Season 3 of How to Get Away with Murder has a much more concise, emotionally driven narrative. Unfortunately, the build up was hardly worth it. Here’s the good, and the bad from this season.
Spoilers for the Season 3 finale
It’s no secret that many fans didn’t enjoy the Hapstall storyline in Season 2. The characters weren’t compelling enough, and the whole case felt forced and disconnected from everything else. Season 3 fixes that mistake by focusing on the main characters, as well as making every conflict as personal as possible.
- The narrative in Season 3 is less cluttered. Sure, there is still A LOT going on during the finales, but the rest of the season is pretty straight-forward. The cases weren’t too convoluted, and the show focused on answering questions rather than creating new ones (that is, until the finale). Annalise’s past and her connection to Wes and the Mahoneys is finally resolved, and everything is about the Keating 5 and the adults. The stakes are also higher this time because the victim happens to be the main character. We just have to give credit where it’s due: very few shows dare to kill off their main character.
- Connor: love him or hate him. Connor’s character journey in this season has been conflicting, to say the least. His breakup with Oliver was what finally pushed him over the edge after he had already started losing his sanity during the Hapstall case. Connor was a red herring for most of the first half of the season, but everything finally comes out in the finale. The thing about Connor is that he’s the most underdeveloped of the Keating 5. Annalise even tries to psychoanalyze him in the finale, but we still know very little about him. Perhaps that’s why I still want to be cautious with him. Connor is as guilty as everyone else, but there’s still a lot of contextualization needed for his behavior. He said he didn’t want to run away because he had to protect Oliver, but was it actually because he didn’t want to be alone like Annalise said?
- Speaking of Oliver, he also gets a lot of characterization in this season as he consolidates himself as part of the Keating 5 (especially now that Wes is gone). The logic behind his hacking is still pretty laughable, but he’s a breath of fresh air in a group full of corrupted individuals.
- Overall, we got to see a lot of character development from everyone. Laurel was, next to Connor, the one with the most relevant role. Just like Connor is driven by panic and guilt (and who knows what else), Laurel is driven by grief. Which, understandably, causes her to say some harsh thing, and even nearly commit a grave mistake right at the end. Michaela and Asher‘s relationship was fun to see, although Michaela’s love issues got a bit repetitive. There was not much else to discover from Bonnie, but it was about time we got all that character background from Frank. Seeing him kneel down in front of Annalise was one of the most powerful moments in the finale and in the season as a whole.
- The ending scene with Annalise opening up about Wes. Wes might not have been Annalise’s biological son, but he was by all means her son. The show had been holding back from showing Annalise’s true reaction to Wes’ death, and it was to give Viola Davis that one moment of raw sadness in the last scene of the finale.
When writing the reviews for the first half of the season, I mentioned how if the show wanted to remain somewhat realistic, they would have to either tone it down or make some drastic changes. And yes, Wes’ death is drastic, but its consequences are as unfair as they are underwhelming.
- The Mahoneys: the most obvious, yet boring option. Despite how big of a role they had in the lives of the two main characters, Annalise and Wes, the Mahoneys are just so… boring. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that the writers did little to introduce the characters of the family. Yes, we know they are bad people, but there are many ways to make villains interesting, and that’s something the show has failed to do time and time again. The Mahoneys were that one card that the writers kept using when convenient.
- Denver, really? He was among the least suspected to have killed Wes, but that’s only because there was little to suspect of him. We don’t really know the motive behind Denver’s actions, let alone why he was in cahoots with Dominic and Laurel’s father. One of the best things about the show is how fun it is to come up with all kinds of crazy theories, but all that speculation is pointless if we are not given the necessary clues to call the revelations. Dominic came out of nowhere, and Denver is more of a concept than a character so far. Obviously, we will have to wait until Season 4 to get the full picture, but that’s not enough to get the audience hooked. The problem here is that it’s no longer a matter of hype and curiosity, but more of waiting for the show to give us an explanation for the cop out.
- The over-the-top fights are getting old. Characters yelling at each other has become a recurring trope at this point. The number of fights doesn’t mean much if everyone will go back to helping each other in the end, even if it’s to benefit themselves. The finale had Laurel literally telling an already suicidal Connor to go kill himself. Yes, it’s still intense, mainly thanks to the incredible acting and the emotional weight of the scenes, but all the yelling is starting to get redundant at this point.
- Wasn’t this show about Law students? The beginning of the season saw the return to the classrooms, but it lasted very little. Having the Keating 5 mentioning exams every now and then is just not enough. The introduction of Simon Drake to call them out was an interesting one, but what was really the point of him in the long run? To be honest, I even expected him to be Wes’ killer at some point. I mean, they even had him show up at his memorial to say insensitive things! It wouldn’t be the first time this show has had different alternate endings for a season, so it would not surprise me if Simon being involved in the fire was one of them.
Wes Gibbins: A Necessary Tragedy?
Perhaps the most outrageous thing about the Season 3 finale is that Wes is the one being blamed for everything. Orphaned, mentally ill, innocent Wes. The one who deserves bad things the least is the one who dies, and the one who gets all the blame for killing both Sam AND Rebecca. He’s also said to have committed suicide, with his real killer being left unknown (for now). The character’s demise is understandably infuriating. However, the blame for this injustice should probably be placed more on the characters than on the show.
Why? Well, one could argue whether Wes’ death was justifiable? We had already seen everything we could see from him. And since the character had not been very proactive lately, it’s not like we will be missing a piece that’s crucial to any plot line. Sure, that is not enough reason to kill off a character, especially when that person was the only innocent one out of the group. But perhaps that was the whole point. The tragedy of Wes’ life and death is the point the show has been trying to make all along: they are bad people. Ironically, it’s something that both Laurel and Connor can agree with.
The first episode of the season was titled “We’re good people now,” while the middle season finale was “We’re all bad people.” The thing is, no matter how well-intentioned they are, they cannot call themselves “good people” anymore. They cannot get away with murder by being a good person. Hell, they cannot be a good person if they plan to get away with it in the first place. Whether it be because of Annalise, or life circumstances, all the characters are to blame for something. The fact that Wes had to pay for everyone else’s crime was the biggest tragedy.