HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: How to Get Away with Murder: Season 1
HTS Overall Score:78
I knew basically nothing out “How to Get Away with Murder” going into this review besides that it had the lovely Viola Davis on the front and that it had to do with murder. I had a few hints dropped my way from various people that I was definitely in for a surprise and I can certainly agree with that sentiment after watching the show. How often do you see a TV show targeted at everyday viewers where you are trying to root for people to ACTUALLY get away with murder? Not only that it manages to mix in a heavy dose of court room procedural and murder mystery into the mix as well with some rather clever use of flashbacks (and flash forwards I might add) to add to said mystery. Convoluted, crass at times, brutally unlikeable, but ALWAYS entertaining, “How to Get Away with Murder: Season 1” manages to worm its way into your psyche, leaving you thinking about episodes long after they’ve run their course.
Annalise Keating spends her days as a high priced and high in demand defense attorney, but her free time is spent teaching law at Middleton university. There she teaches one of the toughest introductions to law that the U.S. has seen, nicknaming her intro to law class “How to get away with murder”. Every year she chooses four of the best and the brightest to be her legal aides for her cases, and this year it becomes 5, with the addition of the brilliant, but slightly out of place Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch). Wes barely got into Middleton by the skin of his teeth, a community college graduate moving up to law school, while the rest of the 5 are your typical rich brats. We have Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee), the snotty and whorish pretty boy. Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King), desperate to make her mark in the world and marry up into wealth so that she can do what she wants. Asher (Matt McGorry), the good looking and entitled son of a judge who everyone despises and then there’s Laurel (Karla Souza), the quite one. This group of 5 aides may seem like a match made in hell, and I’ll concur with that, they most certainly are.
The show opens up with the Keating 5 (as they are nicknamed by Annalise) trying to LITERALLY get away with murder. A body is being wrapped in a rug and they use their law school knowledge to try and dispose of the body. Come to find out that this is the present time and that the rest of the series is to be told in the past with glimpses of fast forwards to the present to aid in the storytelling, and rather brilliantly done I might add. We know the identity of the murder victim from the end of the first episode, but the HOW and the WHY comes over a much longer list time frame where we see just what little dirty secrets the cast has to air.
I really REALLY like a lot of “How to Get Away with Murder”. The use of flash forwards to slowly reveal the what happens to the victim that night is nothing short of brilliant, as each episode peels back another few minutes of what happens that night giving a much fuller picture. To make it even more devious those few minute glimpses you have can sometimes be taken out of context, meaning, by the end of the series you realize that scenes you THOUGHT meant one thing, actually was about something entire different, turning the nose of the ship, so to speak.
Characterization is excellent throughout, with some great performance by the young leads. It’s been a long time since we’ve had protagonists who are villains in my review list, and I both like and dislike that immensely. Nobody LIKES rooting for a true villain, and villains is most certainly what I would describe the cast as. There is NOONE who is likeable in the whole series. Every character is selfish, motivated by personal issues and personally, I would never like to associate with a single one of them. However that same nasty, twisted, work eaten type of character is nothing short of fascinating to watch, even if you don’t agree with their actions and motives. Viola Davis takes the cake as Annalise, though. She seems like one of the strongest and most powerful characters on the show, but as the series progresses you realize that her world is much shakier than she appears to be. With a sleazebag of a husband, she’s constantly on edge and her psyche is much more co-dependant than you think it is. I can’t give too much away, as the series is based off of mystery and misdirection, but when she is betrayed for the final time and all that makeup and her fancy wig are stripped away, that scene in the mirror where she has to face herself is nothing short of amazing. Her Emmy nomination is proof of that, as you can’t take your eyes off of her whenever she walks on screen, whether that be her ironclad “force of nature” persona, or the quivering mass of indecision that she melts down into out of the spotlight.
