Have you ever cheered seeing someone get run over by a car? Congratulations, you watch How to Get Away With Murder.
DA Sinclair’s automotive autopsy was but a brief thrill in the show’s midseason finale, which packed in enough sick people doing sick things to wholly delight us, an audience of equally sick people who like to watch equally sick things.
Tonight’s winter finale brought the season full circle — well, full half-circle, since it’s only midseason — and while the first few steps in HTGAWM’s second outing have admittedly been a bit rough, I would argue that the November finale rescued the season with some top-notch payoffs (like Nia’s pills, Asher’s dad, and most importantly, the slow-burning Rebecca card, which absolutely shocked me but maybe shouldn’t have).
I’m tempted to recap this episode backwards and begin with the biggest bombshells, because you and I both know what we want to discuss: Wes shooting Annalise. Annalise and Christophe (who is…Wes?). Asher killing Sinclair. Frank drugging Catherine. Connor maybe almost shooting Michaela. Laurel making rash decisions. Bonnie looking under a car.
But we’re blessed with a rare chronological episode, so who am I to write a backwards recap for the one night of the year we ever get a straight timeline? So let’s start at the very beginning, which I have on good authority from a governess is a very good place to start.
Here is everything you need to know about what happened before Murder Night, a.k.a. MURDER DAY:
MORNING: As we learned last week, Michaela and Caleb discovered the gun suggesting Catherine’s guilt. They call Connor to help dispose of it. (Surprise: He didn’t want to.) At the same time, Annalise, Laurel, Frank, and Wes debate whether to get rid of Catherine’s portrait in Philip’s pictures, since they’re trying to pin the case solely on him and keep her innocent. Eventually, both sides convene, and Annalise ditches the plan for one simple solution: No more protecting Catherine. Caleb’s now her only remaining client, and it’s a race to get Catherine and Philip implicated. The problem is Catherine ran away, and she’s hiding out at a motel.
NOON: Philip has been brought into the police station for questioning, which puts Annalise and Nate on edge. Nate’s back on the force, but he isn’t privy to what Philip is telling the cops; he’s too busy being taunted by Sinclair, so much so that he blows up at her in the middle of the station. He loses his job; in turn, he files a racial discrimination suit against her. Everyone witnesses Nate going after her, which certainly won’t help matters later when she’s dead. A few hours later, Nate and Sinclair meet in her car, and she tries to bury the hatchet. The takeaway: Nate’s fingerprints are now all over Sinclair’s car.
4 P.M.-ISH: Asher’s dad has committed suicide, hanging himself in his office after Sinclair leaked all the information about his malfeasance and Trotter Lake. Bonnie breaks the news, and a distraught Asher goes to see his mother, who instantly turns on him. Mrs. Millstone blames Asher for driving his father to kill himself, between the Trotter Lake humiliation and Asher’s supposed choice of Annalise over his own family. (This was one element of the episode I take issue with — Mrs. Millstone’s reasoning was really flawed since Asher hasn’t exactly demonstrated that kind of loyalty to Annalise — but that is literally the least-important point to discuss right now.)
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Asher, broken and alone, drives around until he finds Sinclair standing in her office parking garage. Having had a day, Sinclair is in no mood and provokes Asher with her signature combination of total bitch + terrible acting. Then she brings up Mr. Millstone. “God knows he deserved it,” she spouts while Asher fumes inside his car. “Maybe you’re better off without him.” She walks away, and a seething Asher throws his car in reverse and RUNS HER OVER. I cheered. You cheered. We all cheered that Sinclair is dead and bloody and we’ll (hopefully) never have to see her alive again. God this show is really screwing with my mental health. But on the happy side, we can now welcome Asher to Murder, Inc.! Come to me, baby.
Asher calls Bonnie, who double checks Sinclair’s body underneath his car and confirms, yeah, she’s dead.
NEXT: Twilight arrives, and Murder Night begins
6 P.M.-ISH: As twilight looms and ABC puts on its “How To Get Away With Murder Night Scene” Instagram filter, we find Connor, Michaela, Laurel, and Wes in the Hapstall mansion, twiddling their thumbs over a few outstanding matters: Asher has been silent since his dad’s suicide (and outrageously, no one has his number, which is probably the second saddest thing to happen to Asher this week). Catherine’s gone, and Caleb is freaking out about it. Philip is at the police station, and they’ve got no updates on whether or not he’s talking. And the gun just sits there between them, as they contemplate what to do and await a plan from their leader.
