TV REVIEW: HTGAWM Catches up to the Murder in “He Has A Wife”

By Chelsea Hensley

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand how we got here?

I understand how we got here, but I don’t know how we got to “He Has A Wife,” which gets up right up to the night of the bonfire and therefore the night of Sam’s murder. It feels out of the blue. We’ve apparently gone through an entire semester, and there are days before final grades are given out, but didn’t the semester just start? Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t feel like anything’s actually changed that this feels unusual. We haven’t gotten much further in anything, nothing has been resolved, most of the relationships between these characters are just as shallow as where they began so it doesn’t feel as though any time has passed.

We’ve even tossed out the flashforwards, apparently no longer necessary now that they’re soon to become the present day. They’ve been replaced by flashbacks, and this episode’s visits Lila in the months before her death. Lila’s essentially every other dead girl that’s populated shows like this one. She’s pretty, popular and seemingly happy because no one (save Rebecca) knows about the gritty underbelly of her life. Lila’s character’s been shallow just because she’s dead, but the show doesn’t take this opportunity to flesh her out when she’s alive either. She’s pretty and bubbly, excited and nervous about having sex for the first time, giddy at being in a relationship with a married man then devastated when he ends things, but we already knew that about her. The flashbacks are slightly more illuminating for Rebecca, who genuinely cared for Lila, enough to spend nights on a rooftop with her and comfort her about her relationship woes. Other than this, everything that transpires in the flashbacks are things we’ve already been told except for one surprising revelation about Bonnie.

Bonnie’s been a weird character from the start. Sometimes she’s firm, commanding and intimidating, and other time she shrinks into whatever wall is nearest, bowled over by larger personalities. Annalise is one of those personalities, both repulsive and magnetic. For reprimand, Bonnie just wants to impress her more, and she clings to her despite pushing her away with her obvious feelings for Sam. Despite her weird crush on Sam, she positively adores Annalise, and looks like something akin to a kicked puppy after Annalise reprimands her and calls her a “pathetic, mousy presence”. We’ve seen Bonnie interact with the students enough to know this isn’t always true, but we’ve also see her with Annalise and Sam, two people around whom Bonnie’s backbone seems to melt.

(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth) BILLY BROWN
(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth)
BILLY BROWN

There’s a question of which of them Bonnie’s more loyal to. Is it Sam who she could arguably think herself to be in love with? Or is it Annalise who she so painfully admires? When she tells Sam about Lila coming by the office the night she was killed, Sam, who’s shown no interest in Bonnie previously, turns on the charm. His manipulation is transparent, but it’s easy to doubt that Bonnie will see through it. As far as we know she’s been pining over him for years, and when he finally dangles himself in front of her, it looks like Bonnie’s taken the bait as they kiss on the porch.

It’s actually surprising, pleasantly so, when Bonnie goes to Annalise and tearfully tells her everything. Sam’s official off of Bonnie’s list of desirable men, now that she thinks him capable of murder and has been on the receiving end of his hamfisted attempts at controlling her. Her tears seem to be both for the destruction of an image she had of him and a guilt at betraying Annalise. And it only gets more emotional when Annalise fires her on the spot.

The case of the week is Gretchen Thomas (Stacy Edwards), a woman charged with killing her family’s nanny while on strong medication, and the episode would have been better without it. The cases of the week have been one of HTGAWM’s weakest components, and this one is no different. It tries to be twisty and suspenseful, revealing the son’s affair with the nanny then the father‘s affair with the nanny (which is why he killed her). It’s supposed to parallel Annalise’s own marriage woes and Sam being a truly despicable man, but the case feels shoehorned into an episode that otherwise doesn’t need it.

The time could have been spent in better places, maybe supplying a little more context for all the shenanigans going down in this episode. From Laurel and Frank suddenly having sex everywhere to Rebecca and Wes on their way to going full Shakespearean tragedy to Michaela’s prenuptial woes, it all feels uneven. Lynn Whitfield turns up as Aiden’s mother, and I’m stuck wondering why she’s there. Frank suddenly has a girlfriend, and I’m also wondering why. Wes and Rebecca are having big fights about Rebecca allying herself with Nate, and I’m still trying to figure out who Nate is in all of this.

 (ABC/Mitchell Haaseth) ALFRED ENOCH
(ABC/Mitchell Haaseth)
ALFRED ENOCH

Of all the passing characters, Nate’s perhaps been the most disappointing. We dropped in on his and Annalise’s relationship at an odd time certainly, but he made much more sense when he was in that relationship. Now he feels disconnected from the rest of the show, floating around in his own section of space and popping to do…stuff. We fell in just as Nate and Annalise were falling out, and they’ve yet to make amends (if they ever will), but now Nate’s jobless and lurking around, enlisting Rebecca in his plans to prove Sam killed Lila.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the show thus far, particularly now that we’ve reached the night of the murder, is just how typically everything’s unfolded. Maybe I expected too much, but the show seemed to have a firmer grasp on where it was going, and it didn’t plan on that journey being one that had been traveled so many times before. Sam is going to be killed, and we already know Rebecca did it. We know they’ll have a confrontation, likely while Rebecca’s trying to get information from Sam’s phone, and we know Wes and the other students will be around to witness it and cover it up. It’s all unfolded exactly how it’s looked like it will all season, and it would be great if HTGAWM would start flexing its creative muscles more.

Stray Observations

  • Maybe people should stop kissing/having sex on the porch of Annalise’s house? Just a thought.
  • I thought Sasha was going to be Bonnie, catching Laurel and Frank and being generally disapproving.
  • However confused I am about Michaela’s scene with her eventual mother-in-law, it was still well-acted. Lynn Whitfield’s always wonderful, and I’m intrigued by Michaela’s “nasty backwood bayou swamp” roots.

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