HTGAWM Precedes its Winter Finale with the Boring “Hi, I’m Phillip”
By Chelsea A. Hensley
The more How to Get Away With Murder expands to pay more attention to the rest of the ensemble, the less interested I become. The bits and pieces are promising, but they remain just that: bits, pieces, to be referred to and never truly picked up. And what we get instead are paper-thin characters doing things, but none of them seem to matter. Such is the case in “Hi, I’m Phillip”, an episode that last week indicated would be an exciting one, with Oliver being confronted by Phillip Jessup. Oliver’s “disappearance” is quickly resolved, and while it’s a relief (because Oliver is universally adored), it also feels like one hell of a letdown as the show quickly moves onto Sinclair offering the Hapstalls a plea deal they’re both stupidly eager to take.
As the episode preceding next week’s winter finale, “Hi, I’m Phillip” does a lot of stage setting, but it’s light on details on what will lead up to the murders at the Hapstall mansion and pulls on a lot of uninteresting threads. There’s some forward momentum, as the Hapstall case is seemingly solved before another twist is thrown into the mix. Nate and Annalise even reconcile, but by the time the hour was over I was having trouble even remembering what happened, much less caring about it.
How to Get Away With Being Boring…Or Not
“Hi, I’m Phillip” picks up where last week left off, with Laurel and Frank in a screaming match because Laurel told Annalise about Frank’s dumb plan. It’s all part of the plot to inject some tension into their relationship as Laurel takes over for an absent Bonnie while Frank drops to the bottom of Annalise’s list of Reliable People. Though Laurel being the New Bonnie sounds interesting at first, indicating Bonnie’s worth to the entire operation, it really just means Laurel gets to take Annalise’s calls and sit in on meetings, and only Bonnie can make that work. Why this ends up causing issues with Frank is beyond me, and I’m doubly confused why he thinks Annalise (or anyone) cares enough about his and Laurel’s relationship to sabotage it.
After Phillip Jessup officially comes under investigation for the murders of Mama and Papa Hapstall, Michaela and Caleb are finally able to consummate their flirtation. I can’t speak for Caleb’s longevity as a character (knowing this show there’s a good chance he’ll be added to the body count next week), but while I’m glad to see Michaela enjoying herself sexually with someone who isn’t shady, she and Caleb are like watching paint dry. I’m not even totally sure who Caleb is as a character, aside from being a very pretty (but not too bright?) murder suspect.
Then there’s Nate. I confess to being biased, but Nate’s fluctuating feelings for Annalise have diminished any positive feelings I had for him. He makes his debut this episode by turning up drunk at Annalise’s house to be both pathetic and threatening, saying he should kill her for what she did to him but still expecting her to sleep with him. It’s a relief when Annalise tells him he needs to make up his mind and that she has no plans to have sex with him to speed the process along. He seemingly redeems himself by helping Annalise and co. avoid Phillip outing their illegal activities, but when he and Annalise end up back in each other’s arms, it’s hard to figure out why. Other than that Annalise is a total fan of Nate’s abs, which is fair, but I can’t tell how invested I’m supposed to be in them or even why Annalise is still so into him.
And Wes. Poor, boring, irrelevant Wes. It’s hard to believe he was such a huge part of last season, when he’s faded into the wallpaper so much in this one, only emerging to confuse everyone with how little sense he’s making or pretend he and Rebecca were actually compelling. To be fair, he ends up making more sense this episode than he has in a long while, but that’s still not very much. He finally admits everything would have been easier if he’d just bit the bullet and turned himself in for Sam’s murder, but as true as that is, can Wes finally get out of his bitter bubble and do something? At this point I need Annalise to just come out with it and say Wes is her son (that has to be who he is). It would give him something to do at least.
The only person who ends up slightly more interesting than they were before is Catherine. After Caleb discovers a hidden gun, he and Michaela suspect Catherine did kill their parents. Their suspicions are confirmed when we see Catherine meeting Phillip, her cousin/brother (and boyfriend?). It’s just the kind of absurd twist HTGAWM likes to toss in at the end of an episode, and it works as far as a quick shock. It shouldn’t be that far out of the blue, not when Catherine’s weirdly able to negotiate a deal of 10 years for herself and no prison time for Caleb. Clearly she’s talented, even if the whole plea deal saga is just an excuse for Sinclair to get on everyone’s nerves.
Watching all these people do all these boring things (though the sex montage was a high point) just makes me long for something else. More Annalise, more Eve (where art thou?), or more Bonnie last seen on the floor of her shower. She’s “out sick” and ignoring Annalise’s calls. For all we know she may still be in that shower, at least until she finds her way to the Hapstall place to push Sinclair to her death. Though we don’t see her, we know enough of Bonnie’s current state for her to move up a few spaces on the list of people who potentially shot Annalise.