Spoilers ahead for Episode 6 of Suits Season 9, called "Whatever It Takes."
Suits follows the lives and careers of people involved in the biggest law firms in New York City, which has led to a whole lot of stress over the nine years of the series so far. Between the lawsuits, betrayals, affairs, disbarments, lies, and one-liner quotes from movies, tensions have run very high, which has led to a lot of swearing. "Shit" was the favorite four-letter word for a long time, but the show has recently allowed characters to start dropping F-bombs.
While I have no issue with these characters feeling the need to drop the big F based on their lives and careers, the way it happens on Suits pulls me out of the episode every time.
Suits doesn't exactly bleep every "fuck" that every character says, but it does dip the audio and silence most of the word. So, instead of hearing Harvey or Samantha or Faye or anybody yell out a "Fuck!" to vent their feelings, we hear "F--k!" The impact of the F-bomb is lost when the audio is perfect, the soundtrack is ominous, and the performances are intense but "Fuck!" becomes "F--ck."
I'm no longer along for the ride, immersed in the episode, but instead thinking about how Suits needs to stop trying to drop the F-bombs. Either go for the full "fuck" or stick with some substitutes. The show can rely on the performances to get the point of the angry speeches across without the kinda sorta bleeping.
Admittedly, the dip in the audio isn't nearly as bad as if Suits really did go ahead and add a beep sound to cover the word, and the failure-to-launch "fucks" don't ruin the show for me at all. I wasn't even all that worked up about it until a line in "Whatever It Takes," when Harvey and Donna were arguing over Faye firing Samantha.
Donna kept pushing Harvey to come clean about why he wasn't telling her about what Faye did, and Harvey shouted this:
I'm the reason she fucking did it!
In many ways, this line was the culmination of the A-plot of the episode as the firm tried to find a way to convince Faye to rehire Samantha. Donna wanted to keep the firm together at all costs, while others were focused on getting Samantha back above all. Donna didn't understand where Harvey was coming from until he explosively revealed that Faye had fired Samantha because she'd heard him yelling at Samantha for something she did.
Admittedly, Samantha had done something wrong, but Harvey wasn't going to go after her job because of it. That was all Faye after she heard him talking about the line Samantha had crossed. This was a cathartic moment, and meant a shift in characterization for Harvey. It had to be impactful. But instead of hearing Harvey unleashing an F-bomb in his frustration, this is what we heard:
I'm the reason she f--king did it!
Gabriel Macht is a strong enough actor to sell the line without the F-bomb, and I think it would have been stronger to just skip the "fuck" altogether rather than muting it. I'd rather have no F-bomb at all rather than one that was clearly edited, because I like to be along for the ride with the characters.
Now, considering Suits is technically almost over, the issue of "to F-bomb or not to F-bomb" is going to be moot sooner rather than later. That said, it can apply to the freshman Suits spinoff Pearson, and other shows that air on the network. Oddly enough, USA has allowed a full-on "fuck" to be dropped from time to time in the past, notably on Mr. Robot before it was cancelled. Syfy loosened up on swearing and let its shows going for F-bombs without muting as well.