Shonda Rimes has managed again to create a female driven show which is full of drama and suspense, and will keep you enthralled from the first episode.
How To Get Away With Murder is slick, fast paced and unflinching. Created by Shonda Rimes, creator of massive hits Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, How To Get Away with Murder follows Professor Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davies) as she teaches her first year law class helpfully titled ‘How To Get Away With Murder’. Every year she takes on a team of law students to work in her office – these are the characters that the narrative centres on.
A provocative title, and the kudos which surrounds Shonda Rimes’s name certainly would have drawn audiences in America – the weird choice of UK broadcaster, Universal channel, has undoubtedly restricted its viewers here, which is a shame, as it certainly lives up to the hype which surrounding it.
Through the first half of the series two storylines run concurrently – the story running forward from the first class of ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ which follows the typical crime/law procedural set up – a case is presented to the team, and they must come up with a way to defend Annalise’s client. The other storyline however, is a non linear account of the murder of someone, and how the perpetrators try and get away with it. The individual episode narratives are engaging, with crimes from murder to bombing being defended, but it is the second narrative which gives the show its bite. Shot with a grim and grungy aesthetic, trying to figure out what lead to the murder is one of the best parts of watching How To Get Away With Murder.
Part of what makes this show engaging is how female driven it is, and how women are not just one dimensional. At times Annalise is truly reprehensible, as she encourages her students to do anything to help her win the case. Yet she is eminently watch-able throughout, and as much as you might not like her methods, you always want her to win the case, whether the defendant deserves it or not. Liza Weil is fascinating as the cold Bonnie Winterbottom, Katie Findlay as Rebecca Sutter, the down and out bartender/drug dealer, Karla Souza as Laurel Castilla and Aja Naomi King as Michaela Pratt, the two female law students round out the team to present a variety of women at different stages in their lives. While the women are fascinating, the rest of the male cast hold their own. A particular stand out is Alfred Enoch’s Wes Gibbons who looks like butter wouldn’t melt, and yet has a steely undercurrent which enables him to do what needs to be done.
Viola Davies is spectacular. As the law professor come defence lawyer her portrayal of Annalise is raw and unflinching showing the world of criminal defence, warts and all. One particular scene in the first few episodes of the show encapsulates this completely – in one shot you see Annalise getting ready for bed, removing her jewellery, make-up, and then her wig. This commitment to the role, divesting her of all of the trappings that modern women use to prepare themselves to face the outside world is stunning, and a moment which sticks in the brain of the viewer, long after the scene is finished, and Annalise is back in the courtroom. Davies plays the character in a wonderfully understated way – she is calm and collected, even when faced with a law student walking in on her in the middle of a sexual act, as happens in the first episode.
How To Get Away With Murder can be caught on Universal Channel every Wednesday at 10pm.