How To Get Away With Murder: It’s All Her Fault

Posted on October 03, 2014

How-To-Get-Away-With-Murder-Season-1-Episode-2-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLOViola Davis, Liza Weil and Charlie Weber in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”

There’s nothing better than a show that gets you to call out to your TV, as if you were having a dialogue with the characters. It’s the mark of a truly fun show for us. It indicates not only that we’re fully immersed in the story, but that we see the characters as real people playing out their lives instead of as actors on a set. So when Annalise stalked her (presumably ex-)lover to his home to get him to investigate whether or not her husband killed his student, then went home and rode her hubs like a bronco, THEN rolled over and started crying, we couldn’t help ourselves:

“Girl, you are a HOT, DELICIOUS MESS.”

And so it goes watching the new Most Interesting Woman on Television do her stuff. Viola Davis is tearing through every line and every scene like a starving woman who just stumbled upon an abandoned Thanksgiving dinner. And who can blame her? She’s made no bones about the fact that, despite her resume and accolades, Hollywood has never known what to do with her. A character like Annalise Keating and scripts like this just don’t come along that often for most actors, let alone actresses nearing fifty. That she’s destined for an Emmy nomination is a given. Every other dramatic actress on TV has just been put on notice. We like to imagine Julianna Margulies hate-watching the show and bursting into tears every time Viola does something amazing, which is like every two or three minutes.

Structurally, the show has some minor issues, although we suspect they’ll all iron themselves out over the course of the season. There’s way too much reliance on slo-mo, quick-mo and semi-confusing flashbacks which require the replaying of certain scenes over and over again. Clearly, we’re going to have the “three months later” scenes play out over and over again all season, with a tiny bit of new information revealed each time. That’s okay for now, but it could get a little annoying if they’re still replaying the same dialogue eight episodes from now.

Case of the week was one of those goofy-as-hell, only-on-TV ones where Stephen Weber plays a creepy rich eccentric accused of killing his second wife, admits on the stand that he actually killed his first wife, and then gets acquitted because it turns out his daughter did it. It would seem the show is going to specialize in these kinds of goofy-as-hell, only-on-TV cases, based on this and the “putting my married lover on the stand and forcing perjury out of him” schtick of last week. And that’s fine, because obviously no one is tuning into this show to get an accurate overview of the criminal justice system. We can suspend our disbelief a lot for a stylish, melodramatic, soapy show like this one, but even we wound up blurting out “What the hell?” during the scene where the defense attorney takes her students to an active crime scene, whereupon they not only touch everything, but wind up rolling around on the bloody sheets.

In other news, we’re apparently going to get a gay sex scene every week. This is not a complaint. The students are all still line drawings at this point, with no shading or depth to them; a collection of semi-defining quips instead of character development. This is also not a complaint, because it’s early days and because it’s clear that the show is going to keep doling out bits of information at a slow, steady trickle. We still think Wes is a terrible character who doesn’t belong on the show, and it’s a shame that he’s been made the central character among the students. He’s slightly more interesting when he’s making out with stereotypical TV bad girls who wear heavy eyeliner or lying to his friends about a coin toss, so we suppose these things should give us some hope for his character getting better.

But we’ll cope with the undefined characters and lack of realism or internal logic just because the show is so damn much fun. We wouldn’t even attempt to make predictions about where it’s going. Sure, the dead student case is obviously the big, overarching story for the season, but it’s just too early for us to make any guesses about what’s going on, let alone whodunnit. Besides, that’s not what the show is. This isn’t Murder, She Wrote, after all; more like Murder, She Taught. It’s not about solving mysteries but exploring something that Annalise said this episode, with tears streaking down her face:

“We’re all capable of terrible things.”

That could be the tagline for the show right there. And does any actor do the tear-streaking thing as fabulously well as Viola Davis? We suggest that her tear ducts get a special Emmy just for the incredible work they’re doing, along with the costume designer who puts Davis in those amazingly tight but still crazy flattering suits, and of course, her wig and eyelash wranglers, whose work is so lovingly lingered over in extreme closeup whenever those tears start flowing. This is high drama and high drag happening at the same time. We are SO here for that.


[Photo Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth]

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