Warning: The following contains spoilers from the season 8 finale of Suits. Read at your own risk!
The season 8 finale of Suits has left several of the show’s relationships forever changed.
In the concluding hour, Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) sacrificed himself to save Harvey (Gabriel Macht), who had to face an ethics hearing after everyone’s favorite villain Hardman (David Costabile) reported him for breaking attorney-client privilege. Seeing no way out and hoping to redeem himself for past sins, Robert took the blame for Harvey’s actions, which resulted in him being disbarred and thus having to leave the firm, much to his surrogate daughter Samantha’s (Katherine Heigl) dismay. However, that wasn’t the only major twist.
In the wake of their bittersweet victory, Harvey realizes that Donna (Sarah Rafferty) is the person he wants to be with and rushes to her apartment. When Donna opens the door, she can tell that something has changed from the vulnerable look on his face and wordlessly invites in him inside where the two share a passionate and long-awaited kiss. In other words, Darvey finally happened!
Below, EW speaks to creator/executive producer Aaron Korsh about why now was the right time to finally go there with Harvey and Donna, why they decided to write off Pierce’s character, and what’s in store for the show’s ninth and final season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In a recent interview, you said the season finale plan ended up changing when you, Ethan Drogin, and Genevieve Sparling went up to Toronto to write it. Can you reveal what actually changed?
AARON KORSH: There was no notion of Donna and Harvey getting together at the end of 16. None. We were in the middle of a discussion, I think, about the scene where Thomas [Sasha Roiz] was asking Donna who is Harvey to you, and we got into a heated debate. I don’t fully remember what exactly the debate was, [but] let me say, it was not going to end with Harvey and Donna.
If I can recall correctly, Ethan [was] advocating for moving in the direction of Donna and Thomas being together, but the idea of it ending with Harvey and Donna, that last scene, had not occurred to us. Then, we started saying, “What if this? What if that?” just to make points about different things that I don’t specifically remember. Then, finally, I said, “What if Harvey realizes…” and I described the last scene. And he got this look on his face and he [liked] it. It was late. It might have been 11 or 12 or one, and Genevieve Sparling had stepped out to call her husband. We were like, “Let’s just all go to sleep,” so she didn’t hear the idea. She comes back the next morning, and I described the idea to her and she gets this look on her face like, “Wow.” To get the three of us to agree on anything is sometimes not the easiest thing in the world. So, we all loved it, and we did it.
It’s interesting that such a monumental moment in the show’s history was decided at the last minute.
Look, I think whether you make a decision far in advance or in the moment, something inside of you is saying this is the right thing, right? My style is more later than earlier because [if I] have something planned far in advance, but when I get there and it doesn’t feel right, I’m not gonna do it, or if something feels better, I’m doing that other thing.
It’s been so long, but the first big thing we did was Donna getting fired, right? I remember that was in the middle of a rewrite of an episode, and someone said, “What if she destroyed this [piece of evidence]?” Jon Cowan, at the time, said, “Well then she should be fired,” almost like he worked at the firm and he was outraged that she would do such a thing. We all looked at each other and were like, “Can we do that? Are we allowed to fire Donna? She’s a series regular. We don’t want her to leave the show.” So, we ended up doing that. A lot of decisions, unfortunately or fortunately for Suits fans, get made like that. I think in this case they’re probably going to be really happy that this decision got made. I think a lot of them obviously think it should’ve happened years ago, but I think it’s happening at the perfect time.
What made this the perfect time to go there as opposed to saving it for your final season?
Again, I was a little afraid for a second, like “Is it too soon?” In seasons past, I’ve tended to end seasons on something that really scares me. Once the idea hit us, we just thought it was the perfect time. I would say that the biggest thing is it’s a feeling. It was like, “Let’s do this. This is going to be awesome.” People are going to nuts, we felt. There was a little bit of “is it this too soon?” and a little bit of fear, which just made me think we’re doing it all the more.
This is just a small story: We have table reads for every episode, and a lot of times, in particular the last episode of the season, the cast will not have read the draft before the table read because a lot of times it’s coming out the night before. We’re usually very under the gun. I think this one might have come out one day earlier, but they’re working really hard. At this particular table read, Katherine Heigl had not read the script. She was a huge fan of Suits before she joined. We’re reading this script, and she figures out that Harvey and Donna are going to get together at exactly the right moment that I wanted fans to figure out, and she’s like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe it!” She was having, as a fan at the table read, the exact reaction that I would hope people would have. It was so satisfying to see her react like that.
What do you think Harvey and Donna’s biggest challenge will be in 9?
We’ve never seen one of these in this level of relationship, right? Certainly not Donna, and not Harvey. They’ve been kind of repressing these feelings for each other for a really long time. To me, the question is, how are they going to deal with each other now that these feelings have been let out? We’re going to explore quite a bit. Also, how is it going to affect the people they’re working with at the firm?
