Annalise travels to Memphis to visit her ailing mother
Credit: Mitch Haaseth/ABC

After months away, we’re back with the Keating Five Four and ramping up for a new mystery. The first episode of season 4 jumps into some of the questions left open last season, but they’re not necessarily the ones you’re expecting. We spend far more time exploring whether or not Connor will accept Oliver’s proposal and what Annalise is going to do about her mother’s dementia than we do on the biggest issues of the season 3 finale: What did Annalise mean when she called Wes “her son”? And why did Laurel’s dad killed Wes?

Laurel meets her father on campus, probing him about Dominic and asking why he lied to her about why the hitman was in New York. She can’t bring herself to ask about Wes. Instead, she tells dear old dad that she was pregnant, but that she got an abortion. He naturally assumes it was Frank’s, and Laurel does nothing to dispel this notion. Before they go, he insists that they take a photo together on campus, which feels weird and not at all like a natural fatherly sentiment — this is Laurel’s dad, after all.

Laurel then goes to meet Annalise, Bonnie, and the Keating Four at a restaurant, per Annalise’s request. They each have envelopes on their plate, but Annalise insists they can’t open them until after dinner. More on that later, because first we have to flash back to one week earlier and get caught up on what everyone’s been up to in the meantime.

The majority of “I’m Going Away” focuses on Annalise’s trip to Memphis to visit her mother, who, as Annalise learned in prison, is suffering from dementia. Annalise gets hit on by a guy (Desmond) on the plane, and he writes his number on a napkin — she tells him her name is Bonnie.

At home, things are worse than she suspected. Her father has put a bell on the door to alert him when Ophelia leaves the house because she’s already wandered over to the neighbors’ place in the middle of the night. Annalise admits to her mother that she’s come to visit so they can check out a potential nursing home for her “safety,” which angers Ophelia. “What the hell do you know about safety? You got people dying all around you every day,” she retorts — and, well, she has a point.

Later, Annalise receives a call from Bonnie, who says Hannah Keating is going to protest Annalise’s ownership of the house and sue for the insurance money. This means Annalise’s cash windfall (and means of caring for her mother) is potentially gone. She wants a drink after hearing this, but after looking up AA meetings in the area, she ultimately decides to go hook up with the guy she met on the plane. They don’t get very far, though, because he receives a call from “Cece,” whom he claims is his daughter. She walks out and tells him her real name is Annalise.

In the middle of the night, Ophelia wakes up Annalise screaming that the house is on fire: an episode of dementia recalling the fire that killed Uncle Clyde. Annalise bathes her mother, who wet herself in fear, and Ophelia agrees to check out the nursing home.

The home is nice but sad, full of pictures of white movie stars on the walls celebrating the “good old days,” which Ophelia mocks (“Whose good old days?). Annalise and Mac argue over whether Ophelia should go to the home (which costs $5,000/month), and he blames Ophelia’s worsening condition on Annalise’s visit, causing a scene in the nursing home.

Annalise later admits to her sister that she doesn’t have the money anymore because of Sam’s sister’s lawsuit, and she’s not even sure whether she’ll still have a job when she gets home because of the prospect of being disbarred. Celestine responds with the truest evaluation of Annalise’s alcoholism on the show ever uttered: “I’d be drinking too, if I had your life.”

Ultimately, Annalise leaves the choice up to her mother and decides to allow her to stay in her house and be cared for by Mac. They share a moving heart-to-heart where Ophelia acknowledges her worsening condition and her guilt over Annalise facing the prospect of losing another person in her life. “I’ll stay as long as I can,” Ophelia says. “I promise you I’ll hold on to me for as long as I can, and what I want is for you to hold on to me too.” Before leaving, Annalise has one last confrontation with her father, telling him she will hold him responsible if anything happens to her mother because he’s too drunk to notice. At long last, he apologizes for leaving her and leaving the door open for Uncle Clyde to molest her. She seems to accept the apology, promising to text when she lands.

