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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iHow To Get Away With Murder/i is back with another murder to chaotically solve
Image: How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
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In its midseason premiere, How To Get Away With Murder drops us right back into the chaos that it ended on last episode at the end of last year. Annalise is on the lamb, and Asher is dead. There is that little absurd detail of Wes showing up at Annalise’s funeral at the end of last episode, but apparently there’s simply too much else stuffed into How To Get Away With Murder’s mayhem to even touch at all on that little bomb here. It’s promptly swept under the rug and instead we’re in the deep end of a classic whodunnit.

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Michaela and Connor are being tried for his murder because they had motive (they found out Asher was the FBI informant) and because their fingerprints are all over the murder weapon. Oliver gets himself caught up in the mess too when he confesses to the murder, which he does indeed think he may have done accidentally since he did hit Asher on the head. But as viewers, we know they had nothing to do with the killing of Asher. Frank and Bonnie certainly sell the idea that Xavier’s guys killed Asher and then framed the others, but that theory has its holes, even if it also does seem pretty unlikely that Frank and Bonnie has anything to do with it. Like Bonnie puts it: Killing an FBI informant would truly be an idiotic move on their part.

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As far as arcs go, How To Get Away With Murder is usually spotty with the windup, tipping into tedious territory in its painstaking efforts to spin the web. At the climax, it’s a thrilling ride, even when not everything lines up perfectly. And the comedown from the chaos—which usually isn’t a comedown so much as an explanation of the twists and generation of new windup—usually mostly succeeds. That’s where we are now with “We’re Not Getting Away With It,” which is a pretty narratively tight episode of a show that too often plays fast and loose with such things as “narrative coherence” and “consistent character development.”

This show never tells a story linearly, and this episode does weave in and out of its timeline, flashing back to the hours just before Asher died while dealing with the fallout of his death in the present. Those flashbacks are appropriately tense. Bonnie figuring out he’s playing her is especially satisfying to watch. They don’t add a ton to the episode outside of a bit of suspense though. But the crux of the episode really has less to do with answering who killed Asher and more to do with broader notions of innocence/guilt and trust/betrayal. As usual, paranoia touches every aspect of the story. Nate goes to Bonnie to ask if Frank killed Asher and Bonnie denies it, but then she turns around and asks Frank if he did it (he maintains that he did not). No one trusts anyone, and yet they have to lean on each other to a certain extent because they’ve all done misdeeds that are interconnected and involve one another. The FBI agents lay it out pretty plainly. There has been a domino effect of murders and crimes following Sam’s death. And everyone has played some part in it. But the thing that’s tricky about these extremely complex relationship dynamics between the characters is that they’re complex to the point of being muddled. It makes the writing feel less urgent.

Michaela and Connor are faced with what feels like something ripped right out of a textbook on game theory, and it’s even more suspenseful than those flashbacks. They’re offered a plea deal that would reduce twelve felonies to just five years of time. The deal basically acknowledges that they were ordered by Annalise to kill Sam and that all subsequent crimes—pretty much every major murder that has happened on the show since season one—were the result of that initial order from their leader. It’s not the full truth; Annalise certainly didn’t order them to off Sam. But Annalise has had a huge impact on their lives, and while she mostly keeps her hands clean, she does use these people to do her dirty work. And often she gets to hide behind the perception that she’s protecting them when really protecting them is just protecting herself.

Annalise running away means that the episode is very low on Annalise scenes, which is definitely a hard sell since Annalise is the most consistently written character and also the centerpiece around which the rest of this ensemble situated themselves. Indeed, that positioning is at the forefront of this episode. None of these characters would be in the places they currently are if it were not for Annalise. Of course, they’ve all made individual decisions—some of them truly terrible—throughout the years. But are the FBI agents really so off base in their claims that the students were all under the influence of Annalise? Again, it’s not the whole truth, but everyone’s sort of grasping desperately at what the real truth really is. Everyone is a little bit guilty and yet Michaela and Connor are also innocent of some of the crimes being lobbed their way. Oliver tries to insist to Connor that he didn’t really do anything when it comes to the crimes of the group, but Connor knows that’s a stretch. They’re all in this mess together.

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Levity is rare on this show and usually comes in the form of sex montages, but there is an ultra-rare bit of emotional brightness in this episode. It comes in the form of Michaela and Connor’s love for each other. Oliver spends a lot of time trying to convince Connor to save himself. He wants his boyfriend to come home with him and not get tried for multiple murders. Oliver’s more concerned about Connor than Michaela and even brings up the fact that Michaela did push Sam over the balcony. But his motive here is clear; he just wants what’s best for Connor. Michaela’s father acts as her confidante in the situation and similarly prioritizes her well being but also her autonomy. It’s ultimately her choice to make, but he warns her that she’ll be treated differently by the system than Connor thanks to racism. On their own, Michaela and Connor decide not only to save themselves but to protect one another. It sounds weird considering how many big moments the episode tries to pack in, but this reveal might be the one that packs the biggest punch. It’s distinctly character-driven, and it gives real emotional stakes to their situation. Their decision to protect one another is more meaningful than anyone’s decision to betray. Lying and betrayal are the status quo on this show, making it more interesting when people actually help each other.


Stray observations

  • So Annalise ultimately doesn’t get in the car with the person supposedly helping her disappear, and it’s not completely clear what caused the change of heart. But now she has been apprehended, which at least means there will be more of her next episode. But also: WHAT?
  • It looks like we’ll be spending the rest of the final season solving Asher’s murder?
  • I think Frank is hiding something, but I also think Bonnie is hiding something. To be fair, everyone on this show is constantly hiding something.
  • Connor’s mom and Asher’s sister are two characters who don’t quite work in this episode.
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