The emotional series finale of Suits definitely wasn’t lacking in incident.
In the USA drama’s swan song, Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and company executed one last con to rid themselves of Faye Richardson (Denise Crosby), the vindictive and rule-obsessed special master assigned to oversee the constantly renamed firm. Once all that was settled, the hour turned its attention to Louis (Rick Hoffman) and Sheila’s (Rachael Harris) wedding, which abruptly ended when Sheila went into labor and had to be rushed to the hospital.
In a surprising twist, that wasn’t the finale’s only wedding. While everyone waited to hear from Louis and Sheila, Harvey impulsively and romantically proposed to Donna (Sarah Rafferty), and the two of them got married immediately. But as part of the gambit to remove Faye from the firm, Harvey decided to leave the firm and move to Seattle, where he could use his ability to close any deal (even if it meant crossing lines) on the side of the angels by working with Mike (Patrick J. Adams). In other words, Suits ended with Batman and Robin reuniting, and Donna joining them. Meanwhile, Louis, Samantha (Katherine Heigl), and Alex (Dulé Hill) decided to make Katrina (Amanda Schull) a named partner and institute a much-needed rule that prevented the firm’s name from changing for five years.
Below, EW chats with creator and series finale director Aaron Korsh about the hour’s big development and why Gina Torres didn’t return as Jessica. (Read our chat with Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The decision to bring Harvey and Donna together in the season 8 finale was pretty last-minute. Did the decision to have them to get married happen relatively late in the writing process too?
AARON KORSH: No, it was not last-minute. You know, once Harvey and Donna got together, I was never going to break them up. That was all kind of come up with, I want to say, in like January. Then we just committed to figuring out how to [weave] everything in that we wanted to do in addition to that.
There’s definitely a world in which Harvey and Donna could’ve just stayed together through the end without getting married. What made marriage the right move for them?
First of all — and I think we wrote to it throughout the season — when we were deciding last year, are they going to sleep together or not, I always [felt] Harvey would know he’s not going to sleep with Donna again unless he’s already, in his mind, committed to her for his life. To my mind, once they slept together, it was inevitable that they were going to get married, or at least they were going to be together forever. Because of that, then it felt right to get to see them married.
It all kind of melded once we [decided] Harvey’s mom was going to die. You know, it affects you, obviously. I have known some people in my life who lost both parents as adults. I have noticed that their lives changed pretty dramatically, relatively quickly within a year or two after the parents dying. It’s almost like inside they wanted to start their own family because the one above them was gone. So that resonated with me.
The other big move in the finale was that Harvey decided to move to Seattle and work with Mike. Where did that idea come from?
If you think about the totality of the nine seasons of Suits and where Harvey started and where he ended, it seemed to make sense because in the beginning of the show, he doesn’t care. You know, he’s not in touch with his emotional side. He doesn’t really care about his clients. He doesn’t really care about anyone other than himself. And he hires this fraud because he also doesn’t care to follow the rules. This fraud also happens to care about people, and over the years his relationship with Mike makes him care about the little guy more and more and more. So when we decided whether or not to bring Mike back this year, which all of the writers unanimously wanted Mike back, we thought, “Let’s have him coming back affect Harvey in a major way.”
When Malik arrests him and says he’s a horrible human being, [Harvey] says out loud that his whole life he’s tried to do what’s right, but following the rules isn’t the same as doing what’s right and wrong. It’s just following the rules. That is not the same as being a moral or ethical person. So Harvey starts to think about that these things, and a lot of it has to do with the special master we brought in there to basically [represent] following the rules. She holds up a mirror and does show them they’ve done a lot of shady s— over the years. Faye is a rule-oriented person, but she has some vindictiveness in her. Harvey comes to realize throughout the course of the season that he’s willing to cross lines when it counts, but he wants to do it because of the influence Mike’s had on him all these years. It felt more interesting to me for him to say [at the end], no, I want to keep crossing lines, but I want to fight for the right team for a change.
