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As How To Get Away With Murder reckons with the past 3 years, everyone is an unreliable narrator

Illustration for article titled As iHow To Get Away With Murder /ireckons with the past 3 years, everyone is an unreliable narrator
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With the FBI the closest to nabbing Annalise Keating as they’ve ever been, Asher dead, and the group fractured, the characters of How To Get Away With Murder are now reckoning with every bad deed done in the past three years, starting with the death of Sam Keating. So what’s happening now in these final five episodes is essentially a meta reflection on the entire series. The story changes based on who’s telling it.

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Annalise genuinely sees herself as a reluctant hero-type who has protected her students, Bonnie, and Frank from their own bad mistakes. She has, it bears repeating, never actually committed a murder outright. Her hands are technically less bloody than most of the other characters’. But to Connor, Michaela, and Oliver—who are now kind of like a three-person family unit—none of the bad shit would have happened if it weren’t for her. They had initially planned to go to the cops after Sam died, and Annalise convinced them not to, fire-starting a series of lies and cover-ups. Was Annalise selfish to control them in that way or was she really protecting them? Again, it depends who you ask. Everyone is a bit of an unreliable narrator right now, but everyone is also just scrambling to figure out the next move. There’s a series of deaths and cover-ups to contend with. There’s a reckoning to be had.

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In actuality, the whole situation is of course more nuanced than these black-and-white perspectives. Annalise has protected the others through the years. But she has manipulated them and lied to them, too. She has, almost always, acted in her own self-interest. There are displays of genuine love and protection from her too though. For example, we learn in “The Reckoning” that she did try to go to Bonnie before taking off. Of all the complicated relationships on the show, Annalise and Bonnie’s has consistently been one of the strongest bonds—even in its most fraught moments. Annalise accuses Bonnie of killing Asher, knowing all too well that Bonnie has killed before. But it wasn’t Bonnie. She planned to expose Asher to Annalise, but that’s as far as she was going to go.

Now Frank and Bonnie are talking about needing to protect themselves, especially since that’s exactly what Connor and Michaela are doing (or, at least, think they’re doing). But what do their lives look like without Annalise? They’ve fantasized about it before. But Frank and Bonnie seem to understand more than anyone else that all their fates are entwined. It doesn’t matter who has killed who at this point; they’re all guilty of something, and they’ve all gotten into this mess together. The FBI has the group exactly where it wants them. The group doesn’t trust each other anymore, and that weakens them.

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For Annalise, much of the episode is spent trying to stay afloat in the case that has been brought against her. But she’s also dealing with being under house arrest with her mother, who has dementia. Cicely Tyson is sharp as ever here, and her presence allows the show to dip even further into Annalise’s past, suggesting that the path she has been on is the culmination of very early childhood trauma, her attempts to seize control of her life, and her subsequent need to mother others. Clyde’s abuse resurfaces, with Annalise’s mother apologizing for not being there enough to protect her and insinuating that much of Annalise’s controlling behavior in the present has to do with this years-ago trauma.

She also rather off-puttingly asks Annalise if she is a lesbian because of what happened with Clyde, which there are several issues with. It’s strange that a show that’s otherwise pretty solid in its queer representation is so reluctant to let Annalise identify as bisexual. Instead, other characters and even she herself refer to her as “confused” all the time, which plays into some troubling tropes. At least Annalise shoots down her mother’s attempt to connect the abuse to her sexuality, but it’s unclear what the conversation adds to the episode at all. Annalise does say that she loved Eve and that Eve loved her, too, which is a lovely glimpse of vulnerability and care in an episode otherwise inundated by people yelling at each other and accusing each other of murder. But in this instance, bringing up the past abuse is off.

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The other conclusions Annalise’s mother comes to do make sense. The narratives between the different factions on the show diverge, but there’s one thing that is absolutely clear: Annalise Keating has control issues. And those control issues stem from a very believable place: her distrust in systems (including the legal one she works within), her history of trauma and abuse, and her experiences with racism and sexism. Often, this show renders its characters as liars, manipulators, cheaters, murderers. But it also takes a step back and looks at them not as their actions but as their selves. They’re people who have done bad things—not bad people. This show persistently challenges the idea that people can be monolithically bad. Asher puts it pretty succinctly in the final video he records just before his death: He sees the good in them. Connor and Oliver have fucked up their fair share of times, but their love is real and inspiring. Asher urges them all to save themselves by doing the right thing.

But what really is the right thing? Is it betraying Annalise? Again, she has absolutely hurt these people. Lied to them. Made them her puppets. But she has bailed them out of a shit storm, too. Plus, betraying her means helping the FBI. And in what has been the most exciting part of this final season, the FBI is sort of the Big Bad. The FBI cheats and manipulates on their side of the case, too. Michaela and Connor have absolutely been manipulated into cooperation. Gabriel is rightfully distrustful of the FBI. And he also exposes the truth to the group: The FBI agent leading the case is the woman who actually killed Asher. It sounds like Xavier and/or Jorge have their hands in this, but still, that means they’re working with the FBI. It really is the gang versus everyone, and if they don’t realign themselves, they’re all going down—or worse.

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Stray observations

  • Are we...building to an Annalise/Tegan romance? It absolutely seems like Tegan has caught feelings.
  • Nate still feels awkwardly smashed into everything.
  • So did...they graduate?
  • Oliver is a little too chipper about those snickerdoodle cookies. A man is dead! Sometimes the emotional stakes of this series are a little off.
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