Written by Matt Taylor
With thirty episodes to its name, How to Get Away with Murder fans are already used to the rapid pace that this series throws information at viewers. Last year’s finale was a sickeningly suspenseful hour of television, with a final eight minutes that truly changed the course of the series as a whole. So it was a bit of a surprise that this year’s finale was actually one of the series’ slowest episodes to date, taking a considerable amount of time to further develop its main character. In fact, many of its cliffhangers were based on character development, not plot development, making a welcome change of pace to the series and proving that it’s much more complex and well written than a typical primetime soap opera.
Fittingly titled “Anna Mae”, much of the episode found Annalise returning to her childhood home, reuniting with her mother (Cicely Tyson), and introducing viewers to her sister and father for the first time. Almost half the episode was spent focusing on seemingly normal conversations between these characters, and it may have seemed like an unusual choice for a season finale. But, in a way, it made a perfect ending to one of this season’s main story arcs. The past fifteen episodes were devoted to revealing what made Annalise tick – we found out about her troubled past, her fractured relationship with her husband, and about the secrets she has kept from even her closest confidantes. In a way, having Annalise return home, and process many of the hardships in her life brought closure to her subplot. While I’m sure the writers have a few more tricks up their sleeves involving her character, it’s nice to have some definitive answers about Annalise’s life and upbringing.
Elsewhere in the hour, the (overlong) Hapstall case (finally) came to a close, with a resolution that was probably a bit rushed but, at the very least, provided some answers and felt realistic. If a bit more time was devoted to the storyline, it probably would have been more satisfying, but I’d honestly be happy if we never hear about the Hapstalls ever again. Other than that, many of the remaining subplots were based largely on character development. We saw how Oliver’s involvement with the team is taking a toll on his relationship with Connor (garnering some worrisome results), and were treated to some wonderful development on Frank’s part after a stunning revelation about a dark deed from his past. The episode also further proved just how much Bonnie has evolved over the course of the series, and actually made some of its more unusual pairings more compelling (maybe Wes and Laurel would make a nice couple after all?) And, the final cliffhanger of the season, which was not driven by character development, proved to be quite a surprise, and I don’t even think I have the slightest idea where they could be heading with it (which is very exciting).
But, of course, this begs the question: what can we expect next season? Series creator Peter Nowalk has tweeted about the occasional “bread crumbs” he drops to hint at future storylines, and my early prediction is that next season will be about the relationship between fathers and their children. Obviously, Wes’ dad will play a huge role in the third season, while Annalise’s dad suddenly returning to her life seems like more than just a coincidence. But what I’m most interested in is Laurel’s many references to her father. While we haven’t gotten any definitive answers, or even major clues, it seems like her father is someone to be feared, and that could open the door for a very interesting storyline.
How to Get Away with Murder is undeniably a melodramatic series. It relies on shocking twists, sudden betrayals, hot sex scenes and a host of other water-cooler moments to keep audiences interested, and it succeeds almost all the time. In terms of sheer entertainment, it’s hard to find something that delivers as consistently as this. But “Anna Mae” proves that it’s more than just a primetime soap opera. There is legitimate thought that goes into writing these characters, and the actors do a wonderful job portraying them, flaws and all. While not a perfect episode, this was a fitting sendoff to a terrific second season. It’ll be a long wait, but I’m looking forward to reuniting with my favorite gang of outrageously good-looking murderers in the fall.
Overall rating: 9 out of 10