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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How To Get Away With Murder isn’t getting away with this sloppy storytelling

Illustration for article titled How To Get Away With Murder isn’t getting away with this sloppy storytelling
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How much do we really need to know about what happened 10 years ago? But honestly. Answers to what happened between Annalise and Wes’s mom would be nice, especially since we’ve been waiting for so damn long. But the way the show is now slowly doling out tidbits of the past is starting to undercut the urgency. Thanks to a headline shown approximately a million times over the course of the episode, we know that Annalise was working on a case involving a hedge fund heir named Charles Mahoney who was on trial for murder. And Wes’s mother has something to do with it. Well all of that could have been established with one flashback instead of the several that we get—several that don’t add substance—or even useful context—to the story. No one wants to see Annalise and Sam being some cute couple about to have a baby. No one wants to remember Sam even existed. Plus, seeing their past selves being pleasant to each other just makes their relationship even more confusing again. It has never been totally clear if their love for each other was real, and the show doesn’t seem to know the answer either. Why dig up that sloppiness again? A lot is happening, but a lot is always happening on How To Get Away With Murder, which has never been known for being particularly chill. In this case, a lot is happening but very slowly and with little payoff along the way. “She Hates Us” spends a lot of time treading water.

This is a technical thing, but I wasn’t crazy about some of the direction choices in those flashbacks. Frank, Bonnie, and Annalise each had a moment when their past selves sort of stared into the distance and the episode cuts to the horrible things they do in the future. For Bonnie, it’s kissing Sam and killing Rebecca. For Frank, it’s killing Lilah. For Annalise, it’s leading a team of murderers. But the way it’s shot makes it look like their past selves are seeing into the future, and it just sort of took me out of the moment. How To Get Away With Murder gets away with a lot of heavy-handed choices, but this was one that didn’t have much payoff. If the point was that Bonnie and Frank used to be okay people but Annalise ruined them, well, that’s something we definitely already knew. The juxtaposition of their past selves to their present ones was somewhat effective, but the moments we see of the past are so broad and unconnected to anything else that it sort of gets lost in everything else that is happening.

In the present, things aren’t much better. There’s a case of the week involving a boy named Jason who had a shitty childhood and then killed another boy. The victim’s mother hates the system, not the shooter. Annalise gets to throw out some truth bombs about the incarceration of men of color, but How To Get Away With Murder has tackled similar topics with much more coherence in the past. This particular case of the week feels like an afterthought, and there’s enough going on with the season at large that it isn’t really needed.

A lot of the episode, in fact, feels like an afterthought. Those aforementioned flashbacks are half-baked at best. Wes gets locked up in a psych ward after joking about shooting himself, and even that doesn’t ever really find its footing. The episode is fantastically acted throughout, thanks to killer performances from the main cast as well as the guest stars. But there are so many gaps in How To Get Away With Murder’s storytelling right now that a lot of the emotional beats don’t have firm foundation to stand on.

The best scene in the episode is when the Keating Five go on a little car ride together and talk about their feelings. It’s something they never do, as Millhouse correctly points out, and it’s almost adorable how bad this crew is at trying to have a tender moment (Michaela says she’s going to throw up). There are several moments of “She Hates Us” that don’t make the most sense, especially in court. The judge, as is common on this show, just sits back and lets people take over her court with crosstalk and lengthy speeches. Laurel has a fight with Frank that should have happened weeks ago. The most sense “She Hates Us” makes is when everyone up and quits. They’ve tried to quit before though, and it never really seems to work out. But there’s a sense here that the Keating Five really are fed up with Annalise’s bullshit.

“She Hates Us” does have a classic How To Get Away With Murder jaw-drop moment, and it came from the least expected characters. At first, the Laurel-Frank breakup was extremely boring. Karla Souza, at least, gave a great performance, but it was hard to care about such an emotional breakup when this relationship has had very little going for it by way of development or emotional resonance. Laurel and Frank basically just had a great sexual connection, and hey, that’s great! It’s something How To Get Away With Murder does very well. But to suddenly put so much emotion behind their connection came off as forced and unnecessary. And then he tells her he killed Lila?! Now again, I’m dubious about just how much sense it makes for Frank to tell Laurel something that major, but it was certainly shocking. How To Get Away With Murder has never struggled when it comes to the shock factor. But it still needs to get its storytelling and character development back on track in order to keep the stakes high.


Stray observations

  • I love that Past Annalise refers to Past Frank as her secretary and he gets all huffy about it. Now he’s a Secretary Of Murder.
  • I noticed recently that the outfits worn by the Keating Five have gotten more expensive over time. Do they even get paid? Isn’t this an internship? I’ve never seen any of them receive a check? Do we think they have direct deposit? Are they doing other murders on the side for some extra cash? I have questions, but I mostly just want every single outfit Laurel wears in tonight’s episode.
  • Phillip is back!!!!!!!! (Unfortunately, it’s hard to care about this as much as the show wants us to.)
  • The promo for next week’s episode was better than this entire episode, so hopefully it turns out to be as thrilling as it looks.