Diablog: How To Get Away With Murder, S2 E4

Watching HTGAWM like we were the ones on trial.
Watching HTGAWM like we were the ones on trial.

Gemma: Well, if last week was a placeholding episode, this one was certainly packed.

Rasha: I don’t know where to start.

G: Neither did the episode,

R: Did Annalise just lose the COTW?

G: YES FINALLY.

R: 10 years ago, that girl would have been played by Michelle Trachtenberg. If MT wasn’t too old, she’d still be playing it.

G: This girl was better than Michelle Trachtenberg. Low bar to jump, but she was. This is the most questioning of the sociopath narrative I’ve seen on a network drama, possibly ever. Mad kudos for that.

R: Because it’s a group of young women, and the threads of questioning who’s a sociopath extend deep into our ensemble cast and lead?

G: No, the young women thing I’ve seen before. But it’s usually given a very neat Ergo Evil bow. Because they set up the parallels to our characters and then compelled us to stay with them, we’re left questioning what being a sociopath would actually mean in an actual society. WHICH IS A THING WE SHOULD ALL BE QUESTIONING ALL OF THE TIME. Sorry, I’m yelling a lot. Overtired.

R: I don’t think Annalise is a sociopath, but I agree that this show is at its most productive when it questions what it means for, as Nate’s wife said when she asked AK to help her commit suicide, to “be a good person for once.”

You owe me...murder?
You owe me…murder?

G: I don’t think Annalise is a sociopath either, but I also think the question of whether she or Zoe or Molly is a sociopath is not, in fact, the central question, and that’s what made the episode work for me. Because good and evil are not divided by not-sociopath and sociopath.

R: This show definitely asks us to walk both dividing lines. Maybe it’s time for a list. Things that surprised us in this episode?

G: 1. Caleb and Catherine. That was a more complex way to go at it than I would have anticipated. And you’re clearly right, the housekeeper/”house manager” is going to be figuring more prominently.

R: 2. That virginity test is faked. Did that seriously happen? And seriously, does anyone on this show really have such a limited concept of sexuality? Why do I really not trust Catherine? That did not surprise me.

Look, it's a picture of my hymen!
Look, it’s a picture of my hymen!

G: Half the people on this show have such a limited concept of sexuality. That said, Caleb is way more in love with Catherine than she is with him, that’s for sure. I did appreciate Michaela’s side comment about “she grew up riding horses.”

R: That was about the most sophisticated bit of analysis in the whole incident, and the only thing that didn’t keep me from rolling my eyes forever. I could go either way on the siblings’ feelings for each other. The way Catherine walked in on them talking, the way she seems more jealous/provocative with Michaela, makes me feel more wary. What definitely feels true is that the siblings are keeping things from each other. Which could be romantic feelings or muuurdery feelings.

G: Or both.

R: 3. Dude, do we think the reveal at the end is because Caleb shot Annalise?

Is Catherine/Annalise/the prosecutor okay?
Is Catherine/Annalise/the prosecutor okay?

G: No, we don’t. But we do think that either Caleb and Michaela became lovers or Caleb and Annalise did.

R: Caleb and Michaela. Annalise likes grown folks.

G: Somebody is going to turn out to be a blood relative of Caleb’s. It could be any of our main characters of any race. But it’s going to happen.

R: I remember everyone was on the train of Annalise and Wes being related, and I’m not feeling this one either. It seems too tidy for a show like this that likes to sprawl. What I’m wondering is if Catherine shot AK or the prosecutor and if the “her” Caleb is asking about is his sister.

G: Hmm, and if that’s it, maybe Catherine killed the prosecutor and shot Annalise and the Scooby Gang has somehow developed a reason to need to protect her.

R: Well, she is a very wealthy client.

G: Yeah, but Connor’s just proved that doesn’t retain the gang’s loyalty.

R: And Wes has puppy eyes for her? That felt like a mislead.

G: Yeah, that I don’t think. It’s going to be Michaela’s puppy eyes that take us somewhere this time.

