“How to Get Away with Murder” is Shonda Rhimes’ latest TV series and it caps off ABC’s “Thank God It’s Thursday” trio of shows. They saved the best for last. The series premiere aired Thursday, grabbed our attention and didn’t let go until the very last moment. As Yahoo News promised on Sept. 24, the show was indeed filled with twists, turns and a fast-paced plot. Thanks to Viola Davis and an outstanding cast, this one is here to stay.
The show follows the lives of a group of first year law students, their professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and others in their orbit. Keating is a practicing lawyer who involves her students in her cases as well as being tough classroom teacher. The episode opens with four of the students frantically trying to decide to do with the body of someone they’ve apparently murdered on campus at Middleton University in Philadelphia a few days before Christmas before flashing back three months.
The flash back shows us the arrival of Wes Gibbins, Alfred Enoch who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter franchise of films. The wait-listed student gets to class unprepared – he never got the assignment because he just arrived 2 days ago – and draws the ire of Keating when he can’t answer the question she asks. Also central to the story in this episode are Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee from “Twisted”), Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King) and Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza).
The case the class takes on involves defending the personal assistant accused of murdering her boss by substituting his medication with aspirin that he’s allergic to. The assignment – each student must come up with their own defense and no two ideas can be alike. The top four will intern positions with Keating’s firm and the winner will earn a trophy that can be used to opt out of any exam. The race is on.
Wes, whom the episode focused on most, struggles to find a brilliant idea. He goes last and comes up with a unique idea that earns him one of the 4 spots but not before he inadvertently walks in on his professor having sex with a man in her office late at night. Wes and the others later meet Keating’s husband Sam (Tom Verica) at a college party and Wes realizes the two men are not the same. He and Keating exchange looks and he knows he’s stumbled onto something.
Keating follows him and explains. She and her husband are trying to have a baby. Tears begin to roll. The stress is too much. She apologizes for putting him in this position. He promises to keep quiet.
Keating teaches the class that her strategy in court is to discredit the witnesses, introduce a new suspect and bury the evidence with so much information that jury is overwhelmed with doubt. She orders her contest winners to attend the trial where one by one, they offer valuable insight.
Throughout the episode, news clips about a missing student draw attention. Our four students look from one to another every time the girl’s name is mentioned. The jump between present and flashbacks continue to build suspense and tension.
In the near-Christmas time scenes, the students flip a coin to decide whether or not to leave the body or move it. The flip forces them to move the body which we now see is in the professor’s law office. Wrapped in a carpet, they try to take it out the door but are stopped by campus security. The cops are overwhelmed by the antics of the student body that are running wild this night and he lets them go.
They take the body to the woods, build a bonfire and dowse it with lighter fluid. Scared and unsure, they decide it’s the only way to destroy any DNA evidence.
Back in the courtroom, the defendant is made to look guilty by security footage of her buying aspirin the night before the murder. Keating calls in a police detective, Nate Lacey (Billy Brown), who just so happens to be the man Wes saw her having sex with. He testifies that yes, he is aware of instances where his department tampered with video footage to win a case. His testimony secures a not guilty verdict.
Wes confronts Keating because he thinks she gave him the internship to keep him quiet. She tells him no and even if she did, turning it down would ruin his future career.
The body of the missing coed turns up in a water tower. The students and everyone else are riveted to the news reports. IN the final moments of the premiere episode, the story reverts to the Christmas-time scene. As the kids are about to set the bonfire aflame, the body is revealed to be Keating’s husband!
The show is well put together, never missing a step. Also on board are Charlie Webber as Frank, the undergrad-loving womanizer and Liza Weil as Bonnie. Both are Keating’s associates. Katie Findlay plays Rebecca, Wes’s neighbor who has ties to the missing girl.
If the premiere of “How to Get Away with Murder” is any indication, this show will be around for a long, long time. It airs on ABC on Thursdays at 9 p.m.