When we spoke earlier this summer, you said you were working on figuring out whether or not Gina Torres would return for the series finale. What went into the decision to actually not have Jessica return?
It was a very difficult process of deciding how to handle Jessica in the Suits thing. Look, if Pearson didn’t exist, I would’ve had Jessica come in and help them get rid of Faye. But because Pearson was on the air and these shows were airing back-to-back on the same night, I felt like if I was a viewer watching TV and one minute I’m seeing Jessica up to her eyeballs in intrigue and back dealings, and fighting for the life of the city on Pearson, and then in the very next show acting like none of that is happening and she’s just in here waltzing in and saving the day and yucking it up at a wedding, it would lose the credibility that Pearson had. We worked very hard on that show and I was so proud of it, and that was the struggle. I just didn’t want to mess with the integrity of Pearson to service Suits. I didn’t think that was right.
On the Suits side, I want Jessica on the show and to explain why she wasn’t at the funeral, right, for Suits viewers. What we ended up trying to do was write a scene where Harvey calls Jessica the morning of the big conference room scene and he’s not sure that he wants to do it and he asks his mentor one more time, and at the same time she’s getting ready for work in her apartment and getting ready to go and deal with the stuff going on in Chicago. Unfortunately, by the time we wrote that scene, all of the sets of Pearson were gone. We’d wrapped and put them away and we didn’t own those stages anymore. We would’ve had to fly her to Toronto, but she was flying around the country working herself to the bone to promote Pearson. So it just logically didn’t end up working, and it bummed me out. What we did do: I wanted to hear Jessica in that memory section.
In writing the script, what was the hardest story beat to nail?
A lot of times when we’re writing, we leave problems for the director to solve and for us to solve in the edit bay. Unfortunately, I was the director on this one. So I left myself those problems and I got pissed at me, the writer, for leaving myself those problems. But I feel like the hardest of it was: Usually we have two or three story lines going on so that we can cut away to something and then cut back, and that helps relieve the linear feel of a given story. For the most part [in the series finale] it was all just this [one story]. So there were some transitional challenges in the episode that we don’t usually deal with.
Writing that big scene in the conference room where they ultimately set Faye up was a little bit of brain twister. The original notion of that scene was going to be that the audience knew [the plan] going in. When it came time to write it, all of a sudden, we were like, “Wait a second, what if we don’t do that? What if we just stage this fight and then we reveal it after?” We specifically filmed and cut that scene so that you can see Gretchen [Aloma Wright] switching the papers if you are looking.
This was your directorial debut too. What was the hardest beat to hit as a director?
The challenge was a lot of these big scenes. I didn’t realize when you have a scene with seven or eight or nine characters in it, it takes almost seven hours to shoot. So both the big conference room scene and the scene after it, those were huge challenges. Obviously the wedding — it was two weddings, right? That was a three-day affair, spread out because we had a lot of night shoots.
Also finding that location [was a big challenge], but with our scheduling problem we lost [the first] location. Then we finally found this location and then, I don’t know, like two days before we were supposed to shoot one of the neighbors complained and hired a lawyer and tried to stop us from being able to shoot there, but it ended up we were able to shoot there. It was just one kind of logistical challenge after another. Then when we got back to the edit bay, it turned out there were all these cicadas out during the filming of many of the scenes. It turns out that cicadas are on the exact same frequency as the human voice, so we had to take that frequency out [and] bring the actors back in to do their lines again in the studio to fill the gaps.
What was the last thing you shot?
The very last thing we shot [were] the last three shots of the episode when [Harvey] walks out of the firm, and then you see him from the side and then you see him from the front. We were going late that night. It was like 2 or 2:30 in the morning. [Executive producer] Chris Misiano tried to convince me not to shoot that last shot. The last image, he tried to convince me we didn’t need it. He was so helpful to me in this process. I cannot thank him enough, but I am really glad I did not listen to him because I said, “Are you crazy? I want to see the star of my show for the last image.” So I’m glad we did that.