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HTGAWM: Annalise’s Winning Streak Comes to an End in “Skanks Get Shanked”

By on October 16, 2015

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder" stars Viola Davis as Professor Annalise Keating. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

by Chelsea A. Hensley

Annalise Keating is a bad person. Or at least that’s what a few people would have you believe. Surely she hasn’t made many fans. She’s helped cover up two murders now, framed her lover and continues to lie to people who would really benefit from knowing the truth. She teaches a class called “How to Get Away With Murder” and has built a career out of defending despicable people and helping them evade criminal charges. Like Scandal’s Olivia Pope, her decent and innocent clients are far outweighed by her guilty ones, and Annalise doesn’t care. Her goal is not moral superiority or even good karma. It’s winning.

And maybe Annalise would be doing better if her present life had her doing more winning. She’s made a lot of big moves that have protected herself and the people close to her, but she’s still on the losing end. By the end of “Skanks Get Shanked”, she’s lost her case, learns her star pupil is plotting against her and has been called out by not one but two people—including her lover’s dying wife—for being an awful person. Even without those two occurrences, flashing forward to her shot, dying and struggling for life in an ambulance is proof enough that Annalise’s winning streak has come to an end.

The flashforwards take several steps ahead now, as emergency crews reach Annalise and rush her to the hospital while the Murder Club flees with Nate. Annalise is alone and dying, shot by someone who could very well have been close to her, and her students are off hiding it. Doesn’t matter how many scenes we get of Annalise near death, there’s no reason to believe HTGAWM is going to say goodbye to its leading lady, but having Annalise on the wrong end of a gun is a good way for upping the stakes. There’s a lot that goes into Annalise’s shooting. Who shot her? What will happen in the aftermath? And why did they do it?

Down with Annalise?

Nia Lahey’s been floating around in the show’s backdrop, and seeing her now ends up being resonant only because of the affect it has on Annalise. Her hard feelings toward Annalise are less about her being the other woman in her husband’s life and are more about Annalise framing Nate for murder. So her demand, in order to facilitate Annalise’s redemption, is to assist in her suicide. That doesn’t make much sense on my end, but it makes a bit more when Nia admits assuming Annalise would do it because she’s killed before. Nia’s arrival, and the case of the week, both exist to further highlight an idea of Annalise being the cause of everyone’s problems. Client Zoe kills her best friend and convinces two other girls to help, and her wild case adds to the strong—but heavy-handed—theme of manipulation and murder going hand and hand. And being Annalise’s favorite tactic. Yet the difference in Annalise and Zoe remain: Annalise isn’t a killer.

In a show with murderers around every corner, Annalise is the only one who hasn’t killed someone. She didn’t kill Sam. That was Wes. Annalise didn’t kill Rebecca. That was Bonnie. Annalise didn’t kill Lila. That was Frank. Annalise’s role in Sam’s and Rebecca’s murders has been obscuring them. For such a morally imperfect person, Annalise’s most enduring trait has been her protection of people close to her. She didn’t hesitate about helping the Murder Club cover up their role in Sam’s death, and though she’s bitten Bonnie’s head off more than once, she’s made no moves to expose her. Annalise is no angel, but she spends her time with people a little worse. Connor passes the episode announcing that everything is Annalise’s fault. She manipulated them into committing murder and is now protecting another murderer, their client. He sabotages their case by passing a damning video to the prosecution, leading to an electrifying confrontation with Annalise. She threatens to make his car, with Sam’s blood inside, reappear, but though she shuts down his condemnation of her, it doesn’t seem to matter.

Few know that Annalise is protecting the real killers, and no one but Nia knows about Annalise contemplating suicide. It’s a shocking reveal, but in the show’s usual fashion of unspooling Annalise’s character, it’s downplayed enough not to feel gratuitous. It adds new meaning to a scene early in the episode, where Annalise is submerged in her bathtub. Annalise grows more tragic with each episode, masking layers of pain and self-loathing. Meanwhile the people around her are certain of her indifference and expect nothing from her but exploitation and betrayal. When she’s finally shot, people will think she deserved it, and Annalise will think the same.

Though it makes sense to see people labeling Annalise guilty, Connor’s chorus of anti-Annalise dissent rings false. Last season he blamed Wes plenty for just being Rebecca’s boyfriend, but now Annalise is the root of all evil? HTGAWM has to get the point where it broadens the possibilities of Annalise’s shooter. Pointing out the growing rebellion in the Murder Club is the best way to do that, but it’s rushing when it doesn’t have to. It already has the makings of it in Wes.

NEXT: The Puppy, The Devotee and the Not Incestuous Siblings

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