“How to Get Away With Murder” opens with a murder. No one is surprised.
After a dark and mysterious flash forward that features four 20-somethings whining about having killed someone, we get to the central force of the show: Professor Annalise Keating. Played by the magnificent Viola Davis, Annalise is fierce, authoritative, and yet shockingly vulnerable as a brilliant Criminal Law professor who is also one incredible defense lawyer. The show lives for her scenes, the physicality of her acting and the brilliance of her intonation.
A minute into Annalise’s first classroom appearance, it’s clear she’s ready to chew up and spit out Philadelphia University law student Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch from "Harry Potter"). Fresh off the wait list and doe-eyed, Wes shows up to the first day of class without doing his homework. The kid obviously never saw “Legally Blonde.”
Wes and his fellow students are tasked with helping Annalise with her latest case, defending a CEO's mistress from charges of attempted murder. The four students with the best defense ideas will get coveted spots at Annalise’s practice. And the top student gets what turns out to be the future murder weapon -- a miniature statue of Lady Justice.
Flash forward three months and four students (Wes, Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt, and Laurel Castillo), are attempting to move a body across campus in a massive rug. They sweet talk a campus cop into thinking moving such a large rug in the middle of the night is normal, which accurately depicts the investigative abilities of most campus police.
Back in the classroom months earlier, Annalise lays out her fundamentals to winning her cases, which she puts into practice for the trial of the week. Through various deceptive means, Michaela helps discredit the witness, Connor illegally gets an email that introduces a new suspect, and Annalise herself buries the evidence by putting her love interest, Detective Nate Lahey, on the stand. Connor ends up winning the top student slot and Lady Justice, which is ironic considering it’s pretty clear the accused he helped set free is guilty as sin.
And as for that love interest, who Wes caught -- ahem -- servicing Annalise: he’s not her psychology professor husband, Sam. Because it wouldn’t be Shondaland if the main characters weren’t being unfaithful.
Due to their assistance in the courtroom or prowess in the classroom (or in Wes’s case, what he saw), Wes, Connor, Michaela, Laurel and Asher Millstone land the (now) five spots at Annalise’s practice. They’ll be working with associates Bonnie Winterbottom and Frank Delfino. Annalise’s associates have plenty secrets of their own: Bonnie has the hots for Sam Keating, and Frank appears to be making moves on every coed who walks by (and eventually, Laurel).
While the premiere opened with a murder, the body count gets upped to two when a missing sorority girl, Lila Stangard, is found floating in her chapter’s water tank. Wes’s emo bartender neighbor, Rebecca, who we see fighting with the dead girl’s boyfriend, seems to have a few secrets to hide. But based on the final sequence, Annalise’s husband was most likely sleeping with the deceased. No one can keep their pants on in this show.
And as for that dead body the kids lugged into the wood and lit on fire? The ending shot of the episode reveals it’s Sam, Annalise’s husband. And all of this happened in the first episode.
Best line of the night goes to Annalise, as she’s pushing Wes to take the job at her practice: “You can spend [your life] in a corporate office drafting contracts and hitting on chubby paralegals before finally putting a gun in your mouth, or you can join my firm and become somebody you actually like.”
Three months into working at her firm, Wes and his partners in crime appear to have committed murder. That didn’t turn out quite as expected.
- According to the National Association for Law Placement, “Prospective employers and first year law students should not initiate contact with one another and employers should not interview or make offers to first year students before December 1.” Awkward. (h/t @carolynshanahan)
- Does no law student wear their hair in a ponytail? Everyone has perfect hair for class?
- So many Harry Potter Dean Thomas feels.
- Did all four of them bludgeon Sam Keating to death? What, they took turns hitting him on the head with the statue?
- No law professor has that good of a wardrobe.
- And Asher is angling to be the Chuck Bass of 2014 -- who else rocks an ascot?
"How to Get Away With Murder" airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC.