Rasha: So shall we dig in to this Murder layer-cake?
Gemma: We shall. What did you see in this episode?
R: As I was watching the credits, I was thinking that this show always manages to make me feel like even the answered questions are a mystery. Did Sam murder Lila? If not, then who did? It’s not so much that I care about the Veronica Mars-style murder of a character before the season begins, but just that the show and Viola Davis never make me feel comfortable that I know what’s real. Even when they’re campy or ridiculous. Also, I’m excited about Marcia Gay Harden.
G: Oh, so am I. I am always happy when she shows up in anything, and I’ll be happy to see a good old-fashioned Strong Women Face-Off, which is where it looks like we’re headed.
R: Seems like this half is offering up some stronger female counterpartss to Annalise, including the investigator who talked very little (April Parker-Jones was on Jericho, so I’m glad to see her again!) while her face was throwing all kinds of doubt on Annalise’s testimony and everyone else.
G: Ah, yes, the one who had all the She’s Perceptive reaction shots. Never watched Jericho.
R: You know, when an actress has a face like that, I don’t even mind. She was selling, I was buying. Jericho was trying to be too many shows in one, which might have been its brilliance and its limitation. I loved Viola Davis’ glance at the female investigator when Annalise is giving the line to the male investigator about how women don’t pay attention to their lover’s bodies. Female investigator was like “girl, no” because Viola Davis is brilliant enough to know that the other actress should react that way and has Annalise set her up with that silent appeal.
G: Huh. I didn’t read it as an appeal, but I like that idea. This episode was a strong reminder to me that this is a show in its very early stages, and that Davis elevates what is often some very, very messy material. The show’s been dependent on one particular structure for the first half of the season, and now I saw them desperately scrambling to revamp that structure, not all too successfully.
R: It felt like the flashbacks worked here. Though we don’t have any flash-forwards, which I was kind of hoping for.
G: The flashbacks, and where they did and didn’t come in, felt slapdash and almost arbitrary to me, and more chaotic even than usual. I liked the content, liked the journey of the ep, but I felt like the time jumps obfuscated, in a way they haven’t before.
R: I think they were going for some poetry. How about the moment when Laurel is like “I barely had any contact with Mr. Keating,” and in the flashbacks we see the struggles where, indeed, she left very little of her DNA on his body.
G: Yeah, that was fun.
R: I was impressed with Michaela’s save on why Connor’s car was parked in the driveway.
G: Well, they definitely weren’t going to fall apart actively in this episode, we have five more to go!
R: Only 5?! I was hoping there would be some flash-forwards to the aftermath and we’d work towards a middle point again. I guess you’re right that such a strict structure is a hard meter to maintain.
G: Yeah, they’re an abbreviated first season. Only airing 15 eps total. It seems likely they can count on renewal, though.
R: So now Bonnie and Asher are the only two who don’t know about #murderface. I can’t believe Annalise told Frank!
G: I am not entirely convinced she’s told him all of it.
R: I’m sure she hasn’t.
G: It’ll be intriguing to see where the corner-cuts are.
R: Which gets at what feels like the emotional core of this episode: Annalise telling Nate that Sam’s the Monster, not her. Annalise nearly having a breakdown in the bathroom after getting Rebecca’s case thrown out, Annalise hugging Sam’s pillow, Annalise wanting to touch her dead husband but not doing it so her DNA wouldn’t be on the body. This episode is about the tension between her breaks and her control.
G: Yes. I wonder if we will ever be in a position where we honestly think Annalise is not in control. Though the breakdown/bathroom scene was a little cheap. Would’ve worked way better if those were characters we’d ever encountered before.
R: Yeah, at first, I thought it was the voice of the DA, but I also get the burn of having to show a brave face in front of people she doesn’t even know. I feel like Sam Keating’s sister may give us some background on how Sam and Annalise met, and what he “saved” her from.
G: Yes, I expect she’s there to open up that exact mystery.
R: There were other small moments I enjoyed. Like Oliver telling Connor that “you don’t get to know that” about his love life while he downloads GPS and financial data about Sam. For Connor to know about.
G: Well, obviously, we love Oliver. Especially when he sets limits. Even though this is a Shondaland show, so no limits will last.
R: They only exist to be blasted apart in ever greater explosions of passion. Or monologuing.
G: But of course.
R: Will this crisis be a self-fulfilling drug abuse scenario for Connor? I did notice him suggesting that they all go out and get drunk, which seems like a bad idea when you have #murderface.
G: Well, Connor is the most tense because he is clearly the most likely to give the game away, drunk or not, but I suspect we’ll see everyone play out different and in some cases intriguing types of self-destruction.
R: Hmm. Any predictions about how they flame out, either this season or in future ones?
G: Well, I am sincerely hoping that the Aidan triangle returns and the showrunners better acquit themselves in their understanding of bisexuality–
R: Oh, dear. Yes.
G: –and Aidan’s return seems likely, since Michaela and Connor have been closely allied lately and that can’t last.
R: Yeah, seems like Connor was setting us up for Aidan returning.
G: I can’t see Laurel/Frank/Khan going anywhere interesting. I feel like any potential for interesting got sapped a long time ago with Laurel’s storyline as a whole.
R: Ugh, Laurel. Do I care that Frank was righteously angry at her?
G: No. I really care little about her. Asher can’t read can’t read can’t read anyone’s #murderface, but I’m sort of surprised Bonnie can’t.
R: One thing that I wasn’t sure about when we started is *when* the show would pick back up, but apparently it’s still the same day, the day after Sam’s “disappearance”. Maybe that’s interfering with Bonnie’s spidey sense.
G: well, they’ve been very, very, very careful and precise about time throughout. I would’ve been surprised if they skipped around. I’ve been rewatching bits and pieces of Gilmore Girls lately, and I’d forgotten that Paris Geller actually had an affair with someone named Asher. So that’s a thing.
R: That is hilarious.
G: It was an older professor, played by Michael York. They hook up in S4, he dies at the beginning of S5.
R: Maybe they were like Doctor Who-style reverse time-stream lovers, where each of them is traveling in opposite directions along each other’s chronology. Her past is his future. Maybe that’s why she has feelings for Sam, her reminds her of an older Asher.
R: We can’t wrap this without talking about Annalise putting on her gameface at the beginning of the episode.
G: Yeah. Although I’m starting to find that a little bit devicey. It was so revelatory and stunning the first time they did it, but it felt like they were riding its success this time around. It felt less honest to me. But I did like the new wig.
R: I like it 1. that it’s continuing, 2. that she brought out a new wig for the occasion, and 3. it reminds me of one of my favorite devices in ESCANDOLO, where Kerry Washington wears black, white, or grey depending on whether she’s being awesome, awful, or truthful. It felt of a piece with the question of this episode, which was all about Annalise’s vulnerability, her armor, and what she steels herself to do.
G: Yeah. It just felt much more obvious this time around, although of course Davis brings greater subtlety. Oh, good ol’ Escandolo. I’ll need to catch up on the drama for that as well.
R: THAT SH*T IS CRAZEE. If you have not watched this season, it is something, and not in the great way.
G: I have been watching. And I agree.