Every episode of How To Get Away With Murder has a lot going on, but “Skanks Get Shanked” is the first episode of season two that’s overstuffed to a fault. By the time Laurel discovered the video on Zoe’s phone, I was already struggling to keep track of everything going on. I looked at the clock. We were only halfway through. I sighed, recalling some of the most overstuffed and unfocused episodes of season one. Overall, season two has danced circles around season one. But tonight, How To Get Away With Murder relapsed a bit.

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The major plotlines of the episode include the teen stabbing case, Nate’s wife Nia casually asking Annalise to kill her, Asher making some sort of immunity deal, Wes and Eggs a.k.a. Levi poking around as they try to solve Rebecca’s murder, and Michaela trying to trick Catherine and Caleb into admitting they’re fucking. How To Get Away With Murder balances a similarly heavy load in every episode, but “Skanks Get Shanked” lacks focus to the extent that it just feels messy, and worse, dead-behind-the-eyes. In my review of “She’s Dying,” I wrote that this show tends to separate its scenes into two camps: emotional, character-based scenes and plot-driven scenes. The writing is always best when those two pieces are working together. “Skanks Get Shanked” is almost all plot with very little emotion.

The most emotional scenes of the episode take place between Nia and Annalise, but they’re unfortunately buried by all the heavy plot mechanics of the episode. The conversation distracts Annalise, which we see through very heavy-handed close-ups on Annalise in court with snippets of the conversation playing in her head. The strongest moment from the Nia storyline comes during Annalise’s final conversation with her. We learn that Annalise has struggled with suicidal thoughts since her childhood. It’s a quick reveal that isn’t really treated as a big, shocking revelation but rather just a plainly spoken fact. As a result, it’s one of the most believable and grounded moments of the episode.

The most salient throughline for the episode similarly doesn’t really have the same big, definitive story beats as the rest of the major plotlines at play. Inspired by the stabbing case, Connor realizes that the teen girl murder club doesn’t sound all that different from the Keating Five. Connor’s realization lurks throughout the episode without ever really taking center stage until the final twist it ends with. It’s not necessarily the most shocking twist of the episode, but it is certainly the most character-driven. Connor going against Annalise means something. First of all, Connor raises a lot of crucial points. Remember in “She’s Dying” when all the characters were being super chill about murder? Finally, someone is questioning what’s going on around them in a way that feels believable. Everything Connor says about Annalise is right.

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And thankfully, Connor takes it one step further than just questioning Annalise: He takes action. He might not be able to quit, but he can do what he thinks is right, so he does. Of all the members of Annalise’s team, Connor’s motivations seem the most clear: He doesn’t want more blood on his hands. Maybe it’s because he has Oliver tethering him to the world outside of Annalise’s home—the world outside of all the murderers and psychopaths, but Connor seems to be the character most grounded in reality right now.

Wes, obviously, also questions Annalise and the actions of this murder club, but he still seems so detached from everything going on in the show right now. Maybe it’s because we as the audience already know who killed Rebecca, but the adventures of Wes and Levi just don’t have very high stakes. Wes barely feels like a real character anymore. Right now, his partnership with Levi just feels like a distraction—like excess weight that maybe contributes to the larger framework of the season’s narrative but just ends up overstuffing the episode.

“Skanks Get Shanked” is a muddled episode that doesn’t even really provide that many answers for any of the many stories at play, but one thing is definitely made certain over its course: Annalise is losing her followers. And she’s starting to realize it, too. She knows Wes and Nate are working together. She knows Connor doesn’t approve of her ways. Michaela and Laurel might still be under her spell, but for how long? How To Get Away With Murder is making us believe that any of them could pull the trigger on the night we keep flashforwarding to.

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Stray observations

  • Michaela screaming “spank me daddy” on the phone is one of the top Michaela moments of the season.
  • Michaela and Laurel are still fighting like schoolchildren with crushes.
  • Michaela’s moment with Annalise at the end of the episode was brief but genuinely touching.
  • Wes should probably tell Michaela the truth about Levi.

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