“I don’t know what terrible things you’ve done in your life up to this point, but clearly your karma’s out of balance to get assigned my class. I’m Professor Annalise Keating and this is Criminal Law 100, or as I prefer to call it, How to Get Away with Murder.” HEY-O! ANNALISE KEATING HAS SPOKEN.
Now, first things first—if you don’t immediately know how to pronounce the phrase How to Get Away with Murder, then you probably didn’t watch the show. Viola Davis says the phrase approximately three and a half times in the pilot and each utterance is more dramatic and eerie and fabulous than the last. If you don’t know how to pronounce the phrase, then you may not recognize that HTGAWM is meant to be your newest guilty pleasure roller-coaster ride, custom built for you to enjoy on Thursday nights paired with an entire pint of ice cream, a well-assembled cheese board, or your favorite toasted artisan crackers and Sauvignon Blanc (twist-cap only). And if you still don’t know how to perfectly over-pronounce “HOW to get a-WAY with MUR-der,” then you clearly aren’t buckled in for what’s going to become your new favorite legal thriller/Shondaland drama/time-wasting watercooler theory-fest.
As my colleague Melissa Maerz writes, the show is campy and colorful and solely intended to send you flying into a world of escape, which entails wild cliffhangers, unrealistic legal procedures, and shocking developments likely to spur a host of all-caps tweeting. True Detective this is not; I like to think #HTGAWM is a juicy mix of Pretty Little Liars (“We have to hide this body, girls!”) and Legally Blonde (“FOUR of you will come join me at my firm!”) with just a little hint of A Few Good Men to keep things classy.
And so, with those descriptions in mind, it’s my honor to be guiding you through these weekly recaps wherein we’ll laugh, cry, reveal our deepest fears and crippling insecurities, and try to unravel a few answers to the two major mysteries that were introduced in the pilot. Sometimes we’ll move chronologically and I’ll give you a solid play-by-play. For this jam-packed pilot, I think the best approach is to lay out exactly what we’re dealing with.
Season 1 will chart two murders—college student Lila Stangard and professor Sam Keating—and they’re cases which, I’d wager, are undeniably connected. And that’s about the extent to which I will wager anything from here on out because, much like visits to Taco Bell, you simply must plan for twists.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LILA STANGARD
FACTS: Looming over the episode is the disappearance of a popular, pretty sorority girl named Lila Stangard who, according to flyers trumpeted all over campus in a very uncreative font, was last seen at a Kappa Kappa Theta party on August 30. The campus mourns and holds a vigil—in which her athlete boyfriend Griffin delivers a heartfelt speech—but shortly after her disappearance, Lila’s body is found floating in the water tank on the roof of her sorority house. (Fact: Sorority houses apparently have water tanks on their roofs.)
SUSPECT #1: Annalise Keating (Viola Davis)
Shocked? Our main conduit into the world of How to Get Away with Murder is Professor Keating, a fiercely terrifying yet wildly intelligent law professor who exercises sketchy moral ambiguity in the courtroom and a sick sense of humor about her awful reputation in the classroom. (Being so brilliant, you might wonder why she’s spending her time teaching a 100-level course, but she’s probably one of those teachers who gets her kicks frightening the young’uns at an early age to instill a proper threshold of fear, like a George Bluthian tiger mom.)
Now, I don’t believe that Annalise killed Lila, but I do think Annalise killed her husband Sam and Lila is the reason why. At the end of the episode, the news report announcing the discovery of Lila’s body appeared to distress Mr. Keating, but it left Annalise relatively blank-faced. (The wistful, vague Guess-My-Emotion expressions are a staple in Shondaland.) So, Lila is clearly a touchy subject in the Keating household. Was she Sam’s mistress, and Annalise found out and did something about it? Or will she take her vengeance out on Sam himself? Or, as Michaela foreshadows when she’s presenting a case defense in class, “What better way to get revenge than to kill your cheating husband and pin it on his mistress?” (Watch out, Bonnie?)
If her cavalier attitude toward guilty clients and her ambiguous moral compass don’t already suggest Annalise’s willingness to break bad, her dubious motives were, to me, on major display at the Dean’s cocktail party. Remember when she corners Wes in the bathroom? When she cries and confesses that she and her husband have been trying for a baby? When she rubs Wes’ chest and shoulders and arms in that slightly creepy, horny weeping willow way? I submit to you that it’s all an act, a calculated effort by Annalise to paint herself as a lonely married woman who fell victim to cheating in a moment of weakness—a helpful portrait for Annalise should Wes ever find himself talking about her to someone important. Granted, I could be wrong about whether those tears and that story are fake—but I believe Annalise had something to do with one of the murders. Because, like, let’s all just be up front and admit that on a show called How to Get Away with Murder, the main character is proooobably getting away with murder.
NEXT: Suspects #2-#7