Is HTGAWM the new OITNB?
As the ABC drama returns from its winter hibernation Thursday, its protagonist Annalise Keating finds herself stuck in a crowded county jail cell — with no privacy whatsoever and no release date in sight.
“This is a really dark moment for Annalise,” says How to Get Away With Murder creator Pete Nowalk. “And what makes it worse is, there’s no easy way for her to get herself out of it.”
Before we jump into a post mortem Q&A with Nowalk, let’s recap the action from Season 3, Episode 10, “We’re Bad People.”
GIRL, LOOK AT THAT BODY | First things first: For those of you holding out hope that Wes’ murder had somehow been staged, it’s time to go ahead and mourn. Watching the medical examiner remove and weigh his liver, then send him back to the cold-storage drawer was a louder shout of “case closed!” than a dramatic 11th-hour courtroom speech from La Keating herself.
JAIL TO THE NO! | Stuck in the county clink, Annalise endures the humiliation of having to relieve herself in front of her cellmates, but one of the women, a wise old vet of the system, recognizes the attorney and uses the moment to wax poetic about how yet another bad-ass queen has found herself dragged back down by a stacked system. And despite Bonnie’s best attempts to get Annalise out on bail — yes, our heroine won’t have anyone but Lurky McChurchmouse defending her — Wes’ notations on Philly P.D.’s immunity agreement is enough for the judge to keep Annalise locked up ’til her trial. As the episode closes, we learn the D.A’s case isn’t just limited to Wes’ death, but could also include the mysterious, unsolved murders of Sam and Rebecca, too. Damn, these prosecutors are going straight for Annalise’s jugular — but let’s not forget, they’re probably still holding a grudge over the way their old colleague Emily Sinclair met a grisly fate at the Hapstall residence the same night Annalise took a bullet to the torso. (Did I mention even Hannah Keating gets in on the Murder on the Orient Express-style takedown of Annalise, calling the cops after her sister-in-law’s drunken, fire-night voicemail telling her she can take back the Keating homsetead?)
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FRANK-LY M’DEAR, LAUREL DOESN’T GIVE A DAMN | Laurel, out of her coma but still very much pregnant and very much in pain, is so convinced Frank killed Wes that she viciously tells him she wishes he’d been the one who perished in the fire. “I loved [Wes] so much more than I have ever loved you,” she sobs, and it’s the final straw that sends her former lover right to his local precinct to talk about his role in Wes’ death. As the incredulous detectives take their seat across from him, he claims he’s the one who killed The Puppy. And as we see in flashback, it’s Frank who picks up Wes after he exits the precinct — and leaves his immunity deal unsigned — on murder night. Uh-oh!
KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON? | Nate gets called on the carpet for visiting Annalise’s cell (without permission) on the night of her arrest. Good thing he has a sexual harrassment lawsuit up his sleeve — take that, A.D.A. Atwood! — to help him hang on to his job, even if he’s not planning on using his position to help Annalise anymore. In fact, he tries to flip Bonnie against her boss — without so much as flashing his torso of doom — but by the end of the hour, he’s back at the medical examiner’s office wondering why she changed her story and is now saying Wes died of smoke inhalation, rather than having been dead before the fire broke out. CURIOUS!
IN OTHER NEWS… | Michaela reaches out and promises to be by Laurel’s side in the wake of Wes’ death. Asher gives Connor the whole “violent frat boy on steroids” treatment — pummeling his face while Connor shouts “hit me!” — after Connor’s horrific remarks about Wes at Laurel’s bedside: “You should just get an abortion now, because ‘Waitlist’ isn’t the kind of father you want.” (Yikes.) And Oliver and Connor continue their increasingly tedious one-step-forward/two-steps-back dance. Oliver has the nerve to declare, “You are my life, Connor,” even though he’s the one who got the breakup ball rolling. Connor, though, labels himself and the whole Keating crew as unredeemably toxic, which seems to make Oliver’s eyes go even moonier. He’s not a total Pollyana, though: An innnnnteresting scene at the end of the hour shows him backing up onto a flash drive the intel he wiped off Annalise’s phone on Fire Night. (Ollie, sir, you in danger!)
Now, let’s get EP Pete Nowalk’s take on the beginning of the end of Season 3:
TVLINE | It seems like a risky move to have Annalise in jail for what could be multiple episodes, to isolate the sun around which How to Get Away With Murder revolves from the rest of the core characters. What prompted you to go there?
A lot of the decision came out of talking with Viola — which I try to do as much as I can. I was very afraid of it. Obviously, there’s a very famous prison show already on the air, and it’s excellent, and no one is going to ever do better than that. But it felt like a rare opportunity to see Annalise in a new environment — and to see her struggle with that. And I always knew deep down I had Viola to lean on. I could lock her inside a closet with no windows and she’d be amazing. So, as scary as it was, when you know you have Viola Davis to perform and feel things, you’re OK. I’m excited we did it, and I’m excited for people to see where it goes.
TVLINE | Let’s talk about Frank’s confession. Just a couple episodes ago, he expressed a desire to die, and it felt like Laurel’s brushoff renewed his feelings of worthlessness. Still, when he goes into the precinct and confesses, the detectives’ faces don’t seem all that excited by what he’s saying. It’s almost as if he’s gotten in their way of a larger plan to take down Annalise.
Your instincts are very good. [Laughs.] The question is, is Frank telling the truth. You’re skeptical as an audience member, and the police would be as well. But there is a chance he’s not lying. I don’t want to tease too much either way, though, because there are a lot of twists and turns ahead. That said, this whole situation is the most complicated one this group of people has been in, and while they’re all doing their best to fix it, sometimes that just complicates matters.
TVLINE | It feels like you’re pulling at a lot of loose threads going into the latter half of Season 3: Wes’ death, Rebecca’s death, Sam’s death, even Wallace’s death. Hannah Keating reappaeared by voicemai, too. Was it your goal to answer a lot of these looming questions to make for an explosive conclusion.
We’re in our third season, and we were looking back on everything that’s happened to our characters. Annalise seems to have gotten away with a lot of things and gone under the radar, but I don’t think that necessarily felt very real. There are a lot of unsolved murders out there that surround Annalise, and I like the idea of taking the whole show into account and dealing with all these threads that are not settled.
TVLINE | As far as the medical examiner changing her story about Wes’ death — and now saying he died from smoke inhalation during the fire — how alarmed should we be by that? What does this mean for Annalise?
I would be suspicious of it, for sure. Annalise feels like someone wants her to go down, and they’re going to do anything they can to make that happen. Whether that involves corruption behind the scenes — which we all know happens in real life — remains to be seen. Is someone Making a Murderer of her? That’s the question for the back half of the season.
What did you think of HTGAWM‘s 2017 kickoff? Are you enjoying seeing Annalise as a fish out of water? And is there any chance she’ll take the fall for Wes’ death? Share your thoughts in the comments!