This review contains spoilers for the second season of How to Get Away With Murder.
The sophomore season of How to Get Away With Murder began with the show’s signature form of storytelling: we start at the end where Annalise and her Keating 5 are in serious trouble, perhaps someone is dead, and the rest of the season comprises of flashbacks explaining how they got there. This time, Annalise has been shot in a mansion and we have no idea who did it or why she’s there.
The road to the night in question began with Annalise’s latest high-profile case: two adopted siblings are accused of killing their parents, and later their aunt. In the process of trying to defend their clients, Michaela sleeps with Caleb (one of the accused), Asher kills a prosecutor and his father commits suicide, Bonnie’s past of sexual abuse by her father is revealed, Connor’s boyfriend Oliver becomes more involved with the group, and Laurel breaks up with Frank when he admits he killed Lila.
However, the most compelling storyline really kicked into high gear when the series returned from its winter break: What the hell is going on with Wes and Annalise? He spent most of the first half of the season believing she killed Rebecca (She didn’t; it was Bonnie). He is so convinced that his teacher and boss is the devil, he ends up shooting her in their clients’ home. The twist, though, is that she asked Laurel to do it and it was part of her plan to cover up Asher’s crime. What was supposed to be a simple flesh wound almost cost Annalise her life.
While Annalise may not have killed Rebecca, she is partly responsible for the death of Wes’ mother, which is something he and Laurel learn when they dig through case files Annalise gave Wes. His mother was the only witness able to clear a powerful man’s son of murder, but she didn’t want to testify for fear she and young Wes would have to leave the country. Annalise, representing the family, pressures her to do so and it ultimately ends with Wes’ mother killing herself after begging Annalise to take care of him. The story becomes even more tragic when Annalise goes into early labor after being in a car accident and loses the baby.
All of this unfolded with the twists, turns, and OMG moments we’ve come to expect from HTGAWM, but the series didn’t stick the landing in the finale. There were several shockers, yes: Frank was responsible for Annalise’s accident paid off by her client, Wes’ mother was raped by that client years ago and he’s Wes’ father, and Caleb was actually guilty of killing his family. The problem is that all of those things felt extremely rushed. Especially when we learn that Annalise knew before anyone else that Caleb was guilty and held on to the info until the eleventh hour when it saved her from being arrested. Then, it’s all laid out for us in flashbacks of conversations and events we never saw.
I don’t believe that the writers intended for Caleb to be guilty when this began – if they did, it sure didn’t feel like it. It felt like this ending was an afterthought or that they actually filmed several possibilities and for some reason decided to go with this one.
Still, even though that’s a pretty big complaint, it did come at the end of a season that was mostly very good. Cicely Tyson as Annalise’s mom and Famke Janssen as her ex-lover were both excellent additions to the series. The flashbacks to happier times between Sam and Annalise were nice to see, and the scene in which Annalise holds her dead baby is enough to earn Viola Davis another Emmy.
HTGAWM Season 2
Of the three TGIT programs on ABC on Thursday nights, How to Get Away With Murder is hands down the best. Grey’s Anatomy feels like it’s been on life support for the past five years and Scandal has become the hottest of hot messes. I hope HTGAWM doesn’t get caught up in having shocking moments for the sake of trending on Twitter (side-eye’ing you, Scandal). It’s proven it doesn’t need to do that. The writing (particularly the dialogue) and the acting is prestige level television.
Of all the cliffhangers we’re left with in the finale (Wes’ father is murdered moments after Wes confronts him, Annalise wants nothing to do with Frank, and Asher and Michaela are now a thing), I’m most interested in seeing how Annalise deals with the loss of Frank as her right-hand man.