Friday, October 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'How to Get Away With Murder' - Annalise Takes the Witness Stand & Faces Major Speculation in 'She's Dying'

ABC's How to Get Away With Murder - Episode 2.02 "She's Dying"

Annalise and her team are blindsided when investigators try to pin a new charge on the wealthy siblings she's been hired to represent. Things for Annalise become even more difficult when she's brutally cross-examined on the witness stand during Nate's preliminary hearing.

How to Get Away With Murder has never been the best when it comes to depicting the law. It usually just plays things for the plot histrionics. It wants sensationalized moments that can have Annalise erupt into a big and passionate speech. She's a dominating presence in the courtroom. No matter if she's the defense attorney or on the witness stand, she demands one's full attention. It remains a captivating performance. But it still doesn't give the show a sense that it knows what it's doing when it comes to the law. Nate's case is a preliminary hearing to determine whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to take this case to trial. And yet, prosecutor Emily Sinclair spends her entire time trying to prove that Annalise is a co-conspirator in this murder. She doesn't give any ample time to showing the judge that Nate is involved at all with Sam's murder. It didn't seem as if Eve needed to do anything for her defense. The prosecution didn't lay out a comprehensive case against Nate. So why did Eve need to have her big moment in court where she too got to point out that Annalise was probably involved in her husband's death? Simply to give Eve and Annalise a big and important emotional moment later.

It is fun watching Eve and Annalise sneaking around figuring out the best defense for Nate. Sinclair wants to make it a big deal that the two of them know each other. She is right to suspect that the two of them are working together. Eve attacking Annalise in court does help take that suspicion away as well. But Annalise also takes it as a much more personal attack than it was. She knows that it's what Eve needed to do in order to best serve her client. But she also felt that Eve was making the argument too personal. The two of them as a couple are vastly more interesting than Annalise ever was with Nate and Sam. Nate is barely a character. He's just a former detective who likes to sneak around and sometimes spy curious things. Sam was too entangled with the main murder mystery to ever be seen in an emotional relationship context. With Eve and Annalise, there is hope that this is something both of them want. It's real for them in a way that past relationships haven't been. It is forcing Annalise to face some ugly truths about herself. That is meaningful character development this season. And yet, the two then say goodbye to each other the next morning outside the house where anyone could see just how close the two of them really are.

And then, there is the case that Annalise and the team are working on right now. It's still so great that the case is one that is continuous throughout the episodes in the early going. Sure, it's hard to care about the siblings who stand accused of murdering their parents. Are they being framed or not? It's hard to know for certain. But it's definitely keeping the team busy while they figure out a defense. It's not abundantly clear how this story is going to get to the big confrontation in two months time. But the flash-forwards are still a huge improvement over last season. There's just a simplicity to them. Sure, they are just as scandalous and filled with surprises as every other story on this show is. It's still not a great idea to center things around the four students though. Annalise is a part of them this year. She's at the center of it. Unfortunately, that keeps her from actually doing anything. She is on the floor bleeding out. Connor is doing his best to safe her before the police arrive while Wes, Michaela and Laurel want to get out of there as quickly as possible. It remains a great tease. But there still isn't a substantial hook as to why this has happened and how this is going to affect things moving forward. It purely happens to keep the tension high.

The rest of the episode deals with the personal lives of the students. Asher's is the simplest. He's happy he no longer has to give information to Sinclair for Nate's case and he celebrates by going home to Bonnie. Laurel's makes no sense. She goes to Frank's apartment after doing well on her test hoping to have sex with him and he pushes her out the door. Is this seriously a relationship the audience is suppose to care about? Because it just does not work at all. Wes is tasked with getting close to their client, Catherine. He does so but not in a well that establishes an intimate connection. Connor is on the outs with Oliver for a little bit after Oliver learns that Connor has shared his HIV diagnosis with his classmates. But they are able to handle these real issues. Plus, the show is able to have some fun with it too by allowing Oliver and Michaela to bond over their shared desire for Connor to be quiet. However, it seems Michaela is once again getting into a relationship that could be potentially troubling. Her new guy is seen in a picture with Rebecca. So he may not be all that he first appears to be. That could be interesting - but Michaela only really works as a character when she's interacting with Connor. So all of these various relationships better be going somewhere important soon. Otherwise it seems like a waste of time.

Some more thoughts:
  • "She's Dying" was written by Erika Green Swafford and directed by Rob Hardy.
  • Wasn't it great to see Annalise smile and laugh for once? She was just enjoying the fun she had with Eve the previous night. They are in a car and might get caught together. But it was still a different moment that was great to see.
  • The Annalise-Bonnie confrontation didn't really work last week. And yet here, it is framed interestingly as the show has to give Annalise a reason why she keeps Bonnie as a part of her team. The fact that she sees herself as someone who people need saving from is a fantastic character beat.
  • So Caleb going for his run was one big red herring from the premiere. He wasn't anywhere close to the murder scene. And yet, someone is clearing framing him and his sister for these crimes. The problem is there is no one else relevant to this case to actually be suspicious of.
  • Asher really was a jackass in his handling of Oliver when he stopped by Annalise's house to give Connor his key to their apartment. If he doesn't know how to act, Asher really should just shut up. If only he knew how.
  • Sinclair making her way onto the prosecution team against Caleb and Catherine just in order to go up against Annalise feels like she may be getting too obsessed with taking her down for Sam's murder. She's getting close which makes it reasonable that she shows up dead later on.
  • Annalise to Caleb and Catherine: "Now go home and don't kill anyone."
  • Annalise to Eve: "It was sex. Get over it."