In the closing moments of last week’s episode, Mike Ross — motivated by the words of his pro bono client — decided to make a deal with Anita Gibbs, the attorney prosecuting his fraud case.
In the opening moments of Wednesday’s season finale, the deal was revealed as one in which he would plead guilty to fraud and accept two years in prison (and obviously be prohibited from practicing law) in exchange for Gibbs waiving her right to prosecute the other Pearson Specter Litt attorneys for their involvement. She additionally waived her right to negotiate any sort of future deal that would allow Harvey Specter — a higher-priority target — to accept guilt for Ross’ crime.
The remainder of the finale featured numerous developments, but none undid what transpired in the episode’s early moments. Mike Ross’ guilty plea was upheld, and he indeed headed off for a two-year stint in federal prison.
But while those other events did not change Ross’ ultimate fate, they did provide for an engaging, entertaining episode of television. They also presented ramifications for the “Suits” dynamic as the show heads into its sixth season.
— Heartbroken by Mike’s decision to take the plea, Harvey tracks down the jury foreman to learn how the case would have concluded had it gone to verdict. The news only brings more heartbreak: the foreman reveals that while the jury obviously knew Mike was guilty, they did not feel Gibbs met her burden of proof. As a result, they had agreed on a not guilty verdict.
— Upon learning that Mike would have been a free man and allowed to continue practicing law had he not accepted the deal, Harvey works to strike a new deal.
He begins by obtaining access to the incriminating files on Liberty Rail (season 4); to do so, he waives the Pearson Specter Litt non-compete clause so that Evan Smith, the lawyer representing Liberty Rail, would have carte blanche to poach his firm’s staff.
He then attempts to exchange evidence on the far more egregious Liberty Rail offenders for Mike’s release. Gibbs rejects the deal. She maintains she would be willing to free Mike in exchange for a guilty plea from Harvey, but both know the ever-loyal Mike would never approve such a deal.
— While Harvey knew the jury planned to rule Mike not guilty, he did not want to leave his protege with feelings of regret. To create peace of mind, he initially told Mike that the jury planned to find him guilty, thus portraying his two-year plea deal as vastly superior to the 7-year sentence that would have come had he waited for the verdict. Excited by the fact that they won back five years, Mike and Rachel agree to get married before he begins serving his time.
When he realized he could not make a deal behind Mike’s back, Harvey eventually told the truth – that the jury was going to rule not guilty – with the hope of getting Mike to agree to let Harvey take his place in prison. Mike declined, but did confess the news to Rachel. She nonetheless remained steadfast in her desire to get married.
When the wedding day arrives, it is actually Mike who backs out. Aware that his guilt in defrauding the New York State Bar will potentially hurt Rachel’s chance of becoming a lawyer — the bar would hesitate to license the wife of a man who pretended to be a lawyer — Mike opts to delay any marriage plans until she finishes law school, passes the bar, and realizes her dream. If she still wants to marry him when her dreams are realized and when he has been released from prison, they could eventually have their wedding.
— Mike’s deal prevents Jessica, Harvey, Louis and the entirety of the Pearson Specter Litt staff from facing prison, but it does not come without consequences for the firm. As he was not a real lawyer, any case in which Mike was involved is now at risk of being overturned and used as evidence in a lawsuit against the firm. The plea also exacerbates the firm’s standing as a pariah in the legal industry.
With a morality exemption and Harvey’s Liberty Rail deal simultaneously chipping away at the non-compete, the show’s central firm is left with little ability to retain its employees. Sure enough, the closing moments of the episode find Jessica, Louis, Donna (and Harvey) left with an empty firm: everyone else has abandoned ship.