'How To Get Away With Murder' Recap: Someone Give Cicely Tyson Another Emmy

This whole recap should just be quotes from Cicely Tyson's starring role as Annalise's mother Ophelia. If we thought Annalise was a firecracker, we knew nothing until we met her mother. In the first five minutes, we see where Annalise gets her strength, practicality, vulgarity, straightforwardness, protective streak …. and murderous tendencies, but we'll get to that later.

The episode opens with Nate being taken to jail, (no one was mad about that surprise nude scene) and Annalise curled up in bed. Her mom shows up to the rescue, but turns out to be the visitor from hell for the catatonic Annalise.

A smattering of Cicely Tyson's lines, as promised:

"Don't you know a VIP when you see one? Your boss came out of my v and her daddy's p."

"Your no 'count, sorry-ass husband who I said don't marry couldn't keep his peter in his pants and went and slept with a white woman. Then the fool goes and kills the white woman when he finds out she has his bun in her nasty oven. Then after that, your ex-police boyfriend kills the no-good husband and gets himself arrested. And you now ain't got no husband, ain't got no boyfriend, and you holed up in this bed like the Queen of Sheba."

She follows that up with "Mamma's here now, everything's gonna be all right." More Cicely Tyson forever, please.

One episode from the finale, and no one cares about the case of the week (we just want more Cicely). So the writers figured they'd throw in a nurse rape case to draw interest. It still doesn't work.

Back at the Keating house, where the real drama is taking place, Annalise and her mother have a confrontation a long time coming. It starts with their argument over Annalise's new name -- dun dun dun, her original name was Anna Mae. And she never invited her mom to this "fancy rich house."

Ophelia stops yelling for a bit to ask if Annalise killed her husband, to no response from her daughter. Always nice when your mom asks you if you've killed someone.

Annalise rallies briefly to talk to Wes, because of course it's totally acceptable to talk to your professor who is covering up your murder on her bed. As Ophelia puts it, "I leave you up here one minute and you've got some boy-child up in here sniffing your drawers? .... Somebody's always the student, somebody's always the teacher. That's how sex works best." Thank you for summing up everything wrong with Wes and Annalise's relationship. Thank you.

Back at the police station, Rebecca is telling lies about her relationship with Nate. Michaela figures this out and tells the gang, and Wes finally starts to wonder what other lies she's telling. Dude, WHY DID IT TAKE YOU THIS LONG TO SUSPECT SOMETHING WAS UP WITH THE DRUGGIE MYSTERIOUS GIRL ACCUSED OF MURDER WHO SEDUCED YOU? You're supposed to be some kind of law prodigy -- wake up.

In Oliver's apartment, Oliver continues to hack away with no apparent regard for the law. As a side note, they should pay Oliver for all the work he does for the Keating kids. Only thing that redeems this slave labor is how happy we all are to see Coliver be a real thing.

In the Easter egg of the episode, turns out the vodka Annalise and Bonnie have been downing is Kashchey Vodka. While it does not appear to be a real vodka, Kashchey refers to a one-act Russian opera titled "Kashchey the Immortal" that revolves around a cheating husband, his scorned wife, lots of looking into mirrors, and a few murders. How appropriate.

As Bonnie drinks the hard stuff straight, she confesses her inability to confront Annalise without crying. Bonnie had quite the stellar turn this episode, which has us all worried about her future.

But the real showdown of the episode, which involves a shattered glass, more vodka, and some chicken, is the climactic fight between Annalise and her mother.

To start, Cicely defines men as takers, and women as nurturers (As a side note: The great part about the speech is despite both of them acting like they've never nurtured anyone, they both put their lives on the line for those that they love). Annalise finally cuts to the chase, confronting her mother about the heartbreaking child abuse she suffered at the hands of her Uncle Clyde.

As Annalise stands up for ol' dead Sam as the only one to understand and help her process the trauma, Ophelia goes into a tirade about all the men who raped her in her life.

As Cicely Tyson snarls "[men] have been taking things from women since the beginning of time" it's clear that Viola Davis has found an actress who can finally match her.

