TV Review - How to Get Away With Murder

Set in Philadelphia, this series is about a strong, black, female defense-attorney and law professor who uses her students to help her in cases, which often time are people charged with murder. The initial episodes involve a case-of-the-week structure that pivots around two, over-arching mysteries. The first mystery is happening concurrently with the present narrative. The other mystery is happening in the future and each episode briefly flashes-forward to reveal more and more pieces of that future.

Viola Davis stars as Annalise Keating. She teaches at Middleton University. She also runs her own private practice that mainly consists of just her as the attorney and two assistants. Bonnie, played by Liza Weil, is the ice queen who is all about the work and nothing else. Weil is doing similar things as her character in Gilmore Girls. Frank, played by Charlie Weber (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 90210), doesn't like stupid questions. He's almost an ice king, but his heart does warm to one Annalise's students.

Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II) co-stars as Wesley Gibbins, a transfer student on his first day of law school who stumbles but is able to come up with a clever, self-defense argument for one of Keating's cases, which impresses her.

Aja Naomi King (Emily Owens, M.D.) plays Michaela Pratt, the only other black female among the five students who comes to work for Annalise's practice. She's engaged to be married to a guy named Aiden. She's a bit of a snob, uptight and highly superficial.

Jack Falahee and Conrad Ricamora
in "How to Get Away With Murder"
Jack Falahee (Twisted) plays Connor Walsh, a ruthless and somewhat bitchy, gay student who seduces another gay man because he can provide important information for Annalise's case. Connor, however, ends up falling for that Asian guy named Oliver, played by Conrad Ricamora, despite the fact that he continues to be manipulative.

Karla Souza (Verano de amor) plays Laurel Castillo. She's like the female equivalent to Wesley, only she doesn't have his idealistic heart. She's not manipulative, ruthless or stuck-up. She just wants to work hard and it's her who's caught Frank's eye and vice-versa.

Matt McGorry (Orange is the New Black) plays Asher Millstone. He seems to be somewhere between Michaela and Connor in terms of personality. He's a total bro. He seems like he's a fraternity douche-bag. In fact, he's nickname in Episode 2 becomes "douche-face."

Going back to the two, over-arching mysteries, the one happening concurrently with the present narrative involves the death of a fellow student but a female student who wasn't a law major. The other mystery happening in the future involves the death of that female student's professor who also happens to be Annalise's husband Sam, played by Tom Verica.

The reason that the second mystery is that much more mysterious is because the flash-forward scenes reveal Sam's murder through the contrivance that Wesley, Michaela, Connor and Laurel are secretly covering up that murder. There's no clue as to who killed Sam and why these four students are covering it up.

The first mystery has its suspects, but misdirection and red herrings are all over the place, so learning whodunnit is the hook to pull us along. The characters aren't certainly the hook. With the exception of Wesley, none of the characters are likeable or interesting beyond a single note.

I echo Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall on their podcast when they concluded that Viola Davis is the draw, but the show marginalizes her in a weird way. It's not like The Good Wife that firmly established its lead first and centered it around her for half the season and then slowly expanded and delved into the other characters, making it a great ensemble. This show perhaps bombards us with too much all at once.

It was nice to see a beautiful, black woman like Davis get cunnilingus from a beautiful, black man, in this instance a cop named Nate, played by Billy Brown (Sons of Anarchy and Dexter).

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DSV.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Thursdays at 10PM on ABC.


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