For being a bunch of people who have witnessed, committed, or assisted murder—or some combination of the three—the characters on How To Get Away With Murder sure do like to throw around the words “murder” and “kill” in a very casual manner. Over the course of “She’s Dying,” Annalise jokes that Bonnie will be the next dead body; Frank jokingly asks Bonnie if she’s researching her next murder; and Connor tells Michaela Annalise would kill her for attending Nate’s hearing—to which Laurel replies: “I’d kill you.” Now, in all these particular cases, I don’t think anyone intends on making good on their threats. Still, I think the ease with which these characters tend to threaten murder is emblematic of one of How To Get Away With Murder’s overarching problems: Murder means almost nothing on this show.
Now, I’m not talking about murder in terms of the story. In terms of the story, murder is hugely important. Both seasons now have hinged upon at least two major murders, with other smaller murders adding up along the way. This season is building to the attempted murder of Annalise as well as, as we learn tonight, A.D.A. Sinclair. Without murder, we wouldn’t have much of a story, would we? It’s in the title after all. But emotionally, murder means very little to these characters—or, at least, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Bonnie spends a good portion of this episode moping around because she has been outed as a murderer. “Please don’t beat me up,” she tells Frank, who pokes a little collegial fun at their shared status as Killers. Um, Bonnie, no one is picking on you just to pick on you. You literally killed an innocent girl by putting a plastic bag over her head. There should be real consequences for that, especially for her own psyche—unless, of course, Bonnie is a psychopath, but I don’t really get that impression from how the character is written either. And Bonnie’s somewhat casual attitude about murder is shared by a lot of the characters on this show, so am I supposed to believe they’re all just a merry ol’ gang of psychopaths? The Keating Five all busy themselves with matters of plot in this episode, but the only one who really feels anything in “She’s Dying” is Connor. And then it’s just completely unclear what the Keating minions Frank and Bonnie are feeling about anything.
Bonnie explains why she didn’t hesitate to kill Rebecca…sort of. She reiterates the same point as last week: She did it for Annalise. This time, Annalise chimes in and makes reference to some sort of past event between the two characters that hasn’t been revealed yet. According to Bonnie, Annalise saved her from something, but according to Annalise, Bonnie needed to be saved from her, Annalise. How To Get Away With Murder suffers from some serious overplotting issues. Sometimes, it can be really fun when the show spins a whole bunch of stories at once. But when it’s already so hard to keep track of everything that’s happening in this episode, it’s quite frustrating to then have to process two characters speaking entirely in subtext and referring to something we don’t know about yet. Yes, reveals that build over time are incredibly effective when done right and especially when rooted in compelling character work. In this particular case though, Bonnie and Annalise’s argument just feels like excess weight in this episode. But even though I have issues with this storyline from a macro perspective, there’s no denying that it’s a brilliant scene, especially because of the performances. Any time Annalise picks up that vodka bottle, we’re in for an electric scene, and this is no exception. Liza Weil brings it here on a level we haven’t quite seen from her yet.
So people are pretty chill about murder on this show—at least in this episode. But that being said, “She’s Dying” has some really powerful emotional moments, especially thanks to the complex chemistry between Famke Janssen’s Eve and Annalise. Their moment in Annalise’s car, as well as their reconnection at the end of the episode are some of the episode’s strongest character moments. Eve makes it very clear that she knows Annalise. In fact, she might be the first other character on this show to really know Annalise. She does things the hard way and doesn’t let herself have the things she wants, and Eve sees all that and spells it out. “You made it personal, and I don’t understand why you had to do that,” Annalise says when Eve shows up to apologize for turning up the heat on her in court. She has a right to be hurt, but I’m certainly glad Eve made things personal. Whenever How To Get Away With Murder gets personal, it’s more fun to watch. Sometimes with this show, it can feel like the scenes are separated into emotional, character-based ones and plot-driven ones, instead of the two pieces working together. The only reason it’s hard to care about Caleb and Catherine’s predicament right now is because it lacks those emotional, character-based components. Nate’s trial carries the episode, because there’s more at stake for the characters on an emotional level.
Janssen nails the vulnerability of that final scene and makes Eve’s love for Annalise very convincing even though there hasn’t been much time to develop this relationship on the show. And Davis, too, is phenomenal. Davis is always great at those more typical Annalise scenes where she’s the hardened, cool attorney—the Annalise that we see in tonight’s courtroom scenes. But she slices even deeper when she plays the rarely seen vulnerable sides of Annalise. It’s here that the script, penned by Erika Green Swafford— who wrote last season’s excellent “Mama’s Here Now”—really shines. I complained last season that this show can often be incredibly cynical when it comes to love, but this scene possesses emotional honesty that makes me believe Eve and Annalise do really care about each other without ulterior motives. Annalise says so herself: It was real with Eve, too real. It’s still love on How To Get Away With Murder’s terms: It’s not all roses and sweetness. Eve straight up accuses Annalise of murder on the stand. That’s twisted, but it still strangely comes from a place of passion, and the moment brims with sexual tension.
Speaking of relationships, Connor and Oliver also share some strong scenes in this episode. Oliver has every right to be mad at Connor for telling the rest of the Keating team he’s HIV-positive, although, I do understand why Connor slips up: As he says, the Keating Five know a lot about each other and even helped cover up a murder together that one time. They’re not necessarily friends, but their relationships are very close and very complicated, and it’s unsurprising that Connor would share something like this with them. Still, he’s an idiot. Connor and Oliver’s relationship from the start has been very repetitive. Connor assures Oliver that he’s ready to commit, fucks up, Oliver’s out, the cycle begins again. But “She’s Dying” pushes Connor and Oliver into new territory now that Connor feels responsible for Oliver’s HIV-positive status. We don’t get to see him deal with those psychological ramifications quite yet, but the trajectory of their relationship in “She’s Dying” suggests that the writers are trying to really develop these characters and the emotional parts of their story instead of just using them for sexy scenes.
But hey, it’s worth noting that this is a very sexy episode. And the steamy scene between Eve and Annalise is made all the steamier by all the character work between the two that comes before it. That’s some emotional heat—something this show could use some more of.
- Viola Davis’s eyeshadow throughout this episode is on-point.
- The second that handsome young boy asked for Michaela’s phone, I knew he was Eggs 911. And Michaela should have known, too.
- I admit that I laughed at Frank shutting down Laurel like that.
- Catherine and Caleb are definitely boning, right?
- I love how everything triggers a specific memory for Eve of her past with Annalise. It’s almost comical how often the character says things like “this reminds me of that time,” but it’s also a very believable thing for someone to do with an ex, especially one who is still hung up on the other person.
- In the car, Annalise and Eve share a moment that’s literally just the two of them laughing about how good their sex was the other night. Amazing.
- This episode uses Wes exactly how he should always be used: to play the puppy—nothing more, nothing less.
- Michaela and Oliver have a lovely little bonding session over how big of a fuck up Connor is.
- Move to New York with Eve, Annalise! I know there’s no way she actually picks this option, but imagine how perfect it would be.