The McRib. Christmas toy commercials. A good role for Johnny Depp. Rare are these occurrences throughout the year, but welcome they are all the same, and tonight, a new item joins the list of curious oddities: a How to Get Away with Murder without flashbacks.
Yes, a 99 percent chronological episode served as the latest installment of No Honestly I Really Don’t Know If They’re Going to Get Away With This Murder, which is what I’ve decided to affectionately title the second half of season one. NHIRDKITGTGAWTM, for short.
And don’t you agree? Nothing is safe. Evidence is being revealed left and right. The only thing more frightening than Murder, Inc. being discovered is the idea that we still don’t know who killed Lila. Was it Sam? Or was his death in vain? Either way, it doesn’t matter now, since his charred riblets have been found.
The episode begins, and Murder, Inc. is watching the news report in Wes’ awful beige apartment; they are collectively trying to keep their tear ducts intact as the well-blazered anchorwoman basically delivers the worst news they could possibly hear: that Sam’s body has been found in a nearby landfill. It’s not a fun landfill like in Wall-E or a slightly less fun landfill like in Toy Story 3—in fact, it’s not even animated at all.
Connor is the first to call shenanigans. “You don’t just find body parts in a landfill,” he reasons, “not unless you’re told where to look.” Once again, his finger points to Annalise, but this time, the usually programmable Michaela isn’t so sure she agrees. In fact, nobody knows how or why their buried (well, not really) secret has so quickly been discovered. They contemplate calling Annalise for their next move, but Laurel arrives at gametime with some bad news from Frank—everything from here on out is under police microscope. Their calls. Their texts. Connor’s Humpr profile. They’re under the magnifying glass from now on, meaning that the one person who said she’d protect them is the one person they can’t dare ask for help.
That’s because Annalise is dealing with her own in-house microscope, and its name is Hannah, who has hurricaned into Annalise’s home like the Kool-Aid Man’s pissed-off wife. The moment the cops arrive at the house to deliver the news, Hannah beats them to the punch and asks, point blank, “Is he dead?” as if she’s been expecting it all along. It’s a question so loaded it ought to be on a KFC menu. The cops nod, saying they tested the tissue against Sam’s DNA—which was already on file for the Lila murder, thankyouverymuchAnnalise—and confirmed it was his corpse.
And ohhhh, Hannah is mad. “DON’T TOUCH ME!” she shrieks to Annalise, who tries to comfort her. Suddenly, Hannah is going full Katniss-at-the-Capitol, screaming her head off at her new enemy: “Arrest her! She killed him! Arrest her!” It’s the theory she’s been sitting on, and Sam’s now-dead body confirms it—Annalise most definitely killed her husband. A vengeful Hannah is now on a warpath to take Annalise down, and not even an outlet mall sale on business-casual blouses will keep her from uncovering the truth about her sister-in-law. Hannah’s first move: insisting that the cops search Annalise’s house. And much like Beyonce’s first lyric in “Crazy in Love”… uh oh.
So, yeah, things are pretty bleak for Annalise. Her husband is dead, the cops are looking right at her, and her drunken holiday hotel binge feels like a far-removed dream. She’s called Nate and warned him not to talk to anyone, but she can’t avoid Detective Bryce—the poised policewoman whose most prominent form of cardio comes from skeptically raising one single eyebrow. Bryce has already posted up outside Annalise’s classroom, waiting to interrogate, but AK-47 (Viola Davis is actually 49) breezes past, because she’s not under arrest yet and doesn’t have to talk. Instead, she’s got a class to teach, and the substitute teacher has already screwed it up by calling on a non-series regular.
The lesson of the class is about how staying quiet in a case can mean the difference between a guilty and innocent verdict, and if that not-so-subtle connection to Annalise’s status quo wasn’t clear, the case of the week finds Annalise defending a notable mob boss whose drug shipment was busted after a shady tip from a fed. Leo Lombardo has retained Annalise for 15 years, but even he’s skeptical to keep her on his payroll. And yet Annalise’s insistence that Leo not fire her is key to understanding her current state: Her practice is taking a nosedive thanks to the media circus around her husband, and clinging on to her work is distracting herself from the Nightmare After Christmas that is her current life.
