How To Get Away With Murder: The Future of TV?

Last night, I heard a clip of How To get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis speaking, in which she said she was glad to be part of the conversation about the future of television.

You might ask: why is a book writer blogging about a TV show? Well, TV is another creative outlet. And while I think we get more out of books, I enjoy occasionally watching TV shows. It’s rare that I become so wrapped up in one, so I decided to figure out why. I come at this from a writer’s perspective: someone whose job it is to consider  humanity and how it’s represented.

Is How To Get Away With Murder the future of television? And if so, what does this mean? It’s a show packed with amoral characters, all of whom turn on each other at the drop of a coin (literally, Wes lied about the result of a coin toss last season – leading to the cover-up that drove the season.) This is a show in which everyone gets away with murder. Is there to be no consequence for horrendous actions here? (Well, Sam did get what he had coming. And possibly Rebecca did, too.)

Still, there has been a lot of getting away with murder. I’m not a moralist, but it’s getting to me. It doesn’t really matter who shot Annalise, because they’ll get away with it.

It’s too much getting away with murder. Someone must pay – or at least feel remorse, for the love of God!

Let’s look at these people:

+++Spoilers aplenty+++

Wes: The first person we meet in the pilot. This would indicate that his journey is a primary focus on the show. At the onset, he seemed to be a “hero” – as “heroes” go here. He shot Sam to save Rebecca. He did so much to save Rebecca, and promised to take care of her. But where was he when Bonnie was suffocating Rebecca? And why did he allow the gang of law students (ha) to abduct her and tie her up in Annalise’s basement? If he had a problem with her, he should have dealt with it alone. He let Rebecca down. He is no hero. (This indicates that the show is about the hero’s fall. Dark, dark, dark!)

Rebecca: Tried to show Lila her boyfriend was no good by sleeping with said boyfriend. This indicates her twisted view of life, but the horrendous thing she did was driving her first law student neighbor mad by spiking weed – just so he wouldn’t be able to share what he’d witnessed. She needed an alibi for a crime she didn’t even commit, so she sacrificed someone’s mind. Perhaps she got what she had coming too, you might say. But I would be inclined to give her more of a break had she been charged, as she is unstable and was apparently raised by wolves. Also confusing is that she was set up to be a character we sympathized with. When we learned she did something horrible, it was almost unfair to us, because the information had been held back. We should at least have been given an inkling (the scratches on the wall were not enough!) When something like this happens so late, it’s like the rug has been pulled out from under us, and we feel cheated.

Bonnie: Suffocated Rebecca without a flinch. That was cold. Then, she was repulsed by Asher’s tie with a gang rape. Like she had a right to judge anyone. Bonnie went on with business as soon as Rebecca ceased to breathe, but Asher finding out that Bonnie was molested sent her onto the shower floor for apparently hours. Hmmm…

Frank: It’s hard to say who’s worse: Bonnie or him. Okay, it’s him. He’s a stereotypical hitman.(Down to his family, and his dialect.)  He choked Lila on command, without a care. The difference between Bonnie and him is that he’s seasoned. We might believe that Bonnie’s exposure to amoral behavior at the firm drove her to murder. At any rate, it was her first. And then Frank cleaned up, of course. Frank also framed Levi (what was the point of Levi if he was just shipped off like that?) And apparently Frank frames Catherine and dumps her in the woods (but that might be okay if she did help Philip kill her parents – but is it when a part of her defense team is doing the framing? I think it’s clear that Frank arrived lawless, while Bonnie absorbed through osmosis. But can you “learn” to be amoral, or is it inside you all along? This might be the deepest question posed by this show.

Laurel: Frank sleeps with Laurel, and I’m pretty sure he’d choke too and not feel badly about it – but that’s okay because she’s also amoral. No, she hasn’t acted on it yet – but give her time. We know she would’ve gotten rid of Rebecca because she said so. But Bonnie beat her to it. Laurel always scowls, except occasionally when she’s in bed with Frank the sociopath. This doesn’t make her amoral, but it sure makes her unlikable.

