I don’t believe for a second that it was always End Game (god I hate that phrase; Korsh himself has claimed he doesn’t know where the show is going so how a bunch of fans are so sure about it is beyond me) but I do believe that this faction of the fandom has seriously influenced the creative team. I wrote my (award winning - BOOM) dissertation on the increasing influence of fans on the producers of media and trust me there is ample evidence out there to suggest that fandoms can change the direction of a show if they shout loud enough, and while Korsh claims to not be influenced by anyone other than his team of writers, the very fact that he mentioned Donna/Harvey shippers in an interview and commented on the inevitability of Donna/Harvey proves that he’s listening to the fanbase and is taking on board their wishes and that he is at least somewhat likely to give these fans what they want.
So look. I want to make something clear. I don’t care if you ship it. I literally do not give a single flying fuck what you ship – fap to what you want, it is no skin off my ass. I have no desire to make you stop shipping Harvey/Donna. No matter what you might think, this is not the purpose of the anti-darvey campaign.
What I care about is that this ship might become canon for the sole reason that it’s popular with fans. I care that Darvey fans are campaigning for this relationship to become canon and that their campaign might be successful. I care about that because, as I’ve discussed at length elsewhere, a canon romance between Harvey and Donna would be a sexist, clichéd, unrealistic and depressingly unromantic storyline.
I can’t stop thinking about this, and I can’t stop thinking about the corner the writers have painted themselves into with the character of Donna, so in the interest of trying to turn my anxiety into something positive I thought I’d talk a bit about this failure of characterisation and try to come up with a way in which it could be fixed in the future.
Donna Paulson was always going to be a challenge for the writers, because this is a workplace drama and her job is indelibly tied to Harvey. Harvey is her job so giving her a work-based storyline unrelated to Harvey was always going to be difficult, especially as she was a minor character in season 1 so didn’t particularly need to be more than Harvey’s secretary. But her popularity (and I would argue the growing popularity of Darvey after s1) motivated the creative team to beef up her role and retcon their relationship, which had been confirmed as platonic in S1 but was rewritten in S2 to reveal that Donna had once been in love with Harvey and maybe still was. This gave us problem number 2: not only did Donna’s work life revolve around Harvey, now so did her personal life, which made it that much more difficult to give us a story about Donna that didn’t involve Harvey.
Where Rachel is a character in her own right away from her relationship with Mike (iow she has hopes and dreams beyond being Mike’s girlfriend) we know basically nothing about Donna other than how she relates to Harvey. She has served him for more than 15 years, and she has loved him for the same amount of time. She has not been able to hold down relationships with other men because of Harvey and she sabotages Harvey's current relationships.
You don’t believe me? Because I’m not sure how else to interpret her meddling in Harvey’s relationship with Scottie. She tells him that he can’t tell Scottie the secret, that Scottie can’t be trusted, and then when Harvey goes ahead and tells Scottie anyway, assuring Donna that Scottie can in fact be trusted, Donna’s response is: “I know.” Wait a minute. So if she knew that he'd tell Scottie and that it'd be okay to tell her, why didn’t she say so when Harvey first brought it up? When it might have been possible for Harvey to salvage the relationship?
She’s Lady fucking MacBeth up in this bitch with the way she expertly manipulates Harvey, which’d be interesting if the show actually recognised her behaviour as shady, but it doesn’t. Harvey doesn’t even stop to question why Donna changed her tune so drastically and with no explanation. He’s just grateful that she’s there to help him be a better man.
It seems to me that Donna wants Harvey to remain single until the day he turns around and realises she’s the only woman who can really make him happy, she’s had 15 years of practice anticipating his every need after all. Who cares that he hasn’t shown even the slightest interest in having sex with her in the fifteen years since the first time? He fucked her once, and he thought that was enough, he thought what he wanted was a great secretary not a relationship. But one day he’ll realize…the perfect woman was under his nose the entire time, the only woman who can truly satisfy him…the woman, not of his dreams, but of his reality.
This is probably where the show is going (even though it’s absurd and makes no sense).
Because the thing is, all the issues I have with Donna’s characterisation can’t just go away – her investment in Harvey’s personal life, her meddling, her feelings for him…these are part of who she is and they’re a part of her storyline. Donna’s feelings for Harvey will continue to be a part of her storyline and her story has to go somewhere. Where Harvey will continue to have stories that have nothing to do with Donna, it will never be the other way around, not while Donna is still in love with him. So, say she isn’t going to get her man in the end – what other story can Suits tell about this character given the groundwork they’ve already laid?
I pondered on this all the way to work this morning and I wondered if it might be possible for Harvey and Donna to get together and give it a go and for it not to work out. If maybe that’s what the show should do to fix this problem they’ve created for themselves (instead of the dreaded EndGame!Darvey).
Because Harvey doesn’t have quite the right feelings for her and maybe it would take actually trying to have a relationship with him for Donna to understand that it’s not the life she wants. Maybe the reality of a relationship with him would help her finally get over him and move on. I truly struggle to imagine a Harvey who would actually want to even try but let’s for the sake of argument say he did. Let’s say Donna confesses her feelings to him and Harvey’s all, ‘well she’s Donna, I love her, she’s amazing, she loves me and I owe it to both of us to at least give this a shot.’ And for a few episodes they’re dating and it’s okay, they’re friends and they get on great, and they both really want to make it work because there’s no going back once they take that step. Donna has to stop working for Harvey because she can’t be his secretary while they’re in a relationship because of the problematic power imbalance. So they stop working together and they spend a few weeks or a month dating and fucking.
Only there’s something missing. Donna learns that the reality doesn’t match up to the fantasy. Harvey loves her but he isn’t in love with her, never has been never will be, and it’s not the grand, life-altering romance she hoped for, it’s just two people who have known each other forever settling down with the person they care most about but never feeling giddy or excited about it.
She’s the one who ends it. She doesn’t want it, not like this, and when she looks at Harvey she feels affection and deep love, but she no longer wants him. And all those years of pining seem like a terrible waste.
She’s free. She no longer works for him, she’s no longer dating him, she can finally have a storyline that isn’t about him. Maybe she can go be Jessica’s secretary. Maybe we can all begin to imagine a Donna who goes home after work and does something with her time that doesn't involve updating her Harvey scrapbook.
A failed Harvey/Donna romance is not my ideal scenario (which is for the two of them to never have to touch each other's junk) but it would at least allow for some kind of conclusion to the story they’ve been telling about Donna so far because the only other way I can see her getting over Harvey is if she declares her love for him and he outright rejects her and tells her categorically that it’ll never happen, that he’ll never love her like that and that she needs to move the fuck on. Which I doubt the show is ballsy enough to do quite frankly, so it’s either gonna be:
1) they get together at the end and live happily ever after (worst option ever);
2) they get together well before the end of the show and it doesn’t work out (not perfect but far preferable to option 1);
3) they never do anything with it, it remains unacknowledged and/or it just fizzles out; (my favourite of these four options);
4) the series finale is open ended, leaving Harvey and Donna’s future a matter of interpretation – iow they don’t get together but it’s suggested that they still might (a fairly likely outcome lbr).
tl;dr Donna/Harvey is probably going to be canon and I’m miserable about it.