How to Get Away with Murder has worn many hats during its four year run. It’s been a psychosexual thriller, a courtroom drama, a spotlight on social issues, and, of course, a murder mystery. It has also been wildly inconsistent in quality: after a first season that was compulsively addictive, it has teetered back and forth from a fun, frothy guilty pleasure to an unbearable slog that felt past its prime.
The latest season finale, titled “Nobody Else Is Dying,” finally revealed why that is: this is a show that doesn’t know what it wants to be. And, based on its tone-deaf season finale, this identity crisis might be the death of the show.
Within seconds, viewers learn it wasn’t Bonnie who died in the car crash that capped last week’s episode, but District Attorney Denver. This sends the Keating 4 into a mad dash to tie up all their loose ends, as the group tries to send Laurel’s father to prison, get custody of baby Christopher, and keep Simon from talking to the police about their involvement in his coma.
These subplots had the same problem as last week’s, however: they are all incredibly boring and far past their prime. It is insane that we are still talking about Laurel’s father, and Simon’s immigration status, this far into the season, with no new elements being introduced in the final hour to provide a jolt of new life to these tired old storylines. The best thing about this finale is that these subplots all seem to be thoroughly wrapped up. Could a hard-reboot be in store for season five? Let’s hope.
But, even if we never hear about the Castillos, or Simon, or Annalise’s mind-blowingly unrealistic class action lawsuit again, the season finale ends on such a bizarre, classless note that the series may be beyond redemption. Over the course of a final monologue, Annalise describes the thesis behind her class-action lawsuit: that a criminal isn’t necessarily a bad person, and that they should be treated with respect and, maybe, even given a second chance.
This sentiment is, of course, true, and easy to get behind. But Annalise’s monologue is accompanied by a montage that showcases the Keating 4, Frank, and Bonnie as they go about their days and attempt to assimilate back into the real world and, frankly, this is a ridiculous sentiment.
The Keating 4 murdered someone. Annalise is responsible for the multiple deaths. Frank and Bonnie have killed countless people for entirely selfish reasons.
And, mere minutes before this montage (spoilers), Michaela has Simon deported to Pakistan, where he could be executed for his sexual orientation – an act which the rest of the group chastises her for, before ultimately forgiving her, despite the fact that two of her closest friends are gay men, her boss is a bisexual woman, and the rest of her peers are allegedly proud allies (end spoilers).
These are not good people – which is fine! This is a soap opera, and is meant to provide entertainment, not lessons in morality. The only problem is that the HTGAWM writers seems to have missed that memo. The idea of sympathizing with these people is insane, and it’s so strange to see the show painting them in such a positive light.
All in all, the fourth season of How to Get Away with Murder felt like a chore. There were moments of greatness, like Bonnie’s professed love for Annalise and the unique development of Simon’s character. But these subplots needed to end much sooner, and the class action lawsuit was a ridiculous arc that belonged on a different show.
But, honestly, the finale ruins just about any goodwill left for the series, as it reveals that the writers don’t understand the very show they created. Remember the first fifteen episodes, where good looking law students tried to cover up a murder, while having kinky sex and trying to discover their professor’s secret past? The writers clearly don’t.
Interestingly enough, this season finale also works as a series finale – there are two, minor cliffhangers, but no twist that will leave audiences speculating for months. Maybe it’s time to put the series out of their misery, and let Viola Davis spend her time on material worthy of her talent.
Overall rating: 2 out of 10