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'Suits' Returns for Season 6 with an Orange/Black Reset
July 13, 2016  | By David Hinckley

The prison storyline in USA’s Suits will not be confused with the prison storylines in Orange Is the New Black – and not just because the inmates in Suits seem to wear blue.

But when Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams, below, left) enters his friendly local prison to kick off the new season of Suits, 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, it does shake up pretty much everything.

Some of those shakeups flirt with the bizarre, but most of them give the characters a chance to do some soul-searching and fall into introspective conversations contemplating exactly where they stand in their lives.

Most of the first episode takes place late at night, a few hours after Mike swapped his expensive suit for something more institutional, and it often has the feel of late-night college dorm conversations, where people say things they might not say in the more cautious world of daylight.

To recap here, Mike has been the central point of tension since Suits launched back in 2011. He’s a brilliant legal mind who, for various reasons, never went to law school and thus shouldn’t be a real lawyer.

But he caught the eye of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), the equally brilliant and often risk-taking partner in the law firm now called Pearson Specter Litt, for Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres), Harvey, and Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman).

Harvey brought Mike in, necessitating a long, complex cover-up that finally, at the end of the recently concluded Season 5, unraveled enough that Mike decided to take a plea deal for a two-year prison sentence.

While Mike hoped this would protect everyone else at the firm from culpability, it had side effects. For one thing, every other lawyer in the firm packed up and left. Mike also backed out of his plan to marry his fiancé Rachel (Meghan Markle) before he went to prison, fearing that she might regret it later.

So the first episode of Season 6 has Jessica, Harvey, and Louis trying to find any potential strategy that could save the firm, which is also facing a $100 million lawsuit.

Since Harvey and Louis don’t like each other, the brainstorming gets more and more tense until Jessica suggests a classic late-night college dorm solution.

No spoilers here on what that is, but it leads to a few scenes whose absurd humor feels just a little jarring, even as Rachel and loyal secretary Donna (Sarah Rafferty) alternately try to think of bright ideas and keep their desperate bosses in the corral.

We also regularly cut over to Mike on his first day in prison. He clearly doesn’t understand the deal yet, especially when a psychologist tells him that one of his goals over the next two years is to understand why he screwed up so badly that he ended up here.

That plotline sounds promising. More immediately, however, Mike has a long chat with the other guy in his cell. That extended conversation also has a classic college-dorm ring, and it starts to feel downright comfortable until the very end, when it takes a turn that smacks Mike as hard as it may smack viewers.

Sending Mike to prison constitutes a significant reset for Suits, so this first episode has to do a lot of setup work quickly.

It does that while not tipping its hand on where the whole thing will be going or how it could get there. It seems clear, however, that the veneers that most of these characters have been establishing for five seasons may be undergoing some tarnish.

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