When they kept playing the promo clip of Annalise Keating writing on her chalkboard and drawing out the phrase “Howww to get aaawaaaay with muuurrrderrr” last fall I couldn’t get over how truly awful that show sounded. I’ve not been a big Scandal fan – tried the pilot, thought it was pretty lame – so the Shonda Rhimes connection didn’t do it for me either.
For some reason I watched the HTGAWM pilot.
I…loved it! Instantly hooked. Viola Davis was dynamite, oozing control and power in every scene. Spectacular. It made the show all the more impactful when they started to peel back the layers of Annalise’s invulnerability, and that was when HTGAWM shined. When Annalise took off her wig for the first time. When she confronted Sam. “Why’s your penis on a dead girl’s phone.” Bam!
Annalise is essentially a female anti-hero in the mold of all the male roles we (or I, at least) have grown tired of. But we see so few female characters in that role it’s not tired when Viola Davis does it. Keating is a brilliant lawyer who almost always wins and loves saving the underdog; she’s also a controlling, at times belligerent, figure who stops at nothing to portray and protect her power over everyone around her. The people who should hate her can’t hate her because she made them. Her control is absolute.
The best example came toward the end of season one when Bonnie dropped to her knees at Annalise’s feet to beg for continued acceptance. That’s why it was no shock to see Bonnie suffocate Rebecca in the basement. She knows Annalise is keeping at least one, probably two, killers in her circle. And they’re closer to Annalise than anyone. Bonnie wants to be that close. That’s the Annalise character in full glory.
Annalise is morally flawed in countless ways, as is every character on the show. It embraces and flaunts their shortcomings so freely that everything that happened in season one was completely believable. No one flinched when Frank emerged as Lila’s killer because it’s not a leap to believe knowing the way he uses his position to get in bed with Annalise’s students. It’s essential we see and believe their moral flaws in order for the show to create suspense. Everyone has to be a potential killer in order for someone to be.
I saw a note from a TV critic on Twitter that ABC didn’t send out the usual screeners for the season two premier. The critic speculated this happens when something big is going down, and she was right. If you’re going to end the episode with Annalise gasping for breath in a pool of blood you don’t want it being leaked.
So that’s our storyline for season two. Two months in the future, someone will shoot Annalise in the mansion of two children suspected of knife murdering their adopted parents. Just before the cliffhanger we hear the gunshot and see Wes running from the house. Did he do it? Last season would instruct us that there is much we don’t yet know, and won’t know until the moment when the writers can no longer hide it.