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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

On How To Get Away With Murder, everyone's favorite hobby is breaking boundaries

Illustration for article titled On How To Get Away With Murder, everyone's favorite hobby is breaking boundaries
Image: How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)

Even at its messiest, How To Get Away With Murder handles trauma with care, depth, and nuance. That can’t be said of a lot of thrillers that dabble so frequently in murder and violent crimes. “You don’t have a right to mess with anyone else’s trauma,” Annalise spits at Nate, who is convinced that they need to tell Bonnie that her baby—the result of her father raping her when she was 15—is alive. She’s right. Nate doesn’t understand what’s at stake, what bringing this part of Bonnie’s life back could do to reopen her wounds.


Nate, of course, has his own baggage causing him to want to do this. He’s projecting his own feelings of abandonment, loss, and reunion. “It’s Her Kid” brings back his father’s case, with Annalise and the clinic working to prove that he was mentally ill at the time of the murder he’s accused of. Nate’s purpose on this show has always been a bit hazy, but the emotional storytelling that happens within this episode is quite strong and grounds his motives when it comes to the way he has been obsessing over Bonnie’s files.

Despite her words to Nate, Annalise does decide to tell Bonnie that her kid could be out there. She certainly struggles with the decision. When they first meet up, she’s unfocused, uncertain, zoning out as Bonnie chats about not knowing whether she wants to make things official with Miller. Annalise has been responsible for reopening Bonnie’s wounds in the past. Flashbacks to when Annalise cross-examined her in court all those years ago remind just how horribly Annalise treated her in the beginning, the start of their ever-complicated, often toxic relationship.

In the end, she tells her because she wants to help Bonnie through this and give her control over the situation. Intense Annalise/Bonnie scenes tend to be some of the best the show does, and this is no exception. When is Liza Weil going to get the attention she deserves for her work on this show? “You’re allowed to feel nothing, forget all of this, and just, just be where you are,” Annalise tells her, holding her. “Or we can find him. I’ll be here either way, whatever you want.”

Meanwhile, Michaela is preoccupied with a toxic mentor relationship of her own. She wakes up hungover from how much she drank to “get over” Tegan—another example of how this show disturbingly but fascinatingly blurs boundaries. Michaela’s acting like this is a breakup. “Starting today, we are going to be good people who respect boundaries,” Michaela announces to Laurel which is, of course, laughable. Boundaries exist on this show to be broken, and the characters are extremely good at doing so.

Sure enough, when the firm struggles to land a new client—a racist CEO of a fast-food chain who literally tries to touch Annalise’s hair—Michaela comes up with a plan to blackmail her into choosing them, pitching it to Tegan. But Tegan tests Michaela by making her do a bunch of tedious work for a plan she never even intends to use, coming up with her own idea to land the client that doesn’t involve blackmail, because Tegan knows that starting a new attorney-client relationship on that note is a terrible idea.


The return of Nate Sr.’s case means Connor is suddenly very serious about law again, because for some reason this has always been the one case that he is actually invested in. He’s still riddled with insecurity as usual, this time because he realizes that he doesn’t know why Annalise first picked him to be part of his inner circle. His dynamic with Annalise has always been tenuous at best, but he also keeps coming back, a problem all of these students seem to have (again, they never learned the basics of boundaries).

Frank is still snooping on Gabriel, so Oliver is snooping on Frank while also snooping on Gabriel, because trust issues abound on How To Get Away With Murder. (Oliver, however, remains l far too trusting, accepting that Frank merely wanted to bug Gabriel’s phone as part of a normal vetting process for Annalise’s students.) Gabriel still doesn’t have much to do on the show other than push against Annalise and the other students when they’re working within the system instead of trying to fight it. He accuses Annalise of doing so here, and she explodes, declaring that she’s trying to be the Robin Hood of the legal system. Annalise’s ego really is on one in this episode.


Now four episodes into its fifth season, How To Get Away With Murder is still struggling on the momentum front. The flash forwards in past seasons have occasionally verged on on too over-the-top, but the flash forwards this season are borderline lifeless. There’s simply too much mystery, so none of the scenes feel like clues so much as little foreboding vignettes thrown in a green-tinted filter. The Gabriel developments are happening just on the periphery, too, and the characters and their drama feels largely disjointed. “It’s Her Kid” isn’t necessarily jumbled, but it is overstuffed and low on big moments, and this is a show that runs on big moments.

Stray observations

  • More scenes of Annalise and Tegan salsa dancing please!
  • Michaela/burgers is my new favorite ship on this show.
  • Yesterday I hated you at 10; today you’re an 8!”
  • “I’m better in small doses.” Annalise does have a strong sense of self-awareness.
  • Are we supposed to care about Nate’s love interest when she barely says anything? Yes, Nate is using her, but the show is also just using her as a device.