Flashback episodes are a tricky thing to handle. Not only do they risk upsetting a show’s arc, but they also have to have the right look and feel for whatever time they’re traveling back to. “The Other Time” managed to completely avoid messing with the current season’s story — at least as far as I can tell — and even went one better by actually making all of season 3’s drama hit that much harder. As far as having the general look and feel of 10 years ago goes, the writers did a great job, with the exception of some of the Mike story. I don’t remember anyone talking about “old school” in college in 2003? Or is that just because I wasn’t particularly one of the cool kids?
Really, if I have any major issue with tonight’s episode at all, it’s with the Mike flashbacks. The idiotic college boy scene is not my thing, and I don’t really feel like we got nearly as much of an impact out of learning more about Mike’s past as we did Harvey’s. I think that has to do, at least partially, with the fact that we already know a bit about what Mike was like before he joined the firm, but I think that it also has to do with the story itself. Mike basically ruined his life over a vendetta with some idiotic frat boy (did they really say it was A-E-Pi? I have tons of tales I can tell about idiot A-E-Pi boys interrupting my Birthright Israel trip with their stupid chants during SHABBAT DINNER) and an attempt at doing the right thing after Trevor got him into a stupid situation. So, basically, it’s exactly what we already knew at the beginning of the series. Trevor is a screw-up that brings Mike down with him. Great. Moving on. And I get that Omar was supposed to be ridiculous and all, but he was so ridiculous that it was horrible. Bad, bad character with bad, bad dialogue. Maybe I’m just missing framework because he was “obsessed with The Wire,” but I really wish his whole bit had been left out.
Harvey’s backstory, on the other hand, was QUITE enlightening. We know Harvey Specter likes to bluff and “skirting the law” is generally the way that he winds up winning his cases, but tonight we got to see him really struggle with where the gray area ends and where black and white begins. It was lovely seeing that struggle, as well as seeing Harvey interact with his father. As it turns out, Harvey left the D.A.’s office and Cameron Dennis because he didn’t like how his father would look at him down the line if he knew about the type of evidence that was buried to win a murder trial. Fast forward to the present day, and Harvey realizes that Dennis is bluffing him on witnesses in the Hessington murder trial. Beautiful.
We also got to see some of the early dynamic between Harvey and Jessica. The roof discussion (because obviously all of Harvey and Jessica’s important conversations happen on the roof) from 10 years ago set us up perfectly for “The Other Time’s” most dramatic moment. When Jessica revealed to Harvey that she and Daniel Hardman were moving to take down Gordon, Schmidt, and Van Dyke (whoever they were), Harvey thought they should have been told about the takeover ahead of time out of respect. Jessica, on the other hand, gave Harvey the very “take them while they’re sleeping” lesson that he used to work with Darby to take her down. Later in the episode, when they both recall that conversation perfectly and Harvey reveals his backstabbing to Jessica, the scene is made 10 times more powerful than it would have been without having actually SEEN what happened in the past.
And this is where I get to mention how utterly perfect Gina Torres was during that big reveal. She hit every emotion — from smugness at winning the case, to fear about what Harvey was going to reveal, to utter shock, to heartbreak, to anger, and then back to heartbreak under a thin veil of strength — absolutely perfectly. If I could have an hour of Jessica’s reaction to the big news, I’d be perfectly happy.
That brings us to the Harvey/Donna story. I’ve been fangirling over the possibility of learning about the origins of the can opener forever now, and I have to say, I’m a bit angry still not knowing what the actual ritual is. What we do know is that the can opener itself was a total spur of the moment decision because Harvey needed a new ritual with Donna after deciding to have her come to work with him at Pearson/Hardman, rather than continuing a personal relationship with her. Again, there was a great transition to the present day when Harvey FINALLY tells Donna that he’s upset about her fling with British Harvey. In both parts of the diner scene, Sarah Rafferty’s heartbreak was palpable, and the way that Donna attempted to switch to humor after being hurt was hard to watch. That’s to say nothing of how well Gabriel Macht played Harvey’s version of those scenes, which by the way? Awesome. These two continue to break my heart, despite the fact that the whole attractive people in the workplace having romantic feelings thing isn’t exactly new.
Oh, and it turns out that British Harvey delivered that witness that Cameron Dennis didn’t have to him, so now Dennis has a witness and Harvey is screwed. Yet another game changing ending, although nothing can top last week’s.
- We really didn’t get anything on Louis Litt’s past, but the bookends on the episode of his “I need a day” reaction were icing on the cake. It reminded me of one of my favorite parallels between the season 1 finale and series finale of Buffy.
- Rachel got a bit with the whiny and annoying this week. I miss last week’s Rachel.
- I’m going to pretend to actually know something about production and talk about how awesome the lighting was in the flashback scenes. First off, the whole bit with Mike’s face being half in shadow and half in light when he confessed to the professor about stealing tests was gorgeous. Secondly, the generalized antique book feel of ALL of the flashback scenes was one of my favorite things on television this year.
- Another great transition from present day to 10 years ago was the bit where Harvey was staring at his name on the wall with Mike. The melt from today’s names on the wall to the Gordon/Schmidt/Van Dyke wall was seamless, and Harvey’s “nothing ever changes around here” line was hilarious, given that we were in the midst of an episode FULL of changes.
- Much like I wasn’t a fan of Omar as a character, I also wasn’t a fan of Bertha being the name of the overweight secretary. A little more creativity here, guys. Bertha herself was, however, pretty likable what with the whole wanting Donna gone just so she could have the better chair and all.
- That smug Harvey Specter grin when he goes to see Donna and finds out there’s something she didn’t know before he told her though. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.