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“How to Get Away with Murder” slays it

| Thursday, October 9, 2014

how-to-get-away-with-murder-webSusan Zhu | The Observer
Shonda Rhimes has a way of making me rethink my entire life. Two summers ago while the rest of my generation was preparing for college, readying themselves for the greatest years of their lives, I was marathon-ing all nine seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” That’s 196 episodes. Roughly 147 hours. I watched 18 episodes in one day once, leaving my room only for the toilet and meals (I will add that I have an adjoining bathroom and those meals were eaten while concurrently watching).

Amidst this grand display of a healthy lifestyle, I seriously contemplated enduring years of medical school and residency in order to become a surgeon, despite that fact that I hate science and blood makes me queasy. Rhimes made those details seem pretty unimportant.

“Scandal,” another ShondaLand production, had a similar effect. It had me questioning everything. Maybe political crisis management is a viable career option? Is being the mistress for the leader of the free world really that morally wrong?

When “How to Get Away with Murder” premiered on ABC on Sept. 25, I didn’t think Ms. Rhimes could do it again. I had heard enough of my father’s horror stories from ND Law School to stop the sleek new legal drama series from influencing me into signing up for the next LSAT.

I was researching law school applications by the time I finished watching the pilot.

The show managed to dramatize and glamorize the cutthroat dynamics of a law school lecture hall, criminal courtroom proceedings and the dizzying after-effects of committing murder, captivating an incredible 20 million viewers when it premiered.

First, this show would be utterly watchable if it had nothing else going for it other than Viola Davis. The Oscar-nominee shined in the lead role as Professor Annalise Keating, a defense attorney with a teaching method that only can be described as extremely hands-on. She’s smart, strong, sexy and — best of all — complicated. From the beginning, it is clear Mrs. Keating will live in a moral grey area, never truly declaring herself as simply good or bad, but ultimately making us love her through all of it.

Adding just as much to its watchability, the show’s diversity — a staple of a Rhimes creation — does not disappoint. The pilot featured interracial couples, gay characters and strong women and men of color. It’s dismaying to think of this as a selling point of the show because these features should be the norm rather than the rare. Still, I can think of no better way to promote this ideal than to tune in to a show that portrays the characters and relationships so brilliantly.

The show’s format is unique and constantly engaging with its use of frequent flashbacks. The audience is led seamlessly through two timelines, one outlining the beginning of the interactions between Keating and her current students and the other portraying those same students actually attempting to “get away with murder.” The dichotomy between the students’ personas in the two situations provides some of the show’s most compelling character development. Those who seemed quiet and non-threatening in the classroom take charge in the murderous, high-pressure situations, giving the audience layers without being cliché.

“How to Get Away with Murder” is well-acted, well-written and mysterious, making it the next perfect Rhimes concoction to get addicted to. All I can complain about is that there isn’t more of it. With only three episodes to its name, however, there is no excuse for not catching up, absolutely no “binge-watching” required.

Basically, the show is less of a guide on “how to get away with murder” and more of one on how to get away with a seriously good TV show.

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About Alexandra Lowery

I am sophomore in the Mendoza College of Business and the department of Film, Television and Theatre. I enjoy long, drawn out feminist rants, playing guitar and worshipping Beyoncé.

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