Shonda Rhimes Does It Again.
If you don’t know that name then chances are you may have lived under a rock for the past few years or simply don’t watch TV. But in case you don’t know, Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, director and producer extraordinaire most known for highly rated shows such as medical drama series “Grey’s Anatomy” and breakthrough political thriller “Scandal.” Her unique brand of storytelling has made her a television force unable to be reckoned with. Rhimes’ newest endeavor, “whodunit” mystery “How to Get Away With Murder,” presses new boundaries, giving us that familiar Shonda “OMG” factor we’ve come to love, while still showing us something entirely new. It’s edgier, sexier, and darker compared to most criminal law shows on network television, making it stand out amidst the pack.
It begins with a group of over eager and highly competitive law students disposing of a body along with any evidence of the actual murder that was committed. The show moves forward and backwards in time, allowing us to slowly piece by piece, put back together the events that led to this gruesome murder. Their professor, Annalise Keating (played by Academy Award nominee Viola Davis), continually commands her pupils attention, teaching important lessons in the classroom and in the courtroom. She believes a lawyer should never be interested in whether the client is innocent or guilty. Her formula for practicing criminal law is simple. 1. Discredit the witness. 2. Find a new suspect. 3. Bury the evidence. These are the grey rules that Annalise Keating tells her students to follow if they want to win a case. Out of her class, she allows four promising law students to work at her law firm but only one will retain a job at the end of the year, thus the competition and the subsequent events that lead to murder begin.
The series premiere of “How to Get Away With Murder” pulled in more than 14 million viewers and garnered a 3.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic, helping to make Thursday nights on ABC (alongside “Greys” & “Scandal”) one of the most watched television nights of the week. And rightly so, because what makes this series compelling is its well rounded and diverse cast. “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this… a woman of color, of a certain age and a certain hue,” says Viola Davis. Keating’s character exemplifies and gives voice to strong, intelligent yet complicated women everywhere, and most particularly women of color. This is exciting especially since the announcement was made earlier this year about a possible “Murder She Wrote” revamp starring “The Help” co-star Octavia Spencer. Die-hard murder mystery fans were enthusiastic but when NBC failed to materialize it, anticipation for the new Rhimes’ murder drama definitely increased.
The basic premise of the show is this: No one can or should be fully trusted and HTGAWM constantly plays on the fact that you don’t know who the good guys really are. Every character has a speckled past or a biased motive, especially Professor Keating. The correlation between sex and murder resonates strongly throughout this show as well, centering around a heavy theme of desire, specifically desire unmet. Each character wears their heart on their sleeve so to speak, always showing us what depths they are willing to go to in order to obtain and protect their desire, even if it means murder or covering one up.
When boiled down, HTGAWM is a striking mixture of murder mystery, mind blowing plot twists and jaw dropping cliff hangers, truly making this “OMG TV” at its finest. With its dramatic plot lines and highly sexualized content, this surely will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s the kind of show you either love or hate, but one thing it never fails to do is deliver insurmountable intrigue and plenty of alluring questions, at least right away. Because of its diverse and brilliant cast and an even more brilliant producer, HTGAWM will likely be here to stay and I’m guessing so will Shonda Rhimes.