HTGAWM: Can’t We Leave it All Behind

I was sick for most of last week. Like, get sent home sick from work and staydead rebecca home even without accrued sick time, sick. And let me tell you just how much that sucked. First off, no one likes being sick. Second, no one likes staying home when they’re not getting paid for it. And last, no one like having all their glorious plans totally and completely disrupted. By fevers and phlegm. No one.

Alas, that is what happened to me last week and I’m just now getting back to my usual speed. But last week was just such a bad week for this to happen! It was the first full week of the new tv season. I’ve done absolutely none of my pilot reviews. I haven’t even watched Empire or Quantico yet. I am just so, so behind. I guess this week I’ll be doing some major catch-up.

But let me just tell you. Come Hell or high water, I was gonna be there for the season premiere of How to Get Away With Murder. And it did not disappoint.

Thursday’s season premiere was incredibly solid. We tied up some loose ends from last season (namely, who killed Rebecca – I was sort of banking on Laurel, but I loved listening to Bonnie’s cold, unfeeling reasonings, both to Rebecca and Annalise), but spent a good bit of time setting up the future, both in terms of bran new story lines and consequences of what we’ve already seen. Those loose ends are far from finished. Rebecca’s death – and the outing of her murderer – is going to continue to reverberate as the Keating Five discover what happened. And the murder of Sam Keating, from all the way back in the Season One midseason finale, is still with is. Annalise is still protecting her flock and they’re still elarning to navigate the world as murderers.

It’s fascinating to see just how different our merry murderers are this time time around. No longer the wide-eyed puppy from Season One, for example, Wes has become surly and combative. He’s challenging Annalise, looking for a way to regain the power and control he lost in the end of his relationship with Rebecca. I’ve never liked Wes. Kind of a blunt statement, I know, but that’s how I feel. He was contrary for most of Season One; was combative and inappropriate and disrespectful. And that on its own wouldn’t be enough to just dismiss a character out of hand, but none of it felt earned. None of it quite made sense. Wes’ absolute love and devotion to Rebecca – which is what caused a lot of his contrary nature – was always just a little too far. A little too fast. A little too intense. More often than not, I found him incredibly creepy when it came to her. He was severe and fervent and possessive in his love for her, but even more so in his disappointment of her. Wes came down hard when he thought her to be in the wrong, when he thought her to be deceiving him. And I think my intense dislike for him and his relationship for Rebecca was solidified in the statements he made in this season premiere. “After all I did for her,” he said. Dude helped kidnap her and tie her to a chair as his friends put her on mock trial for murder. That pretty much negates anything else he may have done for her.

Of course, for all that I don’t like him, I’m pretty fascinated – in a can’t look away from the fiery car wreck kind of way –  by his relationship with Annalise. Particularly this bizarre hold he seems to have over her. What is it about him that tugs on her so much? Why this need to protect and shelter him? I want to know so much more about that. Plus, I can’t be the only one who assumes there’s going to be some very inappropriate boning before long.

Connor is the other whose total about face was on full display during Thursday’s premiere. Connor started out last season so suave, so debonair. He was slick and self possessed and the first one to win that trophy. And he was gloriously, gloriously slutty, whether it was using sex as a way to win a case for Annalise or simply boning a random in a public bathroom (not sure why I’m so hung up on the word “boning” when it comes to this show). But after Murder Night, that boy has just unraveled. Not in quite the same way as Michaela. No, he’s not about to snap like a bow and explode everywhere like she is. Instead, he’s simply curled in on himself and attached himself heart and soul to his security blanket, Oliver. The boy who doesn’t do boyfriends and would do anything, no matter the legalities, to win a case for Annalise, now thinks his work is falling about and he only wants to cling even tighter to Oliver. He’s moving in and closing his eyes and wishing the rest of the world away.

I’ve been impressed with Connor and Oliver’s story line so much throughout all of last season and continuing into this one. I will admit there was a small part of me that worried that Oliver wouldn’t come back this season, but I should have been more trusting. This has been an incredible story line to watch because on one hand, it’s incredibly progressive. We’ve got Connor as a fully sexualized gay man, but not in a stereotypical or predatory way, and that sexuality is out in full force, not just hinted at (we’re talking references to rimming, to anal sex, Connor being naked a lot, etc). In Oliver, we not only have a similarly fully sexualized gay man (though one who is, at least in the beginning, much more monogamous), but we also have a fully sexualized Asian man. We have a man of color more than once vocalizing his feelings of inferiority in comparison to his white boyfriend – an inability for him to live up to white beauty standards. We have scenes of these gay men not just discussing the possibility of STDs, but actually going to a clinic and getting tested, actually talking to a doctor about their misconceptions of the risks. And we now have a story line of Oliver not just contracting HIV, but living with it and managing it and continuing a active, sexual relationship with another man while having it. They actually talked about Connor taking PrEP in the episode and discussed when they would be able to have penetrative sex again. As I said, these are all incredibly progressive story lines for primetime network television, but what makes them even more compelling is the fact that they never seem all that progressive. Do you know what I mean? Connor’s sex life and the complications of his relationship with Oliver never seem shocking. They never seem, as I’m watching the episode, to be pushing the envelope or propelling an agenda. Instead, they’re treated with the same care and interest as Wes and Rebecca’s relationship or Bonnie and Asher or anyone else.

Michaela and Laurel, too, are much changed from the women they started the show as. Michaela was much like Connor – sure and secure – whereas Laurel was timid and desperate to prove herself. Murdering Sam actually seems to have given Laurel the swift kick in the pants she needed, blossoming into someone sure in her abilities and her judgments. Michaela, on the other hand, has become almost brittle in her attempt to hold herself together and not rattle right out of her skin. She’s one wrong move away from completely shattering. These two weren’t on display too much in this episode, but I don’t think they’ll be held back for long.

Then of course there’s Asher. Asher who’s still the same as he ever was. Asher who still knows absolutely nothing. I wonder how long that will last.

Lastly, these not quite tied up loose ends aren’t only reverberating for the Keating Five. Those echoes are reaching Annalise as well. She may have traded Nate’s life for that of her students, but it was only a temporary fix and one she desperately wants to undo. And brings in a woman from her law school days to do it. Eve has quite a past with Annalise, and I can’t quite decide if I think their resurfaced love affair is honest or manipulation. I’m leaning towards manipulation. Annalise is so good at it, you know. But wouldn’t it be something if it was Eve pulling some puppet strings?

Apparently, it wouldn’t be How to Get Away with Murder without a good old time trip. So by the end of the episode we see that the new case Annalise has taken on – the case that’s going to turn things around for them and allow them all to move forward – hasn’t turned out quite as well as she’d hoped. As Annalise lays in a pool of blood as Wes runs from the scene, I can only imagine what we’re gearing up for. And I can’t wait.

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