I doubt there would be an episode that goes by where they don’t have some sort of scene that’s obviously much different than it would be if they hadn’t gotten together. On the other hand, there are other things going on. This is now the second managing partner of this firm that has been sort of disbarred and disgraced. In this instance, it was for something he didn’t even do. At least, Jessica [Gina Torres] was in on the Mike secret, even though she wasn’t originally responsible for it. Then also, they had a fraud. So their firm has a little bit of a mark on it, and they’re gonna have to be dealing with their new relationship in the context of that.
We have, I’d like to think, a lot of in store for them this year — and hopefully not a lot of angst. That’s been done for them many years. They’re gonna have fun. There will obviously be some small conflicts and some growth, but we open up on some real fun in season 9.
In your mind, is this the last we’ve seen of Robert Zane?
I hope not. The decision to have him go was largely a scheduling problem. Part of the problem when you work with excellent actors is people want to work with them a lot and they’re often not available to you. Wendell, for much of last year, was working on Jack Ryan and we had limited access to him. I’ll say in the back six, he was gone for like an episode and a half on screen and when he showed back up on screen, I was like, “Oh my god, I missed Robert Zane so much.”
At some point in the year, we got this notification from his representatives that he would not be available, like March until mid-June or something like, or maybe mid-July. They couldn’t tell us what it was, but they said it’s not going to be a situation where you can get him to fly back on the weekend or get a day or two here or there like we were sometimes able to do with Jack Ryan. They said it wasn’t Jack Ryan, and it turned out he was playing Willy Loman [in Death of a Salesman] in London. Then, I thought I might not be able to get him once Jack Ryan starts because I don’t know what their schedule is. So, I thought, “Look, he’s gotta go.” But he doesn’t leave the world of our firm and it will be somewhat dependent on his availability and what stories we come up with. But no, I really hope we have not seen the last of Robert Zane.
One of the important things in this finale was his relationship with Samantha. In your mind, how do you think Robert’s absence will affect Samantha going forward?
Well, we sort of handle that in episode 1, but not solely in episode 1 by any means. Look, it’s not dissimilar to Harvey when Jessica left. I would almost go so far to say [Robert and Samantha’s] relationship is a little bit more important because [Harvey] had a fractured relationship with his family but he did have parents, right? [Samantha] could not, so she was closer to [Robert]. It’s very upsetting to lose someone in your life that close, and it’s going to throw her off kilter a little bit. At the same time, there’s going to be some things happening at the firm that are gonna make her be protective of his name and his legacy, because these people all know that he got run out of the bar for something Harvey and Donna did. He chose to do it and he was good with it, but think of that dynamic. Ultimately, it’s going to cause growth for her both within herself and her relationships at the firm.
This is one of the first finales in a while that didn’t have some sort of big Louis (Rick Hoffman) component. Can you preview what you have in store for him looking ahead?
We came up with an idea that is, again, sparked by the fact that this firm has lost two managing partners and had another lawyer found out to be a fraud. It’s gonna result in a sort of pariah status in the legal community that’s going to affect Louis’ tenure [as managing partner] very much. I don’t want to get into the specifics just this second. So, Louis is going to be dealing with that — the firm’s reputation under his leadership. He certainly doesn’t want to have that as his legacy. At the same time, he’s going to have a child, and we’re going to sort of explore those things for Louis.
Separately, we decided that we have a certain amount of bullets in the chamber, I would call them, that we want to fire over the course of the year. For example, one of them might be the birth of Louis’ child, and there are some others. We’re trying to figure out where and when we’re going to dole them out. I’m not 100 percent sure yet if we’re going to see Louis’ child be born in the course of the show or not, but I would like to. That’s sort of what’s going on with Louis. How is he going to handle leadership when his firm is living with the results of Robert Zane being disbarred?
Looking at the show as a whole, one of the things you’ve done each time we’ve said goodbye to a character, whether it’s Mike, Jessica, or Robert, is give them some sort of redemption arc. Can we expect the remaining characters to get the similar treatment before the end of the series?
This series started with [Harvey] making an impulsive decision to hire a fraud. [That decision] certainly wasn’t healthy or in his best interest. What we’re trying to do with what we have in store right now — and again it could change for a couple of reasons because of how I write or for some logistical reasons — our goal is, we’re looking at having him evolve from that point. I’m thinking about who he was when the show started and who he will be when the show ends. That’s what we’re building toward, if that makes any sense, for Harvey. Then Donna will be somewhat connected to that because she’s been connected to him from the beginning. That’s sort of how I’m looking at it.
Suits has been renewed for a ninth and final season.