‘How to Get Away with Murder’ Series Finale Explained: Who Died and Who Survived?

     May 15, 2020

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Six years after Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) described her college law course as How to Get Away with Murder, and after countless lies, betrayals, and more than a fair share of murder, we finally learn who actually gets away with murder. The ABC drama managed to give each of the main characters the karmic justice they deserved, while also delivering plenty of surprising plot twists and emotional farewells to our favorite young murderers.

As SNL’s Stefon would say, this finale had everything: Frank (Charlie Weber) killing more people, Laurel (Karla Souza) leaving the group and disappearing, Annalise talking over prosecutors and then giving a badass speech, Oliver being cute and breaking our hearts, Alfred Enoch speaking Spanish, and better makeup effects than This Is Us. So let’s break down exactly what happened, who got away with what, and what was up with that surprise Wes appearance.

Who Was Shot?

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Image via ABC

The episode begins with a flashback that gets slowly revealed throughout the episode. We hear gunshots outside the courthouse after Annalise’s trial ended, there’s chaos and people running away while we see a horrified Tegan (Amirah Vann). At the same time, Laurel quickly drives away with Christopher.

What exactly happened? Well, as we find out later in the episode, briefly after the trial ended, a very pissed off Frank arrived at the courthouse and gunned down Governor Birkhead (Laura Innes) just as she was coming out of the building. Sadly, Frank is instantly shot by Birkhead’s guards, and bleeds out in Bonnie’s (Liza Weil) arms before she realizes she was also shot in the crossfire. By dying with the woman who probably couldn’t have lived without him either way (and who also did her fair share of killing), Frank finally gets some karmic punishment after a lifetime of being essentially a hitman.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, there is a lot that happens before this shooting, so let’s turn back the clock to the trial of Annalise Keating.

Who Shot Hannah Keating?

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Image via ABC

We don’t really get a concrete answer for this. After the previous episode built Hannah (Marcia Gay Harden) up as the key witness who could help Annalise win the case, we discover she had apparently committed suicide. Annalise quickly thinks Frank did it, but he assures her that he didn’t pull the trigger (for once). But at least Frank seems to think it was all Governor Birkhead’s fault, as this is what prompts Frank to shoot Birkhead to death.

Did Anyone Get an Immunity Deal?

Back to the trial. Three days before Frank and Bonnie tragically die together, we see Frank pay whom he suspects is the secret witness, Gabriel (Rome Flynn), in order to persuade him not to testify against Annalise. Frank urges Gabriel to leave this life, and the drama and trauma surrounding his father, behind.

Meanwhile, Connor (Jack Falahee) continues to suffer from guilt over betraying Annalise and agreeing to testify, despite him and the other members of the Keating 5 being guilty. Guilt-ridden (perhaps from this deleted scene that should have been in the episode), he tries and fails to convince the others to do the right thing and go to prison, Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) negotiates a new deal so his husband can avoid jail time. When Connor finds out, he decides to turn down the deal and drops surprise divorce papers on Oliver. Connor knows he’ll go to prison after the trial, and doesn’t want Oliver waiting for him, insisting Oliver deserves someone better.

As for Michaela (Aja Naomi King), she justifies taking the deal and betraying her mentor and friends by insisting that her abusive childhood was enough imprisonment for a lifetime and she will fight to make something of herself instead.

And What About the Trial?

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Image via ABC

After the previous episode had Laurel surprise everyone by actually telling the truth for once, the finale of How to Get Away with Murder gave us three big testimonies. First at the plate was the big bad, Jorge Castillo (Esai Morales) — who didn’t really do a lot. He denies the FBI and the governor being involved in the conspiracy to take down Annalise.

Then it’s time for the governor herself, who unsurprisingly denies everything about the conspiracy. Luckily, Annalise does come up with a surprising audio file that Frank got that shows Hannah accusing the governor of killing Nate Lahey Sr. in season 5.

