It’s the fall finale of How to Get Away With Murder, which means the reckoning is upon us — by episode’s end we finally know who all the blood belongs to (both in Annalise’s elevator and at Caplan & Gold) and why Annalise is sobbing in the shower. It’s a gory, shocking, wild ride. While this show can sometimes struggle in its in-between moments as it builds up to its mysteries, it always knocks out its strongest episodes when delivering midseason and season finale cliffhangers. Several other loose threads remain, but we’ll have to wait until the show returns in January for more answers.
When we open, we start at the night of the party at Caplan & Gold — Oliver is on the phone with an unknown caller when he bursts into a secluded room upstairs to tell Michaela, Asher, and Laurel that Annalise knows everything. Only the news has little impact since he walks in to find their faces covered in blood.
Flashing back to 24 hours earlier, we pick up where we left off last week, with Connor storming to Laurel’s apartment to confront the rest of the Keating Four about their plan to take down Antares. He threatens to tell Annalise everything and is perturbed by many factors: putting Laurel’s baby at risk, framing Simon…Connor provokes Frank, blaming all of this on him, which leads Frank to lash out and attempt to choke Connor. The rest of the gang has to pull Frank off of him, leading to a worrisome moment where Frank hits Laurel in the stomach and she briefly grabs her pregnant belly in pain. Laurel implores Connor to keep quiet, but he answers a phone call from Annalise. He doesn’t say anything after all, and Annalise tells him not to text or call over the weekend unless there’s a disaster. Welp, you just virtually guaranteed disaster, Annalise.
Meanwhile, Annalise is on her way to her hotel and briefly gets stuck in the elevator (a crucial detail later). Waiting outside her door is Bonnie, who’s looking to apologize for the situation with Isaac and claiming that she was the one who told the Attorney General to put Isaac on the stand, which won Annalise her case. “I love you,” Bonnie confesses. She explains how Isaac made her see that the things she and Annalise do to each other are born out of love. Annalise doesn’t want to hear it and tells her she’s afraid of her (and to be honest, besides Laurel’s dad, Bonnie is probably the most frightening person in this world right now, especially given how vulnerable and alone she’s feeling).
This conversation is intercut with Isaac confronting his wife about her going to Annalise about him and possibly jeopardizing Annalise’s well-being. Then he describes his doctor-patient relationship with Annalise as “an intimate relationship with a powerful, attractive woman.” Line officially crossed. Annalise’s concerns that this situation might be too much like her relationship with Sam are probably well founded.
Before we get to the party from hell, let’s get up to speed on where everyone else is — Bonnie, distraught after making her confession to Annalise, shows up at Nate’s door for an AA (Annalise Anonymous) meeting, which mostly involves her getting drunk and accusing Nate of telling Annalise about the Isaac situation. He promises he didn’t and ignores her question of how to get over Annalise to go order pizza. So, basically, he responds to an outpouring of emotion as any alpha male would — by ignoring it and seeking food.
It’s the night of the Caplan & Gold party and both Annalise and Laurel are at home on their beds, going over and over everyone’s words that feed the guilt in their minds. This season has made a point of comparing Michaela to Annalise at every step, but here (and as we progress through the episode), it’s clear that she and Laurel are truly the most alike, wrestling with how their personal messes have damaged the lives of those around them. They both decide to leave their apartments — Laurel to attend the party and make sure the job is done right; Annalise to visit Isaac.
At Isaac’s office, Annalise comes to tell him that she wants to keep seeing him for therapy, but he pushes her away because of the situation with his wife and Bonnie. She insists that he’s the only one who can help her, but their conversation is interrupted by a phone call from Connor at the party — he reveals that Laurel’s father killed Wes and the entire Keating Four is at C&G attempting to bankrupt Antares.
At Caplan & Gold, Michaela and Asher are trying to find ways to get Tegan to give them her purse (and thus her keycard with access to the Antares files/servers). Connor and Oliver are in the midst of an argument when Simon interrupts to insult Connor about being jobless; little does he know Frank is back at his apartment uploading Antares files and evidence onto his laptop to frame him as the C&G whistleblower. Later, Simon comes to Oliver to apologize and reveal that he’s mean to Connor because he’s jealous, particularly because he likes Oliver. This is a huge revelation to Oliver, who apparently has been oblivious to Simon’s blatant flirtation throughout the season — for Oliver, Simon being closeted, on top of being a DACA recipient, is why they can’t go through with their plan. But Laurel shows up to make them go through with it. (Recap continues on page 2)
The partners are giving speeches and it’s almost time for Tegan’s, so Michaela drops a line about gender bias and women making speeches while holding purses. It works. She gets the key card she needs, which she passes to Asher, and they sync their phones on a timer to the length of Tegan’s speech. Laurel is panicking and can’t get the card to work, but Oliver gets them in the server room and breaks through the firewall. Because this isn’t stressful enough, the files are spread across multiple servers, which means they have to plug a hard drive into each server to make sure they get all the files. Michaela is watching Tegan’s speech when she’s busted by Simon, who can spot her nervous stress smile from a mile away.
