How to Get Away with Murder is about a group of law students, studying under a demanding yet fantastic professor, who get involved in a murder plot. Warning, there may be spoilers.
How to Get Away with Murder jumps right into the action takings us forward 3 months to where the students are attempting to move the body of someone they’ve presumably killed. The flash forwards actually break up the episode quite well; it doesn’t feel disjointed but instead flows with the present day storyline. Plus it’s quite satisfying finding out little bits of information about the details of murder throughout the episode, especially the reveal of who the body is at the end. Hopefully this format will continue through the series. The only negative thing I would say about introducing the murder storyline early is that it makes it slightly less difficult for us as an audience to root for the characters. While they all seem very likeable, I find it difficult to have sympathy for any of them knowing that they will eventually commit murder. Of course we don’t know the circumstances surrounding the murder yet and it may turn out that the characters are innocent in some sort of way but it does make the job of both the writers and actors harder in trying to convince us to like the four students.
The present day storyline introduces us to the four main students on the first day of class where they first meet Professor Annalise, played by Viola Davis. Having such a talented and established actress like Davis leading this show does wonders for its credibility. I suspect that she will draw a lot of viewers in. She certainly makes her presence felt in the pilot, delivering a standout performance. She is the typical kickass, strong woman of a Shonda Rimes production but what is interesting is that we can already see the cracks start to appear in her tough exterior, especially in relation to her marriage. Those emotional scenes, of which I’m sure we can expect to see more of, will bring a lot of depth to the show.
The four students pulled into the murder plot are Wes, Connor, Michaela and Laurel. Although I mentioned earlier the potential difficulty in really connecting to these characters because of the murder, they each have their own charm that draws us in. Wes (Alfred Enoch) has the most screen time, perhaps because he is the most relatable and also most likeable of the four. With his baby face, school boy innocence and down to earth demeanour it’s not difficult to see why. The resident bad boy comes in the form of Connor (Jack Falahee), a student that is not above using illegal and immoral tactics to get ahead. He comes across as a bit of an ass and yet he’s so charming that you can’t help but like him. Aja Naomi King does a fantastic job as Michaela, an overachiever keen to impress. Often this type of “know it all character” can come across as annoying and arrogant but instead King makes Michaela sassy, spirited and most importantly, likeable. In the murder scenes we also a see a softer side, hinting at the character’s range of depth. Laurel (Karla Souza) is the mystery of the show, she is the definitely the most intriguing character introduced. This is clever play by the writers. The fact that we don’t yet know much about her just draws us in more, as an audience we can’t wait to find out more.
I’ve already spoken about the effectiveness of having two major storylines happening at once, but we are also introduced to a third. Throughout the pilot we are shown images of a missing girl and different characters’ reactions to it. It is also shown that Wes’s neighbour, Rebecca (Katie Findlay) may have something to do with the disappearance. Although this mystery adds another exciting layer to the show I worry that it may be hard to follow. There already seems to be a lot going on in the pilot and adding this element may make the show a little messy and confusing. However due to the missing girl having links with the body that the students are hiding in the future, it may turn out that everything is connected. If so, the end result could be both shocking and thrilling.
How to Get Away with Murder’s pilot provided a strong foundation for the show to develop into something great. The numerous mysteries make the show exciting and suspenseful, and I suspect there will be some brilliant twists and turns. I would argue that there was something missing in the pilot in relation to character depth but as it’s the first episode it may be a little early to judge. Also the show houses a range of very talented actors and writers so I’m sure we will get some great character development in future episodes. Shonda Rimes is known for producing big hit shows and I think this one may be her next!