HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER Finale Postmortem: Sex, Lies, & Duct Tape

     February 27, 2015

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After the insane How to Get Away with Murder finale, Adam Chitwood and I decided to email back and forth to discuss all of those crazy twists and turns. Here are our thoughts on the revelation of the killer, the new mystery for next year, whether or not the show has any heroes, our favorites of the Keating Five, and this first season as a whole:

Allison: So let’s talk How To Get Away With Murder! I’ll kick off by saying that as much as I am a sucker for whodunnits, and loved how batshit crazy this show was from the start, I’m a little surprised not only at how doggedly I’ve kept up with this season, but how excited I’ve been for new episodes. Something about it just felt really unique — not just because of Viola Davis, who was a huge part of that — but the show has always had such a great energy to it. Annalise Keating sets up this whole moral universe where she and her students (and Bonnie and Frank) operate that’s separate from the rest of the world. We’re talking about a show where kids kill a guy, roll him up in a rug, and burn his body. And that’s all presented as being a righteous act. Yet, we still have time to investigate their love lives. It’s insane and I love it.

how-to-get-away-with-murder-viola-davisAdam: It is insane and I also love it. I’m the same way. I’m not really a “Shondaland” person (I watched the first couple of good seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, made it through only the pilot of Private Practice, and haven’t seen Scandal), but I too was surprised at how eagerly I kept up with this show as well. Let’s just say there are a lot of things piling up on my DVR (hello 6 episodes of Downton Abbey that I may or may not ever watch) but Murder was never one of them. It embraces its batshit craziness like no other, but the key to it all, I think, is Viola Davis. She’s such a tremendous actress and she brings a degree of gravitas that’s pretty rare in network TV. But yes, the mystery hook, crazy love lives, and rolling-people-up-in-rugs-and-setting-them-on-fire-ness is great, great fun. This debut season was chock-full of twists and turns that were maybe a little outlandish at times, but you couldn’t help but go along for the ride. And I’m pretty sure this finale doubled the number of twists/reveals in the span of two hours!

Allison: Truly! Honestly, I had no idea how they would finish this season up — whether or not we would really find out who killed Lila — but I think they had to give us something while still sustaining the mystery for another season. Though I thought that revelation really dragged (especially in the last hour), the two final montages (and the music that accompanied them) were worth the wait. Finding out who the killer was has only raised more questions!

Now — did you guess it was Frank? In my notes I started the night with “Rebecca didn’t do it, but she was there,” which turned out to be right. But I had zero guesses about who the actual murderer was. At one point I did consider how little we know about Frank, who seems to be a total sociopath, but didn’t make the connection. Did you feel that explanation about Lila’s death was satisfying?

how-to-get-away-with-murder-season-1-finaleAdam: I was leaning towards Annalise as the killer, honestly, so no, I had no idea it was Frank. But I thought that was a really solid twist. It not only subverts expectations, but it sets up a big season-long arc to dig into next year re: Frank’s backstory, what favor he owed Sam, etc. I think the explanation was satisfying enough simply because it wasn’t expected, but really, the more we got to know Rebecca in this episode, the more I was kind of looking forward to her death. Is that terrible? She was kind of awful and annoying and grating. Byeeeeee!

But this being How to Get Away with Murder and all, they couldn’t just settle for one big twist, they had to up and kill Rebecca. That was smart as well, since it not only provides another murder mystery for next year, but this is one that we know is 100% not justified–Rebecca is innocent and she died tragically (or was it a suicide? Twist!). Basically the writers did a fantastic job of setting themselves up for next season, and I look forward to seeing what other insane story points follow.

Allison: You hit all of the points I was going to make — Frank was satisfying because he’s someone who’s in the group (which complicates that dynamic even more), and yet, it still allowed for Sam to “kill” Lila by putting the hit on her. That means they didn’t kill an innocent man — an important fact regarding our feelings about Wes and Annalise.

But now, like you said, an innocent person is dead. How she ended up killed and stuffed away could be anyone’s doing in that house, let’s be real. But the other thing is that while the group was united in killing Sam, they are dividing over Rebecca. Both Annalise and Frank make clear they thought the other one did it. If neither did it, then someone else in the house is lying.

how-to-get-away-with-murder-rebeccaThat all opens up a huge opportunity for next season (who killed Rebecca, the favor, who is Eggs 911, what happened to Sam’s sister …?!), with more flashbacks/forwards. And honestly, I have missed them. I never thought I would say that after Lost, but they really add a lot to HTGAWM. More than the Cases of the Week, anyway, which are pretty weak (the priest was one of the most obvious/boring ones they’ve done, as much as I liked seeing Tom Everett Scott).

Oh, and I don’t think anyone will miss Rebecca. “Do I need to get the tape?” was one of my favorite Annalise lines of all time.

I do feel like Annalise and Rebecca are (were?) very similar, though, in being master manipulators (even though Rebecca really was telling the truth, for the most part). Can we give a moment for poor Nate, for instance? Annalise has proven over and over again how she is willing to do anything and sacrifice anyone for her concept of the greater good, be it for the benefit of her clients or her students. Does that make her a hero? Is anyone a hero on this show?

Adam: It’s interesting you bring up Annalise’s moral ambiguity, because on paper she is a horrible, horrible person. But again, Viola Davis’ performance brings so many different shades to the character that she almost feels like the “least awful” one out of the bunch, despite the evidence. I loved her scenes with Cicely Tyson in last week’s episode–it really fleshed out the character of Annalise, allowing the audience to kind of understand where she’s been and how she got here. I’d really like to see a couple more backstory episodes for her character next season.

