'Suits' Boss Talks Finale's "Two Major Punches," Previews Season 5

Aaron Korsh breaks down the season four finale's unexpected death, surprise proposal and shocking split.
Shane Mahood/USA Network

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season four finale of USA Network's Suits.]

The dream team has officially broken up.

In a season four finale containing flashbacks to when Donna (Sarah Rafferty) and Harvey (Gabriel Macht) first met, Donna realized she could no longer pretend not to have feelings for her boss. By episode’s end, she left Harvey to go work for Louis (Rick Hoffman) after Norma succumbed to a sudden illness.

Meanwhile, things were gravy for another established couple when Mike (Patrick J. Adams) surprised Rachel (Meghan Markle) with a sudden proposal, which she easily accepted. Does that mean happier times for the pair when the show returns for an already ordered fifth season? Is Donna and Harvey’s can opener tradition dead, too? And will Wendell Pierce return in time for the nuptials?

The Hollywood Reporter turned to Suits boss Aaron Korsh for answers to all of the pressing questions from the season four finale.    

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When did you decide to break up the dream team of Donna and Harvey?

Throughout the season we were not focusing a lot on Donna. She was in a lot of scenes and played her usual role as the glue that holds everything together but she didn’t really have a story that was about her. We wanted to make that up to the fans and to ourselves. The writers came up with this idea that Donna would do a major thing to help Mike in episode 14 and it would backfire on her and she’d have legal consequences to what she did. Once we came up with that story arc, then the question was what’s going to happen to her and Harvey? The question was posed, what if they sleep together in the throes of her being really worried? In breaking the story, it didn’t seem like we’d earned it for her to be in jeopardy enough at that point. I am not ready to have them be in a relationship. We decided: how could we accomplish the same thing without them sleeping together? What if there’s a moment when they clearly can sleep together, Harvey doesn’t take it and it kind of pisses her off and leaves them both to examine their relationship. And we thought, “Holy shit, what if Donna ends up leaving Harvey for Louis?”

Does having Donna and Louis work together open the door for a Donna and Harvey relationship?

Yes and no. Donna leaving Harvey in one major sense, she’s like, “I need to take care of myself.” Her doing that could lay the foundation for them ultimately getting together, or it could lay the foundation for her ultimately moving on and getting with someone else. However if she was really fully ready to move on, she wouldn’t have gone to work for someone within the firm, she would have left. So subconsciously I don’t think she’s ready to move on and maybe she is hoping this gets Harvey to change his mind or see her in a certain way.

Was the plan to always pair that with Mike’s big proposal?

It’s basically a huge splitting up and a huge getting together; we thought if Mike asks Rachel to marry him, followed by Donna leaving Harvey for Louis, that’s just two major punches at the end of a season. And they’re different than what we’ve done before. They’re not, is Mike going to get caught as a lawyer? They’re emotional, they’re not really plot driven. I was laughing because it was like, the big ending to the season is, one of our characters is moving 50 feet down the hall. But because they all mean so much to each other it means so much more from an emotional standpoint.

So many people know about Mike’s secret now, has that run its course or will it continue to play out sporadically?

I look at Bernie Madoff and say, this guy got away with something so much bigger for so long, and someone even went to the SEC about him, I don’t know, it might have been 10 years before he got caught. Sometimes you’re worried somebody is on to you, and sometimes you’re not. If you’re that worried all the time you would stop doing it. Or you wouldn’t do it in the first place. It waxes and it wanes. That’s what we’re doing now. It’s diminishing in its presence at the end of this season, but it’s never going to fully go away because he’s doing this thing.

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Even though we never saw her, was it hard to say goodbye to Norma?

I just thought it was both funny and kind of cool that this woman that we’ve never met could die, and obviously it affects all these people. It ultimately brings Donna and Louis closer. It’s a large inspiration of what makes Mike ask Rachel to marry him; Louis’ words are sitting true with Mike, “Don’t let the moment pass. Don’t let the people you love not know how you feel.” So it wasn’t hard to say goodbye but I guess you could say it’s a little bittersweet. But I was glad that we did it.

With that gag over and Donna and Harvey split, is the can opener over, too? Are there anymore long-running gags brewing?

Most of the time these long-running gags, when you come up with them you don’t know it’s going to be a long-running gag. Sometimes it just hits and then it becomes a long-running thing. It’s possible we could have mentioned Norma and never mentioned her again. And it’s certainly possible, when I first wrote the can opener, the network and Kevin Bray, our director that directed the pilot, were like, “You have to tell people what they do with the can opener, you can’t just be vague about it.” And I said to all of them, “Are you crazy? What are we going to come up with that’s better than making them wonder what they do?” Having said that, there will always be long-running gags that come out of nowhere. I will say, the can opener, we didn’t break it into the story in the writer’s room. I just wrote it in that episode, it just kind of came out of the writing. That’s what happens with a lot of these things; it just comes out in the writing. But, we do not forget the can opener in season five.

How much does the wedding factor into season five?

When we first decided to have them get married, I didn’t want the wedding to define those characters’ season five. There are some people who are engaged, it takes a year, a year and a half to get married. We do not run away from the fact that they got engaged, but it’s more like they’re engaged and things that happen just have slightly heightened consequences. There’s no that this wedding will impact their lives. We don’t ignore it. But it doesn’t take over.

When you’re writing wedding stuff, does being able to get Wendell Pierce back as Rachel’s dad factor into where the story goes?

It does, to some degree. We wanted Wendell Pierce to come back and do an arc on the show. He’s obviously is involved in CBS' The Odd Couple and they were very gracious in allowing him to do some episodes of Suits. We got lucky enough to get Wendell Pierce for a little arc on the show and that is going to impact Mike and Rachel’s kind of life with him. He’s going to be involved in a case with Pearson Spector Litt.

Anything else you can say about season five?

When something happens at the end of the season, I’m not looking to come back and pretend it didn’t happen or undo it in one second. I’m always looking to follow it through and see what the ramifications are on our characters and in our world. We’re going to do that again in season five. Hopefully throughout the course of the season we’re going to try and take some big swings at things like I think we always have, and that’s really it. We’ve had a major coming together and a major splitting up at the end of four, and we’re going to carry those through to season five.

What did you think of the Suits season finale? Sound off in the comments section, below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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