Well that was fantastic. Every member of the main cast shined.
Viola Davis – Emmy, People’s Choice, Satellite, SAG, Tony winner, Academy award nominee – played a very reserved performance early on in the episode. Then, as each problem mounted on top of the others, she slowly began to break. As Wes noted at the three quarter mark of the episode she is not thinking clearly at all.
Wes is back off the bench after providing the link between Catherine, one of their clients, and Phillip, near-confirmed psycho-murderer. He also rats her out to Nate, continuing the theme of rebellion rife within Annaliese’s ranks. Otherwise he’s pretty quiet til the big reveal. The same can be said for Connor, Michaela and Laurel. It’s a regular day at the office until Annaliese drops another corpse at their feet.
Whose corpse was it? Emily St Claire – the prosecutor that extorted a testimony from Asher to take down Annaliese and also dabbles in trying to send Nate to jail for killing Sam (which he did not do). After no luck on either front she leaked that Asher’s estranged father covered up a gang rape on their property. This was the catalyst for Asher’s father’s suicide.
And Emily St Claire, the loudmouth bitch she is, tells a distraught and lonely Asher that his father had it coming. Asher snaps and reverses his car very quickly into the up-and-coming lawyer, killing her instantly. It parallels neatly with Sam’s murder in season one. It wasn’t supposed to happen. It was a confrontation that got out of hand.
How To Get Away With Murder has been spending a long time building up Asher’s character this season. As the only person not clued in on Sam’s murder he missed some of the meatier plot in season one but the cover-up of the gang-rape and his blossoming romance with Bonnie have strengthened the character dramatically. He’s certainly in Annaliese’s secret-keeping circle, even if the series goes out of its way to highlight how little the other Keating Five members have to do with him.
Someone Asher has a lot to do with is Bonnie, one of the most interesting characters of the season. As Connor squirms under Annaliese’s thumb she actively rebels with conviction. Her asking a disenfranchised Frank whether he’s sick of being her pawn was one of the best character moments of the episode.
The show loves to play around with Annaliese’s maternal relationship to almost every character. With Bonnie it’s a coming-of-age story and this is the moment she got out of her depth. She puts aside her pride and calls Annaliese. Fences mended? Maybe not, because notice how Annaliese gets Bonnie away from the mansion before begging someone to shoot her to really sell the chaos of the staged crime scene.
Why? Nate hates Emily St Claire with a passion, breaking in a shouting rage when she spoke the name of his recently-deceased wife. His fingerprints are in her car after an impromptu rendezvous. She filed charges against him and Nate looks guilty as sin. But Asher did it, so Annaliese is doing this as much if not more for Nate than she is for Asher.
At the half way point the flashforwards start to play out. There’s the debate between Connor and Wes whether or not to follow Annaliese’s plan to stage a crime scene to cover for Asher, Frank abducting Catherine and Bonnie throwing the corpse of Emily St Claire off a balcony. A couple are clever twists and a couple play it straight. It’s the right balance.
It didn’t play out as expected, which was a great thanks. It was odd to see Asher as the source of the conflict. It still left a lot of questions floating around before we get to the big finish. Firstly, will they get away with it? They certainly sold the chaos but Asher is correct that her injuries will be consistent of two attacks. Will any of them confess? Probably not, though Asher’s statement in the flashforward presents some problems.
One more point before we talk about the final scene: How easily Annaliese snitched on Wes, Laurel, Michaela and Connor for Sam’s murder? Connor has been extremely critical of Annaliese all season and when he and Michaela refuse to cover up a second murder she tells Asher exactly what they did. It was brutal and unexpected, though part in parcel when dealing with Prof. Annaliese Keating.
And finally we reach the climax of the episode and of the season. In truth the material was so rich it could have been extrapolated over an entire episode. Oliver and Eve are elsewhere with their lives. Levi is in jail. Frank is abducting Catherine. Caleb is at Michaela’s apartment. Bonnie and Asher are wordlessly rolling through a carwash. Nate is en route, but we know form the flashforwards he will not make it in time. And Phillip is driving about town, reading to meet up with his apparent co-conspirator Catherine.
