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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How To Get Away With Murder: “We’re Not Friends”

Viola Davis (ABC)
Viola Davis (ABC)
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This week, Annalise Keating and her minions need to win their case not by way of evidence but by way of emotions. Specifically, the emotions of the jury, which the defense team carefully vets in a montage that over-explains the process of jury selection. But for featuring a case of the week all about tuning into humanity and analyzing the minds of others, the episode is strangely devoid of much emotion itself.

Honestly, this episode really made me miss last week’s, which I very openly wasn’t a fan of. But I’ll take last week’s hot mess over the biggest flaw in “We’re Not Friends,” which is that it’s boring. We still don’t get very many new answers about Sam and his involvement with Lila. And even though Viola Davis brings her acting A-game to the tension-filled scenes between Annalise and Sam, their arguments are starting to feel redundant and pointless. I’m just having a hard time believing that Annalise—who is perceptive, smart, and cutthroat in court—wouldn’t just turn on her lying, maybe-murdering husband. I’m not saying I necessarily believe Sam did it, but there’s certainly enough evidence there to show that it’s a definite possibility, enough that it’s not totally believable that Annalise is, for the moment, covering for him by sitting on the evidence on Lila’s phone.

I guess the easy answer is that she loves him and wants to believe he isn’t capable of such evil, but hello, he’s far from being a good dude. It’s just starting to remind me of the unfortunate trend in a lot of TV dramas right now: Women who are smart in all aspects of their lives except when it comes to a particular man (see: Olivia Pope, Emily Thorne, Rayna James, Sarah Braverman, and if you’re in the midst of a Gilmore Girls rewatch like all the cool kids are, literally every single woman on that show). Annalise’s behavior with Sam just doesn’t really line up with her behavior in the classroom and courtroom: She’s presumably allowing her emotions to cloud her judgement, but as I’ve said over and over again, this series has yet to really showcase storytelling rooted in emotions. Annalise is the most developed character of the bunch, but that’s not saying a whole lot considering just how little we know—and understand—about everyone else.

Every episode so far has followed—more or less—a similar pattern, switching between the two timelines and situating the perspective in a particular character. But I think part of the reason this device isn’t working that well is because we’ve yet to really see an episode of How To Get Away With Murder grounded in the emotions of its point-of-view character, whoever that might be. We see the action happen through their eyes in a very base-level sense without really feeling what they feel or learning anything more about them. Did Oliver’s episode last week really teach us anything new about Oliver or make us connect with him on a deeper level? Not really. But at least we got hot queer sex

This week, Laurel steps into the dim spotlight, and all we learn is that she exists in the land of the morally gray. Great. So do all of these characters! She wants to stand up for survivors of domestic abuse. But she’s also down to break the law to do so. Which I suppose is the show’s way of telling us she’s complex, but ultimately, she’s no more developed than she was in the pilot. I know the writers really want me to care about who murdered Lila, but all I really want to know is who any of these characters are.

While I did find the episode oddly boring, I really appreciate its honest depiction of how fucked up the legal system is when it comes to domestic violence cases. I won’t pretend I know every tiny detail of the law when it comes to this stuff (I do get most of my legal “education” from Alicia Florrick and Diane Lockhart), but I do know that the way our courts and laws are structured often makes it extremely difficult to prove abuse occurred without physical evidence or testimony from witnesses other than the victims. Survivors have to relive their abuse in court through their testimony in order to “prove” anything happened to them. The episode brings to light these flaws in our justice system as well as the very real problem of high rates of domestic abuse in the law-enforcement community. But just as with last week’s messages about black and queer bodies, the politics of “We’re Not Friends” get kind of obscured by everything else going on. And that everything else just still doesn’t have all that much weight to it.


Stray observations:

  • I love that we now live in the era of shows trying to come up with funny alternative names for Tinder and Grindr-like hookup apps. There’s Faking It with Syzzr, Marry Me with Boobr, New Girl with Dice, and now How To Get Away With Murder with the most ridiculous: Humpr.
  • Love how sexually forward Laurel is. But hate how boring Frank is.
  • One somewhat interesting thing we learn about Sam and Annalise is that he cheated on his first wife with her. Which mostly just further justifies my belief that Sam Keating is a piece of human garbage.
  • “Bitch, please.” Bonnie Winterbottom, I think this line makes me officially ready to start calling you by your real name and not Lawyer Paris Geller.
  • But why is Bonnie protecting Sam? I don’t know! Do we know anything about anyone?!
  • I do know that I still don’t care at all about Rebecca. Except this week, my ambivalence turned more into hatred because, THAT BITCH IS A PIZZA THIEF.
  • Lila’s codename for Sam was “Mr. Darcy,” and I know I should feel bad for a dead girl, but I know with 100 percent certainty that I would probably not like her based on that fact alone.
  • At the end of the episode, Rebecca tells Wes it was Sam’s pink dick on Lila’s phone, and once again, Wes just knows a little too much about Annalise. Now that the characters are even more entwined, I’m hoping Wes becomes a little more than just the straight man. I think the show is positioning him to be the anti-Annalise, which could be very interesting. But for now, he’s just Waitlist.