Nate: On the whole he seems okay – kind of a brooding Batman type, scarred but not “bad.” However, he picks up the students after Annalise is shot. That might also be explained, but when they hear that Annalise is still alive, he reacts adversely and says he’ll handle it. This leads me to believe that he’s playing Annalise, wanting revenge. You can’t blame him. A cop being in jail is no picnic, and she also had someone beat him up there (I can’t remember why. To get him bail, perhaps?)  He took it all pretty passively, but what was going on inside? If he’s playing Annalise to the point of having something to do with her shooting, this would destroy his “heroic” image. I guess we’ll see. (I just remembered, our introductory shot of him in the pilot was menacing. It this indicative of his true character?) (Also, cheating on his dying wife is a character flaw. Even if she approved, which is unclear.)

Oliver & Connor: I put them together because they are a cute couple – and they show more morality than the others. Oliver is on the fringe, and doesn’t know the darkness into which Connor has plunged. Connor wants to protect him. Awww. Also, Connor gave the DA information about a guilty client. Okay, I guess he has a conscience. He helped bury Sam, but he wasn’t responsible for the murder. I think he even walked in late (can’t remember.) So, this couple is voted moral – for now. I think Oliver might be written off (the “kidnapping” with “spilled milk” might have been foreshadowing – and the milk might stand for the mistakes made that he and Connor can’t take back.) If Oliver dies, Connor might sink into the badness waiting to consume him at Annalise’s house.

Asher– Seemed like he could be a hero, as he was kept out of the Sam’s murder cover-up. He was an innocent, literally. Perhaps sleeping with Bonnie was the beginning of his fall. That a crime he didn’t actively participate in led to his near-betrayal of Annalise is ironic. Also ironic is that he didn’t go through with it to protect Bonnie from the murder she didn’t commit but claimed she did, and then he unwittingly sacrificed his dad. It’s interesting that he severed his tie to his dad without meaning to. But the fact is, he has joined the dark side. It’s only going to get worse for Asher.

Michaela– She, like Laurel, hasn’t gone all the way bad yet. She did completely forget about Levi when he was framed, and switched course to the client, Caleb. That’s pretty cold. She’s the character I’m least interested in, because she hasn’t done anything meaningful either way.

Annalise– The most complicated for last. Is Annalise all that bad? She hasn’t committed murder, but she has been an accessory to them. She manipulates people, and destroys her students’ innocence (and lives!) She may be a sociopath, though she has a weakness: she wants to be loved. That didn’t stop her from framing her boyfriend for her husband’s murder. I think Annalise doesn’t mean to wreck lives. I think she believes she can straighten everything out – as she often says. She needs to control things, perhaps because of her mother. She covers up her vulnerability with a wig and make-up, but what’s really going on inside?

The verdict: Laurel and Michaela have yet to commit to their sociopathy. But they will. Things look bad for Asher. A little better for Connor, but the odds are against him. Oliver will probably be written off. Nate is suspect, but he may still be okay. (An aside: does this man have enough muscles???)

As for Annalise, she is an anti-hero. But I’m not convinced she’s amoral. She makes poor choices, affected by her low self-esteem from childhood and her desire for power now. I think she believes everything will work out, but she’s okay with the chaos because it gives her something to control. She gets off on manipulation, but the person she manipulates most is herself.

What does this all mean? I think I have more of a problem with the plot layout than the characters themselves. It’s the way things are laid out which make me feel slighted, and unfulfilled.

This show is f’d up – but I keep watching. I guess I want to know what will happen to these characters, even if I’m not thrilled with the approach.I do enjoy a psychological study. But I hope, by the end of this season, that I will have even one character left to root for.

Is it the future of television? I don’t know. I don’t watch much TV anyway. It may be the future of society. I hope not. Can we learn how not to behave by watching this show?

I’m going to continue to write books. And I need to go write one now.





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