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How To Get Away With Murder gets in touch with its characters’ emotions

Illustration for article titled iHow To Get Away With Murder/i gets in touch with its characters’ emotions
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How To Get Away With Murder’s lightning-fast pacing and tendency to pack a whole lot of story into every episode often works against the show, because it makes it harder for the show to pull off some of the more emotional moments. The characters barely have time to breathe let alone process any of the terrible things that happen to them. There’s a self-awareness about it. The characters tend to make self-effacing jokes about how insane their lives are and how they don’t have time to step back and feel like real people. But too often, the characters just talk about how overwhelmed they are instead of the show showing us those feelings. “There’s My Baby” is a highlight of the season because of how emotionally driven it is. The twists here are ones that have very real and discernible stakes for the characters involved. It’s a heartbreaking episode—one that pushes the characters to extremes and lets so much drama and conflict come to a head.

The buildup to Annalise’s come clean moment with Wes has been wildly inconsistent over the course of the season. In some episodes, it feels urgent. In others, it feels like an unnecessarily drawn-out mystery. But the payoff here is really fantastic and explains so much of why Annalise has been putting it off for so long. Wes raised the point I’ve been feeling all season: If Annalise didn’t kill Rose, then why was she being so reluctant to tell the truth. There had to be more to it, otherwise there just wasn’t a point to making the mystery last this long. But the revelation that Wallace Mahoney raped Rose repeatedly and is Wes’s biological father is the devastating missing piece of the puzzle. Annalise has protected Wes in so many ways, but that was the number one thing she was protecting him from. It’s not a reveal just for the sake of being a big reveal. It’s a part of the story that has immediate and profound emotional stakes for Wes and Annalise.


That hits way harder than a surprise visit from Philip. Philip hasn’t been a particularly scary baddy this season, because he’s talked about way more than we ever actually see him doing bad things. But he serves his purpose. He’s a device more than anything, and that’s especially clear in “There’s My Baby.” How To Get Away With Murder doesn’t get too swept up in the initial drama of his attack—that shock factor was used up last week. Instead, the attack gradually affects Annalise over the course of the episode. Her trauma from the experience leads her to drink again, which only pulls her further back into those 10-years-ago flashbacks, which eventually pushes her to tell Wes the truth. Sometimes this show is a little haphazard when it comes to certain actions or developments leading to coherent consequences. But “There’s My Baby” is perfectly clear and linear about its chain of events, even as it continues to bounce around time.

And the flashbacks hit hard, too. I don’t care how repetitive I am when it comes to Viola Davis’s acting, but she continues to give the best performances on television. She dives deep into the pain Annalise feels about losing her baby, and she captivates. Even though the scenes are incredibly hard to watch, she has a presence that just makes it impossible to look away. The car accident isn’t used to shock us; it’s used to make us feel the character’s pain. The episode is in touch with its characters’ emotions in a way that this show often struggles with. As Annalise copes with the grief of losing her baby, we also watch Eve subtly unravel off to the side, unable to physically be with the person she cares so much about. All of Eve’s scenes in the hospital—from when she first spots Sam to when she finally approaches him—are moving and sad in a very understated and quiet way. There’s a strong sense of how deeply she cares about Annalise. And again, the show is showing that instead of telling it.

The rest of the murder kids all take a moment to process, too. Well, they take a moment to process the Annalise Keating way, which means getting very drunk. This leads to some terrible decisions, like Michaela hooking up with Asher, and as repulsive as I find that particular development, it tracks for both characters and is rooted in what they’re feeling. They’re using sex to escape, which tends to be a pretty popular activity on this show. Laurel, meanwhile, shows up drunk on Annalise’s doorstep and spills the beans about Frank killing Lila without knowing she’s spilling the beans about Frank killing Lila. It’s a very lowkey way for Annalise to find out something so major, but that makes it a thrilling scene to watch. Laurel’s just calmly, drunkenly blabbering on, and meanwhile a bunch of dynamite is going off in Annalise’s brain. “There’s My Baby” takes a lot of sharp turns, but it does so effectively each time. The major story beats feel connected and coherent. Several bombs go boom, but not in a way that destroys character development or blows through the emotional beats. The characters still barely have time to breathe in this episode, but their feelings are at the forefront, and it makes a difference. “There’s My Baby” overwhelms in a good way. It’s tough to imagine a season finale that could top it.

Stray observations

  • Cicely Tyson!!!!!! The shipper in me was hoping that Annalise was packing that suitcase in order to join Eve in New York, but I am thrilled that she actually went home to be with her mother. You know we’re going to get some powerhouse scenes between the two in the season finale.
  • There’s no way that car accident was actually an accident, right?
  • “Vodka helps.” - life advice from Annalise Keating
  • One of Bonnie’s lines from the episode keeps replaying in my head: “Stop apologizing. We’re all bad people. That’s the only thing we have in common.” That’s How To Get Away With Murder in a nutshell.
  • The scene between Frank and Bonnie after she lets him know she knows the truth about Lila is shot and directed in a way that maximizes the tension. This episode manages to be so intense without becoming too over-the-top.

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