TV REVIEW: Cicely Tyson Joins HTGAWM For the Near Perfect “Mama’s Here Now”

By Chelsea Hensley

Annalise has not only been at the center of HTGAWM‘s best moments, but ones that are notable for TV in general.

The scene of her stripping away her wig and makeup is going to go down in primetime history as one of the most powerful and honest scenes ever filmed, and “Mama’s Here Now” seems to be a collection of similar moments between Annalise and her mother, Ophelia. Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis produce some really electrifying scenes together that are loaded with longtime tension and pain and culminate in an emotional scene of Ophelia combing Annalise’s hair as she confesses to killing Annalise’s uncle and rapist. Viola Davis doesn’t have many people on this show who can really go toe-to-toe with her as far as acting ability. No one’s really bad, but there’s also no one quite as good as her. Marcia Gay Harden filled a notable gap with her guest appearances and was able to match Davis’ performance with her own, and Tyson fills the same role here.

By putting Annalise on her own with Ophelia for the bulk of the episode, it allows her to really shine. Annalise, and Viola Davis, have no problem standing out in a crowd, but it’s different to see Annalise in such a vulnerable position for such a long span in a single episode. Annalise, as layered and complex as she is, hasn’t had as much of her past explored since the show began. There have been recent hints from the now absent Hannah that Annalise’s past was a violent one, and “Mama” uses Ophelia’s arrival to fill in the blanks, which makes for some of the show’s best character work all season. Ophelia asks Annalise point blank if she killed Sam, but whether she did or not is unimportant to Ophelia, who’s not there to judge her and is certain that if Annalise did kill Sam, she had a very good reason for doing so.

With Annalise out of commission, Bonnie’s left to handle the case of the week, a nurse accused of raping a patient, which benefits extremely by putting Bonnie at the forefront. Bonnie’s such a strange character, even more undecipherable than Annalise though that’s more from lack of screentime than anything else. She obviously wants to live up to Annalise’s expectations and admires her greatly, enough so that she can’t bring herself to confess to Annalise that the case isn’t going well and is stung by Annalise and Frank hiding the truth from her. Bonnie not being at Annalise’s level makes the usually plodding courtroom scenes a little more dynamic because we’re watching Bonnie stumble which leads us to question her abilities, though there’s little doubt that she’ll come out on top. Since Bonnie seems equally matched with opposing counsel (Michelle Hurd, who really should be in more things), it’s not as painful watching the show pretend she’s going to lose, though it’s easy to see why Bonnie celebrates by doing the do with Asher in a parking garage.

(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth)

And in other news, Rebecca probably killed Lila which isn’t surprising at all but okay. It’s just too easy if Sam did it, after they went through all the trouble of killing him. Besides, Rebecca’s more interesting as a manipulative murderer, and after these last few episodes have made her little more than a set piece, she needs something more to do with herself. Poor Wes is in a frenzy over it, and now he’s finally questioning his decision to get in so deep with a girl he hardly knew who was accused of murder at one point. Promos are trying to indicate that maybe Rebecca isn’t the killer, and it’s some other random person (Bonnie? Frank? Annalise’s mom?), but what’s the fun in that? Though I suppose “wet” doesn’t work all that well as an indication of Rebecca’s guilt. But if Rebecca killed Lila maybe we can stop pretending Wes and Rebecca actually have chemistry.

It’s weird that Wes and Laurel are so worried about Rebecca maybe being a murderer when neither of them cares very much about Nate, who’s been charged with a murder they committed and covered up.  The only person concerned is Michaela who takes issue with Nate, an innocent black man, being charged with their crime, while the others are just happy to be in the clear. Connor’s so thrilled he’s introducing Oliver to his not friends while Michaela’s following Nate’s case all the way to arraignment until she’s relieved by Annalise, who eventually instructs Nate to fire his lawyer because she’s going to help him.

Next week is the two-hour finale, and even though the show’s cranked out some decent episodes, not many of them has felt as reminiscent of the pilot as this one. There have been few episodes that have left me really excited for the next week’s installment, and “Mama’s Here Now” does just that.

Stray Observations

  • Ophelia: “Your boss came out of my V. And her daddy’s P.”
  • Ophelia: “I leave you alone for one minute and you got some boy child up here sniffing your drawers.”
  • Sam and Annalise met when she was his patient which does nothing to make anybody like Sam.
  • Connor says the rest of the Murder Quad aren’t his friends. But do any of them have friends? No.