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Friday, 27 February 2015

How To Get Away With Murder, Series 1 (Second Half)

How To Get Away With Murder
Series 1 (Second Half).

I say the second half, but the second part of this series was actually only six episodes, compared to the first part's nine. Which might explain why I was, perhaps, not quite as tense and hyped about it by the time that it finished - I'd had three episodes less for it to wind me up than I'd had the first time. Or perhaps it was that without the looming spectre of a murder in the future, there wasn't a clear dramatic end point that it was building up to.

Either way, this second part of the series felt less dramatic and tense to me than the first. Picking up just after the murder of Sam Keating, the series follows Annalise Keating and her five murderous law ducklings as they attempt to save people from being prosecuted for heinous crimes, and attempt to cover up their own terrible secret.

It does, in a way, seem like much of what made the first nine episodes great was forgotten for the second part. It seemed like there was less focus on the cases of the week, and the tension of trying to avoid prosecution for a murder will never quite be able to live up to the mystery of figuring out who committed a murder (and who will commit a murder). The series tries a few different ways of getting around this: First by introducing a tangible antagonist in the form of Sam's sister (who pretty much just vanishes eventually), and then by bringing the Who-Murdered-Lila mystery back for the two episodes of the series.

Her face really does say 'annoying but not intimidating villain.'

That said, these last six episodes have still been some of my favourite stuff on television. They're sharp, witty, and I like pretty much all the characters. The last two episodes, which had the panicky law puppies attempting to figure out if Rebecca, Wes' girlfriend, may actually have been the murderer after all, was basically two hours of being hit with the steam train of dramatic revelation over and over again, including a disturbing flashback scene where Rebecca drugged a man to cause him to have a psychotic break, and a plot twist involving Connor and Oliver that made me feel nauseous and uncertain of whether I would be tuning in for the second series.

(I almost certainly will, but it's noteworthy that there's only been two other occasions when a piece of media has upset me that much - the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, where one particular act of violence against a pregnant woman set against the general background of ultraviolence left me very shaken, and Telltale Games The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1, where a child has to shoot a dog. This plot twist wasn't as violent as either of those, but it did hit me just as hard.)

N'aw, Rudy.

The finale also had several great character moments, with my favourite probably being Michaela's conversation with her future mother-in-law, which sees her accent shift slowly as she sheds the persona she'd built in order to ingratiate herself into the world of the rich and powerful. It was a very subtly powerful scene, and Aja Naomi King's performance in it was excellent.

What the series should have done, though, is either re-open the mystery of who killed Lila from the get-go of the second part, having Best Christmas Ever introduce the idea that Rebecca could be Lila's actual killer, along with maybe throwing another suspect more into the light (Bonnie, perhaps, who was considered as a suspect a few times by fans); or have a more solid antagonist attempting to chase down Annalise and the law otters - Hannah Keating, while certainly insufferable, lacks either the intimidating manner or the authority to appear as a real threat, especially when there are scenes of the police just being tired with her. A scheming detective, on the other hand, who's not afraid to cross boundaries and sow dissent amongst them, might have worked a bit better. 

I don't know whether Lahey stripping for prison is fan service because of the
stripping or fan disservice because a black man imprisoned on flimsy evidence
for a crime he didn't commit is much more horrifyingly common in real life than most of
the situations in this show.

As it is, about three of those six episodes feel a little bit aimless, with the episode where Annalise is (quite justifiably) filled with malaise and ennui being the most aimless feeling one of all. A lot of people rather enjoyed that episode, as it introduced us to Annalise's mother - I actually found Annalise's mother a little grating, alas.

The show will be returning in the Autumn, and if it capitalises on the plot twists at the very end of this series, then it might be - well, very engaging, but also incredibly disturbing to watch. I don't like the Connor-Oliver twist, if I'm being honest, but both the revelation of Lila's true killer and the revelation in the closing moments of the episode should make some great television.

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