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How To Get Away With Murder - Hi, I'm Philip - Review: "Barely Passable"

Passing the halfway point of its sophomore season last night, ABC's How To Get Away With Murder didn't offer up its most compelling hour, but some interesting progress was made nonetheless.

Writer Tanya Saracho and director Jennifer Getzinger couldn't seem to succeed in creating an episode which fit together seamlessly within itself and within the rest of the series thus far. The lack of experience from both was clear and obvious, and with that aspect of the episode - which is normally exceptional - being somewhat MIA, others had to stand up. Fortunately, they did.

With the winter finale due next week, I was surprised to see this episode, titled "Hi, I'm Philip", feature the shortest flash forwards we've seen. I was expecting to see a third flash forward in the middle somewhere giving the timing, but this wasn't to be.

With Bonnie working through some tough emotional issue following her spat with Annalise last week, the only time she received any real screen time was in the first flash forward. Last week, the body of Emily Sinclair descended from the top of the Hapstall mansion and landed in plain view of Michaela, Laurel, Wes and Connor. The flash forward this week picked up moments later and saw the four students and Bonnie meet inside the mansion.

What was interesting here wasn't the event, but the dialog. Bonnie seemed very much in control of the situation.

Don't lie to me. There is no decision here. It was already made, and you agreed, so either you get on board or you're the next dead body out there.

Bonnie then took the gun Wes had in his hand, and left the room, leaving the students behind.

Present day action took place between two and three days prior to the Hapstall mansion incident. Events kicked off late in the evening when Annalise took a selfie and sent it to 'Mama'. Interrupted by a knock at the door - the first of several in this hour - Annalise found Nate outside. As the episode progressed, Nate and Annalise began to close the canyon that had grown between them during the recent trial. It was interesting to watch, but not all that captivating. The episode could have definitely got by without this because there was a lot more interesting stuff to come that needed to be addressed.

Chief of those was Philip and Oliver. Last week's episode cliffhanger saw Oliver arrive home to find Philip already in his apartment. Naturally, we all feared the worst, and Connor was not thrilled at all as we saw in a group meeting where an animated Connor fumed at Annalise. Laurel tried to offer some consolation but was instantly rebuffed:

It only takes a second to kill someone, Laurel.

Jack Falahee had a particularly strong episode. He was a cut above the rest.

Credit to Tanya Saracho - she did nail the twist concerning the missing Oliver, with the pair turning up unannounced to office where Oliver revealed the pair were talking about various things in another bar not far away. A very apologetic Annalise tried but failed to prevent a Philip from considering the possibility of suing her. It's a small mistake on its own, but it has massive potential ramifications later down the track as we saw when he made a statement to police. Nate managed to mitigate some of the risk by altering police records, but this is something that Philip would have the skills to learn of and exploit. It's a band-aid, but it's nowhere enough to stop the bleeding.

Laurel had slightly better fortunes than all but one of the students in this hour. With Bonnie out of action, Annalise promoted Laurel to the position and she coped reasonably well. Frank was perhaps lucky not to receive a demotion as he was tasked with getting a DNA sample of Philip's tested to compare against one found at the Hapstall mansion when the Hapstall parents were murdered.

Miss Castillo could be me one day.

It was a match, but it came just in time as Catherine was seconds away to confessing to the murders of her parents. Caleb had earlier threatened to do the same, with both supposedly taking this course of action to save the other. It was sparked by prosecutor Sinclair offering the pair a plea deal in exchange for a guilty plea. But the whole thing stank to me. This was so out of character for the siblings, and writing them in such a way that they were accusing Annalise of not getting anything done was a low blow too.

The whole fiasco was a vehicle to accomplish two things. The first was getting Michaela in bed with Caleb.

It's time to break out the boobs again.

It worked. After winning in court, Michaela went to visit Caleb where they subsequently had sex. Michaela might have also had her first orgasm too. But after all the bedroom antics, Caleb showed Michaela the location of a gun, hidden behind a vent cover - as are so, so many murder weapons and paraphernalia in movies and television these days. That moment closed the episode in present day, and introduced the final flash forward scene. More on that later.

The second thing the aforementioned fiasco accomplished was forcing Catherine and Wes to interact. Wes's sex life has been non-existent in this entire season, and honestly I wouldn't have minded if he saw some action here, but no. Wes was invited to the mansion by Catherine and saw her array of family portraits in her studio. The significance of the huge painting in the room where Annalise was shot suddenly gained relevance as she was the one who painted it. Later on, Wes received one of Catherine's paintings via courier.