Lastly, there’s Annalise’s ex, Nate Lahey (Billy Brown). After she framed him for murder early in the series, and after discovering Nate was offered a $20 million settlement as long as he testified against her, Annalise doesn’t have a lot of faith in Nate. But Nate comes through in the end, claims that Hannah Keating was the one who framed him for Sam’s murder instead of Annalise, and claims that the FBI tried to coerce his testimony. When they meet later that night, Nate tells Annalise that he just wants to move on from the lies, and gives her one last parting gift: the written confession that Wes hid away before his death.

Who Gets Away with Murder?

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Image via ABC

After a surprising and moving visit from her mother and sister, Annalise is ready for one final speech, in which she bares her soul to the jury and addresses them as Anna Mae Harkness, without any of the many social masks she wears in public. She argues that she was many things, but not a murderer. It’s a rare moment of vulnerability, and Viola Davis nails this final, moving speech.

Speaking of emotional speeches, Tegan finally confesses her love for Annalise while waiting for the jury to deliberate. “I cannot not have you in my life because I love you,” she says. Annalise responds that Tegan deserves better, but before she can fully process what’s happening, Bonnie barges in to announce that the jury reached a verdict.

Annalise is found not guilty. On all charges.

But someone does go to jail for murder: Connor. Shortly after the verdict is announced, and very much despite Oliver’s pleas to stay together while he’s behind bars, Connor hands over his wedding ring to Oliver and walks away while in handcuffs. Michaela tries to comfort Oliver, but he quickly shuts her down before giving her the old “that should have been you.” For a while now, Connor has acted as the conscience of the Keating 5, and he’s shown the most remorse for the many sins the group has committed, so seeing him finally accept his fate is heartbreaking, even if it feels just right.

But someone did actually get away with murder: Michaela. As the person who originally pushed Sam down some stairs way back in Season 1, Michaela was always looking out for herself and fought hard to escape from her traumatic past. The season finale has her escape legal consequence to her actions, but not before losing all connection to her friends, as proven by Oliver’s rejection and later Laurel changing her number when Michaela tries to call her for some consolation.

After this, we see what actually happens outside the courthouse at the beginning of the episode, and we cut to resolving a previous flash forward.

The Life and Death of Anna Mae Harkness

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Image via ABC

In the first episode of this season, we were teased with a funeral for Annalise. After many weeks of speculating whether she actually gets killed or if she fakes her own death, we get an answer: it is an actual funeral held for her legitimate death, but it’s set many, many years in the future. The photo of Annalise that was shown at the beginning of the season is next to another photo of her as an old woman (this episode features enough old-age makeup effects to rival This Is Us).

We see the promised return of Wes, but then he starts speaking Spanish and it is revealed Alfred Enoch isn’t playing Wes, but an adult version of Wes and Laurel’s son, Christopher. The acquaintance who was brought up to speak about Annalise? Not Wes, but an elderly Eve (Famke Janssen), who delivers an emotional eulogy. During her speech, we get a montage of unresolved plot points. Jorge Castillo gets shanked in prison and bleeds out alone, and Nate spends the money from his father’s wrongful death suit in opening the Lahey Justice Center.

We also see flashes of Annalise her sister attending their mother’s funeral, dancing with Tegan, going back to drinking, having a few new lovers — both men and women — ending with an older Annalise walking alone on a beach.

But getting back to the funeral, we see an older Laurel look around and spotting an older Connor and Oliver, who apparently got together and either stayed married or got remarried in the future (tears, going down everyone’s face). One person missing from the funeral? Michaela, who is seen in a brief montage as she’s getting sworn in as a judge next to what may be her daughters or granddaughters, finally getting the successful life she always wanted.

Then we end on a scene that feels a bit familiar. Adult Christopher walks into a classroom at Middletown Law School. But he’s not a student, as Christopher Castillo introduces himself as a professor, with a new accent that could have made the Harry Potter movies better had he used it there. Finally, he introduces his course, “This is Criminal Law 100, or as my mentor liked to call it, How to Get Away with Murder.”

Television