How To Get Away With Murder

Though their central storylines have been mostly separate, Annalise and Laurel/Michaela/Oliver have more or less been on similar paths this season. They’ve all taken on a noble cause. In Annalise’s case, she’s helping a large group of poor people who received unfair trials. In Laurel/Michaela/Oliver’s case, they’re seeking justice for Wes’ murder. But they’re all playing dirty to get what they want. Do the ends justify the means? That’s a question How To Get Away With Murder persistently asks, and usually the answer ends up being ambiguous.

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The more dirty they play, the more mess they make. This group attracts danger and deception at every turn. They make horrible decisions—occasionally for the right reasons. But their new plan to leak the Antaris documents involves potentially getting Simon deported, and crossing that line seems to be weighing at least on Oliver, who finally confesses to Connor that he has been lying to him after Connor’s very romantic twisty-tie marriage proposal. “We’re all going to hell anyway,” Laurel says. “We’re all crazy,” Michaela says with a shrug. They’re all sort of just resigned to the fact that they’re bad people who do bad things. Sometimes that sort of blasé way the characters regard their own flaws though can be frustrating. How To Get Away With Murder undercuts its characters by having them dismiss their own humanity.

“None of this is about who loves who,” Frank declares when Michaela and Asher continue their lovers’ squabble in the middle of talking about the plan to take down Antaris. Isn’t it though? Laurel is willing to carry out this very risky plan and take down her own father because she loved Wes. Michaela is helping because she loves Laurel (though not the way I wish she did). How To Get Away With Murder is at its best when all the twisty murder thrills are tied up in the emotions and relationship dynamics of its characters. By the end of the episode, Frank, Laurel, Michaela, Oliver and Asher are all on board with the plan to take down Laurel’s father, and they all have clear motivations for doing so.

Still, this revenge plot has been tedious. Barely anything has happened, and Laurel’s father is such a poorly developed character that it’s hard to even be invested in it all. Making him the man behind Wes’ murder is still just so random. The way the character initially entered the show was inorganic and clumsy. Introducing a big evil company to explain why bad things happen is a lazy move that far too many thrillers try to pull off, and How To Get Away With Murder falls into that trap. The fact that Laurel’s revenge arc has been so boring speaks to the ineffectiveness of her father as a compelling villain. Even in this episode, the plan to steal and leak the documents lacks urgency.

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“Nobody Roots For Goliath” also reiterates just how uninteresting of a villain Denver is, too. The episode attempts to throw Annalise and Denver together for an unlikely alliance storyline, and it just doesn’t work. It’s doubtful Denver would agree to it in the first place even if it does help his campaign (in the attorney general election that we’re suddenly supposed to care about). Rivals coming together to fight against a common enemy is a tried and true story twist, but it requires a compelling rivalry, and this just isn’t. Denver has been little more than a plot device since he was introduced to the show, and the rivalry lacks humanity.

And then there’s Connor, who is suddenly the happiest he has been in a while, and it partially has to do with working with Annalise? Connor almost seems to have undergone an entire personality makeover. Sometimes, characters’ motivations on this show change way too suddenly and incoherently. This season seems to have a Connor problem, unsure of how to fit him into everything that’s happening. It has a Nate problem, too. He has surpassed pointlessness by now. In “Nobody Roots For Goliath,” he proves he has a poor understanding of addiction, but it’s hardly worth even dissecting, because everything the character says lately has just been empty, inconsequential fluff. How To Get Away With Murder often feels overstuffed, and in this season in particular, it’s unnecessarily overcrowded.

On the surface, it seems like the writers don’t quite know what to do with Bonnie this season either. She goes from Annalise’s most loyal employee to wanting to destroy her to suddenly being back to helping her. But that flip-flop is one of the more cogent character arcs this season. Those hazy and changing motivations make sense given her relationship with Annalise. This show is often brilliant in its exploration of how trauma changes people. Every character on this show has experienced individual traumas, and those are compounded by their shared traumas. Bonnie’s relationship with Annalise isn’t all that different from Annalise and Sam’s relationship. Even though Sam hurt Annalise repeatedly, she also felt saved by him, and that created a toxic bond. Annalise has both helped and hurt Bonnie, and Bonnie keeps coming back to her. That’s much more complex and compelling than a more straightforward storyline of Bonnie just going full Judas on her.

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“Nobody Roots For Goliath” tries to focus on characters and relationships instead of getting too mired in the increasingly convoluted build-up to next week’s midseason finale. Asher and Michaela’s relationship problems takes center stage, and while that dress scene is perhaps intended to be romantic, the very foundation of their romance is still unconvincing. They made so much more sense when they were just sleeping together. This season, the show has been trying so hard to sell us on their love. But all of Asher’s doubts about their relationship are pretty valid! Michaela let him have one single drawer in her apartment. She keeps her unworn wedding dress from the Aidan days hanging in a closet for him to see every day. Just last week, Michaela said she didn’t want to betray Tegan because she sees her as the one good person in her life, apparently forgetting about the boyfriend who she supposedly loves. Asher says it’s hard for him to believe her when she insists that she does love and want him, and that’s exactly how I feel. Nothing that she has ever done or said on the show indicates that she cares about him as much as she now insists she does. Again, sometimes characters and relationships on this show change in believable ways, and sometimes they just change sporadically. An emotional rollercoaster can be fun, but it also can be exhausting.

But no character is more befuddling at this stage of the season than Isaac Roa. Perhaps he and his ex-wife initially fell in love over the shared bond of being really bad at their jobs! She goes to Annalise to tell her to drop Isaac as her therapist because she’s a trigger for his heroin addiction because he lost a daughter to suicide and Annalise also lost a child and tried to commit suicide, and it’s so wildly inappropriate that it might be the most shocking part of the episode. But beyond just being inappropriate, the point of all this conflict between Annalise and Isaac remains unclear. So much of this season has been a puzzle and not a very enticing one—more like a bunch of puzzle pieces thrown together that don’t even belong to the same puzzle. This show relies on big reveals, but it gets off on being withholding.

Stray observations

  • RIP that $20,000 Vera Wang bespoke wedding dress we hardly knew ye.
  • This show always does a great job of showing how powerful men discredit women they feel threatened by. In the first courtroom scene, the attorney general paints Annalise as hysterical and paranoid.
  • Laurel swabs Frank for a paternity test in a very casual way.
  • This season weirdly feels like a PSA against therapy, which is frustrating.
  • The flashforward ends up being a bunch of flashes of all the parts we’ve already seen before adding the little bit of extra info that someone is dying.

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