Laurel's luck was second only to Asher as he scored big when he connected the dots and realised that the reason Sinclair had earlier gone after his father was to get a wiretap approved for Annalise's office. With this information, the students and Frank had a field day sifting through the mountain of paperwork Sinclair had left for them, only to find the bug in a pen. A staged discussion later resulted in Sinclair sending a significant search party to the Hapstall mansion to search for a fictional gun.

This was nothing but a power play for Annalise, and though she exploited the bug - which is what anyone would do - throwing suspicion of the location of the murder weapon back toward the original crime scene was a bit short sighted. I would have sent Sinclair and her search party to another location entirely, or toward a tactic she would pretend to play at court. Annalise is pretty good at playing the long game, but not in this case. Not the best bit of writing in my opinion.

The last few minutes of the hour were rather bizarre, and it almost felt to me as if director Jennifer Getzinger was trying to direct a porn film as she cross cut between not one, not two, not three, but four couples getting some bedroom action, except for Connor and Oliver who chose the lecture theater Annalise uses as a location for their escapades. Simultaneously, Laurel was getting oral, Michaela was getting her first orgasm, and Annalise and Nate were rekindling their flame. Yeah, fine, this show includes sex, but seriously, the show's title is "How To Get Away With Murder", not, "How To Get Laid". Those precious moments most definitely could have been better spent

The episode did improve slightly in the final minute, however. The way the painting he'd been given by Catherine was sitting triggered Wes's memory of a photo of Philip he'd seen. Rushing around to Annalise's house late that night, Wes barged in, ignoring Nate's presence, and sure enough, in the background of the photo was one of Catherine's paintings. A crosscut to the art studio where Caleb had located the gun saw him utter five very important words:

What if she killed them?

The final flash forward duly followed - all 15 seconds of it. A worried Catherine is waiting in the drivers seat of a car. Philip approaches and enters. They greet each other. Then, Philip says the following:

Don't worry. I'm gonna take care of this.

An important thing to note here is the fact that Philip and Catherine said Hi to each other. This implies that this meeting takes place before the events at the Hapstall mansion. It also makes it safe to assume that what the pair are about to do are premeditated. And that allows some dots to be joined.

The episode's first flash forward must have happened prior to Annalise being shot too. That would mean Sinclair was dead and biffed off the top floor by Bonnie before Annalise was shot. Bonnie and Connor were yet to get stained with Annalise's blood.

So what was Annalise doing at the mansion? I'm thinking she arrived later, after Sinclair was dead. Bonnie and the students were there prior to that. I don't think Sinclair was killed by either Catherine or Philip - they were setting out to do something else in the episode's final flash forward. The reason for this is that Bonnie implied Sinclair's death was part of the plan. That means biffing her body off the balcony was a way of staging a crime scene - again, premeditated.

But where do Philip and Catherine feature in that case? An outside, but very real possibility, is that they were going to kill Caleb. This would explain why Michaela went to meet Caleb after Annalise was shot. Caleb was definitely concerned at the time, implying he was aware he was in danger, and Michaela had to play along, which is rather odd. Frank could have foiled Catherine and Philip's plan by killing Philip and subduing Catherine and leaving her in the woods near the mansion.

Some time before that, Annalise was shot at the mansion. I'm still comfortable with my thinking that it was accidental because it fits much more closely with the actions of the other characters after the shooting. Although Wes had a gun, it's unlikely he shot Annalise as his judgement is much better than that. The big unknown is Asher's actions. He had to have been somewhere while Bonnie was inside dealing with Sinclair's body. Was he elsewhere in the mansion helping Bonnie, and was armed when he was surprised by Annalise? Anyone's guess is as good as mine.

In all, this episode had its good moments, but bizarre scenes, out of character actions and time wasting dragged this episode down significantly. It was barely passable as a penultimate winter finale for a show of this calibre. The vastly experienced and classy Bill D'Elia directs next week's finale which is written by Michael Foley & Erika Green Swafford. I've got little doubt that that side of next week's episode will be up to scratch.

As always, thanks so much for reading! I'm really keen to hear and discuss your thoughts and theories on the episode so make sure you jump in the comments below and make them known. I didn't find the episode that great for all the reasons I mentioned and I'm interested to see whether you thought the same. Check out next week's episode promo here and press release here. I'm super pumped for next week's episode, and I hope you are too. Catch you all back here next week!

About the Author - Jimmy Ryan
Jimmy Ryan lives in New Zealand, and works in the IT industry. He is an avid follower of drama television and has a keen interest for television ratings and statistics. Some of his favorite shows right now are Person of Interest, Scandal, House of Cards, Orphan Black, Mr. Robot, Suits, The 100, How To Get Away With Murder, Elementary and Castle. You can visit his television ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com or follow him on Twitter, @SeriesMonitor.
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