How to Get Away with Murder review: Pain is a cycle


How to Get Away with Murder makes some strong points in its return, but they’re buried in so many flashbacks that it’s hard to process them.

How to Get Away with Murder starts on a Psycho-fakeout, with Bonnie in the shower only to get surprised by Frank, who then calls Annalise to tell her about Gabriel’s parentage. However, she hangs up, then pours herself and Gabriel each a glass of vodka after telling him to sit. It’s time for a test: how many of the plot points of How to Get Away with Murder do you remember? In some ways, it makes for an effective refresher of an episode; in others, it makes for a long rehash of things that may or may not be actually interesting to viewers after five seasons.

Unwanted phone calls plague the newly-married Connor and Oliver, too, even as they celebrate their wedding night. It’s the third call that actually brings them out to meet up with the rest of the other students. They come to the conclusion that Gabriel is dead.

Of course, he is very much alive, and having a very tense conversation, one that causes Annalise plenty of flashbacks, because here’s the baby she could have had, all grown up. However, the flashback isn’t constrained to Annalise; Sam actually calls Vivian Maddox, begging to “meet him.” We, of course, can put enough together to know that the “him” is Gabriel. He does get to see his son, briefly, without introducing himself, and that’s it.

Even as Annalise claims that Sam is a lying manipulator, which we also see in the flashbacks, she does the same sorts of things to Gabriel in the present. That includes playing Wes’ incriminating phone call, but not admitting that she knows more about the murder than she’s letting on.

What she doesn’t know much about is Miller’s murder, and Nate, Bonnie, and Frank are trying to keep it that way. The lack of proper knowledge is also probably going to mess Connor, Michaela, Asher, Laurel, and Oliver up at some point, even as they’re mostly sidelined in favor of flashbacks. In some ways, the show seems to be assuming that the younger generation is less compelling than Frank and Bonnie’s getting together in the past or Annalise attempting to adopt Christophe. Things spiral further from there.

The show deserves credit for showing how low Annalise actually gets, including a pill-swallowing attempt that Bonnie helps her though. Annalise has never been a completely mentally healthy character, but “He Betrayed Us Both” shows us in a fairly effective way just how deeply her past informs her present — both in terms of the pain she still carries and in terms of the manipulative behaviors she’s learned from people who have hurt her, like Sam.

It also contrasts sharply with how Connor and Oliver as well as Michaela and Asher treat each other. All four of them have their problems, but can communicate them to each other in some way, and they sleep together in their pairs. Laurel has her baby, and both Nate and Frank come back to Bonnie. Annalise, though, sleeps alone in the present, and in the past, Sam leaves her sleeping to delete his message to Vivian. Gabriel, meanwhile, is also alone, holding the basketball his father tossed him in the past.

Then, because this is How to Get Away with Murder, he places a mysterious phone call telling someone that his cover is blown. And Annalise is woken by a visit from Eve, bringing that email message from all those years ago. “He never deserved you, Annalise,” Eve says, and the episode ends.

It’s a bold choice to make an episode that is so heavily reliant on flashbacks to make any sort of sense. Does it pay off? Not necessarily, because it asks you to find the deeper meaning in everyone’s actions, then be satisfied with only hints of a mystery. The constant twists and mysteries may seem boring when they happen, but take them away and do something like this, and How to Get Away with Murder becomes something of a somber snoozefest.

Next. Riverdale review: The best of the midseason return. dark

More thoughts:

  • Bonnie orders pineapple pizza as an alibi. We knew she was not a great person, but this may be the worst choice she’s ever made (yes, this is mostly exaggeration).