TV Review: ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder Is Killer

Shonda Rhimes now owns Thursday nights on ABC.

The network has programmed a primetime block of shows beginning with the return of Grey’s Anatomy and the huge Scandal, all leading into the Rhimes’ crews take on the legal drama: How To Get Away With Murder. HTGAWM stars the talented Viola Davis as Annalise Keating, a successful and demanding law professor in Philadelphia. Keating weeds through her class to find exceptional students to do the legwork for her own defense law office, putting them in precarious positions, as they also become involved in a murder. I won’t give away any details here, because nearly anything about the plot is a potential spoiler.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Viola Davis is a powerhouse as Professor Keating. The character is drawn in such a way to avoid the typical “mean boss/teacher” trope, and when it begins to lean more that way, deftly swerves another direction. Davis brings it all to life, at times chewing up the scenery, and others as quietly fragile. By the end of the pilot, however, we just don’t know what to make of Keating, adding an additional layer of mystery to the character.

Kudos also to Peter Nowalk, whose pilot script avoids instances of exposition dump and character introductions by way of brisk pace and plopping us right into the action so we can figure out the characters as they react to the conflicts. However, these characters end up being the weakest elements of the HTGAWM pilot, mainly because the function less as characters here but as plot movement. For me specifically, Alfred Enoch is the worst offender as the super nice, but practical Wes Gibbons. The show set him up as a major player, giving him insight into some of Keating’s secrets, if only we had more reason to care about him as a person. Still, this is just a pilot, and based on Ms. Rimes track record, I think we can safely guess that this cast will surely developed more roundly as the series progresses. Also, a quick shout out to Orange is the New Black’s Matt McGorrey (guard John Bennett) as well as Gilmore Girls alum Liza Weil as other notable faces among the cast.

So, whether you’re a Rhimes fan or a lover of legal dramas, How To Get Away With Murder promises to blend soapy elements with its genre elements to create a show that looks like a “can’t miss.”

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