And so she toils away, working with the Keating Five to defend this “businessman” who everyone knows is a mob boss but nobody acknowledges because there is literally nothing less important to them than working on this case. Connor can barely focus on it, relying instead on Michaela, Laurel, and Asher to do the heavy lifting as the CASE-OF-THE-WEEK MONTAGE makes its much-welcome return.
Wes is proving wildly unhelpful because he’s too busy falling further into his research spiral about Rudy the serial scratcher, whose mental breakdown is becoming more and more possible for the nightmare-plagued Wes. He decides to ask his landlord, who informs Wes that Rudy was carted away by the police one night—at Rebecca’s phone call! Whoa, babe! Way to not mention anything for like four months! Furious, Wes confronts her, and she confesses that she never thought it was important to bring up. Rudy was banging on the walls and screaming, so she called the cops. Tale as old as time, right? And once again, Rebecca finds a way to bring Wes down from the ledge, even though he’s still determined to find out Rudy’s story, but can’t because Rebecca forces them to cuddle together like nothing is wrong. UGH. A curse on Rebecca and all her flannel shirts and whoever keeps giving her, like, four cornrows.
Meanwhile, back at the Keating House of Horrors, Bonnie is devastated. She just found out that Sam is dead… and nobody called her! You can hate Bonnie for her perfect bangs or wool-polyester blends, but you can’t help but feel horrible for her that nobody even thought to fill her in that Sam Keating—her boss’s husband, among other things—is dead. (I still believe that Bonnie secretly vents her anger weekly in a fight club underneath a Denny’s.) Bonnie notices that Frank isn’t shocked by the Sam death news, though, and it’s this suspicion that launches her on to investigate Sam’s murder on her own terms. But Bonnie is also called on to fulfill her duties as Annalise’s right-hand counsel, and since it’s the first time Annalise has asked her to do something since their great break-up, Bonnie tries to deliver.
The cops retrieve a search warrant for Annalise’s house, and so Bonnie goes to court to try and traverse the warrant, but a character-doubting testimony from Hannah—about a bizarre three-year-old fight she once witnessed between Annalise and Sam—causes Bonnie to lose the fight. Thus, another nightmare occurs: The cops descend on Annalise’s house to dust every corner, leaving no encyclopedia or fancy pillow unturned. If you thought the case-of-the-week techno montages were stressful, they are nothing compared to the POLICE-POSSIBLY-FINDING-INCRIMINATING-EVIDENCE TECHNO MONTAGE. And yet, despite my heart palpitations and Annalise’s Gloria Swanson-esque purview from the staircase, the police find nothing. No smeared blood, no bump in the doorjamb, no residue of Michaela’s tears pooling around the corner where she cried and cried. Annalise has scrubbed the entirety of the house and gotten rid of all traces of usable evidence—and that’s how you get away with murder. (Just kidding, they’re all still screwed.)
The one thing the police do find is the set of the scales missing from the trophy of Lady Justice. The discovery seems inconsequential to the cops, but it opens up a whole new world for Bonnie and she rides that magic carpet of knowledge all the way to Frank, whom she caught exchanging a fearful look toward Annalise during the inspection. Bonnie tosses Sam’s medical report in Frank’s face and lays out all the facts she knows: Sam was killed with a blunt object. His body was found with carpet fibers and debris from the woods. Bonnie’s smart enough to know when Frank is lying, and she’s confident that something bigger happened that neither Frank nor Annalise will admit. Someone call Summer Sanders because Bonnie has figured it out!
NEXT: Connor goes mano a mano with Annalise[pagebreak]
In between the police searches and Bonnie’s quest for truth, there’s a great scene between Annalise and Connor that was, for me, the episode highlight. We’ve only ever seen Annalise take Wes into her office for one-on-one outpourings of emotion, but when Annalise overhears Connor expressing his doubts about her, she brings him in for a long overdue conversation.
“Say everything you want to say to me right to my face,” she implores him, and a very visibly distressed Connor has gone completely white. But still, he powers through, confessing his mistrust and, above all, his fear.
Annalise: I’m a bad person. Heartless. A sociopath. Is that about right?
Connor: You said you’d protect us.
Annalise: Aren’t I?
Connor: How could we know? You only talk to us in code. You expect us to continue going to class and to work on your cases, even though nothing makes any sense anymore.
