“Maybe we can help each other. Wouldn’t that be nice? To just help each other after all this horribleness?” LOL!
Victim’s-mother-of-the-week, I admire your heartwarming message of amnesty and transitive compassion, but know your audience — and the series regulars whose lives your emotional suggestions palpably mirror.
The second How to Get Away With Murder after the winter hiatus dared to dangle the backwashed Gatorade that is forgiveness in front of the Keating House of Histrionic Horrors. The story of the mother of a slain teen who readily forgave her son’s killer is an emotionally tempting court case that forces each murderer and murderess in our merry gang to look inward and consider whether they, too, could abandon their grudges against one another and move forward.
Some epiphanies in and adjacent to the Keating Five are less dramatic than others: On the lightest level, there’s Asher, forced to realize that he may be overstaying his welcome at Connor and Oliver’s house. There’s Michaela, still shunned by Caleb, forced to contemplate whether she’ll allow him to treat her like the only wrongdoer anymore. There’s Nate, who won’t make amends with Annalise and only passingly shows interest in tracking down Philip (who remains on the lam, and in Canada!).
As usual, it’s the nightmare vaudeville act of Wes and Annalise that can’t seem to let the damage go. Both are under visible mental duress, and both are recommended by doctors to seek therapy — except only Wes becomes legally obligated to after he makes a flippant remark about suicide. They lock him up in the psych ward for a 120-hour hold, and as Wes needlessly recounts the story of his life’s greatest trauma — finding his mother in a pool of blood after school when he was 12 — the doctor tries to get him to say that Annalise is the reason, because seeing her in a pool of blood triggered his memory. LOL again! As if a pool of blood was a big deal on this show. Wouldn’t it be delightful if a mere pool of blood — arguably a penny in HTGAWM currency — were the reason Wes is drudging up this horrible childhood memory?
Obviously, it’s because Annalise dared to mutter “Christophe,” which I’m just going to declare is Wes’ real name from now on unless a libel rep for the Gibbins family comes after me. After tonight’s episode, the narrative of Wes’ mother’s suicide — the unseen Murder Night of the season’s back half, essentially — is no longer a complete mystery. The pieces are beginning to fall into place thanks to flashbacks from Annalise’s life 10 years ago.
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Back in the early ’00s, when S Club 7 was blasting on the radio and Annalise was pregnant with Sam’s baby, we’re offered a novel peek into her professional and home life. She’s untenured but running her practice out of her house, and she’s got her own bizarro version of the Keating Five — and guess who’s the top student! Our very own Bonnie, cosplaying as Paris Geller, cosplaying as Rory Gilmore (this double Gilmore Girls reference is due to my current first-time bingeing and general enthusiasm at seeing a young Liza Weil torment the very tormentable Alexis Bledel). Bonnie is obviously on her way to becoming the alpha female who wins a spot on Annalise’s staff, and if she’s lucky, a spot near Sam Keating’s Winterbottom.
Frank’s in the flashback, too, with a miserable haircut and an even more miserable position as Annalise’s inept assistant. He botches booking airfare for Annalise’s trip to Cleveland because Sam told him to wait (suggesting the first cryptic hint of Frank’s dangerous obedience to Sam that resulted in Lila’s murder in season 1). And yes, there’s good old Sam Keating, as well, living and well and strong-jawed and making frequent comments about his excitement and concern for his future son with Annalise.
How does all this relate to Wes and his mother? That chance playground encounter we saw last week between Annalise and Rose seems to have been a maneuver by Annalise to find and befriend the woman, who has some connection to a federal case that Annalise has undertaken on Sam’s advice. When a very pregnant Annalise travels to Cleveland to meet with Rose, she reveals a folder with a news article about a hedge fund heir named Charles Mahoney who’s on trial for murder. Rose immediately freaks out, and Annalise promises she won’t let Rose or Westophe get hurt. LOL3. It’s pretty obvious, then, that Wes’s mother died because Annalise dragged her into a case she either had nothing to do with or had everything to do with. The question is more whether she took her own life or someone took it for her.
NEXT: Annalise comes clean to Wes
As for making amends, Annalise is moved to tears by her first court case back. It involves a teenager who admitted to murder in search of forgiveness from the victim’s mother. I don’t mean to undersell the importance of this finely acted case (arguably the series’ best-acted to date), but its message of the court’s systematic racism was not given as much attention as its message of accepting responsibility and repairing damage. Annalise, inspired by the display of humanity on both sides of the trial — and left abandoned by the Keating Five after they learn she did nothing to get Wes out of his involuntary psych ward hold — decides to come clean herself to Wes. She drops off a folder of intel about the Mahoney case on Wes’ doorstep, essentially beginning the process of owning up to whatever the f— she did to cause his mother’s death.
The plight of the court case also moves the rest of the Keating Five to reconsider how they’ve kept each other at inaccessible distances despite sharing such trauma. Normal classmates-slash-murderers might turn to each other for solace or Starbucks runs, but the Keating Five have all pushed each other away…so much so that the very rare sighting of all five in a car (driving Wes home from the psych ward) is as awkward and uncomfortable as it is beautiful and necessary. Maybe it’s the addition of jovial Asher to Murder, Inc. that has forced the group to confront the feelings they refuse to talk about. They don’t exactly hash out their emotions, but they do acknowledge that maybe they ought to turn to each other in the future. Michaela suggests they all need therapy, and Asher oozes out, “No, we don’t. Cause we gots each other.”
So the Keating Five essentially moves forward. And Nate moves forward with Annalise (showing up at her doorstep with comfort food). And Annalise even moves forward with forgiving Bonnie, perhaps not so much out of merit as out of a general assumption that neither frenemy can truly live without the other, like Harry and Voldemort or cookies and diets. Bonnie’s reinstatement as “the Bonnie” means the extraction of Laurel, though, who’s still carrying the burden of being blamed for shooting Annalise and who’s now been let loose by her own boss. She takes it out on Frank, channeling her anger into a lecture about his refusal to tell her the truth about anything. She admits that Wes shot Annalise and solicits him to reveal any secrets he’s keeping from her since nothing could possibly be any worse than Frank drugging Catherine and dumping her in the woods. LOL4! Laurel’s almost at the door when Frank blurts out, “I killed Lila.” So, that’s fun.
If you add a Flaurel renaissance, then, it seems that the gang is finally on the upswing after hitting collective rock bottom at the Hapstall mansion. Forgiveness has been awarded, and grudges have been resolved, save for the inevitably tense Wes-Annalise reconnection and an inevitably sexy face-to-face (and likely other-things-to-face) rekindling between Nate and Annalise.
But it’s only natural that everything would fall back into peaceful place when Connor gets an email with a shaky video from the Night of the Fancy Mansion, featuring the entire cast running through the woods, covered in blood. The ostensible filmmaker is Philip, and next week’s previews suggest he’s craving a meaty ransom for the video. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO GET AWAY WITH THIS MURDER.
The questions you must ask yourself: How much longer can you tolerate the Hapstall case? Do you care what happens to Philip or Catherine? Do you even remember ADA Sinclair?
On a more somber note, back in the 2000s, what impending doom is coming for Annalise that results in the loss of her baby? Does it have something to do with traveling back and forth from Cleveland, on a case Sam is making her take on? On a perhaps less somber note, why was Wes’ name ever Christophe? Who did the hedge fund heir murder? How is Rose involved? And where in the world is Carmen FamkeJanssen?
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