Spencer Wright ‘20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff TV Writer
In a show already defined by crazy twists, hook-ups, and deaths, it seemed impossible for the show to continue to surprise and captivate. However, in How to Get Away with Murder’s third season, not only did it continue to shock, but it influenced rich and genuine development of virtually all of its characters.
When thinking of How to Get Away with Murder, the stylized flash-forwards to a shocking event is what first comes to mind. In season one, it was the murder of Annalise’s husband and in season two, it was Annalise herself being shot. However, in Season 3, the flash-forward was elevated to new narrative heights by weaving an intricate mystery around “who is under the sheet?”, a mystery that revolved around identifying which main character had died in a devastating fire at Annalise’s home and had been discovered in a body bag in the premiere episode. To solve this, viewers were treated with a weekly dose of relief when, episode by episode, one character was revealed to still be alive, leading up to the climactic reveal of who was actually dead in the midseason finale.
This narrative style was new for Murder, which had previously kept all details of the flash-forward secret until the climactic reveal episode. With this new structure, Murder not only continues the pattern of mystery surrounding the how a particular situation ensued, but also adds the layer of who was affected by it. While some shows might suffer with a change in their formula in the third season, Murder excels at the change, allowing for viewers to be more invested and conspiratory than any other season before. By slowly peeling back the sheet one episode at a time until the ultimate reveal, audiences were able to feel a sense of genuine anxiety and bewilderment, rather than just seeing what turmoil the troublesome law students got into. While the previous two seasons retained captivation through a single polarizing moment, Season 3 emphasized the horrifying mystery of the climax throughout each episode of the half-season, allowing the characters and the viewers to equally experience the stressful thriller.
Speaking of the characters, amidst the alarming cliffhanger that the season gravitated around was opportunites for each character to grow, making each one more likable and three-dimensional. In previous seasons, the cast appeared to be afterthoughts in the Annalise Keating show, which was perfectly acceptable given that Viola Davis is a powerhouse performer and Annalise an enthralling character. However, since Wes, Laurel, Michaela, Connor, and Asher were also important to the plot, it was becoming a bit annoying to not have any depth to the “Keating Five”. This all changed in Season 3, as Wes copes with the sudden murder of his biological father; Laurel struggles with the disappearance of her dangerous boyfriend; Michaela opens up to a new relationship and parts of her past tumultuous past are revealed; Connor experiences a break-up; and Asher attempts to become the optimist of the group after the loss of his family.
These characters are tormented and continually placed in horrible situations, and in Season 3, audiences finally see the impact of this on each of them. Furthermore, Connor’s adorable love interest, Oliver, is promoted to series regular and the sociopathic Frank is allowed to fully let loose, giving both of those characters opportunities of growth. And Bonnie, shifty as ever, continues to add layers to her fractured character following Frank’s betrayal in Season 2. While Murder continues to revolve around Annalise — and rightfully so — Season 3 begins to favor the remaining characters, which truly benefits the show as a whole.
While the lives of Annalise and those connected to her continue to get worse in Season 3, viewers have only great things to celebrate as the third season continues to add mystery and emotion to an already powerful show. Though the show will be down one member of the core cast, audiences will all be eagerly waiting to see how the remainder of Season 3 plays out when ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ returns in January after a winter break.
Blessing and Afflictions
Blessing: The show’s fearlessness in the face of killing off a major character. Without spoiling who is “under the sheet” at the midseason finale, it is safe to say that few people were expecting that character to be the mysterious victim — and yet, it makes perfect sense when considering the storylines that have now been created from their demise. Though there were ample amounts of secondary characters that could’ve been used a “safe” fatality of sorts, the show decides instead to take the more challenging and surprising route for the sake of plot integrity by killing a core character. Their death certainly helps in upping the shock factor of the show too.
Blessing: The return of past crimes. Too often in shows, what happens in one season finale will quickly be forgotten over the next few episodes. However, as this season unfolds, not only does the case of the Mahoney’s continue to send ramifications throughout Wes’ and Annalise’s lives, but the murder of Rebecca in the Season 1 finale makes an ominous return. The remembrance of significant events from past episodes showcases the show’s dedication to reality and reiterates how dire the consequences of every action are in the twisty world of Murder.
Affliction: The angsty bickering between Connor and Oliver. Following their bizarre break-up, the separation of this couple could’ve led to rich development of the two individuals. Instead, the break-up consisted of countless jealous comments, regretful hookups, and contradictory feelings. Not only did this plot point not provide meaningful growth of either character, it also spawned obnoxiously repetitive scenes throughout the course of the half-season.
Charlie Weber as Frank Delfino
The trope may be a tired one: a hitman with a troubled past attempts to make amends. While it may seem conventional, Weber’s supreme acting as Frank in the first half of Season 3 elevated his flawed character above tropes. In Season 3, Frank’s desperate attempts to return to the only home he knows results in death, destruction, and emotional carnage. Through all of this, the audience sees how disturbed and panicked Frank is, a new shade to the typically stoic man. Particularly, in the second to last episode, as Frank prepares to kill himself to please Annalise, Weber shows audiences how broken Frank truly is, making him a character to fear, loathe, and sympathize with all at once. Thank you, Saint Charlie!
Aja Naomi King as Michaela Pratt
Taking a bratty know-it-all and making her lovable and sympathetic? Not an easy thing to do. And yet, King accomplishes just that in the third season of Murder as Michaela opens up to a confusing relationship with goofball Asher and her past comes back to haunt her. With her love for Asher, Michaela drops her harsh and emotionless walls, allowing King the opportunity to show audiences that her character is capable of sweetness and deserving of a healthy relationship. Then, as Michaela’s mother appears, King rebuilds those walls, displaying the depths of Michaela’s frustration and internalized shame. Through Michaela in Season 3, viewers are reminded that a woman can be smart, capable, and independent while also being loving, scarred, and haunted. Thank you, Saint Aja!
Enjoyed this review? Be sure to check out Dear TV God webisodes on YouTube for more!