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How To Get Away With Murder's characters are getting harder to pin down

Image: How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
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At this point, How To Get Away With Murder is just rubbing salt in the wound of DA Miller’s death. Bonnie goes to visit his mother, who reveals to her that he was going to propose and also that his death comes on the heels of his father’s death. It’s devastating to watch, especially since Bonnie is desperately trying to get some sense of closure. She’s unraveling, and it’s becoming increasingly harder to watch. Bonnie is starting to become defined by her trauma.

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The FBI pressures Gabriel into turning on Annalise by dangling a bullshit terrorism charge regarding his involvement at Ferguson. But the problem with Gabriel persists. Now that his identity is known, it’s unclear exactly what purpose he serves for the story. Gabriel has no clear allegiances and no clear motivations either. He seems willing to help bring Annalise down but also definitely unwilling to side with the FBI.

In a way, that makes him the perfect character type for How To Get Away With Murder, because it’s impossible to predict what he’ll say or do. But that doesn’t make for a particularly compelling character. Gabriel seems largely detached from the emotional core of this series, even though his connection to Sam should make his presence a very big emotional deal for Annalise. It was for a bit, but now he’s just another unpredictable player in her world. He reminisces of Wes, who was good and pure and yet treated like a mystery, like a bomb that could go off at any point. It’s hard to assign stakes to a character when the crux of their existence is uncertainty.

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“I’m not the one killing people around here; I just clean up the mess,” Annalise spits at Frank, Bonnie, and Nate. She has indeed helped cover up murders at each of their hands. It has always been a fascinating aspect of How To Get Away With Murder that its central, ruthless character is also the only one who hasn’t even indirectly helped murder someone. Annalise remains a captivating, complex character, even amid the show’s current mess of a narrative web. She anchors the show in a way. But her exasperation over having to clean up everyone’s messes is an unintentionally meta representation of what it’s like to still watch this show. The pieces keep falling, but there’s never enough room to fully process what’s happening, and questions take so long to answer that they no longer feel urgent anymore.

A big problem with this season has been the fact that the governor is supposed to be the Big Bad. But she’s rarely seen and was introduced hastily. People say “the governor” a lot through this episode, but invoking her name doesn’t carry the weight the writers seem to hope it will. She feels like a story scapegoat more than an actually threatening presence, a way for the writers to pin certain things onto willy-nilly.

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It’s nice that we’re finally talking about Annalise having almost adopted Wes, but the fact that that reveal came so late in the game, well after Wes’ death speaks to a lot of this show’s plotting issues, too. Wes and Annalise’s relationship was always confusing when he was still around, and wedged into this season, the reveal that she tried to adopt him is pretty much overshadowed by everything else and ends up being a small potatoes reveal. And the fallout has mostly just been plot-driven rather than emotional. It reassigns new emotional stakes to a lot of past scenes on the show but way after the fact to the point where it’s largely dissociated. That’s a question that took far too long to answer and then only is now because it serves some larger plot development.

And that’s a recurring problem on the show: Plot comes first. The twists take precedence rather than the emotional stakes and character moments. That’s not to say there aren’t still great character moments and nuanced relationship dynamics. How To Get Away With Murder still often excels on those fronts, and even does so in the context of this episode, but the messy plotting still pushes a lot of that to the sides, makes those quieter moments feel like exceptions rather than the show’s lifeblood.

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Stray observations

  • Michaela literally says she’s in love with Tegan.
  • “We’d never be in your shoes, because we’re not morons.” Harsh, Connor.
  • Gabriel is rightfully pissed that he was being surveilled. He has no reason to trust any of these manipulative people.
  • I’m very worried for Bonnie.
  • DA Miller’s body is found, and things are looking okay for a second but then Connor’s mom posts a photo of Nate and Miller fighting in the background.
  • There are only two episodes left! Are they going to get away with murder?! Probably!
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