For all the recurring problems I’ve had with How To Get Away With Murder, I have to hand it to that two-hour finale. It’s without a doubt the most exciting episode since the pilot, which says a lot about how this season really dragged its feet through a lot of the middle parts of its first season.
Professor Keating’s latest lesson is on what to do when you know your client really is a murderer. The case of the week gets wrapped up pretty quickly, but it’s one of the more interesting side cases the show has taken on in a while. Father Andrew kills another clergyman when he discovers he has been abusing a boy who kills himself. The client feels no remorse, and he’s surprised by that. He killed the man because he knew if he didn’t, more young boys would get hurt. Ultimately, he pleads guilty, but for a while there, Annalise has to try to prove he’s innocent when she knows he isn’t. Annalise asks her class how you can ethically represent someone you know is guilty. Her advice: Lie to yourself. Tell yourself whatever makes the most sense to you.
This lesson comes back in one of the episode’s best scenes, where a totally over it Wes finally breaks down in Annalise’s lap, thinking that every damn thing that has gone wrong on this show is all his fault. Annalise consoles him, telling him they have to just choose to believe Sam killed Lila. Even if it isn’t the truth, it’s what they have to tell themselves. Reconfiguring the truth is a theme throughout the finale, and the whole series really.
Michaela knows a thing or two about altering the truth, as we find out when she meets her almost-not-quite-mother-in-law for dinner. Aja Naomi King does some of her best work tonight. I’ve been over Michaela’s Aidan storyline for a while now, and thankfully it seems pretty resolved now that she has made it very clear to his mother that she’s not interested in being anyone’s puppet. She also lets through her true southern accent for a moment there.
It’s not the first time Michaela has alluded to completely changing herself and her life. Something How To Get Away With Murder has handled very well throughout its first season is the way we internalize the ways other perceive us and how race and gender biases influence everyday behaviors. Michaela felt like she had to change herself in order to live the life she wants. Annalise faces biases in and outside of the courtroom every day, and it shows in small ways throughout the series.
As good as Matt McGorry is at playing a bro stocktype, the character just seems like excess weight right now. Karla Souza also doesn’t have much to do in the full two hours, as Laurel spends most of the time being a detective sidekick to Wes. How To Get Away With Murder seems to be juggling a lot of characters right now that it can’t quite figure out what to do with. As much as I love Liza Weil, is anyone sure why Bonnie is still around? Last week was the first time she really had her own storyline, but it didn’t have much character work to build on.
Even Wes seems a lot more like a story device than an actual character. And Alfred Enoch doesn’t bring much to his performance other than that puppy look. The scene between Rebecca and Wes in the basement should have punched a lot harder, but Enoch and Katie Findlay just don’t play on the same level as the show’s heavier hitters.
Oliver telling Connor that he tested positive for HIV gets a little buried in the episode’s major reveal, but the quick scene still devastates. I’m a little nervous about the storyline moving forward. If Connor and Oliver are going to stay together through this, I hope the writers don’t just use this as a way to humanize Connor. I hope the show uses this as an opportunity to explore what life is like for serodiscordant couples. Even the inclusion of the testing scenes in tonight’s finale, the anxiety Connor experiences while waiting for this results, all feels pretty revolutionary for network television, which doesn’t often tell HIV narratives.
So Frank killed Lila, on Sam’s orders. It’s not a particularly surprising reveal if you really think about it. The show has been nudging us in the right direction by showing us just how shadowy Frank can be lately. He helped Annalise frame Nate a few episodes back, and this week he helps her get him out of jail. He’s a henchman, similar albeit way more adjusted to Olivia Pope’s faithful Huck on Scandal or Patty Hewes’s Tom on Damages. As with most relationship motivations on this show, we’re not totally sure what makes Frank so loyal to Annalise, and we definitely don’t know why he owes Sam anything, but Frank is a problem fixer. So it makes sense that he’s the one who killed Lila. And just because it makes sense doesn’t mean the reveal isn’t fun as hell. It’s also frightening as hell. The last ten minutes of this finale really are the highlight, with some spectacular editing that sends us bouncing between different scenes and timelines. And the fake out with Sam’s hands around her neck as he’s kissing her had my heart pounding. This show knows how to stress me out.
And it also makes sense that a show with “murder” in the title should close out its first season with a new murder. The second Rebecca went missing, I had a feeling she was dead. It makes the most sense for her to be the one to go, especially since almost everyone on the show has a motive to kill her. Annalise’s first thought is that it was Frank. Frank’s first thought is that it was Annalise. It could be either of them! Who knows! According to Annalise, we get to pick our own truth.
- “Like, what penis is ever pretty?”
- I can’t believe we saw that damn cheerleader do a barrel roll again.
- “Damn straight.” - Michaela, when Connor asks if she used a condom with Aidan every time.
- Bonnie, to Asher: “Annalise and I have a relationship that’s complicated.” Yeah girl, we know. But why?
- I was secretly hoping it was Bonnie who killed Lila. I know Frank makes infinitely way more sense, but since when is this show trying to be logical?
- I’ve never been very comfortable with how the show depicts Lila. All of her dialogue sounds so dumb and childish, and it’s hard for me to take the character seriously.
- Well folks, we made it to the end! I know my grades would have you believe otherwise, but I really do love this show in a sort of twisted way. It makes me angry, but it also surprises me from time to time. And Viola Davis stays giving one of the best performances on television, week after week. It’ll be back next fall, hopefully with a clearer sense of direction for its characters.