By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 03, 2019 at 11:00 PM EDT
Richard Cartwright/ABC
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While the season premiere focused on the fallout from Laurel’s disappearance and Emmett’s death, episode 2 brings us back into more familiar territory. Annalise and the K4 make their glorious return to the classroom and the courtroom in equal measure.

But don’t get too comfortable — it’s their final semester of law school. That also means they’re basically not going to class, but just being assigned cases to handle on their own. Annalise has a case with an illegal immigrant seeking asylum to hand out, but before she can, Asher suggests she name a replacement for Laurel (who they’re saying has dropped out). Naturally, she chooses him. Final season ain’t got no time for new students. So when it’s time to hand off the immigration case, she gives it to Connor with Asher as his secondary.

Michaela also doesn’t show up to class because she’s furious with Annalise. Michaela confronted her on the night of the pillow-punching, and Annalise insists she never really knew Michaela’s father — she was simply an undergrad intern at the law firm that tried his case. But Michaela doesn’t believe her. So, instead of going to class, she hangs out at home with Oliver researching her father’s whereabouts. Her dad was in a correctional institute right after he supposedly shot her birth mother. But after Hurricane Katrina, he got lost in the system.

Today is not Annalise’s day because as she’s leaving class, Vivian, Gabriel’s mother confronts her. “You argued a case in front of the Supreme Court, you can handle fighting me in public,” Vivian tells her. Fair. Annalise insists she never knew Gabriel existed or that Sam knew he existed. But Vivian tells her she told Sam about the baby the night he said he was leaving her for Annalise — and, bombshell, that he tried to stay with her once he learned the news. But Vivian sent him packing. And now she wants to know if Annalise killed Sam.

Meanwhile, Frank is trying to solve the mystery of Laurel’s key, which he recognizes as a safe deposit key. He’s at the bank, but he can’t access it since he’s not one of the account holders. It is definitely Laurel’s safe deposit box, and there’s one other unnamed family member on the account.

When Asher and Connor go to meet their client, they are shocked to discover he’s a small child who can’t speak English. Connor tries to communicate with him in broken Spanglish and by drawing pictures, but the kid is clearly traumatized. They call Tegan down to be their translator (purely because of how she pronounces Castillo — seriously guys?), and she relents to helping them when they explain he’s an 8-year-old boy. Connor is trying to drum up an argument for asylum citing gang violence, but the kid’s angry drawing of a stick figure with a gun takes on new horrors when he writes the words “ICE” across the figure’s chest.

Tegan has a lot on her plate anyway. When she goes to Annalise looking for a friend to catch up with, Annalise is consumed by her own problems. Not to mention, Nate is showing Annalise photos of Tegan with Jorge Castillo and urging them all not to trust their C&G pal.

Gabriel and Michaela are busy, well, getting busy when his mom shows up banging on his door. Vivian kicks Michaela out, and Gabriel confronts her about going to Annalise before him. He’s not interested in what she has to say since he thinks she lied to him his whole life. Vivian swears she never knew about Sam’s visit, and that she kept facts about Sam from Gabriel because he wasn’t a good man for either of them. She promises to tell him anything he wants to know, but he kicks her out, reminding her he became a grown-ass man in spite of her.

Vivian’s sudden arrival in town isn’t just a thorn in Gabriel’s side, though. The K4 are freaking out about her arrival, certain it’s timing coinciding with the FBI investigating them is no coincidence. This prompts Michaela to reveal that Gabriel told her he killed Vivian’s boyfriend.

Bonnie is also shook and frustrated by a sealed case file in the background information Frank has compiled on Vivian. So, she forges a new criminal complaint and tells a state attorney she needs the file unsealed to decide if they’re going to prosecute Vivian. The attorney complies, meaning Bonnie can now see Vivian was arrested for drug trafficking only a year ago and is still on probation. Information she immediately takes to Annalise, who cautions Bonnie to stop taking risks like this and start loving and looking out for herself. Pot meet kettle.

Frank is preoccupied with his search for answers about Laurel. So much so that he goes to visit Jorge in prison. Jorge insists he has no idea where she is and told the FBI the same thing. Frank wants to know if Jorge is the family member on the safe deposit box. He’s not, and he has a message for Frank — this is what Laurel does, inexplicably punishes the people who love her. And she probably has the same plan, a.k.a. sending Frank to prison, in mind this go-round. Jorge urges Frank to worry about Christopher before Laurel destroys the baby like every other man in her life. Ah yes, so the two sociopaths want us to think the missing woman is a sociopath? I see, I see.

Annalise ignores Connor’s pleas for help with the case, urging him to be a real lawyer and figure it out. She needs to deal with Gabriel first — and she urges Gabriel to go back to Chicago with his mother and forgive her. He doesn’t want to, though. Asher has a possible solution — just threaten to use the knowledge that Gabriel killed Vivian’s boyfriend. But Annalise is wary of continuing to hurt people — they’re going to start hurting back. Ya think?

Nate still doesn’t trust Tegan, a fact which is amplified when he spies her having lunch with Vivian. But Tegan seems to only be there as a courtesy because she is not having it when Vivian tries a whole “concerned parent” routine about the Middleton clinic and Annalise’s involvement in illegal activity. Vivian even threatens to sue Caplan & Gold if Tegan doesn’t help dismiss Annalise.

Nate’s spying finally prompts Annalise to confront Tegan about whether she’s playing them all. But Tegan is hurt — after all, she did cover for Annalise when she went to rehab. The reason she didn’t tell her about her lunch with Vivian is because the last time she had bad news, it sent Annalise over the edge. Not to mention, Annalise needs Tegan more than Tegan needs her. Gauntlet thrown.

