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Friday, 14 November 2014

Editorial: Who's the murderer in How To Get Away With Murder?

Children In Need tonight. If we get a Doctor Who clip, expect me to talk about that tomorrow. If we don't, then - don't expect me to talk about that tomorrow, I don't ... I didn't really need to spell that one out for you guys, I think you got that one. You're a sharp bunch.

Editorial: Who's the murderer in How To Get Away With Murder?

[Contains spoilers.]

How To Get Away With Murder has been the big astonishment of the year for me. Created by Peter Nowalk and Shonda Rhimes, the show revolves around five law students apprenticed to enigmatic and devious lawyer Annalise Keating. In flashforwards, we are shown that the five students are responsible for the somewhat frenzied cover-up of the murder of Annalise's husband (and murder suspect in an entirely different case) Sam. I like it. It's sharply written, it has great cinematography, I like the soundtrack, it has a diverse cast of characters (and might well be one of the only dramas on TV right now whose two principle leads are both black), it's just generally great. 

But that's not what we're here to talk about. No, we're here to talk about Sam's murder. You see, next week is apparently Murder Week, in which we find out who clubbed Sam's head in with the legal trophy Annalise uses to motivate her students.

So you know what's a great idea for a down-with-the-kids reviewer like myself to do? A countdown. From least likely to most likely.

So, here goes. Starting with the least likely candidate for Sam's murder:


The two men have never met, Oliver's never even heard of Sam, they occupy precisely zero of the same circles, and Ollie knows nothing about the murder, from the looks of it. 

Unless that's what Ollie wants you to think.

But it's probably not.


Grating yet oddly sweet rich boy Asher is the only one of the law students not involved in the cover-up plot, seems to know nothing about the murder, has no motive, and has at least some form of alibi, given that he was banging on the windows of Annalise's house mere (presumably) moments after the deed took place.

It's safe to say that he's not our killer, but he might well end up being framed for it. After all, the murder weapon, the trophy, was as far as the world knew in his possession during the murder. 


Laurel has no motive, but she is one of the law students doing the covering up, and she might yet acquire a motive. After all, she herself is cheating on her boyfriend to be in a relationship with a man with a girlfriend (although she didn't know it) - she might be sensitive to Sam's careless-to-actively-homicidal (he lies somewhere on that scale, we're not sure where) treatment of the women he gets into relationships with.

I wouldn't bet on it, though. Laurel's one of the more level-headed members of the group, and flying off the handle and smashing Sam's head in with an ornate statuette over the matter of his cheating, cheating, possibly brutally murdering heart is pretty unlikely, especially when she has no personal stake in it. 


Frank might be sensitive to Sam's proclivities for the same reasons that Laurel is, and he's a lot more hot-headed. So there's that.

But he's not really murder hot-headed, and like Laurel, he completely lacks any kind of compelling motive, and he has no personal stake in what's going on. 


Connor takes the prize for being the least emotionally stable of the cast: The murder, we see, pushes him into the most manic nervous breakdown possible, and in the present his break-up with Oliver seems to have all but wrecked his self-confidence, leaving him with the seeming of a nervous alsatian in nice clothes. 

Connor doesn't really have a motive, but he and Michaela are the two who don't really need one. They're both pretty unstable - if they found out at the wrong time that Sam murdered a young woman and her (and his, most likely) unborn child, it might not take much pushing and shoving to make either of them hit him with a trophy. 

But, I mean, it's not as if Connor has any issues regarding fathers or any - oh wait no sorry my bad. 


Annalise has had a rough time of it. Her husband was having an affair after all, and worse, is probably the murderer of a young woman and her unborn child, as Annalise well knows. That's not even touching upon how the murder takes place in Annalise's house, somewhere that only her, Frank, Bonnie, Sam, and the Law Ducklings should have access to. 

But Annalise seems to have a different plan in mind for Sam. It'd make no sense to murder him just after arranging for him to become Suspect Number 1 in an ongoing homicide case, after all. That's just sloppy planning (you make sure he goes to prison, then murder him via clubbing about the head after he gets out, everyone knows that), and Annalise doesn't really do sloppy plans. 

It should be noted, though, that her whereabouts are unknown for most of Murder Night. Maybe she's with ... 


Annalise's ex-boyfriend has very little to lose, having already lost his job and reputation due to the meddling of Annalise and her legal firm, and he seems intent on sending Sam to jail for the murder of Lila Stangard - a murder that it seems very likely that Sam committed, so who can really blame Nate. He definitely has the physical strength to have performed the act, too.

He also has an extra motive: Protecting Rebecca, his now partner in solving-crime, who might be at risk from Sam and is currently on her way to try to hack his phone.

All in all, Nate seems like a pretty likely option. The one problem is, why would he just flee and abandon Rebecca, and how would he get into the house?


Michaela is like Connor. She doesn't have a motive, but if pushed far enough, she doesn't really need one: She's liable to lash out if she feels cornered, as she did when chatting with her fiance's mother about a pre-nup agreement in the most recent episode. She's also probably even more affected by the murder by Connor, becoming almost completely unresponsive. 

The evidence really piles on to Michaela, too: She's part of the cover-up crew, and she was last in possession of the murder weapon, having stolen it from Asher (and it's difficult to imagine she'd let it go easily). 


I wouldn't have rated Bonnie particularly high on this list, but then last night's episode happened.

Bonnie has no shortage of motive: She seems to genuinely hate Sam (and possibly love Annalise, who has now pushed her away), and moreover, she may well be the true killer of Lila Stangard, having been, it seems, the last person to see her alive - and if she is, that's definitely something that she'd like to keep secret, and that Sam would very much like not to be secret. 

In addition, she's one of the few people with access to Annalise's house, and she doesn't have any kind of alibi for when the murder is happening: She's fired by Annalise shortly beforehand, and is in bed with Asher shortly afterwards, but there's a definite window of opportunity there.

Her dalliance with Asher is odd, too. She's never expressed an interest before, after all, and the only thing working in Asher's favour here is that he was nice to her when she was feeling down. But what better alibi than to find an impressionable, kind of stupid student and sleep with them? 


Rebecca almost seems too obvious, but let's go.

Motive: Sam may well have killed her best friend. Sam may very well want to kill her. 
Means: Rebecca hangs around the Law Ducklings and is sneaky-cunning. If she wants that trophy, it's not too difficult for her to snatch it.
Opportunity: She doesn't have access to the house, but her boyfriend does, and moreover, she was headed there (presumably intending to either sneak or guile her way in) just before the murder. 

Add to that that Rebecca tells Wes she'll confess to the murder, and that Wes seems oddly preoccupied with protecting her from the fallout of the murder - although that could just be because she's already on trial for murder, and I don't think any jury in the world wouldn't buy that she didn't murder Sam. 


Ah, Wes. The smallest and most downy-feathered of the Law Ducklings.

Wes has shown a rather darkly manipulative side of late, and his calm and measured reaction to a body with half its head missing easily makes him the most icy of the Law Ducklings. He has a motive: Protect Rebecca, not just from physical harm but also from going to gaol. He has the means, as he could probably grab the trophy from Michaela if he had to. He has an opportunity, as he's able to get into the Keating house, and he, Connor and Laurel were all headed there in pursuit of Rebecca. 

Is there really any evidence against him being the murderer? Not ... really, actually. It makes narrative sense for him to strike the killing blow, too, as he and Annalise are functionally the main characters of the show. 

So, what do you think? Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail, an account I probably should check at some point soon.

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