the defected partners serve them with a lawsuit. This brave new world takes some getting used to for all of us.
The premiere is a bottle episode of sorts, deliberately paced and highlighting small, human moments (Harvey and Rachel reminiscing about the first times they met Mike, Jessica reminiscing about working up the ladder at the firm), while setting up big reveals by the end that give you an idea of how the season will go, and how it'll link both stories in a way that you won't feel like you're watching two different shows.
This, of course, is not the first time the show has separated Mike from everybody else. Two years ago, he moved to investment banking, and the show connected the disparate plots by making Mike Harvey's client and having them duel in a takeover battle. It was an interminable, self-serious storyline that drained out all the fun and energy that define and are what we love about Suits.
There's a legitimate fear that this might happen again with the prison arc, but the main difference here is that Harvey and Mike are on the same side, even if they're physically on the opposite sides of those prison walls. Harvey still harbors guilt over Mike's fate and the show is at its best when they have each other's backs.
Korsh has also made a concerted effort to infuse their patented humor back into the show. "One of the things we really wanted to do this year was to get back to the fun, some of the funny and some of the fun," he says. In the premiere, there's a hilarious and very revealing side plot as Jessica tries to diffuse the tension between a bickering Harvey and Louis. It's classic Suits: sort of ridiculous, yet works in a way that doesn't feel out of place with the gravity of their situation.
And let it be known their situation is very serious. One of Suits' favorite retreads is the firm always being in jeopardy — which, obviously, it again is, with zero partners and dwindling clients. But for once, it doesn't feel arbitrary for drama's sake (how many times can people try to take over the firm?). The stakes are higher and, coupled with Mike's imprisonment and the prison politics he has to navigate, there's a different sense of urgency and importance never before felt on the show. The question is no longer "Who will find out Mike's secret?" — one that lost its impact the more people kept it on the DL — but, for everyone, "How do you rebuild your life after losing everything?"
It's not as sexy or mysterious, but it can cause some trouble just the same.
Suits returns Wednesday at 9/8c on USA.