How To Get Away With Murder episode two begins at the two-and-a-half-month-mark, whereas the pilot episode leapfrogged from three months prior to the deaths of Sam Keating and Lila Stangard.
Do unhappy couples with marital problems and secrets make for better television and movies? At the center of How To Get Away With Murder is Annalise and Sam Keating, who have long since lost any semblance of love and spark in their marriage. Sam has a history of bedding his students and Annalise is no stranger to extramarital affairs.
Annalise alternately uses her feminine wiles to subdue Wes Gibbons and Nate Leahy. It’s not nuanced, but comes from a place of desperation when her back is against the wall, or when she wants one of her foot soldiers to behave a certain way. I’d rather not see the physical setup of emotions. The preference being the dimming of the lights in a room to set a mood. The gradual progression doesn’t feel abrupt. I’ll be patient in the hopes that the cast will find their footing and various colors. Two episodes in, most are telegraphing their feelings rather than giving subtle performances. A flip of a coin is symbolic in the cover-up scene and unfortunately in some the actors’ portrayals. Visual, auditory and temperature changes are precursors to inclement weather.
Does one have to be a chess master or Sunday crossword puzzle wizard to fully enjoy the show? I mentioned last week that I’m all for a slight of hand if done skillfully. I applaud the show for trying to reinvent the dramatic legal show genre, but do so believably with viewers in mind. Is this a dramatic show about a defense attorney who also teaches a criminal law class that aims to be slick and buzzy, or a weekly whodunit? I don’t think it is a law procedural in the vein of the Law & Order franchise.
A case-of-the-week law show ought to strategically focus on fewer main characters per episode so viewers aren’t overloaded with too much information and storylines. I get the ensemble approach because it allows for shared responsibility. The show would tighten with three student interns versus five. Asher serves as comic relief, and thus far has made no contribution to either case.
I know this is a TV show and not a carbon copy of real life, but this tightrope act wherein Annalise’s client isn’t initially forthcoming only for her students, Bonnie, and Frank to dig deeper for the win feels formulaic.
Comparisons are inevitable in life and in art. Past standout legal dramas were The Practice, Boston Legal and Damages. The cases were usually messy, and so too were the characters and their private lives, sometimes more so. The writing on those shows was uncomplicated and sophisticated. Those are bygone times, and we now live in an era of countless cable and network shows vying for our attention.
What type of professor inspires this level of protection and loyalty after three months? Who are the students protecting in disposing of Sam’s body? Will we come to discover that Annalise is a Svengali? She’s a strong leader and formidable lawyer publicly, but is easily rattled and fragile in her private life. I’d like to see a slower reveal of her vulnerability and not have it laid bare in the first two episodes. I’m also puzzled by her revealing her intimacy with Nate in the hallway and on the courtroom steps.
Why does Annalise care if her husband who had a history of cheating on her before his death is Lila’s murderer? We’ve yet to see any emotional tug-of-war, unresolved feelings or things left unsaid between Annalise and Sam.
The scene between Annalise and Gibbons felt odd. I understood last week’s scene in the unisex bathroom when she employed an admixture of sensuality and remorse after Wes walked in on her and Nate. This week’s scene, in her office prior to sending him on an errand, felt repetitive or forced. She leaned in too close. Annalise prides herself on knowing people and ought to know Wes, aka the puppy, is safely tethered on his leash, or so we might think. Gibbons goes through the most abrupt growth spurt in two and a half months, from cute and naive puppy to a protective pit bull for Annalise and Rebecca. A lot could have happened in this gap of time. However I think more thought and prewriting was needed to lay the foundation of this possible character development. Is Gibbons being groomed as Annalise’s star pupil and heir apparent?
Annalise’s other puppy is morphing into a vindictive ex-boyfriend after being blackmailed during last week’s trial. I see this as a logical progression after that intimate bedroom betrayal. I don’t know if I can digest Annalise as a scorned woman, or at least that’s my interpretation. Bonnie disapproves of Annalise’s affair all the while pining for Sam.
Is Rebecca somehow intermingled in Sam’s death? Is she the one the students are actually protecting and not Annalise? If so, do they think their cover up will work? What’s stored on Rebecca’s phone that she hid in Wes’s bathroom cabinet? Is Annalise involved in this double murder plot using her husband’s appetite for college coeds against him?
Nate isn’t worth the drama, tears and handwringing. The love triangle feels too close to Fitz, Olivia and Jake on Scandal, and it has nothing to do with forbidden fruit or interracial couples. The formula seems to be powerful women with charmed public professional lives whose private lives are in shambles and are desperate for the wrong man’s affections. I hope this isn’t the case with Annalise. I am waiting for the storytelling and acting to become one. There are storms in life, but it is during the before and after that most people learn who they are and what they’re made of until the next tropical depression forms just of out view.
“The best actors do not let the wheels show.”- Milan Kundera