How To Get Away With Murder is in a bit of a rebuilding phase. After Annalise fired everyone, the show has reorganized itself into two spheres: the world of the Keating Four and the world of Annalise. Frank and Bonnie exist somewhere in the liminal spaces of both. The show has previously drawn these lines before, but they’re more stark now with the students off floundering on their own, attempting to escape her shadow and their dark shared past. But the problem with separating Annalise from the pack has always been that her storylines are infinitely more captivating than the Keating Four’s. Laurel, Michaela, Asher, and Connor are nothing without Annalise. But even more so, this ensemble of young actors is nothing without Viola Davis.
In “I’m Not Her,” the Keating Four are busy interviewing for jobs (which I’m a little confused about, because they haven’t even finished law school or taken the bar yet, right?). Simon, the snakey little shit stirrer from their class, just loves reminding them how much Annalise destroyed their lives and job prospects. They all struggle to come up with convincing explanations for why their grades have suffered, careful not to mention all the actual murder that has affected their lives. Michaela, of course, crushes her interviews, proclaiming that she wants to be an agent of change and nothing like Annalise. The rest flail. Connor can’t even come up with a reason he wants to be a lawyer, prompting a brief existential crisis cut short by Oliver pointing out that Connor has gotten away with so much (murder and more!) that he should be looking to do some good and reclaim his life instead of pausing for some privileged little existential crisis. Oliver always keeps it real.
Michaela and Asher get callbacks (do they really call them this in the legal world or is that just the show being very explicit and self-aware about the fact that its legal world is all theatrics?) for one of the biggest law firms, while Laurel and Connor only get interest from legal aide. Laurel doesn’t even bother to show up for another interview. She’s far too busy researching her father’s involvement in the father of her unborn child’s death from the comfort of her dead baby daddy’s apartment. How To Get Away With Murder often grapples with what it means to be under constant surveillance. Laurel’s watching her dad; Frank’s watching Laurel. Paranoia abounds.
Annalise is under the surveillance of her new, court-mandated therapist, who won’t let her talk about what she wants to talk about and accuses her of withholding too much. I tend to hate therapy scenes on television, because the therapists depicted in them are almost always bad at their jobs. Jimmy Smit’s Isaac is no exception. At least Annalise calls him out for triggering her about her history with sexual assault. Annalise’s aversion to therapy is understandable given her history with it: Her last therapist was Sam. These therapist scenes in the episode try to unpack Annalise’s current emotional state, but until the moment she brings up Sam, they seem like mostly filler. After all, the actual action of Annalise’s first case back at work is much more engaging than watching her unpack it after the fact.
Annalise’s first client is Jasmine, her former cellmate when she was in jail who protected her. The greatest gift How To Get Away With Murder consistently gives us is putting other powerhouse women on screen with Viola Davis. L. Scott Caldwell’s performance as Jasmine is wrenching, and she brings this character to life in a very short amount of time. Jasmine’s story touches on the cycles of abuse, addiction, racism, incarceration, and all the ways those cycles intersect and amplify each other. One other good thing to come out of the therapy scenes is Isaac’s misguided assertion that Annalise has taken on Jasmine’s case because she’s projecting herself and her past onto the woman. That’s a surface-level conclusion that viewers could have potentially arrived at on their own, but by having Isaac articulate it and Annalise shut it down, the writers seize control of the narrative, forcing viewers not to draw parallels between Annalise and Jasmine.
“I’m Not Her,” after all, becomes the titular line, and it’s an important point to make. How To Get Away With Murder is always nuanced in its depiction of trauma and survivors, never one-size-fits all. Just because they both were sexually assaulted at young ages does not make Annalise and Jasmine the same. Annalise had so many opportunities that Jasmine did not and to draw parallels between them is to oversimplify and flatten their experiences. It’s a bad interpretation of the storyline, and the writers shut it down outright through Isaac who is, again, not a great therapist! In the central storyline of “I’m Not Her,” How To Get Away With Murder provides a layered and ruthless critique of the legal system in handling cases of sexual assault and sex trafficking, with Annalise going after one judge’s racist sentencing, the ineffectiveness of “catch and release” policies, and pretty much the entire criminal justice system. How To Get Away With Murder takes even more liberties when it comes to its depictions of courtroom proceedings than most legal shows, but the lack of realism is trumped by the acuity of its arguments, its positioning of Annalise as someone who challenges the very notion of justice.
Back in the world of the Keating Four, Connor finds himself running up against Laurel’s anger. Remember when she told him to kill himself last season? That’s still the basic dynamic between them. Laurel’s pregnant and not really having anyone’s shit these days, but especially Connor, who did not kill Wes but did lie about being there that night (and kind of thought he killed Wes). So she’s still mad, and Connor hates himself, which he tells her. They don’t reconcile so much as agree that they have to move forward. Connor so desperately wants to make things better, but as Laurel points out, he can’t. No one can. The characters on this show have seen so many murders, but nothing has hit as hard as Wes’ death, which continues to touch every part of the show—as it should. Everyone’s still shaken by his death even if it isn’t as apparent as Laurel’s grief is. Their struggles to rebuild their lives stem from the major loss they’ve all suffered.
The ramifications of Wes’ death on the plot of the show are, admittedly, a little all over the place. I’m much more interested in the ramifications on the characters’ emotions. But How To Get Away With Murder needs to weave its complicated narrative web, and it’s certainly busy doing so. Laurel tells Michaela rather matter-of-factly that her father killed Wes and that she needs Michaela to use her new job (at a law firm that turns out to represent Laurel’s father’s company) to help her bring him down. Laurel’s revenge mission has potential, but right now it’s still pretty uneventful, marked by google searches and quiet plotting on the sidelines. Bringing Michaela into the fold sparks some much needed momentum.
- Were the timestamps on Annalise’s therapy session really necessary? Sometimes this show gets weird about its chronology devices.
- Oliver is starting his own IT company called Control Oli Delete, which is a bad name, but Oliver’s realization that it is probably a bad name is very good.
- In the flash forward, Isaac makes a call to Annalise wondering where she is. And Bonnie shows up at Annalise’s place looking just so tired. She’s greeted by an elevator filled with blood.
- Annalise’s face when she realizes Bonnie works for the DA now is so great.
- Did anyone else pick up on vibes between Bonnie and Nate? Between that and Bonnie getting drunk, it looks like the former Annalise devotee is channeling Annalise a little too well…
- I’m not sure if Frank’s “I’m always going to take care of you, Annalise” moment is meant to be sweet or creepy, but for me, it was definitely the latter.