Friday, November 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'How to Get Away With Murder - Annalise Finds Herself Stuck in a Tricky Legal Mess in 'Hi, I'm Philip'

ABC's How to Get Away With Murder - Episode 2.08 "Hi, I'm Philip"

Philip makes a threatening move. ADA Sinclair may have figured out a way to take down Annalise. Catherine and Caleb are forced to make a life changing decision.

The Hapstall case has been so significant to the second season of How to Get Away With Murder. It has been the show's attempt at doing an ongoing legal story. It's connected to the flash-forwards. But it also gives the characters multiple things to do every week. So after eight weeks of story, it should feel rewarding to finally get some answers as to who killed these wealthy parents. And yet, it really is just a slog to get through in this episode. There are one too many role reversals and twists to keep track off. Caleb wants to take the plea deal. Catherine wants to take the plea deal. Philip is innocent. Philip is guilty. Caleb and Catherine don't know who Philip is. Catherine is friends with Philip. The case comes to a conclusion. And then, it's revealed that Catherine is likely the murderer. All of this back-and-forth doesn't create meaningful stakes for the show. It just feels like the show jamming a whole lot of story into one hour to keep the audience guessing.

The show has come to accept that the truth doesn't determine the outcome of the law. Instead each case is determined by which side has the best lawyer giving the best argument. ADA Sinclair has been flailing around his season trying to get something to stick absolutely everywhere. Every time a legal opposition can pop up, it does in Sinclair. She's the one who tried Nate for the murder of Sam. She's the opposing counsel on the Hapstall case. She's the one who wanted to investigate Nate's wife's death. She's the one who tried to blackmail Asher into getting a legal wire tape in the Keating household. She is determined to take Annalise down no matter what the cost. It's a personal vendetta that has been very limiting for the character. As such, Annalise is capable of besting Sinclair every time they face off. Sure, she infuriates the court a lot of time. But she still produces solid results because she has the information that would appear to make her case look unbeatable.

Annalise is determined to get the charges against Caleb and Catherine dropped. That has now inadvertently put Oliver in harm's way because he wanted a little excitement in his life. It was a huge cliffhanger at the end of the previous episode with Philip showing up in Oliver's apartment - likely wishing him harm. And yet, that story is given such a lame resolution in this episode. It happened in order to build excitement for this episode only for it to be revealed that Oliver was never in any real danger. Philip is simply misunderstood and what's to clear the air with the people who hacked into his computer. It's a twist that happens solely to extend this story for one more week. It would have been easy to pin all of the blame on Philip. He is the easy target because he has no character to fundamentally understand. This episode doesn't do a great job shading in his personality either. But having a personality isn't the point though. Annalise wants the pieces to fit together so she can have a good case for the siblings. She gets it too. Michaela and Wes just have to keep the siblings in line in order for the evidence to come together.

It happens at the last second but Sinclair does end the case against Caleb and Catherine. So, it makes it the appropriate time to reveal that everything Annalise and the audience thought they knew was wrong. Catherine really was the killer and has been expertly lying to the team this entire time. Wes is able to put that together simply because Catherine was nice to him and gave him one of her paintings. It establishes a connection between Philip and Catherine. It only makes things more complicated though. Despite being on the show since the premiere, Catherine isn't much more of a character than Philip is. Suspicion falls on her. But it still hasn't been confirmed that she is the one who killed her parents. The show still needs to explain why she would do such a thing. And yet, the need to drag out answers has been so boring.

It also gives the show a very easy out when it comes to the "Who shot Annalise?" mystery. Before this episode, everyone on the team had a very personal motivation for wanting Annalise dead. By the end of this one though, everyone is largely just enjoying some sexy times in order to celebrate closing this exhaustive case. It does offer the show a fun sex montage between all the major couples - though the Connor-Oliver portion is the only one deeply rooted in a meaningful connection. But it also establishes that there is enough happiness going on in these characters' lives that they don't feel the urgency to kill Annalise. That could just be setting up for a very chaotic next three days in the lives of these characters. Or it could be planning on putting all of the blame on Catherine and Philip. It would be so easy for the show to back out of this momentous moment by having a semi-recurring, one-note character pull the trigger. They have the motive now that the legal system is looking at Philip for the murders. Catherine was ready to take that plea deal in order to save her brother. She had to back out because Annalise gave her no other choice. But that was before the audience knew about her friendship with Philip. It complicates things that could take all the blame off of the regular characters. They are simply at the mansion in order to deal with the fallout of Sinclair's murder and Annalise getting shot. It would just be needlessly complicated then with no actual stakes or meaningful fallout for any of the characters the audience is suppose to care about. This episode presents one too many escape plans for next week's big midseason reveal. It does not excite, which is perhaps it's greatest failing.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Hi, I'm Philip" was written by Tanya Saracho and directed by Jennifer Getzinger.
  • Apparently, Michaela and Caleb have been having a flirtatious banter that they were finally able to act on now that the case is over. That felt more like the show telling the audience that something was happening instead of actually showing something happening until it was all about sex.
  • Nate decides to help Annalise with the Hapstall case because he hates Sinclair and wants to help take her down. Well, that mixed with his very complicated feelings towards Annalise which don't make any sense at all.
  • Bonnie doesn't come into work at all. So, Laurel has to step up to do her duties around the office. This may have been the most Annalise has ever noticed Laurel and been appreciative of what she has done.
  • Frank has a suitcase filled with money. That's how he was able to get the DNA results so fast. And yet, it's only mildly interesting because this episode needlessly props up a fight between him and Laurel.
  • Despite the horrible state of his relationship with Bonnie, Asher proves himself to be very smart and capable at the Keating house this week by figuring out Sinclair planted a bug in the new evidence and then actually finding it in the pen.
  • The gun used to kill the Hapstall parents was still in that house. How in the world did the police not find that? They must be really bad at their jobs.
  • Does the show really want the audience to think that it's that easy to change police records? That felt like a contrivance that wasn't necessary in the slightest.