How To Get Away With Murder Series Premiere Review

Gather your law books. ABC is going to teach us How To Get Away With Murder. Here's our review of the pilot episode...

Class is in session in Criminal Law 100 at Philadelphia’s Middletown University as taught by Professor Annalise Keating.

Shall we all enroll, take notes on our laptops and figure out How To Get Away With Murder?

If the pace of the pilot episode is any indication, viewers best pay close attention to the flashbacks, flash-forwards and try to absorb as much as possible when in media res

Are we stepping inside a three-ring circus with Annalise as the ringmaster, or are there multiple tents that will compete for our attention? We have the central mystery of solving how Professor Keating’s psychology professor husband ended up inside an area rug. Annalise is undoubtedly not who and what she presents to the world. The weekly subplots within the larger story will distract some and entertain others who might figure out the big mystery before season’s end. The five students selected to intern at her law firm will move between all tents as they try to cover their involvement in the big mystery, assist their professor, and keep their heads above water.

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If not that grand of a scale, will the show be more akin to a jigsaw puzzle with its pieces scattered and hidden about town for astute viewers to collect and assemble alongside or ahead of the cast?

Smaller and more intimate, will the series fit inside the palm of our hands like a Rubik’s Cube, each of the six sides representing characters, storylines and subplots that we must maneuver until its solved? 

A lot is happening in the first episode. It’s a good thing if holds true to the mystery genre, and viewers are challenged and stumped each week. It’d be bad if it’s meant to confuse and disorient us while the writers try to figure out how show will evolve. I love watching a great magician or illusionist who can lull me into one way of thinking, there’s some misdirection, and then surprise me at the end. I don’t like being guided some place too obvious to justify plot points within the allotted hour of a TV show. I prefer more showing rather than telling. Play fair, show me the clues, a few red herrings, and let me figure it out even if I have to rewind the DVR. 

Who can we trust, if anyone, among the associates and students? Each representative of a high school or college classmate we fondly or are loathe to remember. My granny would always warn us growing up, “What you do in the dark, will be brought into the light!” In scenes that feel alternately similar to I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Blair Witch Project, four of the five students begin to reveal parts of themselves otherwise kept in check during the day. The time jump at the top of the show happens three months into Professor Keating’s class. How much could they have learned in that amount of time? Granny also warned, “If you get into trouble, you’d best do it alone because there’d be no one tell on you.” Loyalty will be tested among these students who don’t like each other, and have been given a crash course in doing whatever it takes to win a case. 

I won’t compare Annalise Keating to Olivia Pope, however I sense viewers will see shades of Patty Hewes from Damages. No one is who and what they seem in this survival of the fittest. Normal and expected college competition is on display, as well as satisfying our voyeuristic tendencies into the private lives of the characters. Indulge me one last time. “What you do behind closed doors will be opened,” another of my granny’s expressions. 

Annalise isn’t above using information gleaned from her policeman lover when the outcome of a case hangs in the balance. Annalise and her philandering husband don’t appear to be in love. The arctic wind between them in their bedroom as the news of the girl’s body discovered in the water tank plays across the TV could possibly lower the temperature in hell a few degrees. It’d be too predictable for Annalise to be involved in her husband’s death, and I think the line, “Maybe the boyfriend did it,” was a bit much given that her boyfriend is a cop who could make paperwork and bodies disappear.

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Perhaps the expression on her face was meant to be misdirection. Viewers are likely to think that she does have a hand in her husband’s death, but I’m of the thought she can’t humanly control too many of her foot soldiers before the middle caves in on her.

There was no mistaking Annalise’s intentions when she pretended to be remorseful after having been caught in a state of undress. She was feminine, tearful and seductive as she stroked the lapels of Gibbons’ jacket. He might be the perfect patsy or he could become a thorn in her side.

My issue with the pilot episode was the wink-wink nudge between the wife of the impaired executive and his mistress. The looks lingered too long. The bathroom scene, again, between the wife and the mistress was heavy-handed, literally. The reassuring hand on her back while the student just happened to be peering through opening in the bathroom stall. I think there were alternatives to these two scenes, and hopefully we’ll see fewer of them in subsequent episodes.

The ingredients are laid out on the kitchen counter and the water is slowly boiling. I’m invested after the first episode and hope the gumbo will be savory, spicy and unpredictable. 

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3.5 out of 5