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A Significant Plot Shift Comes With the Return of 'Suits'
July 18, 2018  | By David Hinckley

USA’s law drama Suits 8.0: new outfit, same style.

Suits, the last survivor from USA’s fondly remembered “Characters Wanted” days, starts its eighth season at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday with a major character reset.

Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) and Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), two of the core players in the law firm at the center of the law-and-love story, have departed for new pastures, which in Markle’s case meant marrying a prince of England. You might have seen or heard something about that.

Suits is nonetheless keeping a stiff upper lip and carrying on, even though the show from the beginning had centered on the buddy relationship between the precocious Mike and his boss, the firm’s brilliant managing partner Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht).

Perhaps with Mike’s departure in mind, Suits has, over the past season, gradually ratcheted up the personal relationship between Harvey and his long-time loyal aide Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty, right).

That kind of quasi-substitution wouldn’t work on every show, but since Donna has quietly become the center pole of Suits, the impact of Mike’s and Rachel’s departure has been minimized.

In fact, it’s been minimized enough that both of the departees can be affectionately referenced without making the audience suddenly get all angry that they aren’t there anymore.

For plot purposes, Suits promotes three supporting characters and adds a fourth to flesh out its new major storylines.  

Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce), Rachel’s father, has been a recurring rival of Harvey’s firm. Frenemy is probably a good term in this case, and it takes on added intensity when Robert’s and Harvey’s firms merge to start this season.

Among other things, that sparks an immediate and inevitable clash between Harvey and Robert, alpha males and alpha lawyers unaccustomed to taking orders from anyone else.  

Each also brings loyal lieutenants to the battle. For Zane, that means newcomer Samantha Wheeler (Katherine Heigl), a fixer with ambitions to become more. For Specter, that includes Donna and Alex Williams (Dulé Hill, left, with Macht), an ambitious star who is pushing to become a name partner.

Still in the lineup, too, we have Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), a social klutz who provides comic relief as the windbag who regularly gets deflated and also surprises us with occasional bursts of poignancy or legal brilliance.

More screen time seems to have opened up for Katrina Bennett (Amanda Schull), another bright up-and-comer who makes rookie mistakes in the season’s first episode. 

Since Suits already lost Harvey’s original professional partner, Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres, who’s getting her own spinoff series Second City), it’s safe to say the mothership has done some serious evolving.  

It is still managing, however, to maintain its critical original balance between personal relationship crises, which all characters undergo, and the civil wars inside the world of powerhouse New York law.

Season 8 opens with enough strong pieces in place, particularly Harvey and Donna, to keep the show from feeling crippled. Presumably, we will soon find out whether the new Suits will get to do the town for a couple of seasons or whether USA puts it back on the rack when this one wraps up.

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