ABC

“This is murder. None of us know what we’re talking about.”

At last, we get to see bonfire night in real time. The fire burns. The cheerleader spins. Bonnie bones Asher. Connor turns into a psycho. And, oh yeah, Sam dies. Finally.

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Michaela knocks Sam over the banister when he lunges for Laurel, and everyone assumes—based on the blood and the sound—he’s dead. In a wonderfully Scream-like twist, Sam springs back to life and immediately starts trying to strangle Rebecca. And this is when the real murder happens. And it’s Wes Gibbons in the entryway with the trophy. For some reason, in the weeks leading up to the #WhoKilledSam reveal, Wes never really crossed my mind as a candidate. One would think, then, that the twist would have me reeling, but honestly I don’t feel all that invested in Wes The Murderer. I never really toyed with the idea of Wes being the killer, because it’s a sort of boring choice. Michaela would have been a better choice simply because Michaela is a better character.

The writers have really struggled to make sense of Wes. Most of the time, he just seems there to provide contrast to the more blatantly sinister characters of the show. But Wes is hardly a good guy. In fact, for the entirety of this episode, he drags a bunch of kids with very bright futures into a mess that doesn’t belong to them. It’s not really his mess either; it’s Rebecca’s. But he loves Rebecca, or so we’re told.

But it’s the involvement of the others that really makes the least sense. My question from the very beginning has been why would all of these characters be so wrapped up in the murder? What are the stakes for all of them? The script includes some clunky explanation of how they’re all guilty of felony murder because they were breaking and entering into Sam’s home and he was technically defending himself. But I don’t know how much I buy that.

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And I don’t want to go down a spiral of whether it’s “realistic” or not from a legal point of view, because that’s sort of a waste of time with a drama that consistently deviates from the realm of legal possibility. All I’m saying is that Wes hit Sam with the trophy. Yes, the rest of them were there, but they didn’t do it. Michaela said so herself: She wasn’t a part of any of this. She was just trying to turn in the trophy, and suddenly she’s wrapped up in a traumatizing event and no one seems to really give a shit about her and her feelings afterwards. We see Laurel comfort her for a second, but then she’s lecturing her and treating her like a child. I get it; these characters are selfish. But shouldn’t their group involvement in a murder make them act a little more human? Why is everyone so quick to turn on Michaela first when she’s—they think—the murderer? And then why does no one care that she’s scared as shit after?

But wait, I’m straying from my original question, which is: Why are they helping cover up this murder in the first place? If this review is starting to feel all-over-the-place and riddled with questions, that’s because that’s exactly how How To Get Away With Murder makes you feel every week. Because seriously, what are these tiny idiots doing digging themselves into a hole that they don’t belong in? Why are the two black characters with the most to lose are bending over backwards to help a white girl who they barely know? The Keating Five are going to make horrible lawyers. Just like Laurel said, none of them know what they’re talking about. And none of us really know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. Since the pilot, the series has had a very strange relationship with murder. It’s almost like it’s just a concept to these characters, something that isn’t real. And that’s why most of the murders that have happened haven’t had much emotional weight to them. They’ve operated as plot devices and little else. Sam’s murder is no exception.

But at least we have Annalise. Though I’ve had my complaints about the character in recent episodes—largely because her motivations still remain so underdeveloped and unclear—Professor Annalise Keating is by far the saving grace of this episode. It’s a shame, then, that Annalise receives so little screen time, but Viola Davis makes every minute irresistible.

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#WesKilledSam, but really #AnnaliseKilledSam. Because Wes may have hit him with the trophy, but Annalise is the one pulling all the strings here, and the episode’s actually well executed twist is this reveal. Annalise went back to her house and found Sam dead, and from there we presume that she coached Wes on how to get rid of the body. At least some of our questions are answered by this. We know Wes’s incentive for lying about the coin toss, and we know why Wes suddenly becomes a murder expert.

So, maybe Wes is doing this all for Annalise and not necessarily Rebecca. Sure, he initially murders Sam to save Rebecca, but the risky cover-up is all to protect Annalise, or the result of Annalise manipulating him. That would at least make a little more sense, even though it still doesn’t explain the motivations of the others. In any case, Annalise really proves just how much of a mastermind she is in this episode. I was so worried that her voicemail on Sam’s phone was real, that she had forgiven him after the truly villainous, violent, racist things he said to her in the episode’s first scene. That would go against everything we know about the character and send a very troubling message about relationships and abuse. But the phone call was part of the plan. It strengthens her alibi, which also goes by the name of Nate and has a very chiseled back.

It should be said that this midwinter finale is exciting. The editing throughout is spectacular, and it’s suspenseful when you’re in it. But the second you start to think about anything, the seams start to show, and the questions start coming and never stop. Laurel tells Michaela that they all just need to turn their brains off in order to make this cover-up work. Unfortunately, that might be the only way to enjoy How To Get Away With Murder at this point.

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Stray observations:

  • The second Michaela saw Rebecca come into the house and exchange that look with Sam, she should have been out of there. The fact that Wes begs her to stay in the house with a potential murderer is insane. Michaela, I care about you. Even if all these other fuckos don’t.
  • Laurel tells Michaela not to use her phone because the cell tower will place her in the vicinity of the crime. Someone has been listening to Serial.
  • Seriously, what is going on with Bonnie, AKA Lawyer Paris Geller? I feel like I have asked this question every week. No one seems to know. I’ve read a few theories that she killed Lila, and I could get on board with that if, you know, the writers effectively explained why, which seems to be a recurring struggle of theirs.
  • I’ve never in my life heard someone utter the words “bitch baby,” but it was said a million times on Scandal and then once on How To Get Away With Murder. And I wish I could unhear all of it.
  • The Scandal-Murder crossover that I wish had happened, though, was a repeat of the use of “Endless Love.” But I would want it playing over the Laurel/Bonnie love scene that never happened and probably never will.
  • Thanks for joining me on this crazy murder ride. How To Get Away With Murder returns on January 29th, so I’ll see you all again in 2015. I hope you all have a way to pass the time, but I personally don’t know what to do on Thursday nights without #TGIT.

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