The newest denizen of Shondaland enters its second season still basking in the afterglow of star Viola Davis’ big Emmy win and maintaining the buzz created by its uneven but inspired 15-episode debut last year. The time-jumping twists and turns of its opening bow kept How to Get Away With Murder kinetic and breathless, and the second season premiere wastes no time diving back into the fray. Last season’s finale revealed who took out pregnant co-ed Lila Stangard (it was Frank, Annalise Keating’s consultant/button man) but left a fresh body as a cliffhanger: that of bartender, accused killer, piercing enthusiast, and sometimes Wes paramour Rebecca.
Of course, that murder is solved within the new season’s first hour, continuing the series’ full-speed barreling. In addition to the spinning roulette wheel of suspects in Rebecca’s killing, there’s a fresh cornucopia of complications for Keating and her law students. The most fascinating of those new plot threads involves the arrival of Eve Rothlow (new cast member Famke Janssen), one of Annalise’s old college friends (or possibly more) who is now defending the framed Nate. Meanwhile, Annalise is diving headlong into representing a pair of adopted kids accused of torturing and slaying their parents, and there’s still the question of the identity of the mysterious “Eggs 911,” the recipient of Rebecca’s text messages from the last night she was alive.
Oh, and there’s also that pesky flash-forward that suggests Wes straight-up caps Annalise in a few months. For a lot of shows, that would be way too many plot plates to spin without letting a few tumble and shatter. But Hot to Get Away With Murder has a not-so-secret weapon in Davis, whose authoritative presence and calm hand lend gravitas to even the most absurd plot turns. Like most every piece of fiction that takes place in a courtroom, Murder has no basis in the reality of the legal system, and just like Scandal, there are probably two too many characters to have to care about. But it manages to continuously elevate the dramatic stakes and navigate the ever-evolving relationships of its principals while rarely allowing itself to become narratively untethered (not to pile on, but Scandal was guilty of that last season as well). With such an intense commitment to its escalated sense of reality, it’s always possible this show suddenly crashes and burns. But at this point, with Davis at the front, How to Get Away With Murder can get away with just about anything it wants.