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HTGAWM: Viola Davis Shines, the Keating Five Drown Their Sorrows in “There’s My Baby”

By on March 11, 2016
How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis as Professor Annalise Keating. Photo by Bob D'Amico/ABC

By Chelsea A. Hensley

At this point I’m convinced How To Get Away With Murder cares as little about Philip and the Hapstalls as I do.

The minute it looks like Philip’s about to reemerge as a threat, he disappears into obscurity again and takes Caleb with him.

His attack on Annalise was just there to remind us that he still exists (though I really wish he didn’t), and he gets to maintain his position as a lingering but mostly impotent threat.

Philip is terribly boring, and I hope the finale will free us from him and this bore of a storyline, but “There’s My Baby” makes good use of him as everyone settles on total and complete drunkenness as a solid coping strategy. 

Talk Less, Drink More

HTGAWM would be way more fun if it increased the drunken dancing and camaraderie and dialed way back on everyone…talking. The Keating Five have managed some okay conversations in the past (well, Connor and Michaela have), but their bland interpersonal connections are helped mightily by a few alcoholic beverages, which immediately makes them start acting as if they’re actually partners in crime.

After being booted from the house by a drunken Annalise, the students (plus Oliver, minus Wes) head out to drink their worries away. Their decision to be fall down drunk while Philip’s on the loose doesn’t make me take him any more serious as a threat, but it’s no less enjoyable. Laurel brushing off Asher’s awkward attempts at conversation, Michaela’s horrific but endearing dancing and Connor and Oliver’s dancefloor makeout, is all the more enjoyable because of how little we’ve seen of it. Like their car ride a few episodes back, a scene allowing them to act like the overly stressed twentysomethings they are, makes it more fun. It’s a mess, but it’s a fun mess.

Such is the best descriptor for Michaela and Asher’s bathroom hookup. It’s just as confounding as Laurel and Wes’ smooch, but it doesn’t take itself as seriously.  Asher and Michaela are an absolute wreck of a pairing, and they both know it. They just so happen to find their way atop a bathroom counter to do the do, and it’s so absurd it might as well make sense.

But getting old is the blame game everyone keeps playing with Annalise. The consensus that she was the worst showed potential a few episodes ago, but it’s been squandered now. Despite all their lip service to the contrary, these people are never going to revolt against Annalise, and it’s beginning to grate how little responsibility any of them want to take for their own choices.

Asher, showing remarkable growth, actually holds himself accountable for getting them all into this mess, but he’s not going down for anything despite the DA’s offer of immunity for all their other illegal activities. This could provide some weight if we had any reason to believe one of them might accept it.

Though they seem mostly united in their disdain for Annalise, none are eager to sell her out. I think we’re supposed to take their silence as further proof they won’t sacrifice each other, and as difficult as that is to believe sometimes it’s easier when they’re all getting wasted together.

What Ever Happened to Baby Keating?

On the heels of last week’s reveal that Rose had indeed committed suicide, the show switches gears to unravel what happened to Annalise’s son ten years ago. Seeing as Annalise does not have a son in the present day, the events of the past are imbued with a sense of dread that never goes away. It’s not hard to guess what may have happened to Annalise’s son, especially after last week’s detail that she definitely wanted her baby canceled out any possibility that she and Sam would have given him away.

Somehow, someway Annalise and Sam’s son died, and even with this suspicion hovering in the backdrop, it’s no less horrifying to watch. The traditional out of the window shot as Annalise drives is a clear indicator of what’s to come, but it’s still shocking to see Annalise’s car struck.

HTGAWM has its questionable bits here and there but nothing is closer to perfection than Viola Davis. Her performance is consistently powerful and never disappointing. “There’s My Baby” allows her ample opportunity to display her range. She goes from panicked and afraid when Philip attacks to drunk and even mildly humorous to devastated and self-loathing as she cradles her dead son.

Davis is heartrending in her portrayal of Annalise’s sorrow and guilt, and Annalise’s insistence that her son’s body be taken from her are absolutely gut wrenching.“There’s My Baby” is surely more well-deserved Emmy bait for Davis, who has yet to meet a single occasion she can’t rise to.

For all the show’s twists and turns, it’s kept the events of ten years ago rooted in rather simple cause and effect, and it makes them more successful. The hum-drum nature of the Hapstall/Phillip mess proves that complexity in a mystery doesn’t always make it good. It’s more satisfying that Rose and Annalise’s run-ins with Mahoney, and the resulting life changing acts, are rooted in a too powerful man’s misogyny and racism. Those are powerful enough obstacles on their own, and by the end of the episode it’s safe to say neither of them were really able to prevail against him. Rose was raped by Mahoney and killed herself to protect Wes, the son conceived through her assault. When Annalise figures this out, Mahoney tries to quiet her with the accident (or so we’re led to believe), and all these years later Annalise still blames herself for the deaths of Rose and her son. Despite all Annalise’s victories, she’s never scored one against a still alive, and thriving, Mahoney.

These past few episodes haven’t been all that concerned with Philip or his threat so I refuse to believe it’s going to suddenly become important next week. Mahoney’s increased narrative importance implies he’ll share in the finale’s focus. Wes knows the truth, but where is his investigation into Mahoney going to lead him? It’s at the top of my wish list that these characters really embrace the people they’ve become (Bonnie declares matter of factly that they’re all bad people), and Mahoney seems the perfect person to add to their growing body count, right?

Wes seems primed to do something daring after his wild ride this season even as Annalise is more and more inclined to wash her hands of everything, and after learning who really killed Lila she takes off for her mother’s house.

Whatever my doubts about what next week’s finale will give us, I’m sure it can’t go wrong with Cicely Tyson!

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