TV enthusiasts know that legal shows and murder-mystery shows are the best to look out for, but until now, there has not been a successful series combining the two. The breakout show How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM) does this in a remarkably well-executed manner, making it one of this season’s best new television shows.
This riveting show is another triumph for controversial executive producer Shonda Rhimes, who is also the creator and producer of hit shows Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. HTGAWM tells the story of the intimidating and powerful professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and the students in her criminal defense class. Professor Keating selects a group of promising students for her personal team, and this year, her students are especially interesting. Each has his or her own complex storyline, and viewers are exposed to snippets of these throughout the episodes. Part of the show also revolves around singular cases that the team has to work on, but underlying all of this runs the mystery of Lila Stanguard, a student on campus who suddenly disappeared. As the details start to emerge, it seems that Professor Keating and her supposedly shining group of students may actually, in one way or another, be involved in the murder.
Clearly, each episode packs in a great deal of suspenseful and thought-provoking plot, but the screenwriters pull this off without overwhelming or confusing the viewers. We’re simply left with further intrigue and anticipation for the development of multiple plotlines, in terms of not only the legal drama, but also the murder mystery. The script incorporates numerous plot twists and dramatic reveals, and I often find myself counting down to the Thursday when the next episode airs. HTGAWM combines all the best legal parts of series like Suits with the thriller aspects of shows like Sherlock, and, not surprisingly, this is a fascinating blend. Although every individual episode provides closure, there’s always a desire to come back for more in the next one.
Style and editing account for much of the show’s entertaining quality. Quick cuts and dramatic flashes move us along through the multiple plot lines; one minute you’re seeing the characters win a criminal case and the next you’re seeing them conduct sinister activities in the forest. The editing may feel choppy and disjointed, but in actuality, it adds flow, and the scenes feel strangely coherent. There’s never a dull moment, and if the legal side of the show starts to get a bit stale, there will soon be an intense action sequence to compensate.
HTGAWM’s marketing campaign revolves around the show’s lead actress, Viola Davis, and her outstanding acting does not disappoint. The character, Annalise Keating, is dynamic and complex, and it lends itself well to Davis’s acting talent. She connects with the character, acting as well in scenes where Keating is a power figure as in scenes where Keating is vulnerable and distraught. A cast of skillful actors also supports Davis, including Harry Potter franchise veteran Alfred Enoch (remember Dean Thomas?) and Aja Naomi King (Four), who portrays the show’s know-it-all, Michaela Pratt.
Fans of both legal shows and crime shows, rejoice. The title might raise a few eyebrows, but How to Get Away with Murder deserves all of the hype it has received.