This here is a quick notice that there will be spoilers ahead.
So, I had no plans to write this initially, but I had a lot of thoughts that I needed to process, and so, i figured: Why the hell not. When it was announced that How To Get Away With Murder had been renewed for a sixth and final season, I remember thinking: About time.
See, I had stopped watching the show around the fourth season, right around the time that the show really became unbearable for me. Wes Gibbons had died the season before, and the fourth season’s mystery just wasn’t as captivating.
My problem with the show after Wes’ death is that it lost its edge and became convoluted. It felt like the writers suddenly felt the need to make things overly complicated to keep us guessing, which, in their defence, was part of the hallmark of what made the show such an addictive watch in its earlier seasons.
However, like Game of Thrones and a lot of shows before it, I think the writers learnt the wrong lessons. The characters are what makes a show/film/book compelling. So, if you spend so much time on making the plot as shocking as possible without focusing the same energy on the characters you are writing, it tends to fall flat.
The new characters introduced in the later seasons were just not as compelling as what we got before. For instance, having seen the series finale, I find myself thinking: Does the story change if Gabriel is taken out of the story? Was Gabriel really that relevant that he demanded as much focus that was placed on him and the mystery surrounding his parentage?
Personally, I never found that character to be compelling enough to have him around for so long. His arc really could have been wrapped up in a half season. The audience jokingly calling him “Wes 2.0” has a lot of truth to it. It felt to me like the writers were trying to make a character like Wes – you know, a character whose past is shrouded in parental mystery and who is connected to Annalise Keating in a way that makes you question if she is somehow related to him.
The Castillos and Governor Lynne Birkhead as antagonists to Annalise and the gang didn’t work either, the latter especially. I would have loved for time to be spent with that character. Let me as the audience understand her choices, her motivations. If she is going to be the Big Bad, the least the writers could do was devote time to her. Instead, she is mostly an off-screen antagonist who is somehow connected to everything bad that happens in the later seasons of the show. The character feels undercooked and by extension every plot connected to her.
I understood Sam Keating’s choices and motives. I understood the Hapstalls’ motives, and even that of a lesser developed character like Hannah Keating. I found these characters to be compelling because time was devoted to crafting them. Governor Birkhead and, to a lesser degree, the Castillos felt like an afterthought.
When characters start acting out-of-character just to service the plot of the show, it feels dishonest to me as a viewer. These are a bunch of things I don’t buy:
1. Nate Lahey’s sudden decent into stupidity, rashness and murder (I am really annoyed by this)
2. Wes and Laurel as a couple, and Laurel’s declaration that he was the love of her life
3. Bonnie and Frank as a couple
4. Governor Birkhead’s motives for killing Nate Lahey Sr.
5. Jorge Castillo’s reasoning for attempting to take away Laurel’s child, Christopher
The last one was particularly confusing, because Jorge hated his daughter and Wes together; he was relieved when she told him she had gotten rid of the pregnancy. And yet, when the child was born, he fought hard to take him away from her? LOL. WHY?!!!!!!
I also firmly believe that the show killed off the wrong main cast member in the third season. Now, I am no fan of Wes; if you read my weekly recaps of the show in the earlier seasons, you’d know that. However, I feel like he was the wrong character to kill off, and the show never really recovered from that.
The writers wrote themselves into a corner with that one. And I know this because they really struggled to come up with a reason for Wes’ murder. And whatever they came up with just felt like a cop-out. I have asked a lot of people this question: “Who killed Wes and Why?” And they always struggle to give me a straight answer, because the writers really had to contort themselves to get out of what they had written.
However, in all my criticism of HTGAWM, you have to understand that I am hard on it because I loved it so much and it was really hard to watch it drop in quality so steeply and quickly.
But, when I heard it was ending, I figured I should catch up. I still loved these characters and would like to know to how they would all fare in the end. I wanted to know if they actually got away with murder.
So I caught up from the fourth season all the way to the sixth, and it was a chore; to my non-surprise, the show was still plagued with all the things that made me stop watching initially. However, I powered through. I had to see how it’ll end.
A special person was also instrumental in getting me to keep watching even when I didn’t feel like it. They are such a huge fan of the show, and the show seemed to have made an impact on them in a way that it didn’t on me, and I wanted to understand why.
By the penultimate episode, these writers had still not begun to answer unanswered questions from seasons ago and were instead raising more questions. Frank Delfino is now the incest child of Sam and Hannah Keating (another plot point that I really hate because of how shoddy and messy it was handled). And as though that wasn’t enough, Hannah Keating is murdered, and we had one episode to go!
I told my person that I didn’t expect the showrunners to pull it off. And that if they delivered a GOT-style finale, I’d be incredibly scathing in my review. I mean, they had 43 minutes to tie everything together, and I was very doubtful that they’d pull it off. I was also low-key hoping they would somehow do it.
So, I saw the HTGAWM finale. And did they pull it off? Well, kinda.
The show rushes to the finish line to tie up all the loose ends. And that’s where the finale proves to be weak. A two-hour finale would have given things room to breathe. But with the 43-odd minutes, you can tell that a lot of things were cut.
However, where it soars is in the treatment of its core characters. I feel like everyone got the ending they not only deserved but which was honest to their characters.
I have mixed feelings about the Wes fake-out in the fall finale. The fact that that character ended up being Wes’ son is just believable enough…just.
I love that Oliver Hampton and Connor Walsh are still together in the flash-forward. That couple means everything to me, and I’m glad they get the happy ending they deserve.
I love that Michaela Pratt ends up getting what she wants but at the expense of her friendships. She is alone and without her friends when she gets what she’s been ambitious for.
I love that Annalise ends up with Tegan Price, and lives a long beautiful life. (That shot of an older Annalise on the beach with the light framing her face in a way that makes her look like her mother, Ophelia, is goddamn poetic).
Connor going to jail also felt right. That character has always struggled with wanting to do the right thing.
Bonnie and Frank’s end felt just right too. I loved it.
However, I think that what I loved most was the final scene, the parallels with the pilot. Christopher Castillo calling Annalise his mentor coupled with the shot of Annalise in the class as he says the words “How to get away with murder” feels like wish-fulfilment, but goddamnit, I’ll take it!
I loved it.
And so, did they get away with murder? I don’t think so. I think they all suffer consequences of their actions. Every single one of them. Strangely, the only person I think that gets away with murder is…Nate Lahey. Think about it. He kills two people and faces no consequences for his actions.
Ultimately, I think the finale works because the writers know who these characters are at their core and gave them a send-off that they deserved.
I can’t believe the show is over, even though I wanted it to. I feel sad about saying goodbye to these characters. HTGAWM was such a monumental cultural shift. And even though it lost me along the way, I still feel such a deep connection with these people it put in my life.
How To Get Away With Murder was revolutionary and groundbreaking. It was honest and thrilling. And to that end, I’d like to say a hearty “Thank you” to someone who doesn’t get enough credit: Pete Nowalk. Sir, if you are reading this: Thank you for just everything you’ve done with this show.
Viola Davis, you are incomparable. Enough said.
Jack Falahee and Conrad Ricamora: thank you for your honesty in portraying what is one of my favourite depictions of queer love ever onscreen. It means everything to me as a queer man.
To the rest of the cast, Aja Naomi King, Alfred Enoch, Karla Souza, Liza Weil, Charlie Weber, Matt McGorry, Billy Brown, Amirah Vann and others: thank you for all your hard work. You are all brilliant and I am really excited to see what you all do next in your careers.