Back upstairs, Asher decides Oliver should plant the keycard on Simon by kissing him and slipping it in his pocket to complete the whistleblower frame job. Oliver hunts for him at the party when he is interrupted by the phone call from the opening scene of this episode — it’s Connor revealing he called Annalise and told her everything. Meanwhile, Annalise is now calling Laurel and leaving a voicemail offering her help.
Asher, Laurel, and Michaela are in a side room discussing Oliver planting the key card on Simon when Simon walks in and overhears them. Laurel tries to pay him off to keep quiet, but he finds a gun in her bag and points it at them in desperation. Michaela approaches him, trying to talk him down, when he backs up and trips on a chair, the gun goes off, and suddenly he’s lying on the floor with a pool of blood around his head. Asher runs to pick up the gun, but Michaela screams at him to put it down. Oliver runs in with his news about Annalise and shrieks, “Oh my God” when he sees Simon dead on the floor. He wants to call 911, but first Michaela calmly orchestrates what happens next: She wipes blood off of Laurel’s face and tells her to leave because her presence will tip off Mr. Castillo and Antares. Then she puts the stolen key card in Simon’s pocket, wipes the gun clean, and puts it back where it fell. Then, they call 911.
Michaela then gives the greatest performance of her life to date; she walks into the party covered in blood, screaming for help and yelling about how Simon shot himself in the head (which technically is true, just not in the sense she means). Tegan runs to her to comfort her, but not before Michaela whispers to Connor what happened and urges him to go to Laurel’s apartment.
But Laurel didn’t go home — no, she heard Annalise’s voicemail and headed for the Easton hotel. The only trouble is that as she gets in the elevator, we see drops of blood on the ground. As the elevator climbs the floors, she notices a steady flow of blood between her legs and flashes back to Frank hitting her in the stomach by accident the night before. As with Annalise before, the elevator is stuck, and this time it won’t budge. Laurel swipes her bloodstained hands across the buttons and the walls before crumpling to the floor in pain (and, as it turns out, premature labor). She tries to call 911 but has no signal, so she bangs on the walls and screams for help.
Eventually, Annalise hears her cries and tries to pry open the elevator door while also calling 911. When the door opens, Laurel has fainted and is lying in a huge pool of blood. As Annalise shakes her to wake her up, she moves aside her leg and sees the disturbingly quiet baby Laurel has just given birth to.
Annalise tries to get to the baby but is having trouble reaching it through the bars of the elevator gate. At the same time, the doctors from previous flashforwards operate on Simon, trying to save his life. Annalise tries to perform CPR on the baby, while the doctors do the same for Simon. She chants, “Live, live, live,” over and over. Look, Annalise has done a lot of unforgivable things over the years, but this is perhaps her most vulnerable and her most noble moment. It’s heart-wrenching to watch her try to breathe life back into this baby, knowing she is haunted by the fact that she couldn’t do the same for her own child (and that once again it’s her actions as a lawyer and her students that have brought an innocent child to this point).
Back at Caplan & Gold, Michaela is on the phone with Connor as she watches Asher get arrested and be taken away in handcuffs (and tears). But Connor has bigger concerns — he’s at the apartment, and Laurel isn’t there. Worse, though he doesn’t know it, Dominic, a.k.a. Wes’ murderer, is. Connor gives an overly detailed “I told you so” speech to Michaela, filled with enough info to make this a truly dangerous situation given that Dominic overhears every word.
Simon’s heart monitor flatlines, Annalise continues to chant, “Live,” we cut to black, and there’s the sound of a newborn baby’s cry.
There are still so many unanswered questions: How does Laurel get to the hospital? What is Isaac’s role here? And Bonnie’s? Why does Asher get arrested? Executive Producer Pete Nowalk filled in EW on some of the details here.
Overall, this episode offered another step forward in Annalise’s character rehabilitation. She has worked so hard these last eight episodes to get her life on a path that will correct her sins, and the Keating Four are doing a lot to disrupt that. But she sees herself in Laurel, even more so now that Laurel has almost lost a child, and it was triumphant to see her fight so hard for something that has such a personal, raw meaning to her.
What do you think? Was it a satisfying cliffhanger? Can Annalise ever truly be saved from herself? Comment below or find me on Twitter @themaureenlee.