Suits went out on a high note (for most fans) last night with a double episode finale featuring Mike and Rachel’s wedding, a thankfully happy resolution to the conflict caused by Louis and Sheila’s illicit affair, and the setting in place of all the pieces for Gina Torres’ gritty Chicago-based spin-off series.
But the sweetness of that high note wasn’t heard by every fan of ‘Darvey,’ aka the power couple that is Donna Paulsen and Harvey Specter, long time friends and one time lovers. For those expecting romance to finally blossom between this could-be-again pair, the closing moments of the finale were nebulous, to say the least.
Last week we previewed that fans would ultimately be happy and unhappy in equal measure depending on how they felt their expectations had been met on Wednesday.
What we couldn’t reveal then was that Donna and Harvey would not fall into each other’s arms by the end of the season 7 finale, despite the slow dances “and more,” previewed in an interview from TV Insider with series creator Aaron Korsh. (Admittedly, the two did share a moment by the bar, and later some dancing, which was only ‘slow’ by means of a slow-mo shot in the final moments.)
Did Korsh grossly exaggerate, or did he fulfil his promise that Darvey fans would be satisfied? Ultimately the answer lies wherever you decide it lies. For some fans, Darvey represents the special bond on display throughout the finale. For others Darvey is in the candid glances and wordless exchanges traded over the course of not just this season, but every season. For some, it’s the knowledge that each has the other’s back, no matter what. For some fans though, Darvey represents a romantic aspiration that could track a course similar to Mike and Rachel’s, if it were given the opportunity to fly.
Before the finale, we speculated that Season 8 Darvey might be even more likely, given that the show’s resident sweethearts, Mike and Rachel, have left behind a love vacuum of sorts. However, what season 8 brings in terms of this particular couple’s relationship may not be the ‘Darvey’ you might expect. In fact, following a rewatch of the season this week, we’re forced to concede it’s likely Korsh may choose not to fill that vacuum at all.
To answer the question why, it becomes necessary to focus on one half of this couple. Unsurprisingly, we don’t need to look too deeply at Harvey, a stubborn man with many skeletons in his closet, slow to trust, and demanding of complete loyalty, but instead at dependable Donna Paulsen, COO of Specter Litt.
Despite her recent job title bump, Donna has since season one, embodied the ultimate ‘sexy secretary’ trope, a Girl Friday, a Miss Moneypenny, always there when needed, only to disappear demurely when not. Cool under fire, and oozing sex appeal, when Donna enters a room the camera lingers behind and below her waistline, tracking her in a way it doesn’t with other characters. Donna — a name and title all in one — is the epitome of poise and charm, and the show takes every opportunity to remind us of that fact. Quick witted, but never intimidatingly so, Donna wants whatever Harvey wants, especially when it comes to a relationship.
“So things between us are –?” prompted Harvey in last night’s “Tiny Violin”
“Back to normal? If they are for you, then they are for me,” Donna reassures him.
If Donna is to be taken at face value here, then she’s saying she doesn’t mind whether Harvey wants to pursue a relationship with her, or remain just friends. The main thing that matters is that he is happy pursuing whatever course of action he’s decided to pursue. She is there to fully support his choice. Which is a thing no woman has ever thought outside of the imaginary realm of TV land. Where are Donna’s own personal desires? What is she feeling? What does she really want? Why is it not important for us to know?
Although she may, on the surface, seem to represent the things that the show’s female audience might want to aspire to, her talents are only ever viewed through a very male gaze. What we see through that lens is cool, dependable Donna, always ready with just the right advice, or a tumbler of scotch. Sexy, but approachable. Smart but willing to take orders. Spirited, but loyal. Always wanting whatever Harvey wants, and never forgetting her place.
Well, she knows what I’m about
She can take what I dish out, and that’s not easy
But she knows me through and through
And she knows just what to do and how to please me
The words to Tom Jones’ ancient and highly misogynistic 1971 hit “She’s a Lady” have sadly never seemed more appropriate.
Clearly, Donna is a woman who embodies one version of the female ideal to such a degree that to give her the opportunity to become a fully realized human being would be to break the essence of what her character represents to Korsh.
In order for Darvey to happen, a la Mike and Rachel, Donna would have to be given the opportunity to become a vulnerable human being, sporting all the baggage, doubts and insecurities, as well as the hopes and dreams that come with that notion. Think Mike and Rachel, and all the hurdles they overcame together over the course of their long relationship. Think Harvey and the demons he overcame through therapy. Think Louis and Sheila. Even steely Jessica had inner conflict. Yet Donna remains “Just Donna,” her name and title thrown together and worn like some dubious badge of honor.
Is Suits willing to rewrite Donna Paulsen in Season 8? The show may surprise us by doing just that, but our magic 8 ball predicts “maybe more” is all fans can expect from the series for now.
In short, this show’s creator may never let Donna go because he is in love with his creation too much to ever allow Harvey to have her.
Suits returns for season 8 in July 2018.