Viola Davis and Charlie Weber in ABC TV’s “How To Get Away With Murder”
While this show hasn’t budged an inch from the formula it established from the beginning (a case-of-the-week, flashforwards to that frikkin bonfire night, one Keating 5 member spotlight, Annalise cries in front of her vanity mirror, etc.), this one came off a little fresher than last week’s. We’re not entirely sure why. All the same beats were being hit in pretty much the same way, but there were some minor developments that implied that the show is evolving as it goes along.
We admit, our eyebrows shot up when it became obvious that Asher was getting the spotlight. Even though he’s one of the least-developed characters in a show stocked to the rafters with undeveloped characters, we must have assumed they weren’t ever going to do anything with him or they weren’t going to get to him in a while. But the problem with this kind of story structure, where character histories and important plot details are withheld for as long as possible in order to maximize the twists and turns, is that the reveals don’t always jibe with what we’ve seen so far. Asher turns out to be the son of a very famous judge and suddenly he’s more focused and intelligent. We’d like to say it’s one of those things you should just go with in a show like this, but like the formulaic qualities, it’s concerning that these sorts of narrative issues keep popping up so early in the series.
Part of the reason this episode may have seemed a little fresher was because the team had a goal that seemed righteous, for once, and a client who didn’t seem sleazy in some way. It was a case with a clear outcome to root for. This was notable because Annalise is being called out by Wes for being such an unethical attorney (not to mention person). It’s a chance to let the character of Annalise do something worthy after establishing time and again that she’s both a hot mess on a personal level and a deeply unethical person who tends to treat people terribly while doing everything in her power to crap all over the law. In another show, with a different actress, the character of Annalise would be considered a straight-up villain. We still hate Wes’s wide-eyed naif act, but it’s becoming more interesting over time as we learn that he’s really not remotely naive. In addition, there’s this odd sexual tone to his scenes with Annalise, like the glance at his abs when he opened the door in a towel. And we say “odd” not because of the age difference, but because their relationship is so … chaotic is the word. She keeps trying to blow him off like a wide-eyed kid, but he keeps stumbling across these intense secrets about her life. And with each one, he grows a little bolder toward her and she gets just a little more conciliatory towards him. It’s very much a sub-dom thing playing out with them, except they keep switching roles.
In other news, everyone in Annalise’s office is way up in everyone else’s business. Bonnie’s a deeply unlikable character in a show full of them, but at least she’s getting laid. Wait. Who isn’t getting laid on this show? How do they all manage to work on these rapid-fire cases while constantly falling into bed with each other, having conversations about how they want to fall in bed with each other, or receiving warnings from people just climbing out of bed to not fall into bed with someone? Anyway, our point is, sometimes the reveals really pay off. Asher was undefined and Bonnie just came off as a sour bitch with a crush on her boss’s husband, but that reveal of the two of them in bed actually did get a tiny little gay gasp out of us, we admit it.
And for the first time (Right? We’re not misremembering?) we see Annalise on the night of the bonfire. She’s more put-together than we would have thought, because up until now, we assumed she was passed out after spending several hours drinking vodka and crying in front of her vanity mirror.
We guess our point is that they got us with re-hooked on the show (not that we were losing interest; just seeing the flaws) by giving them a decent case, fleshing out the background characters who needed it most (very little Connor and Michaela; still too much Laurel, though), like Asher and Bonnie. And even Frank, to a lesser extent. Up until now, we assumed he was a total player, but he seems to have developed real feelings for Laurel. We have no idea why, unless he has a thing for girls with monotone voices and facial paralysis.
If we have any criticisms, it’s the way the case was handled. Look, we’ve made our peace with the outrageously silly way the judicial process is treated on this show. But an African-American attorney defended an African-American client by accusing a white senator of disenfranchising a whole neighborhood of African-Americans and framing one of them for murder. And unless this case is going to be treated differently from the previous CotW’s, this issue will not be referenced going forward. It just seems like some pretty intense, heavy duty stuff to treat as just another excuse for Viola to chew the scenery and then dropped without mention.
[Picture credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth]