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Bonnie and Laurel's catharsis stands out in an otherwise dull episode of How To Get Away With Murder

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“I’m not sure of anything anymore,” Annalise tells Tegan at the top of “Make Me the Enemy,” and boy is that an apt way to kickoff season five’s penultimate episode. How To Get Away With Murder has packed so many twists and turns into the final chapters of the season that it has lost all sense of coherence. Going off the rails is pretty par for the course for this show when it comes to its serialized storylines, but these last few episodes have been more like a train that not only derails but spontaneously combusts and hits an exploding volcano. A lot is happening, very dramatically, and yet it’s almost like the writers are just spinning a wheel at this point to decide what happens, so it’s hard to become invested in, well, anything.

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There’s something to be said of this season’s recurring theme of the main characters quickly distrusting the motives of others who turn out to be good. It took very little for both Bonnie and Nate to become convinced that Miller was the man behind Nate Sr.’s death. And while there’s some uncertainty injected there, as a viewer, it’s more clear that Miller was just a decent, normal guy. But these characters have so few decent people in their lives—and often aren’t decent themselves—so they can’t even recognize it. The extent to which they’re all living their lives as if no one can be trusted is having some serious ramifications.

This is also true of Annalise’s sudden distrust of Emmett. Even though the governor is far from a reliable source, she’s pretty quick to believe that the phone records she hands over linking Emmett to Nate Sr.’s death are legit. She does technically have Tegan do some digging and finds more evidence to support this new theory. But it really doesn’t make sense for Emmett to have had Nate Sr. killed, and Annalise believing that it’s possible says a lot about her and her worldview. Emmett’s not quite as pure and innocent as Miller seems to have been, but he’s also not a killer, and that’s clear. Any of the romantic stuff between Emmett and Annalise that the writers are trying to make happen isn’t quite landing, but this push and pull of Annalise not being able to recognize when someone maybe doesn’t have ulterior motives is interesting. “Every single one of us is alone all the time,” she says to Gabriel, who just desperately wants some guidance help from anyone, which is pretty devastating.

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But the problem with the fact that so many characters on this show don’t trust anyone and verge on full-on nihilism is that it unsurprisingly yields a very dismal show. It’s tough to pull off being a fun, twisty thriller while also being a dark, despair-filled meditation on immorality. “What horrible thing are you about to ask me to do?” Michaela asks as soon as she’s summoned by Annalise. It’s kind of funny in how dark it is. But mostly, it’s disturbing in a way that How To Get Away With Murder doesn’t always directly grapple with. These students have been conditioned to expect the worst, to assume that everyone is lying and operating out of self interest. And then they replicate those behaviors that they map onto everyone else. It’s hard to feel bad for Michaela when she runs out of Gabriel’s emotional, because she is manipulating him! She has gotten so good at it that she seemingly gets swept up in her own game. It’s dizzying.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still some really strong character moments woven into the show, and “Make Me the Enemy” has some standout ones. The best comes when Laurel and Bonnie finally have a real conversation about Christopher. Bonnie has been gradually unraveling since Miller’s death, and a lot of that seemed to be because of her guilt over helping kill him, but she reveals tonight that it’s more than that. No one protected her from abuse and violence when she was a kid, and the fact that she exposed a kid to trauma herself is absolutely ruining her. It’s an insightful, raw manifestation of the character’s past. Bonnie wonders if she can ever forgive herself, and Laurel says she forgives her. The moment rings as true for both characters, and it’s one of the most genuinely affecting scenes of the episode.

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But at this point, Laurel’s nefarious family has almost become a story crutch for the series. When in doubt, pin everything on the Castillos! When Frank, Nate, and Bonnie get their hands on prison footage (obtained by some chill blackmail) in order to try to see if Emmett was indeed the lawyer that Nate Sr. met with, it’s revealed that it was actually Laurel’s brother. But the problem here is the same as it has always been with Laurel’s father; he’s too much of a random side character who we have very little information about or reason to understand his motives that it’s a pretty flat reveal. Meanwhile, Laurel’s mother’s scalp literally shows up on her doorstop, gift-wrapped. And even that, while chilling in its visuals, doesn’t hit with the amount of force it should. A scalp in a box should not feel tedious, and yet somehow it does.


Stray observations

  • I have literally no idea how this finale is going to shake out. This Laurel brother twist does not give me very high hopes.
  • At this point, Tegan almost feels like an audience surrogate in how incredulous she is about how insane everything around her is at all times.
  • Please do not let Emmett and Annalise kiss. No one wants this! Bring back Eve.
  • I feel very bad for Gabriel, but also he isn’t exactly better than anyone else on the show. He too lied to everyone and manipulated them!
  • Even though I do like the reconciliation that happens between Laurel and Bonnie, I’m annoyed that Frank pressures Laurel so much to do it. Stay out of it, Frank! Laurel has a right to be upset.
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