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HTGAWM Pulls Out the Emotional Stops for Annalise in “She’s Dying”

By on October 2, 2015

(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth) FAMKE JANSSEN, VIOLA DAVIS

By Chelsea A. Hensley

It’s too early in the season to call this one a surefire win for How To Get Away With Murder, but two episodes in and I have nothing but confidence in the show’s trajectory.

These first two installments have zeroed in on Annalise, Nate’s case and the Maybe Murderous Siblings. Though next week returns to cases of the week, HTGAWM has shown more focus than it did at its start and has rooted itself in the more emotional narratives.

Much of this looks to be a renewed understanding of the show its trying to be, the story it’s trying to tell and who the characters at its center are. Annalise Keating is the show’s star, and the sun around which everyone else revolves.

Though there are other things in the mix, like Frank’s lingering I Killed Lila secret, Asher’s forced collusion with an opposing prosecutor and an unknowing Michaela’s new flirtation with Eggs 911, it’s Annalise who is taking the show’s focus.

And that’s nothing to complain about.

Every review can’t be a love letter to Viola Davis and her incredible talent, but that’s easily what every review could be. HTGAWM has only done wonderful things with her and moves further and further away from the certain ambiguity of its main character. While last season made Annalise’s most emotional scenes solitary ones (like the memorable scene sans wig and makeup), these involve Annalise and others, and Eve and Bonnie are two of the most interesting characters for Annalise to bond with. Eve only appeared last week, and though Annalise and Bonnie have one of the show’s most confounding and intriguing relationships, last season wasn’t big on giving much context for it. That all changes in “She’s Dying,” which sees the pairings after their re-connection last episode and the revelation that Bonnie killed Rebecca.

Annalise + Eve Forever

Annalise on the stand is as electrifying as ABC’s endless promos promised, and offers yet another example of Annalise Keating’s power in a courtroom, either as an attorney or a hostile witness. It doesn’t have the desired effect of cowing prosecutor Sinclair (Sarah Burns), who makes a successful effort to be as annoying as possible. After provoking Annalise into a rage, and earning a cutting dressing down, Sinclair uses it as “proof” of her murderous tendencies. But what Annalise gets from Sinclair still ends up being better than what Annalise gets from Eve.

Even though Annalise knows motives, Eve’s questioning is a slap in the face and tinted with residual resentment from years before. Throwing in Annalise’s face the knowledge she has about her framing Nate, and highlighting Annalise’s casual use of people who care for her, it’s an intensely personal tirade that leaves Annalise speechless. Pinning Sam’s murder on Annalise is easy, and even preferable. With not enough evidence to charge Annalise, it guarantees her safety while also securing Nate’s freedom. But it casts a shadow over the lighthearted fare that was Annalise and Eve at the episode’s start.

(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth) FAMKE JANSSEN, VIOLA DAVIS

(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth)
FAMKE JANSSEN, VIOLA DAVIS

In two episodes HTGAWM have given Eve and Annalise more of a relationship, and more appeal, than it did for Nate or Sam. We never got to see Nate and Annalise’s relationship be anything more than sexual, so once it got blown up, and Nate’s shirtless scenes were traded in for ones of him hating Annalise, Nate lost his appeal. And Sam was Sam, so Annalise leaving Eve for him resembles one moving from the penthouse to the rat-infested basement. Whatever it was that had interested Annalise in Sam was never made apparent, but “She’s Dying” does all it can to contextualize Eve and Annalise, and their relationship feels genuine.

Eve and Annalise’s first scene is a sarcastic comparison on legal notes before it devolves into flirting and laughter (over how great their sex was). Famke Janssen and Viola Davis had chemistry last week working with all that was unsaid between their characters. This week they’re far more vocal, and share an emotionally satisfying scene that solidifies the pairing. After Annalise admits to not understanding Eve making their courtroom encounter personal, Eve confesses to still being in love with her. It’s the kind of scene loaded with bait for all the photoset-making shippers out there who have endless material to work with from Annalise’s sweet declaration that Eve was the “most beautiful thing that ever happened to me” and their love was “too real” to her. So much emotional honesty from both of them makes their sex scene work all the better, made more affecting with the emotional work done beforehand.

NEXT: BONNIE Vs. ANNALISE

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