As a contemporary law show that has run five seasons, Suits is a must-see series while developing Fear or Favour. While structuring the pilot of our web-series, it will be valuable to mind how the pilot of Suits establishes the trajectory of it’s first season. Each episode of Suits, beyond the two-part pilot, is approximately 45 minutes long, which affords more room for characters and their development.
We begin on Louis Litt, who is a primary source of antagony within the firm, in the busy office building of the protagonist’s law firm. He leaves, calm amongst the commotion, and meets with Jessica, who wants Harvey Specter to close a deal. Louis displays envy and jealousy towards Harvey at her request—a conflict that remains throughout the first season. Louis is a mid-rank partner who wants to become a senior partner—he will bend or go behind the back of the rules to get what he wants. He doesn’t like other people, and isn’t afraid to be oppositional. His inability to empathise prevents his upward mobility. By the end of the series, Louis maintains his sense of entitlement.
The first time we see Harvey Specter he’s playing poker, he wins, he goes to close a situation for Jessica, and lies to get what he wants. Jessica turns a blind-eye to his lie, since it closes the situation, though it causes more problems in the second part of the pilot (ep.2) when Louis meets with the guy who was duped by Harvey and informs him of the lie, resulting in the firm’s loss of a large account. Jessica revokes Harvey’s promotion to senior partner as a result, which threatens Mike Ross’ position as Harvey’s understudy. Harvey settles this conflict after trying to let Mike go (Mike raises his wants to the same level as Harveys, and threatens to let Jessica know he was hired despite not having a law degree). Harvey wants money, he doesn’t care about poeple other than himself, and he doesn’t trust other people to perform at his quality standard. His self-serving/self-righteous attitude prevents his success when forced to work in team situations. Throughout the show these failures begin to be overcome through his cooperation with Mike Ross—in turn, Harvey challenges Mike to overcome his self-doubt and inability to commit.
Mike Ross is introduced to us as a cheater, he’s taking a law exam for someone else. The professor almost catches him, but he seizes opportunity and gets out of trouble (he’s quick witted). When he goes to collect payment for taking the test, he hands over the student ID before being payed and he’s stiffed 50% of the agreed upon amount. This beat sets the pace for Mike’s adventure throughout the show: he’s naive, tips his hand too soon and is taken advantage of.
In terms of internal conflict, Mike wants to be a genius but is a pot addict, he’s ruled by fear and self-doubt. He wants to be a good person, and be empathetic, which impedes his ability to succeed in his career and threatens his job as we see in the finale when Trevor (who almost gets Mike busted for pot trafficing in the pilot) approaches Jessica with some news (presumably that Mike doesn’t have his degree from Harvard).
Rachel orients Mike to the firm on his first day. She wants to be a lawyer, but she’s not a good test-taker. This sets up an opportunity for conflict later, when a friend of Rachels applies to the firm (who Mike previously helped cheat to get to law school). We get voice over from Mike when he first meets her “I love you,” this sets up the b-plot of their romance. Conflict is maintained by having Mike’s confidence repulse Rachel at first, then Louis’ reminder that office romances are frowned upon, and finally, Mike’s relationship with his ex-best-friend’s ex-girlfriend, Jenny.
The pilot operates with the themes: appearance, control, stagnance, trust and intention (service to self/others). In the season finale, we see how Mike becomes more concerned with his appearance (his interactions with Rachel being more formal, trying to show Jenny she has nothing to worry about by going on a double date with her and Rachel), Harvey less of his (he represents a man he once condemned, in light of new evidence, despite the potential damage to his career); they pull one another toward their respective initial dispositions. Mike and Harvey both move away from self-service to serving others (Harvey digs up a case from his past to try and get an innocent man out of prison, putting his reputation on the line, and taking a punch in the face to buy time to build a case). These elements provided compelling conflict that drove the plot, I think it will be critical for Fear or Favour’s success to look to the inner/outer conflict of the protagonist(s) and look for opportunities to have outer conflict also come from within the law office as well as without.