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TV REVIEW: No One’s What They Seem on How to Get Away With Murder

BY The Screen Spy Team

Published 10 years ago

TV REVIEW: No One's What They Seem on How to Get Away With Murder 

By Chelsea Hensley

Though Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, is not the showrunner behind How to Get Away With Murder, her executive producer credit is all over it. It has the ensemble, diverse cast, the rapid pacing, the soap-operatic elements and the sex that make ABC’s TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) three-hour schedule so much fun. That being said, Murder is neither Grey’s nor Scandal. Showrunner Peter Nowalk has his own hands in the pots to give us one of this season’s most anticipated shows– and most guaranteed hits.

The pilot moves so quickly that the characters don’t have much time for depth. They all take their allotted spaces in the ensemble with a colorful detail thrown in here or there, but the pilot’s all about intrigue. The cast is laid out before us, but it’s not a big deal that we don’t know them yet because there are layers upon layers in need of being peeled, and the plan is that we’ll get there eventually. Right now everything is an appetizer, and none quite as intriguing as Analise Keating.

Analise (Viola Davis) is a distinguished lawyer and professor who isn’t all that concerned with doing that right thing as she is with winning her cases. Though she’s surely complicated, the depth of those complications aren’t yet clear. The only certain thing about Analise is that there’s nothing certain about her. She’s often seen through someone else’s eyes and that someone is always trying to impress her. She’s admirable and terrifying to her students, and even her associates are quick to apologize when they’ve disappointed her. Much of Analise is wrapped up in the abilities of Viola Davis whose acting abilities have never been in question though they are surely proven here as she moves effortlessly between the various facets of Analise’s character, one moment demanding and unyielding and the next completely vulnerable.  Analise is a woman capable of putting her secret boyfriend, a detective (Billy Brown), on the stand and ruthlessly prodding him about a night on which they were together before getting him to say just what she needs him to say in order to win her case, but she’s also a woman who crumbles unexpectedly in front of Wes as she explains her troubled marriage.

(ABC/Nicole Rivelli) VIOLA DAVIS

(ABC/Nicole Rivelli)

It’s the relationship between Analise and Wes Gibbins (Harry Potter‘s Alfred Enoch) that has the most intrigue. As far as this first episode goes, Wes is second only to Analise, the well-meaning, do-gooder hero who will be tried and tested going forward. He’s a bit like a puppy in his doe-eyed innocence, stumbling his way through his first day of class and then coming across a married Analise in the midst of a liaison with her boyfriend. Watching him and Analise together is electrifying just with the uncertainty about how the interaction will go between these two opposites. Wes is almost constantly flustered, incapable of just getting a noisy neighbor to shut up while even a teary Analise possesses poise. There’s a sense that’s there’s no telling what we’ll get from Analise and Wes which makes me want to get more. Her tears in the bathroom are unexpected, as is the chest and arm caressing she throws in there, and though Wes isn’t as cutthroat or as immediately innovative as his classmates, there’s promise that he’ll grow into whatever Analise sees in him soon since it’s him flipping coins when it’s time to dispose of a body.

The whole being an accomplice to a murder thing is a pretty jarring change for everyone involved. Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King) is a star student with no shortage of ambition who devolves to tears and obstinately refuses to participate, the idealistic Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza) has her high morals rendered inert while Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) replaces his bravado and confidence with wild eyes and Christmas carols. But it’s Wes taking the lead on what to do with the body of Analise’s husband.

Going off the pilot alone it’s hard to map the path of the season. Analise’s husband will be dead in three months and her students will be involved, but that’s all we know. We know that the missing and now-dead Lila Stangard was one of Sam’s students, that Lila’s boyfriend frequents the apartment of Wes’ noisy neighbor, that Connor won the competition and got the prize/murder weapon. The Lila Stangard angle is perhaps the most intriguing of all, just because of how isolated it appears from the main plotline (though that begs the question of what is the main plotline?). We’ve no idea who Lila is or why she matters, and her death is hardly on anyone’s radar until the pilot’s end.

Analise remarks that she thinks the boyfriend did it only for Sam to reply with “I guess we’ll see.” It’s a pretty good summation of the show itself. The boyfriend being Lila’s killer is the most obvious conclusion we could draw which also means it’s probably incorrect. That goes for everything else, too. Everyone looks one way now, but once we get down to it all of our suspicions are probably going to be proven false. No one is what they seem, or perhaps they are, they’re just something else too.

Stray Observations

  • Speculation Corner: What if Tom and Lila were having an affair and he killed her? Or maybe Analise killed her? Or maybe Bonnie, who threw some awkwardly longing looks Analise and Tom’s way, killed her?
  • What kind of person lived in Wes’ apartment before him?
  • So did Analise get Nate to lie on the stand? There’s always the chance he told her about the trend of doctoring videos over some pillowtalk, but Wes is so sure that she made him lie that I’m not certain.
  • I thought it would be Asher they were burying, since he was the only one tapped to join the firm who wasn’t in attendance the night of the bonfire. But Sam is way better and was way more surprising.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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