TV REVIEW: HTGAWM Tries out Life after Murder with “Best Christmas Ever”

By Chelsea Hensley

So Christmas sucked for everyone, yes? Maybe not for me, and maybe not for you, but it certainly did for Annalise and the Murder Quad. “Best Christmas Ever” is the closest we get to a Christmas episode for HTGAWM, and it’s a pretty bleak holiday. Annalise spends it drunk and crying in a hotel, Wes and Rebecca have only each other to read Rudy’s mail with, Laurel antagonizes her vapid parents to escape dinner, Connor hides the truth from his surprisingly well-adjusted family, and Michaela’s depression and drunken accusations of infidelity get her wedding postponed. So yeah. Merry Christmas. Sad faces all around. These bite-sized flashes to winter break are supposed to provide some context to life post-murder, and in some cases they work out pretty decently enough, but they all say the same thing: life sucks after you’ve killed someone.

For some reason “Best Christmas Ever” is as close to morality as this show and its characters have ever come. This show is based off the premise of grooming future defense attorneys, helping them help their clients get away with murder. Maybe it’s because everyone’s actually dealing with the aftermath of committing murder, but suddenly everyone’s got an opinion on how to deal with their crappy clients.

Because let’s be clear: Annalise represents loads of crappy people. Remember the wife killer? Laurel was the only one who voiced some real concerns about that, but now everyone’s got a moral compass that points north. You’d think killing a guy and covering it up would make you a tad more understanding toward people, but it apparently does the opposite. And even Asher, who hasn’t killed anyone as far as we know, keeps making comments about wanting off the case on “moral grounds”.  Granted, everybody’s reservations are proven right in the end, with the wife having taken one of the women’s daughters and raising it secretly on her own, refusing to give her up without a plea deal. So Annalise lies and tells her she has one so she’ll give the address where the girl is waiting, drops her as a client, and everybody goes home feeling a little bit more morally sound.

The presence of Marcia Gay Harden’s Hannah threatens to derail whatever fuzzy feelings these people can grab hold of with her search for evidence to prove Sam’s innocent. It’s confusing why everyone’s so thrown by her turning up. Wouldn’t one expect someone’s sister to have a hard time believing their brother to be a cold-blooded killer? Isn’t Hannah wanting to defend her brother only natural? The Murder Quad acts like her turning up is the most shocking, most awful thing ever, and Annalise is in the same boat though she likely has experience with Hannah to back up her anxiety.

If Hannah’s anything, it’s persistent. She’s certain from the start that something’s wrong, pinpointing Annalise’s certainty about Sam’s guilt as a big red flag. She doesn’t see Annalise in that hotel room for the holidays, wallowing in her misery. She only sees an Annalise back to business and vilifying her missing husband, but where Annalise has never tried to make other people comfortable by acting how they want, the seams are beginning to show. She nearly tosses her new client out thinking she’s a reporter eager to see where Sam lived or to catch a glimpse of the monstrous wife who turned him in, and when she and Hannah finally have their long awaited talk, Annalise refuses to shape her reaction to make Hannah more comfortable.

Last weeks’ episode was okay as a returning episode, but “Best Christmas Ever” would have made a better one.  Besides the convenient and very pat timeliness of the episode after the long hiatus, this hour has a sense of forward momentum that wasn’t there in last week’s. While everyone’s trying to navigate life post-murder, they get thrown a curve ball (though not a truly surprising one) with Sam’s body being discovered. Just as Wes has found a sound machine to relive him of his nightmares and Annalise has convinced Hannah that Sam likely killed Lila and made a run for it, here’s Sam’s body to throw them all into a new frenzy.

But what did they expect? If this episode did anything it’s prove how bad the Murder Quad is at murder. Their sloppiness was apparent from the start, not tossing the body in an incinerator as instructed and leaving Michaela’s wedding ring for someone to inevitably discover. They can’t even grasp the concept of not speaking in public about killing a man, and Frank (Frank!) has to take the reins, which they should be grateful for since they were drowning even without the body. Frank’s role at the firm is still ambiguous, but now we know he’s handy in a bind such as this one. He 1) tells Laurel to stop speaking so openly about that one time she helped kill a guy, 2) has Connor’s DNA-riddled car “stolen” and 3) gets close to Asher to gauge how suspicious he may or may not be getting. And just as a bonus he also arranges the phone call from someone who believes they saw Sam at a rest stop somewhere.

And naturally all his hard work is likely for naught since these silly kids are gonna get caught anyway.

Stray Observations

  • Annalise: “What? Have none of you ever done anything bad you needed a lawyer for?”
  • Now that Rebecca’s not a client, I’m not sure what she’s doing besides pointing Wes toward must-see tv.
  • Sometimes Connor’s kind of cute, but mostly I just think Oliver can do better.
  • Annalise has a mom! Where is she?
  • Hannah pretends to be all decent and all, but she’s got a thing for emotional manipulation too. She certainly goes to Bonnie quick enough to tell her about her “importance” to Sam.