Oliver manages to track down Michaela’s father — he’s mentioned in a Virginia prison newsletter for receiving an award from the warden. This sends Michaela to Virginia. While she waits, she talks to Gabriel on the phone, and her hesitation over whether he should go home with his mother has him questioning their relationship. Virginia holds no answers — Michaela’s father was transferred to upstate New York two years ago. So Michaela immediately gets back in the car and drives seven hours to the New York facility, begging a security guard to help her finally meet her father.

Connor is still trying to figure out his case when Oliver smuggles in a phone, and the kid, Hector, immediately Facetimes his mom and starts crying. They work out that his mother, Marisol, is here in Maryland and came to the U.S. over a year ago. She sent for Hector, but he got separated from his people at the border. But they can’t use his mom to testify since ICE uses children as bait to arrest undocumented parents — they’ll both get deported. So, they’re back to square one.

Annalise is busy making her own bad decisions, buying meth from a dealer on the street that she wants Frank to plant on Vivian. For once, Frank makes a good choice and washes it down the sink — he’s worried Vivian is part of a trap the FBI is setting for all of them. He admits he actually went to visit Jorge, and Annalise instantly realizes the other person on the safe deposit box is Wes. She remembers Wes telling her he wrote down everything he knew and put it in a safe deposit box. He threatened to call the police and send it to them. She tells Frank that the truth about Sam and Rebecca’s deaths is most likely in that box.

In court, Connor has devised a risky plan — he calls an ICE agent to the stand, and the minute Hector sees the jacket, he starts screaming and hides under the table. Turns out, it’s not a real ICE agent, but the reaction is very real. Connor argues Hector can’t speak due to the trauma he suffered in a detention center. The hearing quickly becomes a screaming match with Connor rightfully going off about caging innocent children and keeping them in morally repugnant conditions. He overplays his hand, and the judge can’t invoke precedents here anyway, but she does issue a continuance and a ruling that they’ll place Hector in foster care in the meanwhile. Connor’s new plan is to get Marisol to testify about seeking asylum from gang violence; he foolishly promises Hector he will get asylum for both him and his mother.

How to Get Away With Murder has always been at its best when tackling our criminal justice system and glaring social ills. This is no exception. As many Americans feel helpless to combat abuses at our borders, the writers jump into the fray, expressing both our sense of powerlessness in Connor’s promise to make this right and his anger in the courtroom. The series humanizes headlines, trying to offer catharsis through storytelling — and it’s on powerful display here even as the show has much to wrap up outside the courtroom.

Things with the FBI are heating up, and agents approach Bonnie. They’ve been keeping tabs on the DA’s office for corruption, so naturally, they flagged her fabricated complaint against Vivian. Bonnie gives them a sob story about trying to find something that might prove Ron was innocent — but it’s too late for her apologies, her position has been terminated. Oh FBI, if only you knew that Bonnie actually murdered two people! Firing seems lenient almost.

But that’s not all the FBI is up to because Nate also has a photo of Vivian meeting with one of the same agents in Bonnie’s office. Annalise isn’t wasting any time, so she goes to Vivian’s hotel to confront her and immediately drops the bomb that Gabriel killed Vivian’s boyfriend. Annalise questions whether Vivian’s wearing a wire at this very moment. After revealing that Gabriel purposely slipped a man pills because he wanted him to die, Annalise begs Vivian to take her son and go. She needs to get over the fact that Sam chose Annalise.

Vivian isn’t having it, though — she drops a killer monologue about how Sam was the “magic” in her life because he saw the ugliness inside her and wanted her even more because of it. “You don’t get to feel that and be ok when it goes away,” Vivian insists. And after watching Annalise for six seasons, we know she’s right. Hell, Annalise knows she’s right. She admits it too — “Look at us two dark-skinned sisters giving everything over to a man who sees us in a world that doesn’t,” she declares, and once again Viola Davis is giving us chills. But Annalise also insists they both need to learn to move on and reclaim their lives.

Vivian has bigger fish to fry, though. She heads straight to Gabriel’s place and barely lets him open the door before telling him she knows what he did to Paul, her boyfriend.

Now that Frank knows Wes was the other name on the safe deposit box, he makes a fake ID claiming he is Wes. The bank obliges and opens the box, but it’s empty — and worst of all, it was last accessed three days ago by Laurel Castillo.

Meanwhile, Annalise has to face off against Michaela once more. Because the security guard did find her father at last — and he died in prison a year ago after a stroke. Michaela blames Annalise, sobbing that if she’d told her she knew her father, she could’ve met him, but now he’s dead. She falls into Annalise’s arms, crying and repeating, “I hate you.”

So, naturally, we flash forward to Michaela in a graduation gown in a police interrogation suite. She’s not having it, threatening to sue them, and complaining about the way her Miranda rights were handled. Her make-up is smeared like she’s been crying or struggling in some way. But they have a dead informant on their hands, and her fingerprints match those on the weapon (that nasty old fire poker from the premiere). Her only response — she wants her lawyer.

What do you think? Was it actually Laurel who accessed the safe deposit box? This bank clearly falls for false identification, so big question mark there. Is Vivian really working for the FBI? And what’s going on with Michaela? Is the informant mentioned Annalise, or is this unrelated to the funeral flash-forward? And her fingerprints are absolutely just a holdover from scenes we’ve already seen, right? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up @themaureenlee.

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