« The question I’m asked most often as a defense attorney is whether I can tell if my clients are innocent or guilty. And my answer is always the same. I don’t care. » — Annalise Keating
I think this quote definitely shows the tone of the series. How To Get Away With Murder is an American drama series which airs on ABC (one of the major television channels in the United States). The series is created by Peter Nowalk and produced by ShondaLand (a production company that produces numerous successful shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal). Actually, HTGAWM is going on its third season and we can hope it will last a few years more.
The story takes place at Middleton University where some students take part of an unusual class of law called “Criminal Law 100” or in a more common sense “how to get away with a murder”. In this class, the law professor and defense attorney, named Annalise Keating, teaches to her students how to practice the law in order to release clients charged with murder, in a real courtroom like a real lawyer. Each year, she also chooses five students to work with her inside her law office. These students are the main characters of the series : Wes Gibbins, Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt, Asher Millstone, and Laurel Castillo ; they’re called the Keating 5.
As they’ll work to defend their clients, they’ll be confronted to a major case that concerns more particularly Annalise’s husband who seems to be involved in the murder of a student, Lila Stangard. What the Keating 5 don’t know yet is that they’ll need all the knowledge they will learn to face a real murder and to get away with it. HTGAWM is quite incredible for several reasons. First, the series presents occasional clients for Keating at each episode and among them, desperate cases which will give a hard time to the Keating 5. And in the same time, it takes us both into the past and the future with audacious flashback and flashforward sequences. They help us to find out gradually the truth by disseminating clues about the whodunnit (who killed Lila Stangard) and in the future, to see how the students will face the murder, hide it, etc… So, each episode brings its share of information, revelations, unexpected development and crazy cliffhangers (you know, these type of endings where you absolutely want to see the next episode). Our job is slowly to form the puzzle, piece by piece and constantly make new hypothesis.
Then, since it’s a series about law stuff, we can expect it would be much boring at some points like the sequences in class, legal proceedings : you probably know, all the things that reminds you why you don’t want to study law at university after graduation. And guess what, none of that is boring at all ! Some ways to introduce legal facts are surprisingly interesting. They also manage to make the clients quite humans : for the most part, they committed murders but they all have reasons to do that, and as an audience, we feel compassion for them. They’re not typical killers. The presented cases are topical (hot topics today) like a black man wrongly accused and they depict a court system where inequalities and discrimination are still present even nowadays.
Nevertheless, the series’ strength is also in its attempt to break codes, genres (between drama and thriller), stereotypes and received ideas. And especially by choosing a black actress as the main character. ‘Cause, let’s face it, HTGAWM wouldn’t be the same without Annalise Keating and this character wouldn’t be the same without Viola Davis who incredibly fits the character and plays the role to perfection. Here, she is the teacher we would all have but in the same time the teacher who impresses us and who we would certainly fear. I would rather say that she is one of the most well-written characters in television with such lines of dialogue (especially punchlines) that severely kick some asses ! Sometimes she is a merciless professor, sometimes she is a fearsome lawyer, a crazy boss, a woman in love…
Viola Davis manages to transcend all the character’s feelings with such talent ! By the way, she won a Emmy Award in 2015 for the role of Annalise Keating, becoming the first black women to pick up this reward in the American television’s history and an icon of the black American feminine cause. On this occasion, she made a fabulous speech where she said that “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there”.
Moreover, the series deals with huge and powerful social themes which are handled with sharpness and intelligence : monogamy and homosexuality, arranged marriages, place of the Afro-Americans in society… Finally, the series’ soundtrack is modern, strong and full of young talents (IAMX, Bastille, Zola Jesus, One Republic and Photek who is the composer). The music has a prominent place inside episodes and it contributes to particular atmospheres where tension and suspense are present.
HTGAWM is one of these series which are capable of making you completely addict only with its groundbreaker concept and its fresh making. However, this is also a series which is much more than that. There would be so much to say about it but I think that’s better for the greater good to stop here and let you guys with your own opinion ! 😉