Speaking of heroes on this show, in the middle of the finale I wrote down “Supervillain: Origins.” Let’s be honest, all of these people are pretty messed up, and I could easily see all of this acting as a sort of pivotal moment in their lives that leads them down a path of evil (or supervillainy, if you will). How will this shape them into the lawyers they will or won’t become? And how are they passing any of their classes when they’re spending so much time at that damn house/murdering people?

how-to-get-away-with-murder-season-1-finaleBut just when I had decided that all of the young ‘uns were pretty despicable people (and Wes is just boring, let’s be honest; would anyone miss him if he just disappeared?), Michela had her “drop the mic” moment at dinner with her ex fiance’s mother. She’s a character I’ve never really liked all that much, just because she seemed to blame everyone but herself for her problems, but if the Michela we saw at that dinner is the Michela we’ll be seeing next season, she’s my new favorite.

Allison: “And how are they passing any of their classes when they’re spending so much time at that damn house/murdering people?” — My thoughts exactly!

Yes, let’s move on to the Keating Five. Michela completely won me over with her backwater-bayou background coming out at dinner with Aiden’s mother. I was thinking earlier in the night about how I didn’t really know or care about her character (besides her great outfits), but her resolve in that moment showed she could be going in a completely new and welcomed direction. Laurel giving her the ring back seemed to solidify that.

In general though, I like how each student serves a larger purpose: Laurel is usually the voice of reason (when she’s not asking Frank to kill people), Wes reinforces the bond with Annalise and drives the action (by mistake, usually; as a personality he is a non-entity), Asher infuses everything with humor, Connor is the cynic / devil’s advocate, while Michela is the emotional raw nerve (at least, she was).

What I like the most about Asher’s part in this story though is how innocent he is, and how he’s being kept away from the truth of the murder. I’m really fascinated to see how he will get involved, or even how they’ll keep hiding from him. His relationships are deepening, like with Connor. And he even got ole Sourpuss Bonnie to smile in these episodes, more than once!

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Their relationship may actually be the sweetest one on the show, even though she’s almost constantly lying to him. I had been rooting for Connor and Oliver, but making Oliver HIV positive was ridiculous. It felt like a shock for the sake of it, without being true to the character (who otherwise has been really well developed). Let these two be happy. It has helped Connor’s character so much. (The Thornbirds!)

Adam: Man I cannot get onboard the Asher train. That guy irritates me like no other. He’s such a douchey personality who only says and does douchey things! But I do agree that his and Bonnie’s relationship is at least sweet, and I definitely think it was smart to leave one person from the study group out of the murder plot entirely. My hope is that once he starts to piece things together (and he will–his meeting with the prosecutor in Sam’s murder case seems to imply trouble’s a-brewin’), he’ll come down to earth a bit. For now, he’s too much of a space cadet for my taste. But I’m with you about Connor and Oliver’s relationship, I was really rooting for that one to work out but the HIV twist did seem a bit too much. Maybe this will give them more of an emotional grounding, though, as opposed to Connor just trying to sleep with Oliver in every other scene.

I did, however, very much appreciate the way the show dealt with the almost PSA-like issue of using condoms. Michela’s “damn straight” answer when asked if she and her fiance always practiced safe sex was a wonderful capper. And let’s be honest, How to Get Away with Murder has been as much about sex as it has been about murder, so I think it’s admirable of them to tackle the issue in a straightforward manner, but with that Murder-esque sense of humor intact.

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But as we start to wrap things up, I do want to ask you, what do you hope to see in Season 2? Are there any big tweaks you’d make to the show’s structure or are you hoping they pretty much maintain this foundation they’ve built? I agree the case-of-the-week stuff doesn’t always work, but sometimes it provides a nice breather from the constant twists and turns of the central mystery. I think they found a really nice balance after the first couple of episodes, and I love that it’s a 13-episode season (no doubt a stipulation of Davis’ contract so she can still have time for feature films), which avoids them having to stretch things out for an inordinate amount of time.

Allison: Exactly, sex as a tool for manipulation and power is just as integral to this show as the courtroom. And certainly much more so than the classroom!

Glad you brought up the 13-episode structure, because I think that’s one thing has really helped this show. When the crazy has been amped up this high, it can’t be sustained for a 22-episode season (as Sleepy Hollow and now Scandal have proved). Though ABC hasn’t officially renewed it, I think we all know with the ratings and the buzz, it’s a lock (and a promo last night teased “we’ll be back in the Fall.”)

As for Season 2, I think they’ve set it all up perfectly by tying the first murder and now the second together in ways that are both satisfying, yet still shrouded in mystery. I wouldn’t change a thing — the show maintained a great balance between the flashbacks/forwards, the linear story, and the Cases of the Week (which do provide insights into certain characters) this season. I’m ready for whatever comes next!

I’ll let you have the final word for our postmortem of this season, but you also have to give your prediction for next year: who killed Rebecca? I’m going to say it’s someone in the group who hasn’t killed before (so not Frank or Wes). Or could it be … Eggs 911??

Adam: In the twist to end all twists…Lila killed Rebecca! Kidding (kind of). Man I have no idea, and actually I don’t think the writers do, either. It wasn’t until they came back from winter break that they settled on Frank as the killer, after seeing how the story had progressed, so I imagine they’ll do the same thing next season. And I’m entirely fine with that. Not everything has to be planned to a T, and I think in some cases it’s beneficial to see how the characters develop before marrying yourself to an idea. The Breaking Bad writers room famously wrote themselves into corners multiple times without knowing how they were going to get out, and that worked out quite well! But my shot-in-the-dark guess right now is that Wes is responsible for Rebecca’s murder. No idea why or how or what, but hey, that’s Murder for ya!

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