The debut season of the hit ABC series How to Get Away with Murder blew me away with some brilliant acting performances and a murder mystery that was constantly evolving and making me second guess myself, before an explosive bombshell of an ending left me aghast with what it means for future seasons.
*Warning: This review does contain spoilers*
The opening moments of the first episode is up there with the best I have ever seen. Four young people are in a forest at night, panicking that they have killed someone, the body of which is at their feet. Flying back a few months into the past, we find out that they are first year university students studying law under the tutorage of Professor Annalise Keating (the brilliant Viola Davis), in part working as interns at her firm. The premise of this alone is brilliant; we have seen far too many law and crime series in the last twenty years that try to do something different but end up following a very similar structure. The beauty of this opening is that it can be both claustrophobic thriller and crime drama at the same time, as the students help Annalise with her cases whilst watching the walls slowly cave in on them. It also leaves so many questions to be answered, and the writers do a great job of slowly answering them, whilst opening even more, as every episode takes viewers closer to the day of the murder.
One of the main reasons that you invest so much in this group of students and want to see how they ended up in that situation is down to the characterisation. I think that it was a good move to have the lives of each of them under the microscope in one of the first few episodes. There is Wes (Alfred Enoch), who is fiercely protective of those he cares about despite not having the privileged background of others, Connor (Jack Falahee), who has a depressing cycle of sex for fear of getting too close, Michaela (Aja Naomi King), who always has to be the best worker and fiancée she can be but is prone to panicking and distrusting others and Laurel (Karla Souza), who has suffered all of her life with being the quiet one in the group professionally and personally. Even though none of the quartet are perfect individuals, their portrayals make them relatable, for we all have our personal demons. The fifth university student, Asher (Matt McGorry), is the son of a famous judge but even he is fleshed out with a personal struggle when his father’s work comes under scrutiny. The way that the cases Annalise’s firm are working on also fits into these personal struggles in a way that works well but doesn’t have the subtlety of a sledgehammer. That’s not to mention the brilliant portrayal of Annalise, going from the cold lawyer to a broken woman in a matter of minutes, as the events of the season take its toll on her mind.
With a thriller show that is based around crime and murder, it is important for the audience to be always kept guessing so they tune in for the next episode and not feel like they have the case cracked. That is definitely the case with How to Get Away with Murder. At first, the show plants the concept of the students being responsible for the murder of an unknown individual, before it is revealed that another student has been found dead in suspicious circumstances. Whilst it appears that the link between the two murders is obvious within a couple of episodes, the writers throw several curveballs that muddy the waters of what had happened. As the series moves into the aftermath of the night where the students killed someone, it initially feels like everything has been explained. However, some brilliant writing in the final episode of the season drops two big bombshells that change everything about the way we see the two murders, leaving many questions to be answered and wetting our appetites for the events of season two, everything a mystery and crime show should do. I for one wonder what the last moments mean for the futures of Annalise, her staff and the students and will be watching the second season as soon as possible.
I was recommended How to Get Away with Murder for my love of a good murder mystery and crime drama and nothing about the first season of this show disappointed me. The pacing allows for questions to be answered and opened at a rapid pace, but it has all the detail and fine acting performances that I was hoping for. It has done what any great show can do; it has made me want to watch the next season as soon as possible. If you are like me and enjoy the mystery of a show all about murder, then I’d definitely recommend giving this show a go.