Spoilers for How to Get Away with Murder follows.
It is said that in order to master any field, one would need to put in 10 000 hours of practice into it. If this statement is in fact true, I believe that it’s safe to say that many of us are not only masters in the field of television viewing, but grand wise ones.
Now over the past decade, the TV viewing audience has been introduced to some truly spectacular series and one of the grand catalysts that has fuelled this insurgence of gripping television is the death of main characters in long running series. Gone are the days of happy endings with sunshine’s and rainbows. When Game of Thrones premiered, it made the death of main characters mainstream. The consequence of that has, unfortunately, been an influx of shows doing the same but in a very crude manner in which the death is used chiefly as a gimmick or for pure shock value. This has arguably lessened the impact these deaths have had on the TV viewing audience. Game of Thrones itself has, quite ironically, fallen victim to this phenomenon.
Furthermore, viewers have been exposed to a vast number of shows with ever increasing cast members and convoluted storylines that require dense deciphering. We’ve been introduced to shows that make us think and be attentive for a small clue here or a subtle piece of foreshadowing there and to some, it has become second nature. We’ve come to expect it in such a way that we can usually predict it. For example, if a character is getting more screen time than usual or the character’s story has become stale or the actor has signed on for a new pilot, we make the logical assumption that said character will be the next one to go.
It has become standard in this so-called “Golden Age of Television” for shows to push the envelope and continue to create deep, challenging and intelligent content. One just has to look at the array of series that have graced our screens this past decade from Lost all the way to Westworld; each bringing a new layer of intrigue and complexity to their series.
This all leads us to the 17th of November 2016 which saw the mid season finale of the ABC hit, How to Get Away with Murder, shatter and nullify all those years of cultivated TV experience. The episode follows the dramatic events of episode 8 which ended with Annalsie begging Frank to commit suicide. “Who is Dead?” successfully opens without losing any of that tension, even if it was a little heavy handed on the parallels between the case of the day and the flashback to the night before.
“Who is Dead” then goes on to nimbly guide us through the events that unfold between the end of mid terms and the house fire by untangling woven timelines and revealing missing contextual information leading us to the reveal that the man under the sheet was waitlist student Wes Gibbins. It’s the kind of reveal that can only be achieved through seasons of build up and character development. The emotional impact is immediate. At first it’s a surreal feeling and just as your brain is getting to grips with what you’ve just witnessed, you’re thrown another curve ball when its revealed that Wes was in fact murdered. It’s a heart wrenching scene which ends quite poetically as Wes steps out into the heavenly sunlight marching, unknowingly, to his ultimate demise. It’s paradoxically beautiful and horrifying at the same moment.
The reveal works, in part, so well because by any logical metric, Frank or Nate was the likely victim. They were both characters who seemed to have come to the end of their character arc. In this sense, the outcome is almost akin to the 2016 elections in which, by all measurable logic and metric, Clinton should have won the election. It is precisely because it seemed like such a far off possibility that it’s delivery was so impactful. We all thought we were so coy and masterful applying the logic and reasoning skills we had cultivated over the years to predict the outcome, only to be proven wrong.
With the death of Wes, How to Get Away with murder has killed of the closest thing it had to an audience surrogate. His death has unequivocally changed the dynamic of the show not only for the viewers but for the characters themselves as evidenced by the beautiful montage of each character’s reaction to hearing about Wes’ death. It’s a death that will be felt throughout the entire run of the series.
In the end, How to Get Away with Murder has pulled off something that many shows today fail at quite miserably; that being the death of a main character. It ticks all the boxes: its not being used as a gimmick, its shocking and its perfectly executed. How to Get Away with Murder has genuinely executed an amazing finale that packs a punch of raw emotions.
- That Annalise and Bonnie kiss! Their relationship has always been confusing since season 1 which is to say somewhere between super close friend/mortal enemy/saviour so its nice to see that it may going somewhere instead of the rinse-dry-repeat shtick we’ve gotten each episode of Annalise getting angry at her over and over again.
- The peeling back of Michaela’s personal life through her mom was quite intriguing. I hope we get to see more of her.
- I hope they give Frank a better storyline from her on out. His role this season has left much to be desired.
- Will Laurel keep the child? I presume she does but with this show…
- I was so convinced it was Nate. He’s been virtually non-existent this season. I hope they do more with his character.
- The Wes flashbacks from this point on are going to be torturous
- Who murdered Wes!? Was it Bonnie and Frank conspiring with each other? The suspense is already murderous.