R: That’s a good shakeup, given that they are playing hard visually on the parallels between Wes-Rebecca and Wes-Levi. Wes already has a stray puppy to look after. One who chews on things when left unsupervised.

Same frame, different stray puppy.
Same frame, different stray puppy.

G: Rrrrrrrr. The Mancinis, then! Are we going into Frank’s past? Do we want to?

R: Eh, I don’t have feelings either way. It’s fine, I guess? What other surprises, how about: 4. Bonnie “confessing” to Asher that she killed Sam. That was a bold play.

G: Oooh, yes. ‘Twas! See, Bonnie’s past I’m interested in. Frank’s, not so much. It was quite a strategy.

R: Any other surprises, other than Nate’s wife?!

G: I think I was surprised Annalise didn’t deliver the pills, actually.

R: See, they’ve got you! I think they want us to be. I didn’t know what she would do, but when she did it, it felt incredibly right for her. Also, the speech she gave was a rehashed version of the one she gave to the sex-mistress: I feel lonely, but I am a grown-up so I deal with it and soldier on.

This show could #notthepersonyouthinkiam.
This show could #notthepersonyouthinkiam.

G: Okay. I think the only other thing I want to note is how, in spite of the overconstructed story, the lives of are characters are given depth in a way that’s almost casual. It’s nice craft.

R: Yes! A few things I liked in this ep: AK and Michaela getting conversations together, Laurel talking in Spanish to her teenage cousin, 2 scenes with Wes and Nate together!

G: Yes! All good things, although I’d like the writing between Nate and Wes to feel a little clearer.

R: I’m so glad Nate is going to bust Wes’ chops for bringing in Levi. Is Levi even Eggs 911? Now I question. I need to see the X-Files miniseries, I question so much.

And Annalise catches them!
And Annalise catches them!

G: Oof. Well, he was in that pic, so he’s something.

R: Ok, closing with reflections about how this show messes with the stats on The World According to TV: Do you know of another show that exclusively follows a defense attorney?

G: Yes. Several, I think. But they’ve been comedies. I can’t think of another drama. The new Rob Lowe show, the one with Oscar from The Office on I think TBS. They’re definitely rare.

R: That is telling! Well, defense attorneys represent criminals, at least that’s the standard knowledge in TWAT-TV. TV doesn’t usually have us rooting for criminals unless they’re Wrongly Accused, and Framed (ahem, Quantico, pull your pants up). But the genius of HTGAWM is that all these people are guilty. Damn near every one of her clients, and certainly every single one of our main cast.

Rogue's gallery. Also, sad vulnerable puppy gallery.
Rogue’s gallery. Also, sad vulnerable puppy gallery.

G: See, what I’m always hoping for in a good frame-up is that it’ll let characters call the entire system they represent into question. It never does, but I always hope.

R: It can’t. The frame-up narrative is a narrative of rebellious ‘Murican individualism, and often features vigilantism very prominently. It is a busted genre and it is not going to challenge the system, however much it wants to congratulate itself for doing so.

G: I disagree that it can’t. But it hasn’t. I want to mark the frame-up hegemony question as ongoing; we should have this discussion in greater depth. We’ll need to return to it in other discussions.

R: Yep, I’ll come back to having it with you. Sounds like we both feel very strongly about it. Back to the meta, I am so appreciative of HTGAWM for its dismissal of guilty/not guilty as the most important measure of goodness or whether we should care about someone. Even Wes’ speech last season, about how nobody cared about Rebecca and actually pointing out how structurally vulnerable she was, made me check my own assumptions.

G: Yes, it does make me check mine too. Good stuff.

R: I actually question whether Annalise has ever really murdered anyone. My guess is no. She has just helped to cover up and protect many, many murders/murderers.

G: Well, I thought that was made quite clear in her dialogue with Nia, but a lot of people, one way or another, have killed for her.

R: Or thought they were killing for her, or for someone else.

Keepin' an eye on your story, Michaela...
Keepin’ an eye on your story, Michaela…

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