Fall Pilot Review: HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

     September 25, 2014

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Shonda Rhimes has just become a triple-threat on ABC, getting her own 3-hour block of television; How to Get Away with Murder, created by ShondaLand writer Peter Nowalk, will air after Rhimes’ series Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.  And for fans of Scandal in particular, there’s a lot about How to Get Away with Murder that feels familiar, though in a good way.  Plus, there’s Viola Davis as another strong, complicated (though not angry!) black woman at the heart of the series.  Hit the jump for whether the show deserves a spot on your DV-R, or should even be watched — gasp — live!

how-to-get-away-with-murder-viola-daivsHow to Get Away with Murder is already a stand-out among pilots this season because of its glossy, fast-paced ShondaLand feel.  Annalise Keating (Davis) is a law professor at a prestigious Philadelphia university, teaching Criminal Law 100 (or as she calls it … the series’ title).  She’s known for being extremely tough, and incorporates her best students into her work at her law practice.  (Although, there don’t seem to be many hanging around from years past … burned out, or cast out?)

On the student side, there’s Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch), who was accepted to the university off of a wait list, and lacks the innately devious nature of his classmates.  Ultimately though, he wins Annalise’s attention by his quick thinking … and also because he stumbled onto a scene he wasn’t meant to witness.

The other students who rise to the top (played by Jack Falahee, Aja Naomi King, Matt McGorry and Karla Souza) are all portrayed as suitably cutthroat and morally bankrupt (for the most part), and Annalise’s two associates (Charlie Weber, Liza Weil) at her firm are similarly viperish.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a Shonda Rhimes production if all of these character and several others weren’t all intwined with one another sexually too, causing personal and professional lines to blur.

Yes, this is all very Scandal-esque.  Annalise is the overtaxed captain with a complicated personal life (especially regarding her husband, Tom Verica, and her boyfriend, Billy Brown), and her students are her Gladiators, going to war for her.  The twist here is that that includes, it seems, committing murder — or at least, covering it up.  Though the murder plot (which takes place four months after the other events of the pilot) at first seems like it could be an advanced classroom exercise, it becomes clear later that the students actually have done something terrible, and are apparently using what they learned in the classroom as practical experience.

How-to-Get-Away-With-Murder-Poster-abcDespite that story, though, which seems initially like a mistake (although it does add plenty of extra drama), How to Get Away with Murder can’t be faulted for providing an engaging pilot that hasn’t made it clear who to trust, or what the end-game will be — a smart hook for viewers who are looking for investment in a series, and don’t want to be told everything up front.  Like Scandal and Grey’s, expect plenty of twists and turns and a few ripped-from-the-headlines plots as things continue (and spiral into incredible levels of ridiculously).  In the end, you know the drill: ShondaLand series are candy — quickly addictive and easy to binge.  In that light, How to Get Away with Murder is exactly what you want and expect.

Premiere Date: Thursday, September 25th at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Pilot Rating: Very Good

Chance of Cancellation: Low

DV-R Priority: Moderate to High, depending on how much you use Twitter.

How to Get Away with Murder Review

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