Thoughts on last night's “How to Get Away with Murder,” and its first season to date, coming up just as soon as I say goodbye to Twirling Cheerleader Girl…
As promised, “Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill Me” finally revealed who actually killed Sam (seemingly Michaela at first, but really Wes after Sam had a slasher movie-style recovery from a broken neck), and put all the flash-forward scenes we'd been watching into their proper context. And as a bonus, it finally put Annalise firmly in the center of the mystery by revealing that she actually came home before Wes took the body away, and is now conspiring with him to cover it up.
But was all that gamesmanship worth the trouble Pete Nowalk went to in order to bring us to this point? I would say probably not.
With “How to Get Away with Murder,” Nowalk and Shonda Rhimes pulled off two impressive feats at once: getting Viola Davis to commit to a network TV series, then completely underusing Viola Davis in said series.
It may be that, in addition to committing to a shorter episode order for the season, the producers also had to promise Davis a lighter-than-normal workload for a series lead to get her to sign. Or Nowalk might have thought the largely Annalise-less flashforwards were a good way to get the viewers interested in his supporting characters. Or it may be that he felt the revelation at the end of this episode was so powerful that it justified marginalizing his leading lady from so much of the season to date.
Whatever the reason, it was frustrating, because through nine episodes, Annalise is more compelling than the entire supporting cast combined. When Davis is on screen – whether cross-examining a witness in one of the show's half-hearted Cases of the Week, or tearing into a meatier scene like the wigless Annalise asking Sam, “Why is your penis on a dead girl's phone?” – “How to Get Away with Murder” roars to life as the understandable big hit of the fall season. When Annalise is absent – and especially when Connor, the only supporting character to really spark at all to date, is also absent – the show is a slog, filled with cases no one cares about(*) and flash-forward scenes repeated over and over in minute variations that were never interesting enough out of context to be worth seeing them that many times.
(*) Speaking of things no one cares about, consider all the poor students in Annalise's class who aren't part of The Keating Five. They're even more worthless to Annalise and the show than the other Oceanic 815 survivors were on “Lost.” The one time all season where Annalise was on the verge of calling on another student to give an answer, one of her precious Five interrupted and no one objected. And a few episodes later, Annalise canceled class less than five minutes into her lecture because she had a case, and again, nobody minded. It's so hilarious as to be a distraction, and I don't know why Nowalk felt this had to be a big lecture class, as opposed to a seminar/internship these five were lucky enough to get into.
Some of those scenes were definitely more effective in “Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill Me” once we had all the info – particularly anything involving Wes – but never enough to retroactively make the early structure of the season make sense. I understand why Nowalk felt this was a good hook for the series, but the execution rarely worked to this point. Maybe now that the flash-forwards are done with and we get to watch Annalise get down in the muck with this cover-up, things will be more interesting. Most of what we've gotten so far really dragged, though.
What did everybody else think? Were you satisfied with all of last night's revelations? Do you wish the show had more of Annalise, or is the amount just right? Do you love all the students and Bonnie and Frank, or would you be satisfied if this first season concluded with Annalise moving on to a new class and a different batch of characters?