Way back in December, the How to Get Away With Murder winter finale careened toward closure, finally giving us some insight on who killed Sam.
And now that we know, well, Annalise Keating isn’t going to let this game go so easy. No, sir! In this week’s mid-season premiere, she’s all about the orchestrating — and what unfolds is a thing of beauty.
Refreshingly, this week’s premiere sticks with the slower, more breathable pace first offered by the finale, serving up a relatively linear narrative style that nevertheless set up the major tensions and plotlines for the second half of the season while bringing us straight into the thick of the drama — and there was plenty — and the psychological toll it's taking.
This Week’s Lesson: Shut Up and Learn From the Master
Having committed an actual murder — and cover-up — the Fearful Foursome is naturally FREAKING OUT. Well, three of them, anyway. Wes, of course, has tethered an uneasy alliance with Annalise, as was revealed in the last few magical moments of the finale. And despite his wimpiness, he’s managed to keep this budding partnership a secret from his classmates — and even Rebecca. So it looks like our unsuspecting zero is turning into a viable mentee for the formidable Annalise Keating. He’s totally gotten a grip. Guess he has to. He was, after all, the one holding that death-blow-dealing trophy. B+
The Big Picture:
As we kick off, two investigating officers have commandeered the gang to get the down-low on what happened the night Sam “went missing.”
First up is Annalise, but she’s back to being totally in control, especially when she throws down her alibi: Why, she was with her lover, Nate Lahey, during the very hours her philandering husband disappeared. And at this big reveal, Nate surprisingly ain’t mad. Nope, he’s super-cooperative, even caressing Annalise’s arm in full view of the cops, confirming that the romance is hardly just for show.
As the cops search the house, the Fearful Foursome stands on the porch, attempting to wrap their heads around the situation. Wes is calm — too calm — because he knows Annalise’s secret. And Laurel, well, she’s deadpan as usual. Michaela looks stressed, but Connor’s full-on panicked, asking the others, “What if one of us cracks? Goes to prison, tries to get a lesser charge?” While Laurel shuts it down, saying that the rest of them will gang up and blame the traitor, Connor’s already plotting. Would you expect anything less?
Wes rocks his interrogation — he’s been well-trained, after all. And Laurel’s quick on her feet, too, confessing that perhaps Sam had an unseemly interest in her. Connor’s a mess. No surprise there.
But the real wrench? That darned Asher. He mentions that he stopped by the Keating house that night looking for his trophy — and saw the Foursome’s SUV parked there. Essentially putting them all right there at the scene of the crime. Oopsie. That’s what you get for leaving doofus out of your party games, guys. Besides, he’s got a rock-solid alibi — he was busy hooking up with his “lady friend.” (And boy, does Bitter Blonde let him have it for revealing that! They are so over!)
In her interrogation, Michaela missteps about the SUV-reveal thing, and realizing this could be very, very bad, covers by saying they just parked there to head on over to the bonfire. Do not doubt this: This mistake will come back to haunt her. B
Case of the Week:
While all of this is going down — and the cops are still trying to figure out where the hell Sam went — Annalise is still fretting about that case against Rebecca. She’s got to prove the girl innocent, even if it means implicating her own missing (dead) husband.
Of course, at first, this seemed super-weird. She’s the prime suspect, right? But pulling out the Nate card takes care of that. So why is she so focused on Rebecca? Oh right, Wes knows that she knows. So to protect her protégé, she’s got to pin the murder on her philandering (and did I mention dead?) husband. Basically, the key to freedom lies in the dismissal of all charges against Rebecca.
To achieve that, they have to (a) prove Sam’s relationship to the dead girl, and (b) offer up his motive to kill. But DA Parks, like any vindictive-but-bright nemesis, is like WTF? Your husband is missing, lady. Why are you hell-bent on this stupid case? So Parks does everything in her power to thwart Annalise on this case.
But Annalise has a secret weapon: Cranky Frankie! He serves up the DNA test results, which prove that Sam was, in fact, the father of the baby Lila was carrying. When Annalise is a bit too thrilled with the news, Frankie finally asks her what everyone should be wondering: “What the hell, Annalise. Nobody is this relieved when they find out their husband just knocked up a dead girl.” Essentially: Woman, you gotta work on that poker face.
So she spills, telling him everything and bringing yet another wretched soul into this devious plan of hers.
Anyway, the DNA’s not enough to prove that Sam killed Lila. What’s his motive? Sam was pressuring Lila to abort the baby — and the girl was Über-religious, so she probably balked. How can they prove that, though?
Easy-peasy! They find footage at the abortion clinic with Lila and Sam getting into an argument, presumably over her not wanting to get the abortion. Sam is placed at the Kappa Kappa Theta Sorority house the exact time of the murder, along with testimony from a receptionist at the abortion clinic. Annalise kills it in the courtroom. The case is pretty much hers. All charges against Rebecca are dropped, allowing her and Wes to rekindle their relationship.
I have to say, while it was a relief to finally see this story line unravel, it did come to a bit of a facile ending — and I’m still not quite buying that Sam killed Lila. There has to be more to this story. After all, with Murder, there always is. B+
A Date With Nate
Yes, Yummy put on a good show for the investigators. But he’s not letting Annalise off the hook. He never does; he’s no fool. He finds it highly suspicious that Annalise came to him right when Sam went missing. But the girl knows how to work it. “I came to you because I needed you,” she tells him, teary. “He’s the monster, not me.” Swoon. Nate buys it. Well played, Annalise.
We all know that in the end, her tug-of-war with Nate will be the end of Annalise Keating. But it sure is fun to watch it all play out in the meantime. B
Make Way for the Protégés
No hot hookups this week, alas. But that doesn’t mean our boy Connor isn’t up to no good. Quite the contrary. In his panicked state, he’s about to lose it. So he recruits longtime nemesis Michaela (still smarting from the SUV incident) into a partnership — together, he suggests, they go to the cops, spill what they know, and cut a deal. After all, it was self-defense, right? Kind of, sort of, not really when you think about it.
Michaela’s onboard but quickly realizes they need more backup. They decide that they must recruit Laurel. She seems down. Right?
Wrong! When Connor and Michaela get the precinct, Annalise and Wes are waiting for them — thanks to Laurel’s timely intervention!
Annalise has no choice but to anoint the rest of the Fearful Foursome into her master class. She’s about to teach them all — you guessed it — how to get away with murder.
And just when you think that Wes is the star pupil here, quiet, timid Laurel steps up her game. She’s becoming a master manipulator, not unlike her mentor. It’ll be interesting to see, now that everyone’s onboard, how these tensions between protégés grow and shift. A
All’s Well ... Or Not
With the police interrogation handled and Rebecca’s case dismissed, the plan to get away with murder seems to be going smoothly. Everyone’s getting comfortable. But of course that ain’t Shonda Rhimes’s style. Here comes the wrecking ball ... and her name is Marcia Gay Harden! Woo-hoo! Consider it brung!
Marcia plays Hannah Keating, Sam’s suspicious sister — who has never been particularly fond of Annalise. “Let me be clear, whatever his wife told you, my brother is no murderer.” Let the games begin! A
The Takeaway: Closure? Yeah, right. Sure, Rebecca’s free and the murderers are complicit, taking cues from their manipulative mentor, but what’s that they say about the road to Hell? Oh yeah, it’s one wild ride. Because in signature Shonda style, Murder completely rocked all the foundations laid this week in the last two minutes with the revelation of Sam’s sister, Hannah Keating.
And on another note: On the relationship front, there were no hookups this episode. I repeat: NO hookups. But plenty of build-up, so let’s hope some of that sexy is amped up next week.