As much as I love much of the series, there are a few mild irritants to the show, mainly to do with the romantic liaisons and the rather over the top court room dramas. The first is more of an eye roll worthy situation. Peter Nowalk decides to integrate that sort of “Harlequin Romance Novel” style of hookups between the characters, where not an episode goes by where someone isn’t frantically making out and try to rip the shirt off of another. Nothing is ever seen besides maybe 5 seconds of frantically pawing, but it almost becomes a parody of itself after the first 2-3 times because it happens EVERY…SINGLE.. episode. I had to laugh by the halfway point of the series because it almost felt like it was on a timer, about every last act of the show we knew SOMEONE was going to initiate the passionate lip locks and would make for one INCREDIBLY painful drinking game if someone so desired. The second quibble is one that rally plagues a lot of court room dramas. Nowalk seems to think that every high priced murder case is done and over with in a few days, and a jury takes an hour or so to deliberate. As such I wouldn’t take it as any indication of the true nature of our justice system, and also I wouldn’t take Annalise’s techniques as your average Lawyer’s techniques either. We all like to demonize defense attorney’s for getting criminals back out on the street, but Annalise likes to display a lack of caring over right or wrong, just the outcome (which goes back to the main point of the series…everybody lies).
1 – Pilot
2 – It’s All Her Fault
3 – Smile, or Go to Jail
4 – Let’s Get to Snooping
5 – We’re Not Friends
6 – ’ Whack-a-Mole
7 – He Deserved to Die
8 – He Has a Wife
9 – Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill Me
10 – Hello, Raskolnikov
11 – Best Christmas Ever
12 – She’s a Murderer
13 – Mama’s Here Now
14 – The Night Lila Died
15 – It’s All My Fault
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=51041[/img]“How to Get Away with Murder: Season 1” is another victim of a show that has a high definition broadcast, but is relegated to DVD for the home video release. As unfortunate as it is, the crew at ABC have done a fine job in bringing this dark and brooding show to disc. The series is bathed in darkness for a majority of the run time, giving it a very morose and dark tone, but there are moments of clarity, such as in a daily case for the Keating 5 to brighten up the mood. Colors are strong and shadow detail and delineation are very impressive. Sometimes detail gets sacrificed due to the constant darkness, but that’s a mild compromise to be made for keeping the mood of the show.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=51049[/img]The series is definitely a drama, and as such a rather front heavy mix is to be expected. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track does an admirable job at keeping with the broadcast quality of the show and sounds very impressive. The dialog is crisp and clear, locked up front in the center channel. There is a mild amount of dynamic range moments, such as the bonfire, where the Keating 5 try to make an alibi, or the crash of a scrabble before someone ends up with their head caved in. LFE is strong and powerful, accentuating the somber mood with wave after wave of low end to up the sensation of dread. The surrounds are used a good bit, but as I said, a front heavy mix. Ambient noises are sifted through those side channels adding in some nice directionality to the mix. A solid replication of the broadcast experience for sure.
• Blooper Reel
• Delete Scenes
• “Bye, Felicia” Music Video
• First Year Law
“How to Get Away with Murder: Season 1” is a fascinating look on a seedy cadre of people, and a world that is most likely full of those types of people. Creepy, disturbing, and filled with a cast that you would never want to be, the show manages to keep you enthralled with what’s going to unfold next throughout the entire show. Viola Davis is at the top of her game here, and nothing short of a tour de force in the entire series. The end twist of the season sets itself up nicely for a season 2 (something I was not sure how they would be able to do, since the concept of the series is kind of “once and done”), and I have to say that I’m a convert. Season 2 will definitely be on my agenda next year. Audio and video are very impressive, and well in line with modern TV standards and the extras are pretty decent. At the very least, if you like court room dramas with an edge of darkness, it’s well worth checking out.
Starring: Viola Davis, Billy Brown, Alfred Enoch
Created by: Peter Nowalk
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Rated: Rated TV-14
Runtime: 645 Minutes
DVD Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Buy How to Get Away with Murder: Season 1 On DVD at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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