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Dating apps are hell on How To Get Away With Murder

Image: How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
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Several characters on How To get Away With Murder are at a crossroads at the top of “I Hate The World,” which is technically true of most episodes of this show, because everyone is constantly weighing the pros and cons of betraying one another. Motivations shift with every new twist, and this show layers on twist after twist. But the FBI’s looming case against the whole crew has everyone acting even more paranoid than usual.

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Or, in the case of Oliver, it has them acting like it’s the end times. Oliver is getting high and baking cookies and singing in the kitchen and...asking for threesomes. Aside from reckless Oliver being pretty fun, it’s also a compelling character moment. Everyone is reacting to the FBI threat in ways that are specific to them. Oliver has always been one of the most earnest members of the team, and it makes sense that he’s spiraling in this particular way instead of turning on anyone else or doing more bad deeds to cover up those in the past.

Nate meanwhile is similarly on a path that tracks with the character’s history and personality. Nate has always been a little hard to read, but he has also consistently been someone who wants to help Annalise but isn’t willing to hurt others to do so. He’s loyal to her but not in the extreme way that Bonnie is. He understands leverage, and he sees that the FBI wants him badly enough that he flips the table on them, getting evidence from Tegan’s office via Bonnie that helps solve his father’s case and promises that if they help him then he’ll get them information on Annalise. So we don’t know yet if Nate will cross Annalise when the time comes, but Nate and Bonnie have formed an alliance for now. They both have personal stakes in the investigation into Nate’s father’s death. But there are fractures in that alliance, especially since Nate’s judgement isn’t as sharp as usual since he’s on a personal vendetta.

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Even though a lot is happening on the show—which is par for the course—it’s also more coherent than usual in its characters’ motivations. The FBI case is unfolding on the sidelines, but it sharpens a lot of the stakes and motives. How To Get Away With Murder always feels like a countdown thanks to its flash-forward-dependent structure, but that feeling is heightened this year by the fact that it’s the final season. The characters have been thrown into a pressure cooker.

This episode has one of my absolute favorite titular lines of the entire series. A lot of times, the show’s titles come from the biggest emotional moments of the episode or are lines that, with or without context, just sound foreboding. In this case, it’s actually a funny line, Annalise’s exasperated reaction to learning that the plaintiff they’re arguing against in the case of the week is actually an incel. Viola Davis delivers it so naturally that it almost feels like improvisation.

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But her exasperation here is also sort of how I feel about the case of the week in general, which takes a lot of odd turns. It goes from being a disability discrimination case—which Annalise and Tegan are on the unexpected side of—to being about the plaintiff’s own biases. And it culminates with Annalise giving a speech to an incel about how he should love himself, which is a cheap moment. Annalise yelling at the creator of the app’s algorithm and agreeing to see her in hell makes for a much stronger scene. The incel stuff in the episode doesn’t dig very deep, and it’s a rare example of the show trying too hard to be provocative rather than nuanced and revolutionary in the way it looks at social issues.

However, the case of the week does explicitly and implicitly guide the episode’s central theme of love and loss. Who deserves love? How do systems of oppression affect the way people love and find love? The episode tackles these questions, but it also digs deep into the hearts of its characters. Asher wonders why people keep leaving him. Gabriel, in a heated moment, suggests that people always leave Michaela because she gets so focused on destruction that she loses sight of the people who are there for her. Annalise idly swipes on the dating app, claiming it’s for research, but it’s clear that she’s wondering, wondering if she can date again. Wondering, specifically, if she can date a woman again. Annalise has suggested in the past—and on the tapes—that Eve was an exception, but it’s also clear that she grapples with internalized homophobia. The dating app surfaces a bunch of complicated feelings among the characters. Oliver and Connor’s threesome is a fun, sexy scene amid all the chaos, but it also represents a shift in their relationship and ability to trust one another.

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And throughout it all, Gabriel also listens to tapes of sessions between Annalise and Sam. It’s uncomfortable and invasive, a form of emotional spying akin to watching someone undress without them knowing. The tapes touch on a lot of Annalise’s intimacy issues, and it’s all made even more twisted by the fact that she’s opening herself up in this way to Sam, who we know she eventually goes on to have an affair with. But How To Get Away With Murder adds a new layer to that, too. The tapes reveal that Annalise made the first move on Sam, and Gabriel takes that as proof that she manipulated him instead of the other way around. I don’t read the moment on the tape as being as damning as Gabriel thinks it is, and frankly, rewriting history with Sam and Annalise would be a strange and exhausting choice. When the stakes of the show’s mysteries shift so often and so suddenly, it’s hard to keep up and sucks some of the suspense out of reveals. When nothing is as it seems, it’s difficult to care about anything.

Stray observations

  • Oliver! Baby’s first threesome is believably awkward in the beginning!
  • The tension between Annalise and Tegan in this episode is very powerful. Their dynamic is shaping up to be one of the best parts of this season.
  • These tapes do not support my desire for Annalise and Eve to be endgame!
  • Asher’s own sister catfished him?! Asher really is the show’s punching bag once again.
  • It’s another fantastic episode for Aja Naomi King, who has been killing it this season. Michaela heads into that hotel room thinking she’s about to bring down her father, but when he knows it’s her, she breaks. Michaela is tough because she feels like she has to be.
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