by Miles Behn
There are few things I love more than the first season of a Shonda Rhimes TV show. I jumped right on board with Grey’s Anatomy in high school, crowding around the TV with my sisters, shouting and crying at the cliffhangers, medical drama, and sordid love affairs. A few years ago I fell into the black hole of Scandal, surprised and moved by Rhimes’ remarkable cast of strong women, and well-rounded statements about gender politics (I may or may not have cried during Olivia’s “earn me” speech).
Suffice it to say, I have my tent stakes firmly planted in Camp Rhimes. When I heard Rhimes was creating another show for ABC, this one starring the incredible Viola Davis, and appropriately named How to Get Away with Murder, I knew I had to watch it. It’s wonderful to watch Rhimes’ characters in their first season, before the drama and subplots turn them into unbelievable caricatures. Season one is always fresh and uncomplicated. Though, our main characters have killed a man, so maybe I’m overstepping with this show.
Let’s get on with the recap.
Last week our resident, accused murderess became a fully fledged Manic Pixie Dream Girl, admitting to Wes that, “no one’s ever believed in me like this before.” Good thing you’ve got the Puppy there to protect you. Annalise admits in a tearful (and quite moving) confession that she needs her lying, cheating, possibly murdering husband. While we’re certainly meant to hate Mr. Darcy, it is refreshing to see a woman both so incredibly strong, and able to express complex emotions in a television drama. Annalise is given the room to be ruthless, but also broken, afraid, and needing. Witnessing her cry, repeating the line “I need you,” breaking with each utterance, we’re reminded that emotions and strength are not mutually exclusive.
In a classic Rhimes twist, Asher and Bonnie are sleeping together (there goes my secret hope that Bonnie is a lesbian), and Annalise’s meddling ex-paramour finds out about her evidence-planting secrets. Let the drama begin!
We open with the bonfire, immediately after Mr. Darcy’s murder. Rebecca is covered in his blood (did she bash him in the head with the trophy?), and she and Puppy share a strangely intimate moment in the bathroom when he cleans the blood from her. This relationship can only go up from here, right? We murdered someone together, so we’re like married now, or something.
Back to before the murder—two weeks to be exact (I smell sweeps drama coming). “Turn on the news,” a classic Rhimes infodump tactic, leads to this episode’s running plot—Griffin O’Reilly vs. Rebecca Sutter, who actually killed Lila Stangard? (Spoiler alert—it’s neither.) The prosecution has leaked information to the press regarding Rebecca’s sexual history, and Annalise gets to shout in a courtroom “the prosecution has leaked gossip to the press in order to slut shame my client.” Hell yes, Keating! Dismantle the patriarchy! “It doesn’t matter who leaked it, everyone knows that it’s the woman who gets vilified in these scenarios…. That’s my client’s face smeared across the front page, not Mr. O’Reilly’s.” Truer words have not been spoken. Thank you, Ms. Rhimes, for once again showing us society’s double standards regarding gender and sexual relationships.
Then we get the other big episode bombshell—let’s exhume a body! Because that doesn’t happen enough in legal procedurals.
Wes and Rebecca share a moment in his apartment, Rebecca sure to pull out all the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stops: I know the word patronize. I can make quirky OJ Simpson references. I’m so cute, and flawed, and unable to change in anyway. Wes follows suit by arguing that Rebecca can make something of herself after this—she can go to college, become a lawyer, like he did. A man trying to save a troubled woman? Where have I seen that before? Before an almost kiss Rebecca runs away in a flair of drama. Manic Pixie Dream Girl status maintained.
Flash forward to the night of the murder. Rebecca admits to killing Mr. Darcy, going so far as to say, “I’m already going to jail, and now you might be going too, and I will kill myself if that happens.” Thank goodness Wes and Rebecca have such a healthy relationship. We don’t see enough of those on TV these days.
Back to the trial, where we get some brutal awkwardness between Laurel and Frank (apparently two adults can’t work together when one turns down the other, ok, Frank), and the line “this isn’t high school. You don’t like me, I don’t like you.” Actually, Frank, that sounds exactly like high school. But I’m a self-entitled millenial, so what do I know?
Annalise meets in the dark of the night with her ex-paramour, but it seems all sexual tension is dead (boo). Now we just have an angry ex-lover who knows too many secrets. Classic Rhimes powder keg ready to explode for our sweeps drama.
We return to the trial for Rebecca and Griffin, where a last ditch effort to prevent a plea deal for Griffin means false rape accusations from Rebecca. One thing I hate more than a false rape plotline is a false rape plotline done flippantly. There is enough victim blaming in our society already, we don’t need more media that shows women use rape charges as a tool, a form of slander. Shame on you, How to Get Away With Murder. I expected better.
After the last ditch effort, exhumation is still set to take place. While we successfully avoided Griffin getting off scot free, we’re still stuck with digging up Lila’s body, and finding new secrets.
Drama continues to sizzle for Wes and Rebecca after the courthouse rape accusations. We get an epic speech from Rebecca about Wes’ flaws (perfect timing Manic Pixie Dream Girl), and the sexual tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. MAKE OUT TIME. Wes and Rebecca finally hook up, cut with scenes from Lila’s second autopsy. The juxtaposition is jarring, but executed quite well; the line between sex and violence is thin.
Frank and Laurel share a moment on the porch. “What if I don’t want you to get over it?” Oh, Laurel. Pick a man and stick with him, please. And perhaps reconsider the sex you’re about to have on an open, front porch in a small, college town. But you know, heat of the moment and all.
Rebecca meets the ex-paramour in the convenience store, and it looks like we’ve lit the flame for our powder keg. Time to catch the real killer—not even Mr. Darcy can escape the drama of fall sweeps.
The final clincher of the episode? They exhumed the body, and we missed something huge (how, I don’t think any medical personnel could tell you). Lila was six weeks pregnant. OH SNAP. Mr. Darcy’s screwed now.
With three more episodes this year, it looks like we’re setting up pretty well for fall sweeps. It seems like we’ll move past the night of the murder after hiatus (fingers crossed we also lose the flying cheerleader), and dive right into the premise of the show. Just how will these first years get away with murder? How complicated can their lives get before it stops being believable? Just how far can we push that suspension of disbelief? Here’s hoping to at least season 2.
From Annalise to the DA: “Prayers are for the weak, I’ll stick to beating your ass in court.”
From Asher to Connor: “What do you have some sort of voodoo penis? I’m so freaking mad I wasn’t born gay.”