Annalise, meanwhile, is going through it. She’s getting hit in all directions from the worst kind of notification: phone calls.
•Nate, telling her that Philip has been released from police questioning without any charges (how)
•Frank, telling her that he found Catherine at a motel (what)
•Bonnie, telling her that Sinclair is dead (#OHMYGAWM)
Annalise makes a series of swift moves: She tells Bonnie to bring Sinclair’s body to the Hapstall house. She tells Frank to get the secobarbital pills she procured for Nate’s wife and use them to knock out Catherine (so they can at least, like, get her in a trunk and, I don’t know, probably tie her up in a basement somewhere). She holds off on giving Nate any direction.
10 P.M.: Annalise tells Murder, Inc. her plan — to turn in Catherine, turn in the gun, and link her to Philip. She insists that Caleb go to Michaela’s apartment for safety. A car pulls up outside, and she leaves Connor, Michaela, Laurel, and Wes in the portrait room to go greet “Sinclair.” It’s not Sinclair — it’s Bonnie and Asher, bearing a trunk full of dead Sinclair (okay, so yes, technically it is Sinclair). The body is wrapped in a plaid blanket that Bonnie was obviously gifted because Bonnie Winterbottom would never buy a plaid blanket.
Annalise, Bonnie, and Asher haul Sinclair’s dead body into the house, and in case things haven’t already escalated, that’s when s— gets REAL.
The second Connor sees the body, he’s out. “Nope,” he says. “Nope, nope, nope. This is insane. You’re insane. I’m leaving.” I applaud Connor for having the sense to be completely appalled at being dragged back into this homicide nonsense, but his sound logic is for naught. He’s about to leave the mansion, as he should, when Annalise goes to the depot, rents a bus, drives it along the highway, stops for a cheeseburger, continues driving to the Hapstall house, parks the bus outside, has a cigarette, calls Connor downstairs, lines him and the bus up just right, and THROWS. HIM. UNDER. IT.
“They killed Sam, Asher,” Annalise snaps as Connor is about to walk out the door, and the expression on his face — and in fact, on all faces involved — is every shade of horrified. “It wasn’t Bonnie,” Annalise continues. “She just said that to protect them, but Sam attacked Rebecca, and they killed Sam, and I’ve been protecting them all since.” Asher is too distraught to even react to the news, but suddenly he’s in the loop, and with one confession, Annalise nails Connor to the wall and forces him — and all of Murder, Inc. — to play another part, whether they’d like to or not. This time, they’re helping to protect her. It’s easily her baddest bitch moment in two seasons, and her scream of “Now, let’s get to work!” is as iconic as any teacher forcing her students to cover up a dead body can be. You won’t see this s— on Degrassi.
Annalise decides their story is this: Catherine came home and killed Sinclair, who had found the gun and the portrait (and they’ve even got Caleb, who believes Catherine’s guilty, in their back pocket). Annalise places a fake phone call to Sinclair, telling her to come visit the mansion. She fakes another call to Catherine, begging to let her help protect her. She calls Frank to check in on the Catherine situation. (He’s chloroformed her, but her absence at the motel leads Philip to go to the Hapstall mansion — uh oh.)
Annalise ignores Nate’s call, but Wes decides to call Nate himself. He urges Nate to come to the Hapstall house. “Annalise thinks she’s trying to protect you,” he says, and Nate’s immediately on his way because anytime someone says “Annalise” and “protect” in the same sentence, it’s best to probably just nip that in the bud right quick.
Bonnie, who has just dumped Sinclair’s body over the balcony, approaches Annalise — what’s the next move? She offers to take the gun to Frank, but Annalise stops her, insisting that the gun stay there. Bonnie gives Annalise a look that says “Annalise!” and also says “Annalise.” Apparently it means something because Bonnie immediately leaves with Asher (and they go to the gas station and, pleasantly, a car wash).
And so it’s just Annalise, a murder weapon, and four kids. Like it should be. And our leading lady decides that there’s only one way to make their alibi ironclad.
NEXT: Wes, Annalise, and Christophe
“Shoot me.” Annalise walks into the living room brandishing a gun, and as if the faces of the kids weren’t already shocked, she pulls out her phone and calls 911 to call in her own shooting. Oh, she is not playing. “It won’t work unless we do something to make them believe it,” she demands, holding the gun out and begging someone to grab it and take a shot.
