Last night, deemed #ShondalandThursdays, ABC debuted the latest bit of Shonda Rhimes genius, How to Get Away with Murder. The most highly-anticipated fall TV thriller did not disappoint. In the opening scene, the people on Middleton campus are enjoying a bonfire, while four other students are just a few miles away, frantically debating over what to do with a dead body. They decide to flip a coin: heads they move the body, tails they leave it. In typical Rhimes fashion—leaving us on the edge of our seats in suspense—the scene flashes back three months earlier to the first day in Criminal Law 100.
Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) walks through the halls, past the missing girl posters and into Criminal Law 100, and he clearly has no idea what he’s in for. As Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) walks in with her shiny leather jacket and overflowing sense of confidence, she explains to her students that they will not just be learning the logistics, but, rather, how to put them to practice in Criminal Law 100. “Or as I like to call it,” she states in a chilling, matter-of-fact voice, “How to Get Away with Murder.” It becomes clear that this is not just an early law class. Professor Keating introduces a past trial about a woman, Gina, accused of attempted murder against her boss, and begins the interrogation. It is here we glimpse the four students who missed the bonfire. Connor Walsh, Wes Gibbins. Michaela Pratt, and Laurel Castillo. All but Wes produce an answer, while he stammers to guess the mens rea (guilty intent) of the case. Turns out, this is not a past trial, and they are all going to go to her office, hear the case, and have one minute to present a defense for the trial that will surpass Keating’s own. Gibbins, as a punishment for being unprepared, will go last.
During this developing plot line we are switched back to the present dilemma at stake, where now they are moving the body from Keating’s office. As they are almost out the door, with a rug-wrapped body in hand, a cop shows up. “WHAT!!!” I nearly screamed at the TV, but of course, these kids know how to create a distraction to narrowly avoid getting caught.
•Discredit the Witnesses
•Introduce New Suspects
•Bury the Evidence
This is Keating’s philosophy to winning the case. Back in class, everyone except Wes has prepared a defense to explain Gina’s innocence—he states she is suffering from Stockholm syndrome. But, Keating is all about those three simple tactics, and the students set out to follow her lead. Lies, schemes, sex, and secrets later, the jury declares Gina innocent. However, Wes walks in on Keating and the detective from the case. In a rare moment of vulnerability we see Keating open up to Wes, explaining the pressure that she suffers from her husband and, maybe even making a move on him (?).
Keating picks her team and, to no surprise, it is Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt, Asher Millstone, Laurel Castillo, and Wes Gibbins. Wes is angry at Keating, and says he does not want the job because of what he saw, and she tells him to stop thinking lowly of himself. It makes me wonder if she picked him because he is the underdog and knows information, or if she was genuinely impressed with his answer?
Fast-forward to the present and the group burns the body to avoid DNA. As flames ignite the rug, it is clear that the body is that of Professor Keating’s husband.
The episode wraps as a technician finds the body of the missing girl in a water tank at the Kappa Kappa Theta house. Keating’s husband is watching the news, and sees “A Woman’s body was found inside the Kappa Kappa Theta house.” Keating walks in, asks what happened, and he tells her, “It was one of my students, they found her in one of those water tanks.” But wait a minute… all that information wasn’t on the news!
Other thoughts on the Pilot
• Keating says at the end, “I bet it was the boyfriend,” to which her husband responds, “We’ll see.” Is she right? Did her husband kill the student? Is that why his body now burns in flames?
• Is Keating capable of murder, or are her students responsible for executing it? Did they do it on their own? Did they do it at all?
So many questions for next week!
What did you think of the premiere? Did Shonda Rhimes nail it, or what? Comment below!
Lesley Brock is a Nashville-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.