As we gear up for the highly anticipated, two-hour season 1 finale of How to Get Away With Murder, let’s look back at some of the ways in which HTGAWM’s freshman season has shaken up the cultural landscape:
1. With the addition of HTGAWM to ABC’s existing Thursday-night lineup of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Thursday nights officially became the property of Shonda Rhimes. #TGIT
2. HTGAWM blessed us with the Tony and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning, Oscar-nominated, Juilliard-trained Viola Davis in her first opportunity to be “No. 1 on the call sheet” instead of the “third girl from the left.”
3. Davis, as the commanding and self-possessed Annalise Keating, taught us a brand-new way to pronounce the word “murder.”
4. And you wondered: In what world do law professors wear sporty, red leather jackets to class and sleeveless sheath dresses in the courtroom?
And you quickly learned the answer: in Annalise Keating’s world.
But you knew that, for as cool and composed as Annalise appeared to be, there was something not quite “together” about her. Her wig selection was a dead giveaway.
5. HTGAWM let you know what time it was straight out the gate when you saw Annalise receiving “oral pleasures” on her office desk from her strapping sidepiece, Nate, in the very first episode.
6. Then a New York Times TV critic, talking out the side of her neck, referred to Rhimes as an “angry black woman” and Davis as “less classically beautiful,” and Ms. Shonda had to get her together real quick.
Ms. Viola let the world know that she can’t be torn down because she knows who she is, and the Internet joined them in collectively showing the door to that New York Times critic and her retrograde commentary with think pieces and hashtags like #lessclassicallybeautiful.
7. Then, on the heels of the New York Times article, almost as if in response, HTGAWM gave us the momentous and unforgettable scene where Annalise Keating/Viola Davis literally and metaphorically peeled back her layers by removing her wig, her eyelashes and her makeup before asking her husband these nine words: “Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?”
8. There was that one time when a viewer complained to Rhimes about the amount of gay sex on HTGAWM, and Rhimes kindly let that viewer know that if she didn’t like what she was serving at her party, she could stay at home. #byefelicia
9. Then Davis became the third woman of color to win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series and delivered an emotional acceptance speech, giving a little something to both her fans and her haters, in her trademark above-the-fray way, of course.
For the record, the only other women of color to win this award also came from Rhimes’ Shondaland. They are Sandra Oh for Grey’s Anatomy (2005) and Chandra Wilson for Grey’s Anatomy (2006).
10. And, finally, the time that the legendary Cicely Tyson, who has been consistently cited by Davis as one of her idols, showed up and showed out as Annalise Keating’s mother, Ophelia, on HTGAWM.
Ms. Ophelia arrived on the scene to shake Annalise out of her “my husband’s dead, and I just framed my black boyfriend for his murder” funk.
Not only did we learn that Ms. Ophelia killed the uncle who raped Annalise as a child, but we also learned that Annalise’s real name is Anna Mae. Whuuuut? When Anna Mae told her mother that she would prefer to be addressed as Annalise, her mother dressed her all the way down: “Who the hell do you think you are? Oprah? I wiped your ass, and I will call you anything I want.”
There was also the scene where Ms. Ophelia combed Annalise’s 4C natural hair, and black women around the globe screamed at the screen: No spray bottle? No shea butter? That comb?? With all due respect to Mama Ophelia, we love you, but “no, ma’am.”
What are some of your favorite moments from HTGAWM so far?
Akilah Green is a recovering Washington, D.C., lawyer-lobbyist-politico turned TV and film writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She currently works for Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, Chelsea. She has also worked as a staff writer for Kevin Hart’s production company, HartBeat Productions, and as a consultant for Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. In addition, she co-wrote and is producing Scratch, an indie horror-comedy feature film, and is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow Green’s adventures in La La Land on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.