Annalise counters—not in a scolding way, but a reassuring one—that she identifies with Connor because they’re both worriers. It makes them successful, but it also makes them tired. She insists that Connor doesn’t have to trust her, but encourages him to stop worrying. And besides, she’s his only option for not going to prison. Or at least delaying it. Kudos to Jack Falahee for taking what could have been a one-note showcase for Viola Davis and turning it into another fascinating look at Connor’s deteriorating psyche.
Back in court, Annalise proves that the big baddie in the mob case was the prosecutor. Sorry if I just immediately jumped to the end there, but the case is less important in its actual intricacies than it is in its broader thematic implications. The mob case illustrates (1) how one snitch can bring everything down, and (2) how even the good guys, like the law-abiding prosecutor, can be guilty. It’s that second point that’s most important because of what happens next…
Stick with me here.
1. Bonnie has figured out that the kids murdered Sam, and she brings the trophy right into Annalise’s office and delivers a speech worthy of the Dillon Panthers: “You’re not going to get away with this, Annalise. Not if you keep avoiding the police. Hannah’s smart. She loves Sam too much not to solve this. And I know why you want to protect them, but they’re sneaking off all the time to talk. You didn’t do this. They did. Don’t let them ruin you.”
2. The pep talk—coupled with the greater insinuation that Bonnie was easily able to figure out the truth—impels Annalise to call someone. “I need you right now,” she says to the mystery receiver.
3. The cops arrive at Annalise’s, having finally found evidence in the woods. Annalise doesn’t object to going down to the station and retelling her story—she fought with Sam, went to Nate’s apartment, came home, called Bonnie, etc. Then Detective Bryce pulls out a photo. “You recognize this?”
4. Wes’ apartment: Rebecca informs Murder, Inc. that a ring has been found. I freak out. Wes freaks out. Michaela absolutely loses her shit. But wait, don’t freak out yet, because…
5. It’s actually Sam’s wedding band! The police found it in the woods, but…
6. Frank planted it there! Because Annalise gave it to him! But Detective Bryce says there were fingerprints on the ring, and we flash back to Frank, snooping around someone’s apartment, using fancy CSI gear to extract a fingerprint, which he then planted on Sam’s wedding band.
7. And who does that fingerprint belong to?
8. NATE LAHEY! YOU’RE UNDER ARREST! The cops make the move at poor Nate’s apartment, arresting him for Sam’s murder and taking him down to the station. Hannah is there with Annalise, and she’s dubious as ever, but who even cares what Hannah has to say at this point because Nate has been arrested, and it’s another blow to this sappy detective who has done nothing but get played by Annalise over and over.
Unless… could Nate have been the person Annalise called in Point #2 above? Is he in on the arrest to buy Annalise more time? Or was that phone call the one Annalise made to Frank to plant the wedding ring? (Before you point out how I’m obviously wrong and how it’s obviously the call she made to Frank, consider that there are truly two ways to read it.)
And with that, Annalise collapses into bed. She’s worn out. She’s tired. Her lover is in jail and her husband is in pieces and her DVR is full and her minibar is empty. There’s only one thing to do.
She calls her mom.
- Is there something we should make of Annalise’s accusal of incest between Hannah and Sam? Or should we be more concerned with Hannah’s ace-in-the-sleeve statement about Annalise’s violent past? That latter part will be revealed next week when we meet the certifiably intimidating Cicely Tyson as Annalise’s mother, Ophelia.
- The kids weren’t as much in focus tonight, but there was a nice moment when Laurel broke down in front of Frank, having just been informed that there was quite literally nothing else she could to do to help, either in the case of the week or in Murder, Inc.’s own troubles. Poor Laurel really stepped up in the wake of the murder, but she hasn’t had a moment to show any weakness because she’s tried to act as the strength of the group. Cry it out, girl. You deserve it.
- Best Use of Law School: Bonnie.
- Best Use of One-Liners While Also Looking Like Greg Brady: Asher
- Remember the drunk couple in the woods? Or Wes’ sloppy visit to the convenience store on the Night of the Flying Cheerleader? I’m still patiently waiting for those little bits of information to rear their horribly drunk, wildly inconvenient heads.
Until next week, Murderers!