‘How to Get Away With Murder’ recap: ‘We all have darkness in us’
Welcome back to class — it’s time for your final exam.
This week’s episode of How to Get Away With Murder is structured around the Keating Four’s final criminal law exam, which is, wait for it, a process whereby each of the students must argue a defense for Snow White in a conspiracy to murder trial against the Evil Queen/the Seven Dwarfs. Whoever mounts the best defense gets a 64k bonus check from Caplan & Gold. This elaborate bit of Disney corporate synergy will have relevance later, we promise (but probably not enough to justify whatever they’re paying Viola Davis to introduce this setup with a straight face).
Our other primary thread continues Nate’s wrongful death suit. Governor Birkhead holds a press conference calling the suit “fake news.” She keeps falling back on the Emmett Crawford blame game and calls attention to Bonnie’s own possible conflict of interest in the case.
Annalise confronts Bonnie on her way to work, congratulating her on making herself a target for the governor. Annalise is afraid they’re going to do to Bonnie what they’ve done to Emmett or Frank. But Bonnie can’t understand why Annalise has come back from rehab afraid, running scared behind restraining orders. Annalise was always demanding that she stand up and fight — so why can’t she just be proud? They’re not entirely alone either because Xavier’s henchwoman from the Airbnb fake-out last week is watching from a car in the shadows. Petition to rename this show Why Not to Take Private Meetings in a Parking Garage.
Annalise and Frank debate whether they should just let things play out and hope the truth doesn’t emerge. He accuses Annalise of still having skin in the game because of her past relationship with Nate. But they decide to use Bonnie’s phone records to make her conflict of interest even worse than it really is.
The state has a hearing and calls Mrs. Miller, Ron’s mother, to the stand, who, of course, Bonnie was in frequent contact with after his murder. She details how Bonnie reached out to her and they shared their pain, but now she believes it was all lies. She calls Bonnie “sick” and begs to know why she’s doing this. After her epic emotional breakdown, the judge finds Bonnie’s conflict of interest too great. Luckily, Tegan is sitting in the courtroom ready to take over the case. Frank calls Annalise with the bad news: Their plan to get Bonnie kicked off the case worked, but the trial is still on with Tegan captaining the ship.
Bonnie and Tegan discuss game plans, and Bonnie wants to put the governor on the stand first. She explains to Tegan they can’t call in the prison guards because Bonnie promised one of them immunity for the truth, but then was fired from the ADA’s office before she could grant it. Tegan reveals she had a change of heart because Cora is now safely in the Middle East with a huge security detail. Just for this extremely convenient plot loophole, I hope Cora bites it.
Oliver has been relegated to being a cheerleader for the Keating Four while they all struggle to study for final exams. And Michaela tries to suss out her jealous feelings over Gabriel’s new relationship with another student, as well as work out if she wants Asher back. Oliver makes them disgusting green smoothies and even hacks into Middleton’s system to secure their admission essays — he wants to remind them of why they all came to law school in the first place. It’s a noble idea — Michaela’s dreams of running for president, Asher’s hopes for a judgeship, and Connor’s desire to be an LGBTQ role model. But honestly, how could this ever work? It’s just a reminder of how far they’ve fallen from the people they once hoped to be. It’s a downer for the audience to see what all this mayhem has cost them.
During a heart-to-heart with Annalise, we finally get a smidge more of Tegan’s backstory. She admits she’s not afraid of the heavy price this case could bring. Why? Because she lost her entire family in a plane crash, and the person who helped her cope was Jorge Castillo. But asking for his help meant she ended up under his thumb, and now she’s tired of being under anyone’s thumb. She wants to be free, so she’s going to put the governor on the stand.
