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'Pearson,' the 'Suits' Spinoff, Provides More Good Drama on USA
July 17, 2019  | By David Hinckley

When USA decided to spin the Jessica Pearson character from Suits off into her own series, they didn’t just send her next door. They sent her to another galaxy. 

The long-promised Pearson, still starring Gina Torres as the title character, finally arrives Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on USA, and from the opening moments, this new show resolutely stands apart from its ancestor. 

Jessica has morphed from a New York corporate attorney, parrying the drama of high-end clients and a neurotic law office, into a fluid fixer for the mayor of Chicago, Bobby Golec (Morgan Spector). 

Jessica isn’t a lawyer anymore, having been disbarred thanks to the mayor’s close friend and now city attorney Keri Allen (Bethany Joy Lenz). While disbarment is rarely the goal of any practicing attorney, in this case, it has had a strangely liberating effect.

Jessica always knew how to play the game on both sides of the right-and-wrong line, but now that she doesn’t have some pesky encumbrance like a law license, she can, let us say, flex that skillset a little more vigorously.

Jessica’s character is shaped to an extent by her long arc on Suits, which led to her eventual disbarment and relocation. The particulars of that situation don’t seem especially relevant to her new gig, however, nor is the fact she’s accompanied by one other Suits import, her partner Jeff Malone (D.B. Woodside). 

What does matter is that almost no one seems to want Jessica in this new gig, where she’s an aide/fixer/facilitator for Golec. 

Jeff thinks it’s a bad idea. The rest of Golec’s staff, notably Keri and Bobby’s half-brother Nick D’Amato (Simon Kassianides), resent this pushy newcomer and repeatedly warn Bobby not to trust her. 

The most benign part of Jessica’s reception is repeated warnings that as a political novice, she has no idea how deals are done and why policy is often subordinated to practical realities. 

For what it’s worth, Jessica is a fast learner. 

The larger issue, though, evident from the first moments of the first episode, is that Bobby may not have wanted her in the job, either. 

He offered it to her in return for her dropping a lawsuit against the city, which everyone, including Jessica, recognizes might not be a red flag. 

While the lawsuit specifically targeted a housing issue, it apparently had potential consequences that could have run much deeper. Some of those consequences seem to involve a shady, rich, corrupt big-deal character named Pat McGann (Wayne DuVall). 

If we think Jessica is walking a line, it’s nothing compared to the tightrope on which Golec seems to be teetering. 

Pearson has no trouble finding meaty issues in the labyrinth of big-city governance, and it seems clear it will be tackling matters that make real-life headlines. 

Still, it begins not with a laundry list of urban issues, but by establishing a half dozen strong and distinct characters. That’s a smart move because their interactions will clearly be setting the direction for Pearson.

While Pearson spins off from Suits, whose own final season launches Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET, viewers don’t need to have seen a minute of the parent to understand the child.

If anything, Pearson feels closer to the top-flight and too-soon-cancelled Kelsey Grammer series, Boss, about a morally compromised mayor of Chicago.

That’s probably just coincidence, of course, just as it’s doubtless coincidental that Spector bears more than a passing resemblance to Chicago’s just-retired real-life mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

Pearson won’t restore anyone’s faith in the urban political system. It does confirm that USA can still produce a good drama without help from the supernatural. 

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