First, a note: This review is filled with spoilers, but if you have clicked on this story, it’s assumed that you, dear reader, are up-to-date on the goings-on of How to Get Away With Murder. If you aren’t, I have two questions that may take some deep thought: The first is “Why aren’t you caught up?” and the second is “Why are you here?”
A second note: This show, in its early stages, at least, reminds me of Lost. On the surface, no one is as he or she seems; everyone’s side-eyeing and head nods have meaning; and the flashbacks inside the flashbacks are the same kind of draw that Lost used to tell us who these people actually were before their plane crashed. Now let’s just hope we don’t find out that the folks on HTGAWM are actually stranded on an island that happens to look like a classroom solving purgatory cases, or I’m done.
Get a Clue
I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one who felt as if she was playing Clue last night. Except, instead of figuring out if Professor Plum knocked Miss Scarlet upside the head with a candlestick, we’re trying to figure out who clocked Annalise’s husband, Sam, with his wife’s bronzed Lady Justice statue.
The hourlong show shoehorns a lot of action and storyline into more than 30 scenes, with flashbacks, flash-forwards, and flashes to the left and the right that can be so swift that you feel as if you’re doing the Cupid Shuffle. There’s no Candy Crushing or email checking while watching this one—you must pay rapt attention to every scene, since, even in the moments without dialogue, the show wastes no seconds revealing a new piece of this complicated puzzle (think Lost again, another magically divine show that played with our heads and our hearts).
For example, flash back to Wes Gibbins in the woods with fellow murderers the same night of the pep rally. Having retrieved the statue—and presumed murder weapon—he’s less wide-eyed naivete and more take charge, and we can’t help wondering what prompted this newfound assertiveness. He flips a coin, with heads deciding they go back and get the body and tails deciding against that move. Tails it is—but he says heads, another hint that Gibbins has some investment that’s yet to be revealed to viewers.
Trouble in Paradise
We cut to Annalise at the kitchen table peering at the Philadelphia Dispatch, with a headline that blares “Water Tank Death: Accident or Murder” and a picture of the young woman Lila Stangard, the same girl whose face was plastered on a billboard last episode. We momentarily wondered if she was the one rolled up in the carpet but quickly realized it was the hubby.
We can tell there’s a little tension in the air between Annalise and her husband and soon learn that Lila was, in fact, Sam’s student before she died. We catch a strong whiff of deception in the air and soon learn that lying will be an ongoing theme throughout the episode.
“The question that I’m asked most often as a defense attorney is if I can tell if my clients are innocent or guilty. My answer is always the same: I don’t care. And that doesn’t make me heartless, though that could be up for debate,” Annalise says to her class in the next scene while pacing back and forth. “But that’s because they’re all the same, they all lie and that makes them unknowable.”
We learn that Sam has cheated on her in the past, which is why she dives into his phone every chance she gets to see if there was a more than student-teacher connection with Lila, and she begins to suspect that he had something to do with Lila’s death. Never mind the fact that her boyfriend has dumped her after she blackmailed him on the stand, leaving her looking like a kid whose ice cream got knocked over on the playground as he walks away.
We were all shocked when we realized how Annalise ultimately solved the case of the episode, that of Max St. Vincent, who was found not guilty of murdering his first wife years ago in Switzerland. The defense for his current case? His knowledge of how to kill, as evidenced by the many mounted heads that adorn the walls of his expansive Philly mansion.
He copped to killing his first wife—knowing that he couldn’t be tried again—in a much more “humane” and clean fashion, while the 16 slices that his second wife, Marjorie, received were much sloppier and unskilled. It was cute seeing the knowing smile spread across Annalise’s face as she listened to Wes earnestly give the “Eloise killed Marjorie” theory that she’d already arrived at. (Turns out Max’s daughter, Eloise, killed her stepmother to try to frame her dad.) It was very much a Mr. Miyagi and Danielson moment.
Our Only Issue
The biggest problem with the show? Not being able to binge-watch to see how it all unfolds. But even though How to Get Away With Murder boasted the highest viewership in DVR history—that’s how you know this show is good—right out of the gate, it joins the elite ranks of prime-time-television shows that have us going back to original, destination TV. We’re willing to wait week to week to find out “whodunit,” which is hard to do in this immediate-gratification era of marathon TV and Netflix.
The other slightly big—but not big enough to stop us from watching—problem is the flashy-flashness of all the flashbacks. This show has more flashbacks than a 1980s music video and at times can have you feeling as if you’re watching “lost” in more ways than one.