How to Get Away with Murder season 5 premiere review: It’s not a mess (yet)

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How to Get Away with Murder came back and seems to have taken a hard look at what’s effective for it and what’s not, with the missteps cut down.

The fifth season of How to Get Away with Murder kicks off by not even letting Annalise Keating get her groove on for a moment at Connor and Oliver’s wedding, while someone outside the party tent falls to the snow, bleeding. The implication, based on the perspective shot then switching to three months earlier and showing Gabriel Maddox, is that he’s dead.

However, this is also the first episode of the season, which means that it’s probably not him. Place your bets now, fans. In fact, the last flash-forward scene implies that it may be Laurel dying in the snow, as Christopher is sitting there sobbing. Would the show really pull killing a main character off again, though?

At least the first Annalise Keating speech of the season is surprisingly realistic — about how tough it can be to be a trial lawyer. In fact, this entire law school plot line seems like an entire callback to the start of season 1, where everyone has to make a case for Annalise to even keep them in the class. Eventually, there’s even a prize thrown in: a year’s tuition.

Even though she tells the remaining Keating 4 that “boundaries” now have to happen, all four of them make it into the second round of attempts to get in the class: arguing the opposite side of what they said their passions were in round one. So does Gabriel, who argues for abolishing the prison system. It’s a tough first mini speech for a newcomer to the series to deliver, but Rome Flynn acquits himself well. He does better in the second speech, and seems poised to become a new Wes figure for Annalise, just with a lot more confidence about what he’s doing.

As he gets the final seat in Annalise’s clinic despite only being in 2L — leaving Asher out in the cold — it’s made even more clear.

However, it’s Viola Davis who still owns this show, and she shows it in Annalise’s multiple interviews. How to Get Away with Murder retains its ability to thread shots and scenes together to create one coherent narrative, and here it’s that Annalise needs money (and has a lot of job requirements). Later, we learn that Annalise is trying to make money to re-try more class-action lawsuits.

Unfortunately, one good turn does not deserve another on this show, even in terms of quality. If you did not see through the fact that only one firm Annalise interviews with has Timothy Hutton, then the plot that has most of the other firms turning her down would surprise you. Unfortunately … it’s Hutton, whose hiring was noted as being for a regular gig on this season by Deadline this summer. It takes a bit, but he starts to hold his own against Davis, enough that Annalise’s struggle to decide what she wants and doesn’t want from C&G is believable.

She does win in the end, though. I look forward to seeing how he fares in the rest of the season.

It’s a shame that the episode also wastes a significant amount of time talking about relationships: Laurel and Frank and how she’s using him, Michaela and her ongoing feelings for Marcus, and Asher still carrying a torch for Michaela.

Finally, even though it’s brief, Laurel gets sent a baptism gown from her mother (or so she presumes). The Castillo family drama consumed a lot of last season, and even the hint that maybe, just maybe, Laurel’s mom isn’t really dead and those scratches are just super suspicious is eye-roll-worthy.

So is, in fact, Frank’s proposal towards the end of the episode in response to Laurel saying she’ll move in with Oliver, Connor, and Michaela. At least she turns him down, right?

Ultimately, this is a promising episode for the season at large. Things seem tighter than before, and the references to season 1 seem to show that production is trying to get back to what worked back then. Whether or not it’ll succeed is a mystery, just like who’s dying this time.

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Miscellaneous asides:

  • Christopher is an extremely cute baby. Frank being named godfather is painful and cold. Annalise as the godmother is perfect.
  • Tegan Price is back, and that’s great.
  • “Frank is a liar, and you’re an idiot if you don’t know that by now,” Annalise says, and the casual dismissal is glorious.