This is ludicrous fun, cocktail-shaken for commercial television, ticking multiple boxes in a way that not many US network shows have done in a long time. I have to dip my hat to Shonda Rhimes who appears have devised a title first and story later for a broad, short-attention span audience.
This centres around a law class full of cute, bright university students learning under Criminal Law Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis). She is f-i-e-r-c-e to the point of ridiculousness with her strict demeanour and barking rules, but she provides enormous fun.
Amongst a sexy clique of students is Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch), a wide-eyed boyish student on his first day at University. Keating puts him under the gun -figuratively- on Day One of class but he is determined to make a good impression when he isn’t distracted by the girl living in the room next door.
Keating presents a case she is trying to her students, with a woman convicted of the attempted murder of her lover with aspirin. Their first assignment involves them finding legal arguments to defend the case, but it is pitched as a class competition. The winner gets to work at her law firm (she may have a lot of interns by the end of episode 22). While there are procedural twists and turns, Rhimes cleverly uses this device like an episode of Survivor.
Yet there is more to Keating than her methodology and instruction. Her private life harbours its own
secrets and indiscretions, which Wes stumbles upon. It creates a nice subtext between the teacher and pupil.
Also part of the intrigue is the non-linear storytelling at play here, with flash-forwards that show the students knee-deep in their own criminal case (hint: look to the title). We are seeing more and more television shows that depict the beginning and the end, leaving us to uncover just what went on in the middle (thank you, Damages).
One gay sub-plot initially had me worried, but took a playful detour.
How to Get Away with Murder plays its attributes very well. It’s fast, fun, sexy and clever. You will forgive the plot points that stretch credibility because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Episode 2 is even more absurd….
Viola Davis eats up this anti-hero role up for breakfast, and probably spits it out. I wouldn’t trust Annalise Keating for a minute, but I’d sure as hell want her to defend me in court.
How to Get Away with Murder airs 9pm Tuesday on Seven.