How to Get Away With Murder: Season 2, Episode 2 – “She’s Dying”

The slower pace of episode two allows for much-needed character moments and narrative developments.

In last week’s season premiere, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) had a lot of trouble fall into her lap. In addition to dealing with the repercussions of framing Nate (Billy Brown) for her husband’s murder, she realized that one of her closest associates, Bonnie (Liza Weil), had murdered Rebecca (Katie Findlay), one of her former clients and a suspect in the death of Lila Sangard (Megan West). Not only that, but an old flame from her law school years, Eve (Famke Janssen), has reentered her life after Annalise calls her to defend Nate, and both realize their baggage is far from settled. All of this in the midst of a new case: an adopted brother and sister accused of murdering their parents. While the last episode spent most of its time in dropping Annalise and the Keating Five into this new frying pan, the second episode takes a breath and provides a number of poignant character moments, including a deeper look behind Annalise’s increasing fragile psyche.

The episode’s plot involves the Keating Team addressing the latest bump in the new case: the aunt of the accused siblings, and the only eyewitness in their trial, has been murdered. Additionally, the police manage to find the blood of the murdered aunt in the sister’s car, leading the team frantically trying to figure out how to get the blood removed from evidence.

Back in Nate’s case, Annalise finds herself a witness for both sides, and on the far end of intense badgering by the prosecutor, Emily Sinclair (Sarah Burns), who claims Annalise conspired with Nate to murder Annalise’s husband, Sam (Tom Verica). Emily also attempts to explain the relationship between Eve and Anna. As the questions become more personal, Annalise struggles to keep herself composed, finally lashing out at Emily for trying to use Nate’s case to condemn her. “This is not a preliminary hearing,” she yells, “but a witch hunt.” The scene is another great moment for Viola Davis to channel Annalise’s fervor; even in the midst of her fervent tirade, there is a twinge of pain in her voice. Emily’s accusations have cut deep, as Annalise is forced to have the details and history of her betrayal of Sam with Nate thrown in her face.

This pain is only made worse when Eve takes the floor and further condemns Annalise, this time for framing Nate for the crime – a secret Annalise confessed to Eve in last week’s episode – even though both Annalise and Eve know that skewing the intentions of the case is the only way to save Nate. The judge ultimately decides that because she can’t tell “who’s on trial,” Emily has to re-frame her case before they can proceed to a proper trial. Between Emily and Eve’s eviscerations of her character, Annalise can’t help but feel she’s under a microscope while on the stand. As much as she tries to conceal it (including fighting back tears while hiding in a bathroom stall during a session break), it’s clear how much of a toll it’s taken on her. Throughout the series, Annalise has shown a talent for disregarding the consequences of her actions until they’re shoved to her face. Oronically there’s no better place for this to occur than where she’s most at home: the courtroom.

Annalise’s guilt further intensifies during a conversation with Bonnie. “It’s always going to be like this with you isn’t it?” Annalise tells her. “You stay the little girl lost while I play the mommy always there to clean up your mess.” Bonnie tearfully responds that she only murdered Rebecca to protect Annalise, because of everything she owes Annalise for saving her. Annalise counters this assertion, telling Bonnie she didn’t save her; both Bonnie and the rest of the Keating team actually need saving from Annalise. Over the course of the show, we’ve seen what lengths Annalise will go to win her cases, and how willing she is to exploit both the legal system and those around her to get away. She’s made an entire career of not practicing but navigating the law, including circumventing the typical moral standards that structure it, as well as crossing several ethical lines to protect those close to her (i.e., framing Nate to protect Wes [Alfred Enoch]). Even so, it seems she feels doomed to betray them in the future.

The episode has a particular focus on hurt and betrayal. Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) lashes out at Connor (Jack Falahee) for revealing to the rest of the Keating Five that Oliver is HIV-positive. Connor later reveals that because he’s hurt Oliver, it’s only fair that Oliver hurt him back by telling him how he got HIV in the first place. Oliver reveals that after he discovered Connor had cheated on him, during one of Connor’s many attempts to extract information for Annalise, he was so pained that he went out one night to rebound, and ended up hooking up with a stranger at a bar. Connor, realizing Oliver’s diagnosis is partially his fault, is shattered. The relationship between Connor and Oliver has been one of the show’s best aspects, and to see this kind of emotional depth to Connor continues his refreshing turn from the self-absorbed, exploitative person he tries so hard to be in public. It’s enough to increasingly make Connor the most sympathetic of the Keating Five. How Connor and Oliver’s relationship pans out will be one of the more interesting things to watch as the season progresses.

In an episode of emotional moments, however, the most moving proves to be Eve and Annalise’s continuing, painful reunion. After Nate’s case is dismissed, Eve pays Annalise a visit, during which Annalise finally lashes out at Eve for eviscerating her in court, heartbroken that she would treat her in such a way. The two finally confront the feelings they’d been trying to avoid, as Eve admits that even after years apart, she’s still in love with Annalise.

“I don’t hate you. But I hate how you make me feel,” she admits. In return, Annalise then finally tells to Eve she’s the “most beautiful thing” that’s ever happened to her.

In just two episodes, the show has managed to construct a heartfelt story of lost and regained love, and to open up a character like Annalise, whose character arc has thus far has relied on her stony demeanor. The chemistry between Viola Davis and Famke Jensen, particular the intimate scenes between Eve and Annalise, shows the two actors’ respective talents in embracing their characters, and the relationship they create on screen is effectively enticing.

The second episode of How to Get Away with Murder’s second season manages to cut back enough on the episode’s famously fast pace to showcase some important character moments. As the season continues and the bodies inevitably pile up, it’s enough to keep us hoping the relationships built don’t end up becoming collateral damage.

RATING 8 / 10