Is it possible for there to be more than one side to the truth? What happens when you have to break a few laws in order to have all of the facts? Will you be able to recover from what you learn or go to jail for it? That’s part of the premise behind the new ABC show “How to Get Away with Murder,” which forces viewers to put away all sense of right and wrong to see the show’s cast bend the rules in an effort to get ahead. It also helped that each week has ended in a surprise that makes them come back for more.
“How to Get Away with Murder” followed successful defense attorney/law professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) who literally taught aspiring young lawyers how they get their clients off on murder charges if they played by her rules, which she sometimes manipulated to her advantage. She was trying to determine which of her students were worth the opportunity of working alongside her when she prepped for her trial cases. She found some promise in ethics bending Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) who used his sexual appetite to seduce guys into revealing secrets that could help Annalise win, but he pushed too far once in a case that caused a young man to commit suicide. The guilt seemed to wear on him and exposed that he wasn’t completely infallible. Connor had some competition with an overachiever named Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King) who had a plan to become the next Annalise, but that could get derailed over one mistake. Both Connor and Michaela tended to overlook Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza) because she allowed her scruples to get in the way more than once. Meanwhile the three students believed they could be Annalise’s protege, but the honor would likely go to the underdog in Wes Gibbons (Alfred Enoch) who knew more about Annalise than even she cared to admit. Wes knew that she was having an affair with Det. Nate Lahey (Billy Brown) and that she keeping it from her less than faithful husband. He also knew that Annalise’s husband was involved with a recently murdered college student and that he might be a possible suspect in her murder, which would help get Wes’ new friend Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay) who could become something more as they tried to find out who committed the crime. In the process, another murder happened at Annalise’s office that they could be involved in or just covered up for the wrong reasons. Will the truth come out or will everyone involved get away with it?
In terms of questions, the show has answered some and raised even more as the season has progressed. The season revealed early on in terms of the murder victim’s identity in that it was Annalise’s questionably immoral husband. The show hasn’t obviously revealed as to who killed him, but each episode has delivered a new suspect or motive that could explain why the man turned up dead. The more recent episodes offered the possibility that he was a suspect in another murder and that he may have crossed one too many lines in the process. As the season has progressed, it also seemed that none of the cast members were as squeaky clean as she made themselves out to be. As for standout plots, Davis’ Annalise led the pack in delivering twists and bitter one liners that could make even the strongest lawyer cringe. She made Annalise someone who was formidable in and out of the courtroom, but she was often best served when she didn’t have as much armor on. Her strongest scene came when she confronted her husband by sleeping with another student of his. It’s an interesting perspective to see how one lawyer’s profession world was mostly in control, but her personal one appeared to be based more on appearances than the truth. On the surface, she had the perfect marriage, but she was just hiding from everyone that she couldn’t trust him. She had a rapport with both Enoch and Brown for different reasons. Enoch’s Wes was her prized student based on his smarts and the fact that he could see right through her lies without even blinking an eye. Brown’s Nate gave the show a more realistic outlet as he was the investigator who tried to live a normal life, until he was pulled into Annalise’s orbit for better or worse. Sadly, the rest of the students didn’t have the greatest of plots. King’s often one note Michaela was almost too perfect at times. The only time that the character has lost control was when she helped to cover up the murder. A future episode or two should allow viewers to see a few chinks in her armor to help flesh out her character in the long run. Falahee’s Connor helped to bring an extra level of sex and lies, but his character almost bordered on malicious as he used sex to get ahead. There has to be at least another episode to prove that Connor can’t get everything by sleeping around. The only students that seemed to work were Enoch’s Wes and Findlay’s Rebecca who seemed to be in a separate story all their own, which worked. They could the show’s Bonnie and Clyde if the writers played their cards right. Let’s hope that the show delivered on more shocking twists without sacrificing too much. Only time will tell if that’s the case.
As for breakout performances, Davis and Enoch led the pack as their characters seemed posed to be on a collision course that ended in murder. Davis’ Annalise was embodied to be the perfectly flawed woman. Her character was strong and ruthless on the outside, but she was completely vulnerable behind closed doors. A prime example would be the scene where Davis’ character took off all of her make-up and other things that allowed herself to be stripped of anything secure. With nothing to protect her, the character confronted her husband for cheating on her again and taking a naked picture left on the deceased girl’s cell phone. She projected Annalise’s anger and heartbreak that she allowed herself to believe his lies as she fought him after he tried to get close to her. Davis often projected Annalise’s emotions by displaying a single tear or a look of longing for her former lover Nate after a situation led her to see him. She had a strong rapport with Brown that showcased both Annalise’s softer and reckless sides at the same time. With Enoch’s West, her character saw someone who wasn’t looking to cater to her every professional whim and that made her eager to have him work for her. Enoch, on the other hand, had the challenging task of playing a seemingly innocent student walking into the lion’s den and becoming corrupted by it. His character manipulated the murder cover-up plot by lying to his fellow students, and he seemed capable of so much more. He had a genuine rapport with Davis’ Annalise that could into a rivalry down the line, but he truly sparked with Findlay’s Rebecca that allowed Enoch to reveal Wes’ more playful side. Hopefully, future episodes will allow Findlay and Enoch to display a little more of the lighthearted side to their on-screen relationship before the murderer is revealed. It’s too early to say if that will likely happen or not.
“How to Get Away with Murder” premiered on September 25th and airs Thursdays at 10:00 PM on ABC
Verdict: Davis delivered an unforgettable performance, but the rest of the cast needed to keep up with her and the plot twists heading their way.
TV Score: 4 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)