“How to Get Away with Murder” aired the dark and twisty series premiere episode on Sept. 25 on ABC. According to an “Eonline” report, Shonda Rhimes’ last show in her Thank God It’s Thursday drama line up was a smash hit, pulling in a whopping 14 million viewers with a 3.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic. Those numbers are impressive for the debut of a legal drama that immediately puts a fresh and provocative spin on the genre.
First of all, Viola Davis is sublime in the lead role as Annalise Keating, the sexy, rule-breaking yet hard-nosed criminal law professor that her students would love to be. She rules her class and defends her clients with a take-no-prisoners approach. It’s obvious that like Olivia Pope in “Scandal,” Annalise Keating has many complex layers and lives in a very gray moral world. The show is created by Shondaland writer Peter Nowalk and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the pacing of the show mirrors “Scandal’s” ultra-fast and twisty creative landscape.
Take the opening scene, for example. A group of law students are trying to figure out what to do with a dead body (essentially tackling the “How to Get Away with Murder” title task head on). The action takes a wild spin between their nervous post-murder efforts and a present-day murder case. Annalise quickly selects star students to participate in the real life case: Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch), Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee), Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King), Asher Millstone (Matt McGorry) and Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza).
These bright young minds are eager to absorb all Annalise has to offer. Only, Wes gets a little more than he bargained for when he walks in on Annalise having sex with her boyfriend and later learns she’s married. In a very vulnerable follow up scene, Annalise cries to Wes and tells him failed attempts to have a child have put a strain on her marriage. He vows to keep the secret but is later shocked when he learns the man she was with was a detective who lied on the stand so Annalise could help her guilty client win the murder case against her.
So how is it that these smart, articulate students become embroiled in a murder of their own to the point that they roll a dead body in a rug and attempt to light it on fire in the woods, while also destroying DNA evidence? This huge question obviously sets up the season and the series. Viewers are in for a psychologically suspenseful thrill ride, chock full of steamy hook ups and intense legal cases. At the very end of the episode, the dead body is revealed to be Annalise’s husband Sam played by “Scandal” director Tom Verica.
Who murdered Sam Keating? Was it an intentional killing? Or, was his death some sort of freak accident? Here’s an interesting theory: What if Annalise killed her husband (accidentally or intentionally) and her students are trying to help her “get away with murder?” If the latter is true, why would they go to these lengths to protect their professor? Is she blackmailing them and somehow coercing them to do it?
Overall, viewers can’t help but be sucked into the huge nagging questions that basically set up an exciting new series. Plus, the standout performances delivered by Viola Davis, Alfred Enoch and Aja Naomi King entice viewers to find out more about Annalise, Wes, and Michaela. Let’s hope Wes doesn’t get too wrapped up in Annalise’s twisted web. He seems like such a nice guy! It’s also easy to wonder if this naïve group of law students is going to get busted for burying a dead body. For some strange reason, they all seem vulnerable and basically “good” enough to hope that they don’t get in a lot of trouble. It may already be too late for that wish, because, at this point they are all in way over their heads.
So far, “How to Get Away with Murder” completely lives up to the pre-premiere hype. It also proves itself to be another Shondaland series that viewers should probably refrain from blinking in, so as not to miss the briskly evolving story.
“How to Get Away with Murder” airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.