Third Rhimes series displays potential

My friends and I spent one of our last few days on campus before break huddled over a laptop in one of Cushing’s parlors binge watching ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.” Dubbed a hybrid between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” the show delivers in most respects.

We see sex, drama and, of course, murder happen at fictional Middleton University’s prestigious law school in Philadelphia. Here, five of Professor Annalise Keating’s top students get the opportunity to work closely with her on many thrilling cases.

In each episode, the gang takes on a new client while one ongoing case is drawn out. The show revolves around one particular case. In it, Lila Stangard was found dead on the roof of her sorority house and her friend Rebecca Sutter is a prime suspect. Keating and Co. take on the case, defending Rebecca.

As the case unfolds, Keating’s husband Sam’s role in the murder becomes increasingly apparent. He was Lila’s professor and the father of her unborn child. The two had been having an affair and on the night of her murder, Sam mysteriously left his New Haven hotel in the middle of the night and drove back to Philadelphia.

The show left off with a heated argument in the Keating household that left Sam dead and Rebecca and four of the law students scrambling to cover up their crime.

After a brief hiatus, the show is back in full force. The premiere centers on the Stangard case and with the trial rapidly approaching, Keating has little time to get the charges against Rebecca dropped. The show focuses on the struggles Keating faces, both in trying to maintain her public appearance as a stoic and hard-to-please lawyer and teacher while continuing to deal with the major revelations about her husband and his infidelities from the first half of the season.

Meanwhile, the group frantically tries to cover their tracks in the murder of Sam Keating. It is here that we see a full range of emotions through the four law students. From fearful to straight-edged, the four actors are finally given something more to work with to stretch their acting chops.

And as usual, Annalise Keating continues to keep secrets from her students. Her endgame is never known. As Rebecca’s attorney, she benefits from proving her husband killed Lila, but with her husband missing, it is never clear whether or not that helps Keating in her personal life. It is also unclear how she could possibly stand to benefit from keeping his murder under wraps.

If anything, keeping the murder a secret would harm her case. Sam lashed out to keep a flash drive (with allegedly incriminating evidence on it) away from the team.

This conflict led to the altercation that got him killed. Uncovering his behavior could potentially help prove he murdered Lila. Sam’s sister, Hannah, arrives in the last scene to further complicate things. She tells the police that whatever Annalise has told them is a lie and that her brother is not a murderer.

The usually stoic Annalise is visibly shaken by this news, even though the team is finally under control. Michaela’s wedding plans are back on track, Connor is on board and Annalise has promised to help them all get away scot-free. Hannah’s arrival is poised to shake things up but there is no more threat of mutiny.

Thus far, the show has been met with positive feedback. Viola Davis delivers in her role as Annelise Keating. Both authoritative and vulnerable, Davis does an excellent job portraying this complex character and where her various loyalties lie. She leads the cast, while Matt McGorry and newly introduced Alysia Reiner (both from “Orange is the New Black”) add friendly faces to the mix. “How to Get Away with Murder” has an intense plot—lots to keep us on our toes from episode to episode. Whether it’s the legal jargon, hookups or just its sheer entertainment value, the show is bound get you hooked.

While it has all the juiciness of its predecessors, “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy” (Shonda Rhimes produced all three shows), it also has some of their pitfalls. For starters, there is the annoying, all-consuming relationship between two characters. Even then, Wes and Rebecca are certainly no Meredith and McDreamy or Olivia and Fitz. Instead of running the Free World or saving lives in the O.R., they are caught up in a web of lies and bad decisions and are wrapped around Keating’s finger. There are several other hookups between characters like Frank and Laurel and Connor and Oliver that have the potential to become redundant.

In terms of the show’s longevity (it was just renewed for a second season), there is the question of how far the Stangard case can really be dragged out before things get too far-fetched. We can only hope it doesn’t get to the level of hospital shootings and secret government operations. Until then, however, you’ll probably find me somewhere in Cushing cradling my laptop every Thursday night.

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