Thursday, February 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'How to Get Away With Murder' - Annalise, Wes & Asher Wallow in Their Grief in 'What Happened to You, Annalise?'

ABC's How to Get Away With Murder - Episode 2.10 "What Happened to You, Annalise?"

A few weeks have passed since Wes shot Annalise. The Keating 5 deal with the fallout from that night, as Annalise is faced with a complicated road to recovery.

How to Get Away With Murder has always been a very plot driven show. That was painfully apparent in the fall finale where twist after twist happened that further complicated the night that Annalise was shot in Catherine and Caleb's mansion. And now, "What Happened to You, Annalise?" has to deal with the fallout of the mess that Annalise and her team created for themselves in that previous episode. All of it was way too complicated and not deeply rooted in emotional dynamics that really worked well. It just set out to surprise the audience with big reveals that peel back the damaged layers of the characters. That's a quality on display in this hour as well. And yet, the show is much better when it's going for the small moments instead of big proclamations about the story.

Many characters are wallowing in grief following the events of the night Sinclair was killed and Annalise was shot. Only two weeks have passed since that night. Many aren't doing well at all. And yet, Annalise has been released from the hospital and able to walk around and be quite active. That's pushing the realms of realism a little too far. How is the audience suppose to take this as a life-changing injury and betrayal by Wes if Annalise is already home after being in the hospital for only two weeks? The previous episode only showed the events leading up to Wes pulling the trigger. It didn't show whether or not Annalise survived this ordeal - though previous flash-forwards teased that she made it to the hospital. But this episode acts like there was no question about potentially killing off Annalise. That was always an absurd idea. But this episode treats it as such and really isn't compelling to the overall atmosphere of the show. This event is suppose to be very serious and pivotal to the season. This episode treats it as a very minor thing.

Nevertheless, Annalise is struggling with her recovery quite a bit in this episode. It's only problematic due to the timeline of events. Catherine is already standing before a judge accused of the murder of Sinclair and the attempted murder of Annalise. That seems rather fast, doesn't it? And yet, this show has never been all that accurate with its depiction of the law. In this case, all of it happens just in order to get Annalise back on the stand to testify. It's a very complicated mess throughout the hour. This trial is just as crucial in allowing the team to get away with murder as the actual staging of the crime scene. Annalise has to contort events so that the perception around Catherine shifts and forces her into making a deal to testify against Philip for the murder of her parents. It's a very complicated scene that really doesn't work unless you care about Catherine and Caleb. Catherine is literally just the scapegoat to take all the blame for this latest fiasco that Annalise and her team have created. Caleb doesn't believe it at first. But by the end of the hour, it still finds a way of working out. However, Philip is still a wild card in this whole mess who could easily destroy everything that Annalise has meticulously orchestrated.

However, Annalise is a much more interesting character in this hour when the story gets personal. She has returned home from the hospital. She has all of this pressure to make the case actually stick and not have anyone question too much of the mess she left at the mansion. But she is still struggling with moving forward in her life. She has Bonnie and Laurel to look after her. They are making sure that she is taking care of herself. She doesn't want a nurse to be with her all the time. But she still relies on their support in order to get her through this trying time. Bonnie is there to care for her once she starts experiencing some devastating and weird hallucinations. Meanwhile, Laurel is there to keep her updated on how Wes is doing in the aftermath of almost killing her. Sure, it's problematic that a little while after she's experiencing hallucinations and being drugged that she drives by herself first to the courthouse and then to the hospital. But that doesn't take too much away from the solid work Viola Davis is doing in showing just how broken Annalise really is. She succeeds with the case. But her personal life is still a shattered mess.

And yet, this whole situation has actually brought the rest of the team closer together. They've all bonded together in Annalise's absence. They now feel like a close team of friends who actually care about each other. That's entirely because they've now committed two murders together. That makes pizza and taco night seem easy. The hard part is in handling the disturbing emotions that come from these dark actions. Asher is coping with killing Sinclair by fixating on his father's suicide. Connor is there for him as a friend - though not in the threesome way that Michaela teases (at least not yet). But Asher's fixation on it actually being a murder could easily unravel very quickly. Meanwhile, Wes is finally opening himself up to the world again. But it's all in the pursuit of more answers from Annalise. She's worried about him. She has this connection to his past that he has just learned about. He wants to know everything that she knows about his mother. The audience knows that Annalise and Eve were a part of his mother's suicide. This episode shows Annalise and Rose before that though. It doesn't offer any answers at all. Wes sympathizes with the dark emotions his mother must have felt during that time. He's no longer a puppy dog hopelessly and foolishly tracking down the truth about Rebecca's murder. This dark twist does make him somewhat more interesting. But that scene between him and Annalise is largely played from her perspective and how she is afraid about what Wes will do next. He is connected somehow to the baby that she keeps seeing in her hallucinations. That shows just how broken by this experience she is as well. But the show really isn't that forthcoming or in the mood to offer any answers all that quickly - which is very frustrating.

Some more thoughts:
  • "What Happened to You, Annalise?" was written by J.C. Lee and directed by Laura Innes.
  • Annalise really is a mess when she takes the stand to testify against Catherine. It's hard to imagine anyone really taking whatever she has to say all that easily. It just adds to the confusion which is exactly what she wanted to do.
  • And yet, how does Caleb know that he should meet with Annalise in her car? He's not exactly willing to believe what the Keating 5 are saying about that night. So why would he have that covert meeting in the first place?
  • Laurel stepped up in Bonnie's absence as Annalise's assistant. But now, both of them are back supporting her. There's room for both. Plus, it's actually nice to see Laurel form this connection with Annalise. Their need to rely on each other is actually a pretty interesting plot beat.
  • However, Laurel also takes the blame for shooting Annalise in the stomach. She justifies it by saying that the emotions are still so raw over Wes killing Sam. She's protecting him for Annalise in a way that keeps the entire group together. Though shouldn't someone think it's odd that Wes isn't doing well after that night and not Laurel?
  • Why in the world is the show still trying to fool its characters into believing that Rebecca is still alive somewhere? Annalise tells Laurel in the hospital that she made it up just to convince Wes to shoot her. But it's just so meaningless.
  • That baby is quite possibly Annalise's and something horrible happened to him. In flashbacks to ten years prior, Annalise is talking to Rose and she's sporting a pregnancy bump.