Annalise has to put aside her flirting/girl talk with Tegan to go flirt with Robert on a real date. He questions her about why she’s not taking on the wrongful death suit — after facing off against the governor at the Supreme Court, why doesn’t she want to take her on face-to-face? Annalise brushes it off as believing the case unwinnable. But Robert pushes further, saying it’s because Nate is her ex. He makes a joke about Nate being 90 percent muscle and hoping she doesn’t expect that from him. But then she lets Robert in a little, confessing that she feels guilty for Nate Sr.’s death, that her SCOTUS win is why he’s dead at all. She’s learned when to stay away and stop fighting. This is truly Annalise running scared at last.
The governor takes the stand, insisting she never even recalls meeting Ron Miller and brushing off accusations that this was revenge for Annalise embarrassing her at the Supreme Court. But Tegan has her with photos of her official car, which she has just sworn she only has one of, parked on a street outside of Miller’s apartment just days before Nate Sr.’s death. She can’t explain why the car is there.
But the state is two steps ahead of Tegan, because shortly the attorney general is questioning why the governor fired her aide. It was because of unprofessional decision-making, including booking use of the official car for personal use — and naturally they have requisition records for the night in question and the aide just happened to be dating someone who lived on the same street as Miller. How convenient.
The Keating Four swirl around personal drama with Asher watching Michaela watch Gabriel. Michaela thanks Gabriel for still sharing his tax law outline, but he wants to know if she meant it when she said she wanted to be single. He points out she’s been with a guy nearly her entire time in law school, citing her issues with her dad. Michaela does not take kindly to the suggestion she has daddy issues, but Gabriel calls her a hypocrite.
Annalise comes to Tegan with advice, convinced the governor will sell out everyone below her to protect herself. So, instead, they need to take down Miller. Bonnie has to take the stand and confess she was aware of his involvement in Nate Sr.’s murder. As his former girlfriend, she would know things no one else would — or at least a jury will believe that.
Bonnie takes the stand and confesses that she received firsthand information implicating Ron in the murder, but says she can’t give the court the source’s name without endangering them. She says she was in love, but she was fooled. She tried to give her source immunity but was fired before she could. The attorney general accuses her of making up a source, but she insists they’re real and that if they promise immunity, she’ll give them the name. Now the state has no chance to grant immunity and call the prison guard to the stand.
Frank and Annalise aren’t pleased with the news, and he reminds Annalise this guard won’t have forgotten his threats. She tells him to do whatever he has to do.
While trying to study, Michaela is obsessing over photos of Gabriel with his new squeeze, Payton. Asher comes in and listens to Michaela’s fears that Gabriel is right and she’s afraid of being alone. She feels guilty over what they did to Sam and what that’s cost Gabriel. Asher completely misreads the room and tries to kiss her. Ugh, Asher, why?! Pick up social cues for once, please.
Bonnie is on the phone with Annalise while driving, wanting Annalise to ignore what Frank told her. Annalise admits Frank told her he wants Bonnie and gently tells her she wants whatever Bonnie wants — which is, well, Bonnie still doesn’t know. But she has bigger problems because the mysterious woman who’s been trailing them is next to her at a stoplight and all of a sudden, Bonnie’s brakes aren’t working. She screams for help to Annalise on the other end of the line, frantically pumping the pedal.
Frank tries to track down the prison guard and scare her, but he never gets the chance — Annalise calls and he rushes to the hospital. She suggests they just turn themselves all in; the Castillos will kill them all if they keep it up. But Frank wants to catch whoever hurt Bonnie first. Luckily, Bonnie is mostly okay. She has a bone bruise on her skull and has to stay overnight for observation, but the prognosis seems positive. Frank tells her he loves her and that she’s his whole life, while Annalise looks on at their tender touches.
Connor and Oliver finally have a much-needed heart-to-heart. Connor went for a run without telling Oliver, and it freaked Oliver out not knowing where he was. But Connor is annoyed that Oliver is trying to overcompensate for knowing the true horrors of what Connor did to Sam’s body. Oliver insists that’s not the case — that he always knew Connor wasn’t a pollyanna and everyone has darkness in them. He’s just here to remind him he has good parts too. But Connor doesn’t want to be anyone’s hero any more like he once outlined in an essay — he just wants to be safe and boring and happy. None of which he is now, leaving them to sit with that depressing realization.
