Image: How To Get Away With Murder (ABC)
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As last episode’s reveal suggested, so much of this season finale hinges on the inter-family dynamics of the Castillo family. That’s not a completely bad thing; the issues that plague Laurel’s family touch on a lot of the recurring themes of this show: struggle for power, inherited trauma as well as inherited evil, loyalty, indelible connections between people who try so desperately to escape one another. But we’ve literally never met Xavier Castillo until the very end of this season. And yet so much of the season’s wrap-up is centered on him? How To Get Away With Murder has been forced to grasp at straws in order to explain away the twists it kept layering on in the back half of this messy, incoherent season.

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Is Laurel’s mother even dead? Technically, we don’t have a definitive answer. And tellingly, it doesn’t really matter either way. As disturbing as the reveal of her death was last episode, it doesn’t carry much emotional weight. The Castillos are whatever How To Get Away With Murder needs them to be, and in Laurel’s mother’s case, the show just needed her to be dead for now. We could easily find out down the line that she was never dead in the first place and that the scalp was just one that resembles hers, and none of it would matter. And that’s the issue with this season of How To Get Away With Murder in a nutshell. It’s so difficult to become invested in any of the reveals, twists, or big plays, because shock value is prioritized over not just cogency but emotional weight.

Even the way everything plays out with Miller’s innocence doesn’t quite land, particularly because the reveal that he was innocent was never really something that was in question. It was obvious all along that Miller did not order the hit and that the governor was the season’s nebulous Big Bad, along with—once he was suddenly introduced—Xavier Castillo, who functions as an extension of Jorge. There’s not much gravity to the reveal that Miller was innocent and, further, actually played Xavier.

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And then the episode does a bunch of gymnastics to get to the reveal that Annalise had Frank orchestrate things to convince Nate and Bonnie that he was guilty, because she worries about what it’ll do to them if they know the truth. It’s a classic setup for the show, planting seeds of deception that will very likely have calamitous effects down the line. But in the context of this finale, it’s all just setup with little payoff. We don’t get a lot out of Annalise setting up this lie, but it still takes up so much of the episode. The thing about shoving a bunch of twists into the last few episodes of a season is that when it comes time to answer for all of them, it can be very overwhelming and difficult to make any of it make sense while also grounding it in a sense of character.

“What happened to being a better Frank?” Annalise asks after Frank insinuates that he use violent means to get the guard to tell him who ordered the hit (visually, we’re reminded of these means, even though they happened mere minutes before—this show’s use of flashbacks to things that happened in-episode has always been an amateur choice). “Maybe everybody else is better if I’m just Frank,” he responds. It’s rhythmic dialogue, sure. But what does it even mean? Since when is Annalise actually invested in personal growth for Frank? Isn’t she usually pretty okay with his methods when they benefit her? Sure enough, she’s fine with him using his methods to convince Bonnie that Miller was guilty, which she attributes to...good parenting?

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A lot of seemingly extraneous details get wedged into the finale, too. They’ll surely come into play if the show returns for another season, but when the show is already so overloaded, it’s a confusing choice to shove more in with the feeble promise of payoff down the line. Connor and Oliver discover who Michaela’s birth father is, and apparently Annalise knew him.

Things with Gabriel and his mother are also briefly touched upon, though briefly, the main takeaway being Talesco’s use of Gabriel to get everyone else to crack. It almost works! Gabriel insinuates to Michaela that Laurel was going to take a plea deal, and she barges into the house demanding answers. Connor and Oliver are concerned about Laurel’s loyalties, too, especially since she just drew up some paperwork to make them legal guardians of Christopher in case something happens to her.

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The finale doesn’t becoming thrilling until its final seconds. All along, the episode is mostly just about explaining away things without really letting those explanations strike emotional chords. It’s mechanical, and it’s exhausting. Then, there’s finally some excitement in the final seconds. Laurel and Christopher go missing. Even though this is likely at the hands of the Castillo family, which is far from being a compelling television villain, even as a unit, it’s still a genuinely unsettling and meaningful turn for the finale to take (much more so than Emmett’s likely death). Laurel has been such a huge part of this season, and yet it feels like she has barely been around. Now, finally, there are some real implications, a real sense of danger, and a serious event that hits much closer to home than even something like Miller’s death.

The finale’s title—“Please Say No One Else Is Dead”—is spoken by Asher, and it’s yet another instance of the show having an accidentally meta and self-deprecating sense of humor. Even though this show hinges on people getting murdered and other people getting away with it, its very conceit has become exasperating. It racks up a body count with little concern for logical storytelling, and that makes those deaths almost inconsequential. How To Get Away With Murder has forgotten entirely how to get away with over-the-top storytelling in a way that doesn’t just frustrate and exhaust.

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Stray observations

  • The Castillos are so invested in having the DA of Philadelphia in their pocket? In what world does this make sense?
  • Annalise calls Tegan her rock, and Tegan asks to spend the night. Are we setting up a future romance?
  • Talesco was barely a character even though she ended up having a significant role in the way the finale played out.
  • Karla Souza does give an incredible performance throughout the episode.

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