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Friday, 18 March 2016

How To Get Away With Murder S2 (Second Half)

How To Get Away With Murder
Series 2 (Second Half)

Increasingly, I'm starting to feel like How To Get Away With Murder's use-by date has come and gone, and that pains me a little to say, partly because it's one of the best shows on television right now for minority representation, and partly because in the first half of its first series, it was an incredibly enjoyable show, being tense, dramatic, suspenseful and funny. But it started going downhill with a weak second half to its first series, and each subsequent half-series has progressively had fewer of the things I initially loved about it: Less drama, less suspense, less humour.

Picking up where the end of the first half of this series left off, How To Get Away With Murder now sees the murder gang under scrutiny for their role in the death of evil prosecutor Sinclair. Framing their client, Catherine Hapstall, for the crime, they quickly find that Philip, her adoptive parents' biological son, has footage of them leaving the house and every intention of blackmailing them with it. Meanwhile, Wes and Laurel investigate the circumstances behind the death of Wes' mother, leading them to a series of revelations about Annalise's involvement in her death, the machinations of the wealthy Mahoney family, and the fate of Annalise's child.

All of which sounds like it should be great, but it's not, really. I've talked before about how some shows feel like they hit their proverbial gone-on-too-long moment earlier than others, how some shows can get to six or seven series and still feel fresh and new, and some shows start flagging after two. How To Get Away With Murder, a series that is built on the horror of an impossible and unexpected situation that erodes the morality of a group of innocents, started to edge up on that moment before its first series was done, because there's only so long that 'the horror of an impossible and unexpected situation' can be horrifying or unexpected. The show started to flag the moment a new murder came on the scene, because by then 'we've murdered someone and it's awful' was old hat. We'd seen it, and there wasn't anything new that the show could do with it.

Wes grows a beard. It looks bad on him.

I said about the first half of the series that it was just circling the same plotlines, and that's still true - it might even be more true, as the show plays the only card it has left, the 'why is Wes so important to Annalise' mystery, leaving it with pretty much none of its original mysteries left to use - and while the plotline about that ends on a note that ties in quite well with the themes of the show (and I do love some thematic coherence), it feels like it almost deliberately pulls its punches, in a way, dangling an ultimately horrific and unexpected option in our face only to then give us one that is more thematically fitting, but also more expected (not even necessarily any less horrible, just one we have more of a chance to prepare ourselves for), and I'm not sure how I feel about that in a show that thrives off the unexpected and the horrible.

Which isn't to say that there isn't a lot I still like about the show. It's not like the quality of the acting has suddenly degraded, the cast is still full of brilliant actors who are consistently a joy to watch. It's not like the cinematography and direction has gotten any worse, either, it's still pretty astounding. The dialogue writing is starting to feel a bit old now, but it's certainly still snappy, concise, and witty.

"How do we make this character look ten years younger?" "Different hairstyle."
"Sure." They're lucky that Viola Davis is vaguely ageless.

Not to mention, for all that I feel that the show has passed its prime, it still managed to deliver several genuine shocks in its final episode, including a plot twist that was beautifully foreshadowed but still managed to catch me completely by surprise. It still managed to ramp up the relationship drama with Ollie and Connor, too, although frankly I would be perfectly happy right now if How To Get Away With Murder was replaced with a sitcom about them, with Michaela, Wes, Laurel, Asher, Annalise, and everyone else whose name isn't 'Frank' as supporting characters.

I beg of you.

Actually, can we do that? That would literally solve all of my problems with this series, because while shock factor is a finite resource, adorable relationship shenanigans with snarky friends is infinitely renewable and I would love it. Make it happen.

Ultimately, though, I think it might be time to let the series end. Not die, because I still want to see it all brought to a satisfactory conclusion, it's not like Supernatural where I'd be perfectly happy if it just stopped mid-series, just - to end before it well and truly overstays its shelf life.

Still love the soundtrack, though. That's a great soundtrack, they did really well there.

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