This traumatic scene left this recapper speechless. It's truly difficult to comprehend the horror Annalise (and Ophelia) clearly suffered. For Annalise, this child abuse has forever decimated her understanding of her self-worth. Her undying motivation to escape her past life, her family, and her poverty have been crystallized with this reveal, which also makes it clear why Annalise is such a wounded character. In retrospect, Sam looks even more despicable for taking advantage of Annalise as her therapist. As for Ophelia, the matter-of-fact way she discusses several rapes is heart-wrenching.

You'd think that kind of bombshell would be the last of the episode, but we have a few more coming. We get a brief flash of levity when Bonnie rocks her case and celebrates by sleeping with Asher. They're kind of super adorable for the record, but poor Frank awkwardly sees the whole thing.

In other couple-land, Oliver meets the crew, who suck up to him while appearing to actually be real friends. Meanwhile, Wes confides in Laurel about his Rebecca issues, confessing that he fears that he murdered for a murderer. Wes, this is why you don't fall head over heels for someone you know nothing about. Your puppy-dog eyes don't deserve this.

Back at the Keating house, Ophelia returns to comfort Annalise, offering to comb out her hair.

While doing so, she casually drops the bomb that she killed Uncle Clyde for what he did to Annalise. She willingly burned down her house, her pride and joy, completely impoverishing the family, out of love. And she tells Annalise this story to absolve her own daughter from the murder she's involved with. This scene should be sent in to every award show there is for what a ground-breaking drama "How to Get Away with Murder" is. The line "A long match and a very flammable hooch" will haunt all of us for a long, long time. Not even Annalise saw that one coming.

Back at Oliver's apartment, Connor continues to work his charm. Oliver drunkenly blurts out that he loves him, and fans everywhere couldn't be more excited. In the courtroom for Nate's arraignment, Michaela reveals she's partially so torn up about framing an innocent man because he's black. Annalise basically shooes her out of the room and tells her she'll fix it. She then slips Nate a number (with a New York area code) for a new lawyer.

But wait -- the episode is still not over. Wes and Laurel find Rudy Walters locked up in a psychiatric ward after a drug overdose the night Lila Stangard died.

The only thing Rudy can mutter upon seeing a photo of Rebecca is "wet," which would appear to imply Rebecca was wet from shoving Lila Stangard's body in a water tank. The episode ends with a shot of Rebecca tracking Wes' phone and not being at all happy about his location. For the record, we've been saying she's trouble from the start.

So a few things here: we're finally going to find out who killed Lila Stangard and someone's going to die in the two-hour season finale. To start -- our money's on Bonnie or Nate having something to do with Lila's death. Bonnie has that dental equipment salesman run-in to consider, and Nate has something up his sleeve. Rebecca will be tangentially guilty, of course, but this show is too twisty to have her be the only one guilty of Lila's death.

As for the impending death, hopefully we're wrong in our prediction that Bonnie or Asher dies as we'll be devastated to see them go. But killing off Rebecca would tie up too many loose ends, and Bonnie had one helluva an episode for a final salvo before she gets axed. As for Asher -- he's Asher. He seems like he'd accidentally get killed.

The biggest question at the end of this episode is how this show could possibly top it in the season finale next week. Bravo Shondaland, bravo -- we truly are on the edge of our seats.

Odds and Ends

  • Are any of the cases Annalise and crew take on not about sex?
  • Does Annalise have a 100% win rate in her cases?
  • It must not be fun to be a former detective in jail.
  • Why isn't Grindr called Humpr? Truly a better name.
  • Okay, I can't end this recap without another mention of that Cicely Tyson VIP line. Just can't.
  • It's faint, but the first shirt Wes had was plaid. So all plaid again this episode.
  • Why do Bonnie and the kids all call Annalise Mommy? Some creepy stuff.
  • Drinking vodka straight is pretty rough. Especially Russian vodka.
  • Wes blows off Rebecca using a library lie, which is confusing, since these kids don't appear to do any of the work required of ILs.
  • According to the promo for next week, Wes, Laurel, and Annalise appear alive in the final scenes, and someone else looks like they get bludgeoned with the trophy. That trophy is a real killer.

The season finale for "How to Get Away With Murder" will air Thursday at 9 p.m. EDT on ABC.

CORRECTION:A previous version of this recap misidentified two words of Cicely Tyson's speech regarding Annalise's husband. The correct vernacular is "peter" instead of "peen," and "no 'count" instead of "low cal."