‘How to Get Away With Murder’ Season Finale: Time to Rethink the Format? (SPOILERS)

How to Get Away With Murder
ABC/Mitch Haaseth

Is it too late to turn “How to Get Away With Murder” into a limited series, one of those shows that hits the reset button – while keeping star Viola Davis – in each new season? Because the ABC drama’s frenetic second-season finale — which circled all the way back to the show’s beginnings, while ending (predictably) with yet another murder — makes a pretty strong case for it.

Not only did the finale work in the aforementioned flourishes (and SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched), but it found time to have Davis’ character, powerhouse attorney Annalise Keating, take refuge from the craziness by visiting her family in Memphis. Although that provided some helpful background about the character – and offered the great Cicely Tyson an extended guest shot as her mother – it resulted in an extremely hurried finish, as Annalise magically returned and resolved this season’s year-long murder mystery, before the unfortunate Wes (Alfred Enoch) happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time yet again. (And incidentally, what a waste of Adam Arkin, literally and figuratively.)

“Murder” made a name for itself initially with plenty of “OMG” twists for which the Shondaland dramas are known, built around the question of who murdered Annalise’s philandering husband, Sam (Tom Verica, who lives on thanks to flashbacks). It also subjected her crop of insanely ambitious students to a series of increasingly perilous encounters, as they balanced their burning desire to win her approval against the crimes and cover-ups with which they were associated.

By now, however, the cascading crises have all become more than a little ridiculous — lurching from juicy to messy, from complex to convoluted. And while the writers deserve credit for cleverly tying Wes’ tragic youth back into the whole plot via protracted flashback sequences, the sexual liaisons – including Wes’ flirtation with Laurel (Karla Souza) and lusty encounters between Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Asher (Matt Mcgorry) – have begun to feel mostly like the writers are simply exhausting the lineup of possible combinations.

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Give the series bonus points for managing to maintain its continuity throughout this time-twisting season, what with all those hairstyling issues to ponder between now and “10 years ago.” Yet it’s hard to escape a nagging sense that the concept wasn’t built to last years on end, with the practical solution being to close out this story and introduce a new group of students, with fresh young minds to poison and souls to corrupt.

That at least would bring freshness to a show that has somewhat prematurely headed into the downward part of its life cycle ratings-wise. Based on Nielsen data, “Murder” has declined nearly 20% compared to first-quarter 2015 in both overall viewing and the key 18-49 demographic, weighted down in part, to be fair, by lead-in “Scandal’s” even steeper decline.

Thanks to the show’s first-season success, those numbers don’t necessarily require hitting the panic button, and there are still elements here to like. Davis’ Emmy-winning role wasn’t a fluke. It’s just that it increasingly feels like the series boasts a sensational performance by a world-class actress — playing a wonderfully complicated character — in what’s otherwise a pretty mundane vehicle.

Granted, as crimes against TV go, that would fall under the heading of a misdemeanor at best. But if the network and producers really want to continue “Getting Away With Murder,” they might think about getting away, sooner rather than later, from the current story, which, for all its “OMG” moments, is generating a few too many apt to make one think “Gimme a break.”

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  1. dee says:

    There’s no reason to break the show up into two half-seasons. By the time the 2nd “half” comes along, I’m trying to remember not only the 1st “half” but also the 1st season. There are so many people on the show that I get confused.

    Let me put it this way – at nearly the very end, someone was looking for “Frank”. I’ve seen every episode since HTGAWM began but I couldn’t help – I wondered who the heck Frank was! (I’m still trying to remember).

    Also – apparently the blonde ass’t told Annalise about what happened to her baby and who was really responsible… how did the blonde find out? And is the baby the reason for Sam’s murder? I thought it was something else!

    Obviously, I’m very confused. I guess I’m going to have to watch the entire season – or perhaps not. Davis is perfect for the role as well as Tyson as her mother but that’s about it.

  2. Michael Anthony says:

    Just like every other TAIT show, “Murder” has gone off the rails. “Grays” because it turned into nothing but dysfunctional relationships ando unbelievable plots. Would you check into a hospital that had so many disasters? It’s a joke. “Scandal” was pergect, but then they put her job and team on the backburner, and focused on the bed hopping. When you feel you know a xharacter, like Olivia, you shouldn’t be going “why is she doing that” every other show! And kill the patents, once and for all.
    “Murder” has also descended into bed hopping and a murder, with everyone involved, every few weeks. You’d think there would be one moral character, on this and the other 2 shows, but they are all idiots. Graduate them, put them into a practice together, get Viola out of school, and focus on strange crimes and their personal lives. Lives that are lived AWAY from each other at night.
    If all 3 were oatients, I’d list two of the three as dying, and the 3rd, “Murder”, as brain dead and on life support.

  3. Annie says:

    I actually stopped watching it about 4 episodes ago because it’s too frenetic. Too many plots and plot twists. It’s actually TOO layered. A nice smooth story line without all the flashbacks (some are okay but..) could work next season and BTW how long is a semester or school year at that school anyway. Isn’t it time for Ms. Keating to get new students? I can suspend disbelief only for so long.

