How to Get Away with Murder: “Smile or Go to Jail”

Posted on October 10, 2014

How-To-Get-Away-With-Murder-Season-1-Episode-3-Television-Review-Tom-Lorenzo-SiteViola Davis in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”

 

Y’know, while it seems to be a more accurate title with each new episode, we still think How To Get Away With Murder is a terrible name for a show. This is a show about getting away with much more than murder. In fact, in some ways, this is a show that indulges our most basic desires for entertainment, going all the way back to the days of fire: Let’s all come together as a tribe and watch people commit sin. It still takes us by surprise that this is such a deliciously dark and cynical TV show. It really wasn’t what we were expecting going into it. To be perfectly blunt, we just thought it was going to be a weepy legal drama with a high-profile lead. Instead, it’s a show all about people doing very dumb or very bad things to each other. It’s a show that has the message etched into its very DNA that all people are capable of terrible things. So after last night’s episode, where pretty much every person who uttered a line managed to break a commandment, we propose the much more succinct (and even more accurate) title, Everyone Is Horrible. Because everyone is, right down to the wide-eyed naifs. But for a show with such a nihilistic point of view, Everyone is Horrible sure is a fun hour of television. Let’s face it: we’re all just a step up from when we were living in caves. It’s still crazy fun watching other people sin.

And this show is just so good at coming up with new and creative ways to sin. This week, a suburban soccer mom gets arrested for giving handies to the homeless in the park, only to be discovered as a former terrorist and two-decade fugitive from justice, who suddenly entered the world of anonymous bum sex because she wanted to be reunited with her former lover, who is in jail for being a terrorist. She succeeds and they ride off into the sunset together. Now, obviously that’s horrible and all, but WE WANT TO LIVE IN THAT WORLD. Isn’t it so much better than our world, where terrorists behead people? One ticket to the world where terrorists are cute soccer moms who give handjobs to strangers, please.

We think the case-of-the-week format could probably use a little tweaking, though. They keep trying to tie the case into whatever drama is going through the main characters’ heads, such as in the scene where handy-terrorist revealed how little she loves her husband or her life with him to a woman who thinks her husband killed someone, a woman who is in love with her boss’s husband, and a woman who is infatuated with a co-worker who clearly isn’t good for her. It didn’t feel natural at all, as if each character had a chyron appear under their face: “IS CURRENTLY WONDERING IF HUSBAND IS A MURDERER” or “FEELS BAD BECAUSE SHE LOVES HER BOSS’S HUSBAND.”

Haha. We just complained that something on Everyone is Horrible didn’t feel natural. Also: all lady lawyers wear tight cocktail dresses all day long, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

As an aside, we’re starting to come around on loving Viola’s lurching walk through every scene, even though it really distracted us at the beginning. While it does come off like she either has hip problems or is wearing one 4-inch heel and one kitten heel, it’s starting to feel like a real character trait. Annalise is so aggressive and no-nonsense, not to mention so guarded and, though the world doesn’t know it, vulnerable, that her lumbering gait becomes a kind of aggressive plumage display. She has to make the world believe that she will knock over anyone who gets in her way or slows her down, so she walks like she’s about to spring into fight mode at any moment.

In other Everyone is Horrible news, Michaela is horrible. And so is Connor. Dude, the one thing the gays NEVER do is tell a girl you once slept with her man years ago. That’s in the rulebook. Unless she’s your fruit fly, in which case you’re supposed to tell her. But to tell a girl you don’t like? Just to be a bitch about it? Bad gay. Horrible gay.

As for Michaela, we think her reaction was harsh and more than a little homo/bi-phobic, but it is somewhat hilariously on point. Bottom line: she has a plan for her life and it does not include this kind of messiness or the hint of instability. While it did come off like she was revolted by his past, we tend to think she’s such a control freak and so shallow, that it wasn’t so much homophobic as it was fury over something in her life threatening her plans. There was a moment, when her fiance insisted he wasn’t on the down low, that we sat up a little, wondering if this was going to take a more nuanced turn and explore the question from a specifically African-American perspective, but they backed off that one fairly quickly and made it more about Michaela’s need to have complete control over everything.

Also, we regret to inform you that bug-eyed Wes is also horrible. Why he’s taking this White Knight approach to a bitchy girl who never did anything but be … horrible to him, we don’t know. But we like the suggestion that his naive affect is not quite accurate as to his true nature. He seems to tell more and more lies each week. We half-suspect this is all leading to very dark places for him.

Annalise continues to be the most horrible, but in fabulous, sexy, riveting ways. This week, she wasn’t quite so horrible, but her lover was. What’s the deal with him lying to her about her husband’s whereabouts on the night of the murder? Whatever. He’s horrible. And hot.

And finally, we’re starting to really love the flashforwards to Bonfire Night. They’re getting more efficient about doling out the information and not being so repetitive or confusing. In fact, we think the scripting is actually improving with each episode. They’re very good about unloading a ton of information on the viewer each week and never (or rarely) making them feel like they’re overwhelmed or can’t keep up. It’s interesting to watch the students scramble to cover up a murder and revealing a little more each week that they’re using everything they learned in their time with Annalise. They were smart to take the pictures at the bonfire, but Michaela – who is horrible – screwed it all up by somehow losing her engagement ring while disposing of a dead body. DELICIOUS.

 

 

[Photo Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth]

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