Case closed: Final glimpses of Meghan Markle, The Actress
Before she marries Harry, all eyes will be on his fiancee's final TV role in Suits. As the rest of season seven lands on Netflix, Guy Pewsey looks back at the subversive American legal drama that made Meghan a star
The end is nigh. The second half of the seventh season of Suits has landed on Netflix. The US legal drama has already been commissioned for an eighth series, so its loyal fans have nothing to fear. But there is one reason to despair - these are our final glimpses of Meghan Markle: The Actress, before she becomes Meghan Markle: Duchess and her life transforms into a procession of public appearances and humanitarian endeavours.
She will be missed. Markle has been part of the cast since the show started in 2011, playing Rachel Zane.
She will bow out in the season seven finale. Rumours that the red-headed royal first fell for his fiancee by watching her on TV have been debunked as pure conjecture, but he does seem to have caught up since.
When the prince interviewed Barack Obama for The Today Show, he asked the former president if he preferred the series over The Good Wife, another law procedural from across the pond.
Without skipping a beat, the charming Obama replied: "Suits, obviously."
So, if it's good enough for Harry and Barack, it must be worth a watch.
The season seven finale is scheduled to air at the end of this month, just before the royal wedding in May.
That gives diehard fans a few more weeks to savour Markle's waning screen presence, but also provides enough time for new viewers to binge the whole thing.
Here's why you should get up to speed:
We all do it, right? You fill in a job application and send off your CV, knowing perfectly well that you didn't actually get a gold Duke of Edinburgh Award or an A* in your sociology A-level.
Suits, though, takes things to a whole new level.
Mike Ross is a whip-smart young man, who makes money by taking law school admissions tests for other people.
Mike, however, has never quite got around to qualifying himself, but the deceit really gains traction when he accidentally interviews for a job as the associate of hot-shot lawyer Harvey Specter, a partner at law firm Pearson Specter Litt.
As Mike builds a career, friendships and a budding romance with Rachel, it's not long before the lie catches up with him and he, and those closest to him, suffer the consequences.
The series we have seen so far explores the perils of dating, therapy, drug deals, corporate mergers, incarceration, blackmail and death.
And it all started with a lie about a law qualification.
Despite the attention bestowed upon her, Suits isn't just The Meghan Markle Show. Her loving boyfriend/fiance/criminal Mike is played by Patrick J Adams, and his deft performance as a man whose conscience is in permanent crisis has gained plaudits including a Screen Actors' Guild Award.
Gina Torres, meanwhile, who plays founding partner Jessica Pearson, has proved to be such a scene-stealer that she is soon to have a spin-off show all to herself. The name is yet to be confirmed.
Gabriel Macht, as Harvey, is the quintessential, square-jawed leading man. Rick Hoffmann's portrayal of the aggressive Louis Litt is always entertaining and Sarah Rafferty merges loyalty with fierceness to play the eternally overworked assistant Donna.
The female powerhouses
What Suits does particularly well, though, is subvert the norms of the genre in its representation of the female characters and women of colour.
The pairing-up of Mike and Harvey kicks off the series, but Markle and co-stars Torres and Rafferty present a triumvirate of contrasting female experiences and show how the struggle to be a woman in the workplace comes with many different obstacles.
All three, though, more than keep up with their male counterparts, except backwards, and in high heels.
The Markle factor
Before Suits, Meghan - whose real name is, incidentally, Rachel - got by with bit parts in teen soap 90210, Jason Sudeikis comedy Horrible Bosses and Robert Pattinson weepy Remember Me.
She gained a little more attention and a little less acting experience as a glamorous briefcase-bearer in the American version of Deal or No Deal, but Suits finally opened the door to true stardom and a role Markle could sink her teeth into. In the first season, Rachel makes it perfectly clear to Mike she has no intention of dating a co-worker.
Naturally, sooner or later they are madly in love, moving in together and planning their wedding. But Mike's deceit causes problems at work, tension at home, a break-up, an incarceration and a reunion. Oh, and a liaison in the stationery cupboard that would almost certainly lead to a stern talking-to from human resources. Despite the writers' occasional tendency to exploit Markle's physical attributes with a gratuitous thigh-flash (or two), Rachel has always been the show's emotional heart.
Her dogged determination takes her from her work as a paralegal to loftier professional heights, while the Rachel/Mike love story is almost as romantic as the one Meghan and Harry have beyond the palace walls.
We'll have to see how a TV wedding will compare with the real thing.
The next chapter
When Rachel and her new husband drive off into the distance - they are expected to have a happy ending - she will leave quite the void in both the law firm and the programme.
But network bosses have intimated that they're not ready to wind down just yet: aside from the spin-off starring Torres, producers have pulled out the big guns for Suits by casting Katherine Heigl as a new partner who promises to mix things up a bit.
Heigl is sure to provide the drama on and off screen: she has knocked a fair few noses out of joint in Hollywood by criticising her character development in Grey's Anatomy - she was written out of the show soon after - and called her breakthrough hit Knocked Up "sexist".
Will Heigl's fearsome reputation translate into an explosive end? How will she compare with Meghan? And will the future Duchess, and a new, honorary Brit, ever be tempted back to the show for a guest slot?
We can but hope.
Season 7 of Suits is on Netflix now. Seasons 1-6 are available on Sky