“How to Get Away with Murder” takes place at the law school of a prestigious, private Philadelphia university (sound familiar?) and focuses on a criminal law course taught by Viola Davis’ Annalise Keating. If murder, cover–ups and questionably legal behavior make you uncomfortable, this may not be the show for you. Luckily for Shonda Rhimes, her juicy dramas more often than not leave viewers on the edge of their seats, and “How To Get Away With Murder” is no exception. However, I am sad to add, “Murder” is definitely no “Scandal.” (**hyperlink to Scandal recap here?)
1. Redrum! The show certainly lives up to its title, with a dead body appearing on screen before you can even settle in on the couch with your Olivia Pope red wine and popcorn. Flash forward three months, and Keating’s promising young interns attempt to dispose of a body—you know, because that’s what happens to you if you go to law school in Shonda’s world.
2. Dramatic Music: We all know that most movie trailers for thrillers would be boring and off–putting without their dramatic, Hans Zimmer background tracks, and TV dramas really aren’t much different. “Murder” relies on the pulsing, heart–pounding background tracks bolstering already dramatic dialogue to keep your blood boiling. Whether it’s a scene of the young law school sharks struggling to get noticed or a fast–paced courtroom scene that feels just a little more serious than “Legally Blonde,” the pilot certainly lives up to the show’s drama and mystery tags.
3. Sexual Tension: The student who gets the main focus is Wes Gibbons, a smart young man with a lot to prove (you may recognize him as Dean from “Harry Potter”). The pilot also highlights a handful of other promising students and how far they go to gain Keating’s respect. In one attempt to impress professor Keating, Wes bursts into her office late at night only to see her getting down and dirty with a man who is later revealed to be 1) not her husband and 2) a witness she questions on the stand! By the end of the first episode, Wes already has a secret to keep AND an awkward sexual encounter with Professor Keating in the bathroom.
4. Questionable legal activity: The case for which Keating recruits her students’ help is interwoven throughout the episode, and, of course, she and her firm come out on top. Following in the footsteps of “Scandal,” it’s unclear if their client is actually guilty or not, and therefore unclear who the “good guys” are, but all involved are seemingly encouraged to leave their consciences (and probably actual law books, considering the questionable allowances by the judge) at the door.
5. And the dead body (bodies) is (are)…If the first 57 minutes or so left you unsure about whether or not the show has you hooked, it delivers with a shocking ending that will make you scream (or at least, like, gasp and raise your eyebrows really high if you aren’t the type to yell out loud while watching TV). Notifications of a missing student have been in the background of the episode for an hour, perhaps leading you to believe that this was the body that four of Keating’s best and brightest wrapped up in a carpet in the woods in the middle of the night. In a shocking reveal, the body they are about to set on fire is none other than… Annalise Keating’s husband! Were he and the student having an affair, as the show hinted? Did the students decide to kill him on their own, or were they following orders? Will Viola Davis ever not be flawless? For answers (or, more realistically, more juicy questions) tune in next week!
“How to Get Away With Murder” airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.