Annalise Keating is a charismatic and intimidating lawyer and professor who teaches the notorious college course that she entitles, “How to Get Away with Murder.” Students cower in her presence, and do their best to not make fools of themselves on the first day of class. Keating is bold, determined, and damn good at what she does.
Each year, she selects a small group of her finest students that will help her out as members of her law firm. Here, they will work together to solve difficult cases, all the while revealing the dark secrets of their own.
How to Get Away with Murder provides a nice combination of an episodical crime series, where there is a new mystery to be solved each week, all the while focusing on the background problem that ties the entire first season together: her law students have murdered someone, and are trying to cover it up.
A sorority girl ends up dead, and she is known to the group because she was friends with one of the students neighbors. Here we undertake a story where Keating’s husband is involved in her death, as he was having an affair with the dead girl. Eventually, he ends up dead, at the hands of the law students, who begin their quest to cover up their own dirty deeds, using the knowledge they are learning from Keating, both in and out of the class.
While is seems tricky, it comes across very well on the screen, and makes for an intriguing show. It is non-linear, and will skip around in time frequently, to provide backing information on the central murder, all the while barreling the plot of each episode forward.
One thing that makes How to Get Away with Murder so entertaining and watchable is the cast. Led by Viola Davis, who has won a number of awards for her role as Annalise already, who plays her character with a fierceness rarely seen in a female lead on TV. As the series progresses, we see chips in her steely veneer, and Davis is able to bring an intense vulnerability to her character that makes her more fragile, real, and endearing. It is difficult to dislike Annalise, despite her being strongly set up as a dislikeable character from the beginning. She seems to care only for herself, and will stomp on anybody or anything that stands in the way of getting what she wants. While she acts as an anti-hero, it is intriguing to see what lengths she will go to to protect those that she cares about, keep her promises, and keep her own secrets in the dark.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by strong performers. The five law students are strong (aside from Alfred Enoch, who plays the meek Wes of the group…he starts off as being pretty annoying, but gets better as the season moves along), and the rest of the supporting cast is good as well. The other people closest to Annalise include another lawyer, played by Gilmore Girls alum Liza Weil, and the not-sure-exactly-what-his-job-is Frank, played by Charlie Weber.
The cast is rounded out by a character that becomes the focus of much of the story, Wes’ neighbor Rebecca, played by Katie Findlay, most famous from her time as Rosie Larsen on The Killing, and from roles in small films such as Premature. Findlay provides a solid backbone to the story, and she is an increasingly strong actor, even though she sometimes seems slightly miscast as the tough-as-nails, uncaring goth drug dealer Rebecca. Still, her acting is very good throughout, and her importance to the show cannot be denied.
How to Get Away with Murder provides a ton of twists and turns, easily hooking the viewer into the plot of the show. A good backing murder, along with interesting cases along the way in each episode, and a cast that is able to create their own unique personalities when they could have just been lumped together (a credit to the solid writing), makes HTGAWM a very solid show, and well worth a watch on Netflix.
There are plenty of cliffhangers here, including the final episode, which will lend itself to what could end up being a very interesting second season of the show. I, for one, will be sure to watch once the second season rolls out, to see what has happened to the delicate circle created by Annalise, and to see if everything can be held together, as a bunch of students to their very best to get away with murder.