Writer Guy’s Analysis #3:

How To Get Away With Murder

Season 1

I don’t know what terrible things you’ve done in your life up to this point, but clearly your karma’s out of balance to be assigned to my class.

I’m professor Annalise Keating, and this is Criminal Law 101, or as I prefer to call it-
How to get away with Murder.”

That, I’d say, is as good a character introduction I’ve seen as any.

And, by far, the biggest, brightest, most ultimate selling point of this entire series is Viola Davis, who became the first African-American woman to receive an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of the brilliant and powerful, but damaged, Defence Attorney-cum-Professor Annalise Keating.

In general, I do enjoy shows about lawyers and legal procedure. I suppose it is partly because my father is a defence lawyer, and we’d often discuss cases involving murder and corruption even before I was in my teens.

So far, this show stands at the second place of my Favourite Legal Drama list, below Boston Legal, which, in my opinion, does not enjoy the same extent of popularity as it should, and above Suits, which, despite its many, many positives, is often just not as much fun.

Now, in this post, we will analyse the entire first season of this series, and see why it works.

I should also confess that we will not be discussing Season 2, simply because I did not enjoy it.

OBVIOUS WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

Setting:

The series is set in a fictional university in Philadelphia, and a large part of the scenes occur in the Professor’s residence-cum-office, while others are set either elsewhere in the campus, or in a courthouse.

Plot:

As with most Shonda Rhimes series, this one begins with a somewhat simple premise: A famous defence lawyer’s four prized pupils get involved in a high profile murder. Hence, the question… How to get away with Murder?

Of course, it doesn’t stay this simple, as skeletons come tumbling out of closets, making the whole thing murkier. Now, generally, I like my plots the way I like my soups, clear but flavoursome, like you’d expect a $50 duck consommé to be. However, when you’re home alone on a cold weekend, and you have the sniffles like i usually do, a thick, bold tomato soup is what you need.

And with this series, that is what you get. Not some high-minded, social commentary you’d like to discuss with your friends, but a guilty pleasure, perfect for a weekend binge.

Here, in Season 1, as the story progresses, every episode contains more plot twists than my pizza tonight had toppings… Weird analogy, I know, but hey, I was hungry…

Also, the series contains the exact amount of legal jargon, making it perfectly palatable to the general audience.

So all in all, the perfect recipe for a hit legal drama…

Sadly, Season 2 overdoes it, with far too many twists and turns that eventually leave the audience nauseated.

Narrative:

Through the length of the season, the story is split in two timelines.

1. The present day, which starts with the beginning of the first semester.

2. The day Sam died.

The way the two timelines are interweaved, using a single character, or at times a single object, as a focal point, really adds another dimension to the otherwise simple but effective style of narration.

And then, one cannot help but get goosebumps, as the two timelines intersect, midway into the season.

Characters:

As I said before, this is what makes this series what it is…

The way the characters are introduced, with a single look giving you a great insight into their personalities, is exemplary. And thereafter, the extent to which their deep, dark secrets are explored, and the way it accounts for their actions in the present day allows for exceptionally deep, well-rounded characters.

It is really baffling how almost all of the main characters have major flaws, like, they are basically just not very good people, and yet, the viewer finds them quite likeable, and even relatable…

A large number of critics had an issue with the content of this show, largely on accounts of legal inaccuracy. While on one hand, I do agree, the producers could have done a better job at that, I also have to argue that the series is called How To Get Away With Murder, not How To File A Patent

If you do want to watch a better portrayal of the legal system, I’d suggest you watch American Crime Story instead…

Well, I suppose that is all for tonight…

Thank you…

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Published by

Yashas Mahajan

Author of Arrkaya: Origins, now available online... Increasingly being referred to as The Writer Guy...

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