Back at the hospital waiting room, Frank confronts Nate, blaming him and his wrongful death suit for Bonnie’s accident. He insists Nate doesn’t get to hurt Bonnie anymore — that Miller is dead, and she’s the one suffering for it. All of which makes Tegan raise her eyebrows. But Frank and Annalise realize they only have one path forward now.
It’s all led to this: the prison guard taking the stand once again after being threatened by Frank that he’ll kill everyone she loves. Tegan questions her about the testimony she gave at the inquest, the assertion that she killed Nate Sr. in self-defense. Tegan wants to know if she was ordered to lie at that inquest and if any superior ordered her to kill Mr. Lahey. There’s a lot of objections and back-and-forth, but it boils down to who made her kill an innocent man. Who ordered the hit? But she doesn’t say Ron Miller —- she says, gasp, Xavier Castillo.
Because it turns out the only way forward Annalise could envision was to tell the truth for once. They have to expose Xavier Castillo and try to take him down, even if that means Bonnie and Nate discover Miller was innocent. That’s what Frank threatened the guard into doing.
So, his plan works and the guard breaks down on the stand, confessing everything — that Miller arranged for Mr. Lahey’s transfer, but that Miller tried to move it earlier to save Mr. Lahey’s life. But Xavier found out and ensured the deed was done. The guard admits, “I helped killed an innocent man. There are no words to say how sorry I am. What I did, it’s evil.” She looks at Nate as she says it, clearly trying to apologize for killing his father — but all he can hear is his own guilt over killing Miller.
Back behind closed doors, the attorney general offers Nate a $10 million settlement, the most ever awarded a plaintiff in a wrongful death suit. But he doesn’t care about the money, he’s still obsessed with the governor. If they ask for a continuance, it grants them more time, but also gives her more time to doctor evidence. Even if they win, it will go through endless appeals, which could expose any criminal activity related to Mr. Lahey or Miller’s death. Tegan is gently telling Nate what she suspects, but he won’t listen to reason. He wants to bury Governor Birkhead.
The news of the trial makes it way to the others via a television broadcast. Bonnie sees it from her hospital bed, realizing Frank and Annalise knew Miller was innocent and kept it from her. She dismisses Frank from her room in despair and breaks down.
The Keating Four are busy having a de-stress puppy party courtesy of Oliver (because what makes you forget your all-consuming guilt over the crimes you’ve committed like some good doggos?). But it’s short-lived relief as they also watch the news — the governor continues to blame Emmett Crawford, citing him as Xavier Castillo’s employer. She points to Crawford and C&G’s ties to the family as her evidence. But she accepts today’s events as a total exoneration. Wow. Lady, no one said that. The only way this could be more blatantly narcissistic would be if she tweeted “COMPLETELY EXONERATED” from her gubernatorial handle.
Finally, we’re back to the purpose of the extended Snow White metaphor. Throughout the episode, various students have used defenses that dovetail with the episode’s plot. But they’ve failed — until Asher realizes what they’ve all been missing. There is no body. The Evil Queen faked her death to frame Snow White, and that’s the defense they’ll use. Asher wins the 64k and Annalise ominously stands next to the words “Faked Death” on the blackboard.
Before we flash forward to what we can only presume is her putting the wheels in motion for her own faked death (called it!). She’s holding the burner phone Solomon provided for her and crying, while the murderous fire poker lays next to some shattered pottery on the floor. She calls VIP Results to begin the “process,” which includes deleting her hard drive, collecting her new passports, and escaping out the back stairwell to a driver waiting to take her to a pre-arranged location. For Annalise’s sake, we hope it’s Aruba.
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Viola Davis stars as a law professor where she teaches, wait for it, how to get away with murder.