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HTGAWM has a Poor Threat, Questionable Character & a Dark Twist in “It’s A Trap”

By on February 26, 2016
How to Get Away With Murder

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

By Chelsea A. Hensley

We’re slowly returning to the Hapstall case that made the events of the first half of the season possible, but it’s not really a good thing. The show’s now forced to split time between resolving that mess and one made ten years ago, and only one of them is attention-grabbing. The Hapstall story is populated by people we don’t know that well. Catherine’s jailhouse rage and Kendrick Sampson’s pretty face don’t change the fact that the Hapstall siblings were more interesting when we thought they were sleeping together.

“It’s A Trap” begins with Connor informing Annalise and Bonnie of Phillip’s video. Said video is supposed to be a big deal, but it never quite feels like one. Despite HTGAWM’s twists, it has yet to really go there. There is letting its characters face some real consequences for their various illegal activities. It came kind of close with Sinclair, but there was no real expectation for it to advance to jailtime. Asher’s the only one who doesn’t seem to know this, and he begins work on a legal defense we know he won’t have to use. But they won’t get caught, no matter what they do, because they’ll always find a way around it. For that reason alone, Phillip’s looming threat feels a lot like something needed to fill the space. 

Some People Don’t Need to Make Out

While everyone else is dealing with that damning video, Laurel and Wes get the better end of the deal and are off to Ohio to solve the mystery of Annalise and Rose’s connection. Their trip is the most proactive, and smart, we’ve seen any of the Keating Five be lately, and it helps that its based in one of the show’s most solid relationships, notable in its distinct lack of angst. Sure Laurel and Wes are angsting pretty hard this week (Wes about his mother, Laurel about her homicidal boyfriend), but they aren’t angsting over each other. Their friendship has been solid enough that watching them isn’t waiting for a powder keg to explode. There’s no other shoe about to drop with them, and that’s why it’s so confounding that the two of them share a kiss.

Wes and Laurel give off about as much heat as a mini-fridge so it’s a small consolation that they’re equally uncomfortable with their kiss, but it’s not immediately clear why they feel that way. Did they stop kissing because it wasn’t as fun? Because they aren’t actually attracted to each other? Because it took them both by surprise, but it’s going to be revisited later? We have to know so we can preemptively cringe. Wes and Laurel are caught in a moment of extreme emotional upheaval—Frank’s confession has Laurel in a tizzy, and Wes’ is grappling with his maternal woes—but…they don’t need to make out.

One of my biggest issues with HTGAWM is its work in building these characters. With the exception of Annalise, they’re all just a collection of moments and tidbits, painted in such broad strokes that it’s difficult to really figure out who they are. Learning that Laurel’s father is more unsavory than initially thought is an interesting bit of info, but that’s all it is: interesting. It will likely never be followed up on. We get this new tidbit, and an equally shapeless explanation for Laurel’s pragmatism, in the form of some exposition that doesn’t feel all that special. So it’s difficult to see why making out would make either Laurel or Wes feel better.  Does Laurel’s dark hair remind Wes of Rebecca? Did Laurel think conjuring up feelings for Wes, a nicer person than Frank, would create the illusion of stability?

If the latter really was Laurel’s reason, then it gets completely ruined with a new piece of the Rose puzzle. Fiancée-killer Charles Mahoney paid Rose to provide a false alibi for him, and Wes thinks he had her killed when she failed to deliver. Cue a guiltridden Annalise doing everything possible to make Wes’ life easier. That’s a painfully simple explanation for a show that’s sometimes needlessly complicated, so of course it’s not that easy. Instead, we get Laurel demanding to knowif Annalise knew a 12-year old Wes was the primary suspect in his mom’s murder.

NEXT: What Happened to Your Baby, Annalise? 

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