Thursday, November 19, 2015

REVIEW: 'How to Get Away With Murder' - The Answer to 'Who Shot Annalise?' Is Revealed in 'What Did We Do?'

ABC's How to Get Away With Murder - Episode 2.09 "What Did We Do?"

ADA Sinclair discovers a break in her favor in the Hapstall case, but her actions result in a deadly outcome as details are revealed about the night Annalise was shot, including the person responsible for pulling the trigger.

How to Get Away With Murder presents its narrative around a central mystery. Each season has opened with a tease of some horrible thing that's about to be done in the future. As each episode unfolds, more and more clues unravel the various pieces of the mystery. At the midway point, the show reveals what exactly happens on that fateful date in the future. The narrative catches up to that moment and shows the audience just what really happened. All the teases that have happened in all the previous episodes were just there to fool the audience. Keep them guessing while the truth becomes much more complicated than it ever seemed before. That is especially true in "What Did We Do?" It's a very chaotic episode that answers the important question - Who shot Annalise? After all that time, the audience has to figure out if it was worth all of the effort. The intensity of this hour allows the show to get away with a lot. And yet, it's also a little too chaotic that makes some of these grand revelations less effective than they should be.

All season long it has seemed as if every major character had the motive to shoot Annalise. The narrative was definitely making it that way by forcing most of the cast to be so betrayed by her that they would have amble reason to do this horrible deed. In the end, the answer is Wes. He shoots Annalise in the chest because she tells him that Rebecca has been dead this entire time. First of all, it's very surprising that the show would have the killer/shooter in its big flash-forward mystery be the same person as last year. Wes killed Sam last season. Connor, Michaela and Laurel helped him cover it up because he was just protecting Rebecca. But he was the one who delivered the fatal blow. And now, Wes is also the one who puts the bullet in Annalise's chest. This episode doesn't explore the ramifications of that action. This hour doesn't catch up to all of the flash-forwards that have been showcased previously in the season. But it's also setting up Wes as this important character who has had a long history with Annalise - even though he doesn't realize it. But in order for this reveal to work, Wes needs to be a character worth caring about. He is no longer the voice of reason on the show. That is very clearly Connor. He is no longer sympathetic because of these horrible things he has done - no matter what the justifications. He has just been an annoyance who cared way too much about Rebecca for no reason. And yet, that's the big personal motivator for him doing this to Annalise in the first place. It's just a chaotic mess that doesn't track well because the story needs Wes as a character but Wes doesn't work as a character on the show.

Of course, this is all much more complicated than Wes just shooting Annalise. She is the one who hands him the gun. She wants to get shot. It's all in an effort to help stage the perfect crime scene for Sinclair's murder - who was run over by Asher because he was too upset about her driving his father to suicide. The show did some fantastic work in making Asher a more realized character this season. He is the outlier of the group because he doesn't know the truth about Sam's death. He has been told a story while everyone else at the firm just manipulates him. That's what pushes him to this breaking point. He put his trust in Annalise to help him get out of this mess with Sinclair. But it was Annalise who started this investigation into Asher's father and not Sinclair. So he put his trust in the women who was actually responsible for his father hanging himself. But that bond only strengthens because Annalise, Bonnie and company are there for him when he runs over Sinclair out of frustration. His own family has shunned him for being a part of this and choosing Annalise over them. He is distraught. He's not thinking clearly. That's what leads him to this murderous act. He's fed up with what Sinclair keeps doing and puts an end to it. But it's an action that puts him even further into shock. That was a character moment that worked because of how unexpected it was. It was truly surprising.

But Asher killing Sinclair also bloodies his hands. Now everyone on the show is guilty of something. None of them can hold any kind of superiority over each other. They are now all in this mess together - Annalise makes sure of that by telling Asher the truth about Sam's death. It shows just how manipulative Annalise really is. She forces the entire team to help create this fake crime scene that places all of the blame on Catherine. They were all there discussing what needs to be done about the gun. No explanation has been given yet on whether or not Catherine is guilty of murdering her parents or what her relationship with Philip is. Everyone is jumping to conclusions. She is the killer because that makes the most sense right now. They are putting all of their efforts into blaming her for this crime too. They bring Sinclair's body to the Hapstall house. They make sure that Caleb is gone so that they can perfectly blame his sister for this crime she didn't commit. Annalise has become very comfortable getting people arrested for crimes they didn't actually do. Catherine may be guilty for other murders though and that's enough justification for Annalise to move forward with this plan.

Annalise creates a very chaotic environment where a lot happens at a very fast speed. The intensity of this episode is off the charts. One part of it does explain how all of these characters got where they are and what it means. But it shows just how messed up this whole show is. Everyone is a killer in some way. They are all guilty. Annalise accepts that she is the central point to all of this darkness and chaos. She's the one who comes up with this crazy scheme to protect everyone. It's getting more and more difficult to see it as protection to her students though. Connor and Michaela are horrified by what they are being asked to do. And yet, they comply a little bit because they are forced to. Annalise has made sure of that. But there is only so far she can force her students to go. She literally asks each one of them to shoot her. Connor has been betrayed and hurt the most. She presents the opportunity to him first. But he's too pure of a soul to actually go through with it - at least once Michaela forces herself into the line of fire. Those two can't do it and neither can Laurel because she doesn't have a strong enough motive. Wes is hesitant to point the gun at Annalise after how much she has done for him. Her confessing the truth about Rebecca is the only way for him to do it. But he takes it one step further. She just wanted to get shot in the leg. Wes shoots her in the chest. He is only stopped from killing her because she keeps saying the name "Christoph" over and over again. That must have significance. But it only sets up more of a mystery for the future.

So again was all of this worth it? The audience knows just how difficult this injury is going to be for Annalise. It's a much more serious injury than she planned on inflicting on herself during this horrific night. But it's what happens nonetheless because she has pushed these characters too far so that they hate her. She really is the darkness that corrupts everyone's lives in the hopes of being protected from prosecution. This moment could be a very humbling moment for Annalise. She got shot in the chest because of how much she manipulated and provoked her students. She wants to believe she did so for their best interests. But she also has to accept her hand in all of this. That could make her a changed character in the future. One who is much more cautious about allowing these characters into her lives. This night isn't without its complications. The previously unseen Philip is just outside the mansion. Annalise requires surgery to save her life. But it could also signal some great character development for Annalise in the future. Sure, the show is going to embrace more of its ongoing mystery as it peels back the layers of the characters in even more emotionally devastating ways. But this night has the potential of changing a lot. So, the fallout will largely determine how effective it was as a season-long arc. Right now, it's a tad disappointing but the energy and the chaos of the overall hour makes it a compelling thing to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "What Did We Do?" was written by Michael Foley & Erika Green Swafford and directed by Bill D'Elia.
  • Nate is also on the line with Sinclair's murder because he had a big blow up with her at the precinct in front of all of his co-workers. She provoked him enough for both to file harassment lawsuits. That's partly why Annalise is doing so much of this cover-up.
  • So much has been said about Laurel's family and all the horrible things that her father has done. And yet, that still hasn't done a great job of defining her character. In fact, those still just feel like abstract references to make her feel as complex as everyone else. It just doesn't work at all.
  • The most manipulative flash-forward from earlier in the season was Bonnie washing the blood off her blouse and returning to an empty car followed by Asher walking into a police precinct. In reality, he just left to learn that the building had a car wash too.
  • It's revealed that both Annalise and Eve were there when a young Wes was being questioned about his mother "suicide." That death is much more complicated than that it seems. As long as it brings Famke Janssen back for more episodes, it's a story worth waiting to learn more about.