Only Annaliese, Wes, Laurel, Michaela and Connor remain. She thrusts the gun at each of them, begging for them to shoot her in the leg. It’s gripping, edge-of-your-seat drama that could go in any direction. Leg. She never meant to be in the situation we saw her in the premiere.
First at Connor, the most likely. She taunts him for what she has done to him and threatens to hurt his boyfriend, and he looks almost willing before Michaela dives in front. It jolts him back to his senses. If he pulls the trigger he becomes the thing he hates. He throws the gun on the ground and walks away, and while Annaliese tries to reason with her we all know it was never going to be Michaela.
Next up is Laurel, a character who is still very light on backstory. She’s been developed very similarly to her beau Frank with a few choice words, quips and digs. Laurel’s from money and has experienced personal trauma and/or tragedy. The series seems to be leaning to her being the heiress of a crime family but How To Get Away With Murder hasn’t quite got the foundation to spring that one yet. We’ll have to spend some more time with Frank first.
Annaliese knows she is losing but still does not want to ask Wes. So she prods Laurel, insisting “You’ve been through worse with your father” and Laurel doesn’t recoil. She seems to agree and raises the gun to Annaliese’s leg. Then she succumbs to her moral compass and hands the gun to Wes.
Wes is the male lead of the show and has certain character traits that are not becoming of a protagonist. The good outweigh the bad – we’re not talking Walter White here – but he’s ethically ambiguous enough to contrast with the lawyers he spends so much time around. On the other hand he’s a by-the-numbers good guy looking out for everybody, including his troubled neighbour.
Mmmhmm, forgot about Rebecca? How could you? She was the whole point of the first season and the massive cliffhanger moment of the first season. Reliving her death was the most shocking part of this season’s premiere as we all knew despite what the situation looked like How To Get Away With Murder would never, ever part with Viola Davis.
Rebecca has punctuated so many of Wes’ action this season. She’s the reason he made allies with Levi and began to mistrust Annaliese. So when the pragmatic side of Wes decided against shooting Annaliese in the leg she knew she lost the argument, resulting in the crime scene being determined a hoax and their fragile house of cards crashing down.
Only Annaliese doesn’t lose. Ever. She pulled out the ace she’s been holding since last year’s finale to trigger the emotional response from Wes she needed. “REBECCA’S DEAD”.
Only Annaliese underestimated how emotional Wes would get. He raises the gun to her chest and she screams for him to stop but he pulls the trigger. Did that make you gasp? It shouldn’t have. The flashfowards have Wes fleeing the scene with gun in hand. He was the one with the motive that made the most sense. Yet the show twists and weaves so often that nothing should be taken on face value.
There is no mincing Wes’ intentions here though. Despite Laurel as his witness Wes approaches Annaliese and points the gun at her head. Defenceless and desperate, the ruthless Annaleises produces another ace. “Christophe” she breathes, and he does not here her through all his rage. So she repeats herself, and Wes is left dumbfounded by hearing his birthname.
How To Get Away With Murder would never be content solving one mystery without producing another. The first season hinted at a mysterious and dark past for Wes but the second season has made an active point of pursuing it. Is Annaliese Wes’ birth mother? Judging by that flashback, probably not, but her true relation to him and the whereabouts of his nearly-definitely not dead mother should come to fruition by the end of the season.
And after two whole episodes without Famke Jessen it is delightful to see her standing beside a version of Annaliese that rocked cornrows. She’s a massive asset to the show and will certainly lend some credibility to a tumultuous set of reveals to come.
How To Get Away With Murder is one of the best shows on television or streaming right now. It boasts a powerful ensemble lead by the magnificent Viola Davis and a scripting team that find the perfect balance of murder, mystery and love triangles that make this addictive viewing. At a time when people are turning off their television in droves Murder reminds us what old-fashioned original programming can bring to the table.