Annalise Keating makes long awaited return
How To Get Away with Murder — product of the ShondaLand powerhouse — is one of the most buzzed-about shows on television right now, and for good reason. A week before HTGAWM launched its second season on ABC, lead Viola Davis became the first black woman ever to take home the primetime Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama. She took the opportunity to give a truly inspirational speech about mainstream TV's diversity problem: she quoted Harriet Tubman, acknowledged other black TV actresses who have helped pave the road forward, and drew tears from many in the audience.
There's no doubt in my mind that HTGAWM is one of the most diverse shows out there, comparable with Orange is the New Black and Sense8. To be honest, that's the main reason why I clicked on the first episode after the Emmys aired. I had no real idea what the show was about, but I'm one of those people who, upon hearing the word "diversity" applied to anything, comes running. I wasn't disappointed. In the core cast of Davis's Annalise Keating and her five law student interns, there's only one white, straight man. Interracial and queer relationships abound; the healthiest couple on the show is undoubtedly Connor and Oliver: a white, gay man and his Asian, HIV-positive boyfriend. As a matter of fact, Oliver is currently TV's only HIV-positive character.
Most other primetime shows would've hit their minority "quota" at half of HTGAWM's people of color and queer characters and patted themselves on the back. It's incredibly refreshing to watch a show that responds to accusations of playing the "political correctness game" with even more diversity. Not only are Annalise's main clients for season two an Asian and black brother-sister duo, but a scene midway through the very first episode HTGAWM casually establishes the main character as bisexual — Annalise is almost alone in this status, with the exception of Clarke from the CW's The 100. There's no warning, no fanfare, no nothing — except the sudden appearance of an ex-girlfriend, played by Famke Janssen, a.k.a. Jean Gray from X-Men. All hail Shonda Rhimes and the writing team of this show for being so blasé about media representation. Even if HTGAWM hasn't checked off every box, this show has proven that it doesn't take a spectacle to bring real-world diversity to the screen.
So, this show is diverse — but is it good? It's certainly mastered the art of pulling you in with suspense and drama. Just ask my sleep schedule two weeks ago, during which I watched the entire 15-episode first season in two sittings. After I'd depleted Netflix's supply of episodes, a brief Google search told me that the second season was starting literally the next day, so escape was more or less futile.
HTGAWM is a cross between Legally Blonde and Law & Order, plus murder. Annalise Keating is a cut-throat criminal defense attorney and law professor with a team of student interns: the "puppy" underdog Wes (Alfie Enoch, Harry Potter's Dean Thomas), master seducer Connor (Jack Falahee), yuppie legacy Asher (Matt McGorry), uptight princess Michaela (Aja Naomi King), and "the quiet one" Laurel (Karla Souza). While each episode features a "case of the week," the underlying mystery for the watcher in the first season — fleshed out by a few flashbacks or flash-forwards per episode — is how and why the interns are going to murder Annalise's cheating husband Sam.
The pacing is so tight and the acting so compelling that I found myself wondering how the show was going to continue past the first season. But when the finale killed off another important character, I realized that I'd been tricked. HTGAWM is that kind of show: the type of nail-biting, plot twist heavy, "drama for drama's sake" show that I always try to avoid because I get too invested and it hurts me.
Well, it's too late now; I'm invested. I've already streamed the first two episodes of the second season, which apply the same flashback structure to a new murder-related mystery. With How to Get Away with Murder, I came for the diversity and stayed for the drama. And I'm on a mission to drag everyone else down with me.