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Frank shows Bonnie the new office he has found for the firm he is calling Keating Winterbottom Delfino. Frank wants to get back in Annalise’s good graces, so he is planning to buy the office for them all with “suitcase money” (the money he received in the blackmail that resulted in Annalise’s car crash and the death of her child). Bonnie is very skeptical this plan will work.

We get some brief updates on the show’s two main couples left standing: Connor and Oliver, and Michaela and Asher. Connor and Oliver are at a gay bar, where Oliver is pressuring Connor for an answer to his marriage proposal. Disgusted by the bachelorette party around them, Connor rails against marriage and the institution as a way of proving their love to each other. Methinks Connor doth protest too much. (Recap continues on page 2)

Asher and Michaela are mattress shopping (literally — that is not a euphemism). He embarrasses her in front of the store clerk with talk of their trips to “pound town,” which leads her to ask if he feels threatened. He gives an answer that feels both manipulative and kind of romantic: “Bae is brilliant, powerful, and hot — it is my job to feel threatened.” They discuss what will await them at what Michaela is calling Annalise’s “last supper.”

And honestly, it does sort of feel like a last supper — all of the time we’ve spent with Annalise in this episode and the closure she’s finding in her life makes us wonder if she’s headed the same direction as Wes. After all, the episode is called “I’m Going Away.”

Before the meal, Annalise attends her disbarment hearing. Bonnie starts to make a case that the records indicating Annalise’s intoxication could have been tampered with, but Annalise stands and makes an impassioned plea on her own behalf. She admits to being drunk that night and to the guilt she feels over Wes’ death (“I wake up every day knowing that a young man with so much potential who needed me the most died because I decided to take a drink”). She asserts she is sober now and actually begs for the panel to have mercy on her because her job is the only thing she has left.

At the dinner, she reveals that she won and can practice law again immediately. Asher wants to celebrate, but they have to open their envelopes first. Laurel says she can’t drink because she’s decided to have the baby (suggesting she lied to her father). The envelopes contain letters of recommendation for each of the Keating Four — Annalise is letting them go. “Remember who you were before you met me,” she urges. Is that even possible? They committed murder for you, Annalise!

Laurel walks out in anger. Michaela and Asher also aren’t happy about it — Asher wants to keep the group together, while Michaela insists they’re in a relationship that Annalise can’t just suddenly dissolve. Connor is the only one who accepts the letter with gratitude. And there’s one last twist — Annalise has a letter for Bonnie, too.

Next, we get a glimpse at how everyone will pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. Annalise gets a new furnished apartment, as well as a court-mandated therapist played by Jimmy Smits. And while we check in with the Keating Four and Bonnie, we hear, in voice-over, the letters of recommendation she wrote.

Bonnie is interviewing for a job with Denver of all people (ironic, given that we hear Annalise’s letter praising her unwavering loyalty – so maybe Bonnie has ulterior motives? She almost always does). Michaela and Asher resolve to move forward together and find great internships so they can be Michelle and “white Barack.” Connor finally gives Oliver an answer — he does want to marry him, but not until they’re in a good place together and not facing jail time or death. Sigh. Connor, I’m sorry, but that’s probably never going to happen.

And then there’s Laurel — she’s living in Wes’ old apartment now. While she’s lying on her bed rubbing her barely-there baby bump, she receives a text from her father with the photo they took during his visit. She starts to text him, “Why did you kill Wes?” but deletes it without sending and ominously looks at the gun on her nightstand.

CUT TO…three months later. Jimmy Smits — excuse me, Annalise’s therapist — is in the hallway of what appears to be a hospital (or institution?), asking Frank about someone’s condition. We assume he’s asking after Annalise. Frank replies that the person in question is still unconscious and has drugs in her system — but surprise, it’s not Annalise; it’s Laurel! She reaches immediately for her stomach and starts screaming at Frank, “Where’s the baby?”

So, we have our new season 4 mystery — or at least part of it. Why is Laurel in a hospital/mental institution, and what happened to her baby? And how do Annalise, her therapist, and Frank play into all of this?

Episode Recaps

How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis stars as a law professor where she teaches, wait for it, how to get away with murder.

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