If audiences thought Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) was going to get off scot-free for the crimes he committed, they had another thing coming. In the season-five finale, Mike put his own future on the line to save Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Jessica (Gina Torres) from going to prison and took a two-year deal that had him readying to go behind bars.
By the closing moments, Mike’s “guilty” plea had effectively blown up the entire firm as Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) poached everyone away through a loophole, and Mike was on his way to prison, where he’ll be when season six returns later this year.
To break down the plea deal, that twist in which audiences learned the jury had been ready to acquit Mike of the crimes and to find out what comes next, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Suits creator and showrunner Aaron Korsh.
You knew the show had been renewed before the finale. Was there ever any talk of Mike not going to jail?
We talked about a hundred things that didn’t end up happening. The way my brain works with most of the major decisions that we make is I will consider doing the opposite or something that’s in between. So there certainly was talk of it. But it was never considered that much. Once we decided he would get arrested, I didn’t want to get him out of it. I knew we’d have a season six at the end of season four because I knew they weren’t just going to cancel us out of the blue. However, when we made the decision that Mike was going to be arrested and then go to jail, we hadn’t been officially informed the show had been renewed.
How important was the irony that the jury was going to acquit him without that deal?
There were some pitches to show that, the verdict, to the audience through some piece of paper being thrown into a trash can and the camera seeing it. But I didn’t want to just show it to the audience. I didn’t understand how that would go. If we wanted to find it out, I wanted to let our characters find it out. The notion of Harvey just telling Mike came up, and that evolved into him actually finding out with the help of Donna. It’s sad. There’s no doubt it’s sad. But it also gave us a lot of story.
Do you believe Mike realized by taking that deal and saving his friends he was effectively blowing up the firm?
I don’t know that that had occurred to him. If it did, he might have thought that through. Although the non-competes — he didn’t know Harvey cut that deal, so I don’t know that he did. But more importantly, he did what he did to save Harvey and Jessica from going to prison. He cared about the firm a lot, but they can possibly rebuild the firm and their lives. The writers kept pitching to me, “He cut this deal to save the firm.” And I kept saying, “No, he didn’t. He cut it to stop them from going to prison.” So much so that I eventually put it in the script. I think it will be put in the script again in [episode]601.
Are you planning on picking up with a time jump?
We’re coming back right where we left off. Much of the time when we land on a huge, earth-shattering event in our world, we contemplate a time jump. It’s probably just the way I think about things, but I always end up feeling like if we’re just going to time-jump out of it, what was the purpose of ending there? You want to see how we’re going to get out of it in a specific way. We’ll often always think about a time jump and then a flashback, but then we counter with wondering why we just don’t pick it up there in the first place. So we half-did that at the beginning of season five. But no, we’re coming back to the very night that we ended the episode on. The entire episode as is currently contemplated takes place with Mike’s first night in prison and the first night back at the firm when they’ve come back and it’s empty.
Robert Zane was poaching everyone by the end. Are you looking to feature him more next season if possible?
Yes and no. Wendell Pierce is still technically on The Odd Couple. It’s difficult to incorporate him too much without knowing what his availability will be, so we’re kind of figuring that out now. But there’s a lot going on without him, and if he becomes available, we’ll try to work him in as best we can.
How much fight is left in these characters after all these bombs?
Obviously Mike is being put into a whole new situation. He’s got to move on and reinvigorate himself and get back on his horse pretty quickly. In an election season, you might win a primary, and then you might be exhausted by that battle, but you’ll have a general election coming up and have to start again — not that he’s running for president. But he’s in a situation where he’s got to snap-to pretty quickly. At the firm, that’s sort of the topic of [episode]601: What are they going to do based on this whole thing happening? Are they going to shatter, or are they going to come together and start fresh?
Is there any chance of Mike working toward a law degree while he’s in prison?
We’re working out the season and how long Mike’s going to be in prison, but as it currently stands, he’s in prison for a while. The topic of what happens to him in prison is not in large measure him getting his law degree. That’s not what we’re focusing on, and we’re trying to do something a little different and unexpected. But that’s not the focus of Mike’s journey in prison. It’s more about him surviving and then he has a turn. There are a few twists and turns. But he’s not a jailhouse lawyer, so to speak.
What else is in store for season six?
Season six is really about moving forward. How is Mike going to handle life in a new environment, and what kind of toll will that take on his relationships? As for the other five, what happens when the two pillars of their existence — Mike and the firm — have been knocked out? Will they regroup and band together and overcome, or are they going to go their separate ways? Basically, how will they respond to this gut punch that’s ripped them apart.