Early this evening, while I was having my documents printed at National Bookstore (NBS), I overheard a couple of yuppies talking, in their distinctive urbanspeak, about their favorite TV shows. My ears perked up when I heard one of them describe his latest TV obsession, How to Get Away with Murder, as a show that only “intelligent” viewers would appreciate.
Superlatives aside, I figured the show must have something going for it to merit such praise, so I decided to check it out.
Whoah! That was literally my first reaction after the ending credits have rolled. The stunning debut of How to Get Away with Murder, ABC’s latest legal drama series, leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat as you careen from one emotion to another.
Unlike most legal/crime drama series that leaves you a clear picture of who the bad/good guys are, this show doesn’t leave you with a comfortable feeling for long because you will soon realize that there’s always more than meets the eye, and each character has multiple layers that will keep you perpetually off-balance. Just about the only character you can easily relate with (at this stage, at least) is Wes Gibbins, an earnest law student who is grappling with multiple dilemmas as the show progresses.
The plot of How to Get Away with Murder (produced by Shonda Rhimes) focuses on Annalise Keating, a brilliant Philadelphia lawyer/law professor (played by Viola Davis) who recruits several of her students to work for her law firm. In the initial stage of the selection process, she prods her students to prove themselves by presenting an effective defense for a difficult murder case she was currently handling.
A major factor of what makes this first episode (“Pilot”) particularly compelling is Viola Davis, who is nothing less than commanding as a tough-as-nails married lawyer who has an affair with a police detective. She projects various emotions effortlessly, and when she is onscreen it is very difficult to focus on anything else. Alfred Enoch (Wes Gibbens), Aja Naomi King (Michaela Pratt), Jack Falahee (Connor Walsh), and Karla Souza (Laurel Castillo) play her students. The rest of the cast include Billy Brown (as Det. Nate Lahey), Katie Findlay, Charlie Weber, and Liza Weill.
The other actors are no mean slouches either, which makes this series a joy to watch. The pacing is tight, and the frequent use of cross-cutting between scenes only heightens the doubts and tension simmering below the surface. Hopefully, How to Get Away with Murder can manage to maintain the quality with which this episode was handled, because even this early it looks like ABC has stumbled on another winning formula — and the critics love it.
This hour-long pilot episode was directed by Michael Offer (each episode has a different director) and written by the show’s creator, Peter Norwalk.