Thursday, October 23, 2014

REVIEW: 'How to Get Away With Murder' - Laurel Fights on Behalf of the First Client She Actually Likes in 'We're Not Friends'

ABC's How to Get Away With Murder - Episode 1.05 "We're Not Friends"

Annalise takes on a tough case defending a minor who fatally shoots his police officer father. Meanwhile, Annalise and Sam continue to argue over his relationship with Lila, and Wes and Rebecca begin to question Annalise's motives. In flash-forwards, we learn more about Laurel's relationship with Frank and why he was calling her the night of Sam's death.

After a few episodes into its first season, I'm finding it a little difficult to care about any of the characters or the struggles they are going through on How to Get Away With Murder. The one exception is Annalise Keating because she is played with such compelling force by Viola Davis. She is the show's strongest focal point. And yet, she's not the show's only focal point. When she pops up on the screen, I care about the story as it effects her. Her husband may be connected to Lila's murder and it's great seeing her try to unravel the truth while still providing a capable defense for Rebecca. Every time she argues with Sam, it's amazing because it feels like a strong and powerful woman fighting for herself.

Wes and Rebecca are only really ever interesting because of their association to Annalise. They are a part of Annalise's personal story. Sharing a scene with Davis makes those two characters vastly more interesting and engaging. That's a quality that simply doesn't hold up when we later spend a scene with the two of them in Wes' apartment. They are a part of this story but they are also in the dark about what is motivating Annalise. That is quickly dealt with in the episode's last act. Annalise manipulates Sam into interviewing Rebecca in order to determine if she knows who he is. She does not - in that moment. Later on, she puts all the pieces together by looking at the wallpaper in the bathroom which matches the one seen in the naked picture on Lila's phone. How she's able to remember the wallpaper in that picture when it's not the chief focus is stretching a little bit. And yet, it forces Wes to become a greater piece of this story. For better or worse, the show is committed to making Wes an important character. I still don't see what is exactly compelling about him. He's reluctant and naive. That just doesn't make for an exciting character. Even in the flash-forwards, we see him making decisions against the group. There simply is not a strong foundation to that character in order to truly underline the person he becomes following Sam's murder.

"We're Not Friends" isn't really about Annalise, Wes or Rebecca. It's Laurel's focal point episode. The case-of-the-week is slightly more important through her eyes. This is the week in which she gets to become a multi-dimensional character. So far, she has just been the moral one of the group. That is a bland characteristic that has been executed blandly. It's also been alluded that she's the new student who gets to sleep with Frank. They have a combative relationship that really isn't to the extreme enough that it makes a sexual connection all that surprising. It's not surprising to the audience when she confirms she slept with Frank in the flash-forwards. That is literally what the show has been alluded to for the entire season so far. This episode is suppose to make us care about Laurel much more as a character and it simply doesn't. She is still the weakest of the student characters. This episode doesn't change that.

The actual case-of-the-week includes a teenage son who shoots his police officer father to protect his mother from further abuse. It's interesting in that the facts are simple and the facts will convict this latest client. That means Annalise gets to teach everyone what it means to manipulate the jury into coming to the verdict that she desires. It's not exactly a nuanced version of this story. A lot of time is spent explaining stuff and Laurel is literally the only person on the defense team who actually seems to care about this client. Wes, Michaela, Connor and Asher are all just letting her do all the work. Did they contribute anything to this defense? No because this was the week where Laurel was suppose to shine. The pieces just ultimately did not come together all that well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "We're Not Friends" was written by Tracey A. Bellomo and directed by Michael Listo.
  • My theory that Rebecca killed Sam because she believes he killed Lila is looking pretty solid right now. It continues to seem way too obvious. And yet, I can't think of a reveal in the flash-forwards that was actually surprising.
  • Laurel is also apparently dating that other guy. I just thought they were flirting and being friends. But nope, it's actually a thing I guess. They have sex but it's pretty clear she would rather be doing the act with Frank, which seems like lazy writing.
  • Annalise learns the truth about Sam's whereabouts on the night of Lila's murder. She is surrounded by men who lie to her. I respect that she knows she can't trust anything they say. That only makes her relationship with Wes more complicated because she is the person lying to him. That could become something.
  • How in the world did Connor get the one juror to talk about the case on a dating app? That seems really unlikely.
  • Annalise called on someone else in the class! That's a first but Laurel has to interrupt and talk about herself because this is her week to be developed as a character.