She turns to Connor first, riling him up, recounting how she ruined his life and will ruin Oliver’s too, plying him with the fuel of rage like a boiling thermometer. Connor can’t do it, dropping the gun with a devastating “I hate you so much.” She goes for Michaela, brilliantly changing the approach to appeal to the one thing she knows is most precious to her: “Michaela, think about your future!” Michaela is already far past the point of shooting someone. She screams and can’t do it either, threatening to call 911 and end it all right there. She appeals to Laurel — level-headed, dependable Laurel — who almost looks like she’ll do it because, in truth, maybe it does make sense, and Laurel will understand that better than anyone. But even she concedes failure: “Maybe we should go to jail. For everything. Maybe that’s okay.”
Desperately, she’s left with Wes. “You know that this makes sense,” she says, giving him the gun and saying, “In my leg; I’ll be fine.” But Wes won’t do it. He reveals that Nate’s on his way to help. “No one’s shooting you,” says Wes, and you can see Annalise’s dreams crash in front of her.
Then, she does it.
“Rebecca’s dead, Wes.” Annalise drops the final card she’s been holding, the desperate one she doesn’t want to play but knows will get her where she needs to be, even if it means irreparable damage down the line. “I’ve been lying and lying to you,” she says, or at least, she says something like this because at this point my heart is racing so fast that I can’t comprehend anything and Lila could have tap-danced across the screen and I’d still be oblivious to it.
Finding out that Annalise has betrayed him — and that Rebecca is really, truly, officially dead — is enough to do the trick. Wes grabs the gun. Wes takes aim. And Wes absolutely does not shoot her in the leg. “No!” Annalise cries as he points the gun at her torso and fires. Down she tumbles to the floor, and Wes — horrifyingly — takes aim at her head. Damn. But Annalise begins to mutter, “Christophe,” and Wes stumbles backwards. He recognizes the name.
Who is Christophe?
We flash back ten years earlier, when a young black boy named Christophe sits in a room in a stark, clean facility (a police station? A psych ward? A social work office? Juvie?). He’s being questioned by a kind woman in a pantsuit, who asks him about what he saw when he got home that day. The boy apparently called 911. He looks up at her and asks, “Is she dead?” He’s got the eyes of Wes, the intonation of Wes, the future-plaid of Wes. And we know Wes’s mother killed herself years ago, which raises the real question: Is Wes Christophe?
We pan out and see young Annalise and Eve (Famke Janssen) watching through a one-way mirror. “Good God, Annalise,” says Eve. “What did we do?”
NEXT: The final page — let’s wrap this up.
How to Get Away With Murder doesn’t return until February 11. That gives us about three months to think about some questions from this week of jaw-droppers.
Assuming that Christophe is Wes, the big question is what role young lawyers Annalise and Eve played in his mother’s suicide. Did she and Eve lose a case that forced her to take her life? Or did they perhaps win one that drew the same tragic ending for a defendant? Given the episode’s suicide context, can we draw any parallels between the circumstances that led Asher’s father to kill himself — things having to do with choices, rape, humiliation, family? How much does Wes remember of his life as Christophe? What was young Annalise doing 10 years prior? Was she with Sam then?
On Murder Night, a few points: When does Asher go to the police station — and is it a rogue move, or is he acting under Bonnie’s guidance? How much does Philip see when he gets to the mansion? Will he be set up as a fugitive villain for the second half of the season, threatening to expose the Keating firm at any corner? What’s going to happen when Catherine wakes up in the middle of the woods and remembers being chloroformed at her motel? Also, did the two of them actually kill the Hapstall parents? That’d be kind of nice to find out already.
Where does Nate take everyone? Will Connor and Michaela ever recover? And how soon until Cicely Tyson comes back to visit Annalise’s mother in a hospital bed?!
Add your own questions to the comments! As we stretch into this nice three-month break, I give a kudos to those of you who guessed there was something fishy between Wes and Annalise since the pilot, and more kudos to those who also concluded that “Who shot Annalise?” was a set-up all along. I definitely didn’t predict Sinclair’s death or the way the “Rebecca’s dead” card would be used to get Wes to pull the trigger, but therein is the thrill of this whole damn show.
Keep in touch with me @MarcSnetiker on Twitter until February — I will need your emotional support to pick my life up from the shambles How to Get Away With Murder has left it in.