Throughout its 18-episode run, How to Get Away with Murder has never been afraid to show its sexy side. The show’s narrative has been wrought with torrid affairs, romantic longings, and sexual tension underlying much of the violence and mayhem. And as Annalise (Viola Davis) herself says, “What does sex have to do with criminal law? Everything.” In the third episode of season two, named after a seemingly indescribable sex act, the show gets its freakiest yet when Annalise and Team Keating take the case of a sex club owner accused of the manslaughter of a client by sexing him to death. All the while, the Keating Five struggle with their own sex lives as things heat up across the board.
The episode opens with another flash-forward to Annalise’s apparent impending doom, shot in the stomach and bleeding on the floor of her home. As Wes (Alfred Enoch) and the Keating Five scramble out of her house, she makes a desperate attempt to reach her ringing phone on the coffee table as Nate (Billy Brown) tries calling her from his car as he speeds to her house. She ultimately can’t summon the strength to reach the phone, and falls back onto the floor. She’s seems about to close her eyes for good when we’re brought back to the present, seven weeks earlier, as she makes notes of the siblings’ case into a tape recorder. Upon hearing what she believes to be an intruder, she walks down to the basement to find a rat nearly decapitated by a mousetrap. She calls Wes to come by and take of it, who promptly does so by mercy killing the little thing with a hammer. Knowing that Wes killed her husband by clubbing him to death, actually seeing Wes strike a killing blow in front of her is probably enough to rattle even the mighty Annalise Keating.
As he turns to leave, Annalise asks Wes if he’s still concerned about Rebecca (Katie Findlay. He halfheartedly says yes, before asking her how she’s holding up. Annalise claims she doesn’t miss Sam (Tom Verica) at all. “Actually, I was talking about Nate,” Wes says.
Annalise doesn’t give him an answer; instead she shows him the door. The camera then pans to a wide shot of both sides of the door, with Annalise and Wes standing briefly on either side before going their separate ways. All of this occurs while a voiceover of Annalise teaching her class the following morning loudly utters “SEX,” as she introduces the day’s topic (likely waking up anyone falling asleep in lecture). The subtle hints of Annalise and Wes’ growing closeness keeps pointing in the direction of something sensual, even if neither character has realized it yet. Whether this will come to fruition, or be the ultimate cause of Annalise’s bloody predicament, remains to be seen. Given Annalise’s increasingly complicated personal life, including continued correspondence with Eve (Famke Janssen), it’s not hard to see how it could get her into trouble.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Keating Five have their own libidos raging. Connor (Jack Falahee) anticipates being able to have sex with Oliver (Corad Ricamora) again now that he’s reached the end of his HIV treatment. Asher (Matt McGorry) and Bonnie’s (Liza Weil) relationship continues steaming up, while Frank (Charlie Weber) and Laurel (Karla Souza) try getting to know each after Frank’s rejection of her in last episode, when he told her he won’t sleep with her until they’re more friendly, at the risk of feeling like a “gigolo.” Finally, for the first time since her breakup with Aiden (Elliot Knight), Michaela (Aja Naomi King) is back on the hunt, getting (gradually) frisky with a new cute guy at Connor’s suggestion.
Connor also designates himself her new sexual guide when the gang learn Michaela has never experienced an orgasm, taking her to their new client’s sex club as part of their investigations. As we learn, however, Michaela has her own agenda: to help keep Connor on the leash. Given how regularly each of the Five find themselves dealing with murder, whether professionally or personally, to see how the steaminess of their personal lives influences their work on the ultimate “crime of passion” will be something to watch. We know they’re capable of killing: so what kinds of fires are they potentially stoking for themselves? Given the common relation of the two acts, when might murder be as natural and commonplace as sex?
As heated an episode as this is, however, it also has its moments of frost. More so than before, Annalise is openly showing bitterness towards her clients. Learning that Tanya (Sherri Saum) actually did kill her client by feeding him nitroglycerine (which can induce a heart attack when taken with Viagra) out of her love for him, Annalise dismisses Tanya’s claims that she was slut-shamed due to the nature of her job.
“You claim to be free and modern,” she chides. “But you’re really just selfish. Alone and sad and afraid to put up with it like the rest of us. And the worst part is you give those of us who really like sex a bad name.” Annalise’s sexuality has proven to be one of her most interesting characteristics, and the parameters of it are still not exactly clear (we know she’s at least bisexual). To see her take a stand for sexual openness (particularly women’s), while at the same time seeing past its innocence when the intentions are sinister, is another example of her limited sympathies. While her intention is always to win no matter the cost, Annalise has never had to like her clients to win her cases. She’s demonstrated her own moral code, and whether or not she’s on their side legally, she can still recognize a fraud when she sees one. It’s what’s helped make her such a conflicted, complicated, and waveringly sympathetic character.
Again, Annalise’s animosity towards her client doesn’t stop her. She manages to pin the blame on the dead client’s widow, indicating how the widow picked up nitroglycerine from a CVS a few days before. Even Tanya is disturbed as Annalise shames an innocent woman in front of her children.
“How do you sleep at night?” she asks Annalise outside the courtroom.
“Alone,” Annalise replies. “On nice sheets. I like expensive Vodka.” It’s a perfectly nonchalant answer, as we’ve come to expect from her.
That is, until she visits Nate for the first time since the dismissal of his trial.
“I miss you,” she says tearfully, and asks whether they could be together again. Nate replies that it’s too soon. As he closes the door on Annalise, the camera again pans to the same the wide-angle shot of both sides of the door seen at the start of the episode’s, indicating just how many places Annalise is keeping her heart. To see how quickly Annalise can switch from stonewalled to tender indicates how multifaceted she really is, and we still can’t be sure how much of her cold demeanor is natural, and how much of it is an act.
How to Get Away with Murder continues to engage with the increasing depth and complications of its characters, for better or worse. “It’s Called the Octopus” will surely not the last time the series will intertwine sex and violence so directly. The line between them is thin enough already.