The task with the second season of any series is to build on the foundation set up in its inaugural run of episodes.
So allow me to confirm: the legal drama Suits, which returns with new episodes Thursday on USA, is every bit as enjoyable and compelling as it was when it premiered in the summer of 2011.
During a USA-sponsored set visit last month, TV Fanatic's Jim Halterman not only got an early peek at this week's season premiere but spent a day on the Toronto set (with a surprise set tour by star Patrick Adams!) and chatted with the cast to find out what’s in store for the folks at Hardman/Pearson on Suits Season 2.
Series star Gabriel Macht, dressed for a scene in a slick black tuxedo, said viewers should expect to see a more complicated Harvey Spector in these new episodes.
"I think there’s some more challenges along the way," the actor said, making sure it was clear that if there’s one thing Harvey is never afraid of it’s a good challenge. "I think that he’s just trying to fight even harder and he’s got such a mentality of winning that it just makes him a little bit more complicated in being easy with what’s going on. I think it’s great for the character."
Will some of those complications lead Harvey to waver on the line of morality?
"I truly believe that his moral through-line is really strict and I think he has a really honest, straight moral ground,” Macht explained. “His ways and his means of getting what he needs to win a case or to protect his client [are] rogue and it’s completely alternative. But I think underneath everything he stands for what’s right. And so that’s what I think makes him so heroic in so many ways."
Even though a major lie was discovered at the end of last season - when firm partner Jessica (Gina Torres) found out Mike is not the lawyer Harvey had presented him to be – Adams said that morality is something his alter ego will come up against again and again.
"I’ve always thought of Mike as a moral character in a immoral world. You’re sitting in a corporate law firm and corporate law firms are not always participating in the most moral behavior. So I think eventually Mike [is] gonna have to come up against that and he’s always struggling with how to remain moral and keep this compass that he has that is strong."
Of course, it wouldn't be very interesting if that compass wasn't tested, right? Adams said that Mike will continue to "follow his dreams of becoming a lawyer and being successful and doing well in this firm and I think there’s always going to be a really interesting struggle there to keep what is him but at the same time try and impress Harvey and come up in this world."
However, now that Mike and Harvey's secret is out of the bag, how will Harvey’s confidence be shaken, especially with Jessica watching over the twosome more than ever?
"Harvey’s always confident," Macht said with his familiar grin. "I also think that underneath, deep inside, there’s got to be a lot of insecurities that Harvey’s got and that’s part of the reason that he’s sort of overconfident."
With his secret out to Jessica, Mike will also be busy trying to figure out where exactly he stands with the boss lady.
Adams said in the second episode of the new season, "there’s a great scene where we bump into each other and, you know, I think that maybe we’re friends and [shaking his head] we’re not friends. I’m still the guy who’s in her law firm that’s lied and cheated my way here. I think there’s always going to be an interesting relationship there and a struggle for me to impress her and even though she’s accepted me for the time being it’s because she was strong armed to it."
Besides Mike's secret, the driving force at least at the start of season two that impacts every character is the return of Daniel Hardman (David Costabile, The Wire), the long-absent partner at Hardman/Pearson. Hardman will be a strong presence right from the start and nobody will feel it more than his firm partner, Jessica.
Torres, being careful not to spill too many story points, said that Hardman's reappearance will show viewers a new layer to her usually calm and cool character: "We do we get to see a different part of Jessica. We do get to see her shaken up a little bit and there's a white-hot spotlight on her at the moment and there's a lot going on."
Torres also teased that Hardman’s return is clearly more than merely complex, it is quite revelatory.
"It's very layered," the actress said. "It's another aspect to these characters that we haven't yet seen. I like to think of Jessica in the first season as being large, in charge, in control and kind of happy-go-lucky. This is her domain [and] she just struts down this hallway…and now we start to see the little chinks in the armor and the scars. And any person who gets to that [law partner] office has some battle scars and has some bodies buried in places.”
With the distraction of Hardman’s presence at the firm, Adams said that Mike's future at Hardman/Pearson may be secure... for now. He previewed that Jessica is "going to kind of let me stick around and now she’s on our team because we need to keep ourselves safe from Hardman...I think for a little while we feel safe in this world.”
Mike may be momentarily safe but it’s Harvey who has a major problem early in the season when Travis Tanner (Eric Close, who appeared last season) returns to stir things up again. Macht carefully revealed that Tanner, “sues the firm and he tries to sue a General Motors-type car company [and] there’s some information that may have been buried again and so this question that Harvey’s been involved not once but twice in burying some evidence comes into question.”
While Macht leaked that Harvey is found innocent, he added: “It does set this huge house of cards to crumble, which is great for the dramatic purposes of the show.”
Another loose string from season one is Mike having to deal with his loose-lipped former buddy, Trevor (Tom Lipinski), who was the one who told Jessica about Mike's lack of legal qualifications. How long does it take before Trevor is dealt with?
"Not long," said Adams. "It’s going to come to a head, obviously. I mean, he really betrayed Mike’s trust and I think that if there’s one thing that I’m screamed at on the street about most often it’s to get rid of that Trevor guy."
One character viewers will be happy to see again is Mike's Granny (Rebecca Schull), who Adams says will return this season.
But what about the hotter-than-scorching sparks flying between paralegal Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Mike? The answer to this question won't be simple.
“With any office romance, there’s going to be trouble there," Adams said. "So it’s not like we can just jump right into a relationship with Rachel [but] there’s all sorts of conflicts of interest.”
Markle, chatting next to co-star Rick Hoffman (Louis), shared her relief that the writers are just as adept at fleshing out the women on the series as the men.
"We’ve been lucky, I think, from the onset. They write so well for the women that we have a lot of layers and they’re all strong and Donna (Sarah Rafferty) knows everything. But I have yet to have a scene last season or this season with Jessica, so maybe there’s something in store there to play with, especially as Rachel’s becoming much more involved in the firm and the cases."
As for more gal-pal scenes, Markle revealed that there would definitely be some fun moments ahead between Rachel and Donna.
And last, but never least, there’s more mischief coming for smarmy Louis, who will mix it up in the courtroom with an office underling other than Mike.
“Louis and Rachel are taking care of a case together,” Hoffman said, “which is first time they’ve really ever been working alongside one another.”
However, unlike the way Louis likes to ride Mike because, as his superior, he can, the dynamic between Louis and Rachel will play out differently, Hoffman added: “There’s like this kind of cool mutual respect based on something that they both love, which is the ballet.”
Hoffman hinted that we may find out more about what Louis loves in life besides the ballet... and he said it “has to do with an animal.”
Suits airs on Thursdays at 10/9c on USA. Visit TV Fanatic the moment this week's premiere concludes for a detailed review.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.