  4. Jacques Strappe says:

    It’s ridiculous AND it’s a real hoot to watch, one of television’s most exhilarating addictive hours, along with Scandal which now feels just a little less outrageous and frenetic compared to Murder now.. Both Murder’s and Scandal’s rating and viewer numbers increase somewhere in the vicinity of 100% or more weekly in 7 day delayed DVR viewing and that doesn’t even include streaming views. The old axiom used to be that only real fans watch their favorite shows live. Our household typically records or streams all of our most favorite, can’t miss shows for our viewing when we have the fewest distractions to enhance the viewing experience. We are all huge, huge fans of the entire TGIT lineup but rarely (2 or 3 times a season) watch it live because we don’t have to and we no longer have the luxury of watching much live prime time television anymore..

  5. Dusntan says:

    Brian Lowry has summed up just about everything that’s wrong with “traditional” network TV; shows go on interminably, running out of steam and any semblance of creativity. I’ll take “Happy Valley,” “Peaky Blinders,” “Daredevil,” “The Musketeers” and numerous other limited one-hour series over this kind of silliness.

  6. It was good says:

    I don’t like the idea of wishing it was a limited series as you said at first, in which case they should just focus on a case per season. But anyway… I do agree on the random pairings they get, like trying to see which one works best.

    I still think the show has a lot of future if they keep these mysteries even more tied to the characters, they should probably stay off their comfort zone and start killing one of the main ones each season to make it even more interesting.

  7. aashish says:

    agreed! the whole series is getting more stupid and they are lengthening each episode just to reach the 42min mark per episode. I had to fast forward most of the episode this season.

    Last season i was just glued to it.
    Spoiler alert!!!
    If you are watching the finale of Season 2, just watch the last 12-15min. It will cover for everything.

  8. Sam says:

    I absolutely love the show! Of course there’s another, its demanded by the show. Personally the idea of bringing in all new students is horrible to me. I love the Keating 5/6. While Wes had some good storylines this season, his actual character just bother me beyond belief. I like Michaela a lot (although it is very weird to have her with Asher. And Laurel continues to intrigue me to learn more about her life. Plus Connor and Oliver have all sorts of juicy goodness. I’m not completely sure how I feel about the finale.
    It did come off as a bit too much of a slow pace contracted with a ton of stuff in 5 minutes, but thats typical of HTGAWM.
    Personally I don’t get why people are so confused by timelines. Just pay attention. This isn’t a show you can talk over and do other stuff while you watch and still get the gist. It’s like when people complained about the Lost timeline. Just pay close attention and it all makes sense.

    • Dusntan says:

      Sam, your comparison to “Lost” is more apt than you realize. While I’ve not seen “HTGAWM,” I did watch the first three episodes of “Lost.” It was obvious even then that this was a show that would careen out of control which is exactly what it did. I knew right away I did not want to devote all those hours to watching the lurching and struggling the writers were going through just to get to some ridiculous finale.

  9. Rena Moretti says:

    The ratings are much worse than Mr. Lowry indicates.

    They are at 4 million viewers.

    if ABC hadn’t made the decision to double down on a lineup that already cost it 15% of its viewers, HTGAWM wold be gone.

    It was never a hit and now is a flop.

    All that in two shortened seasons…

    • Dee says:

      That is not entirely accurate. The show had 8 million in September and has declined, but to say it was always a flop is just not true. The show also picks up millions of additional viewers through delayed viewing and consistently is the top nationwide trender on Twitter every week. Last week ended up at 7 million after counting delayed views. It has a fiercely loyal following. It is not a flop, or it would not have been renewed. I have my theory on why the ratings dropped, but it is not politically correct, so I will keep that to myself.

      That said, the show is in danger of being ridiculous. How many murders can one group of people be involved in? However, the acting is top notch and the show is exciting.

    • It’s actually the third ranked show on tv.

      Tv shows r not getting huge views anymore by the way it was 5.44mil views and that is really high compared to the rest of the shows,only modern family and big bang theory pull more viewers.Not as bad as how you’re making it out to be,and everyone knows it was a hit cut the crap,i will agree that season2 is not as good as season 1 tho.

  10. Cam says:

    This is one show that is firing on all cylinders — I almost gave up on the show through the beginning of the second season but the show has paid off so much that I am so happy to be part of the ride. The most satisfying show on the air and so suspenseful– I urge everyone to start from th beginning and hang on

    • Gil Longin says:

      I think one or more of the cylinders may be misfiring. I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal because the plot lines became just plain stupid. HTGAWM seems headed in that direction.

  11. JJ says:

    I tried, I really tried to like this show. But it’s an incoherent, overwrought melodrama on steroids geared for the ADD crowd. Call it “complicated” if you will, I call it a plot driven mess. Frankly, as the screen kept jumping from endless flashbacks to endless flash forwards, I kept longing for simple story telling so I could figure out what the hell was going on. Viola Davis is a wonderful actress but she needs more than a script that calls for her to vacillate between being a hard as nails bitch on wheels and a puddle of tears. I dare any actress to make that character even vaguely sympathetic. Maybe it should have been titled How to Get Away With Bad Writing.

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