A fight for justice

By Aimen Siddiqui
Fri, 01, 18

A show in its earlier years of success and popularity chooses to be less experimental....


A show in its earlier years of success and popularity chooses to be less experimental. It takes a shift after winning the confidence of its existing audience. This is exactly what How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM) did. Although the first three seasons of the show were equally good, there is not much to say about them because the initial seasons were more focused on the life of Annalise Keating and her team of five aspiring lawyers. In each episode, characters were given a situation and the plot of the episode would revolve around how characters reacted under the given circumstances. Their actions were limited to their own small world which the majority couldn’t ideally relate to.

The fast-paced HTGAWM is back after its winter break. Although the mid-season finale turned out to be a filler episode, the plot built up till now is quite promising. Annalise Keating’s class-action suit will give the underprivileged a chance of fair representation while simultaneously fighting the flawed justice system of the US, offering the audience a glimpse into the system’s biasness and its ‘don’t care’ attitude towards people who are part of the minority.

The fourth season has gone beyond the world of main characters, and the first thing it did was to uncover the incompetency shown by the DA’s office while handling the cases of people belonging to minority groups. What triggered the class action suit was Jasmine - the woman Annalise befriended in jail. Jasmine was a prostitute and a drug addict. Annalise made a compelling point; the present life of Jasmine was the result of negligence of the authorities who fail to have adequate response to the plight of people who do not have enough means to afford their bail. That the system exploits their vulnerability is what Annalise argued in the court. The case presented Annalise with a well deserved victory which drove her to expose the ugly truth of the system.

In the past, many entertainment shows would refrain from any kind of political or social commentary. For a long time, this strategy didn’t invite intelligent debates, partly due to the presence of low-choice media environment and partly due to the fact that entertainment shows were only viewed as a work of fiction, divorced from reality.

The necessity of adding a political voice in TV shows rose when the TV industry underwent an evolution which resulted in the birth of more channels, offering more choices to audience. There were channels dedicated to news and political debates, sports, music, movies, and other TV shows including sitcoms and drama series. The passive learning approach couldn’t be used for an audience exposed to this environment; for example, a news bulletin, sandwiched between the two most watched shows, cannot be run on an entertainment channel to compel an audience to watch the bulletin before enjoying the next show.

It now depends on show creators how to use the 20-40 minute time slot awarded to them by the channel - which unfortunately still controls what goes on the TV - and how to engage people who have little to no political inclination. There is no denying that Shonda Rhimes, the producer of HTGAWM, has made the most out of the time slot awarded to her for this particular show.

It has been established that Annalise Keating is not a saint. She is not the hero we are used to of watching. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it. If she ought to win the case, she will win the case. If she ought to cover up a murder, she would do so. She is not guided by the voices of right or wrong. For some, maybe she doesn’t have a conscience. Understanding her character is difficult and requires an empathetic heart and an intelligent mind. For example, the first episode showed her cheating on her loving husband. On the other hand, the rest of the episodes would reveal that her husband was playing around with a girl half his age. One episode would show how she’d cover up the murder of an attorney, while another season would uncover what she went through when a person close to her died in a tragic fire incident.

Coming back to the main plot of the season, the Wes murder case. The mid-season finale episode of HTGAWM was probably the darkest episode ever made in the history of TV. We saw a pregnant woman getting stuck in an elevator. We saw her crying in pain with a human body struggling to come out of her body. We saw the elevator’s floor covered in a pool of blood. We saw Annalise desperately trying to get the baby out of the elevator. We felt the hopelessness in her voice when she begged the infant to live. ‘Live. Live. Live.’

Readers, we shouldn’t give away all the details; if you have enjoyed the review, what about binge watching HTGAWM.

About the show

The show revolves around Annalise Keating, a defence attorney and professor who taught Criminal Law at the prestigious Middleton University before the institution fired her. The Keating 5, which is now reduced to Keating 4 after the tragic death of Wes, is the name given to the group of students, Laurel Castillo, Wes Gibbins, Asher Millstone, Michaela Pratt and Connor Walsh, chosen by Annalise during their first year at the university to help her with her cases. Annalise and the Keating 5, along with Bonnie and Frank who work for Annalise, have to tackle criminal cases in a world where it is difficult to trust your own shadow. On top of that, almost each one of them is directly or indirectly involved in the murder of some people close to them. Things got ugly when in Season 3, Wes was murdered. Annalise was wrongfully blamed for committing the murder. The accusation landed her in jail. But she put her brains in action and found a way to get out of the pit. This season shows that Laurel, Wes’s girlfriend, has finally connected all the dots and now believes that her father killed Wes. She had a plan, an ill-thought-out, to take revenge. The plan had a shaky start and an awful ending, putting two lives in danger.