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How To Get Away With Murder - Season 4 Premiere Review: "A Refresh"

The new television season is finally underway, and with that comes the return of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder for it's fourth season. The crime thriller's season premiere was more understated than usual, but its refreshing change in direction looks very promising. "I'm Going Away" was written by showrunner Peter Nowalk, with Jet Wilkinson directing a season premiere for the first time.

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about this premiere was how well structured it was. With everyone essentially separated, the hour initially focused on Laurel, whose father was visiting the university campus. He was heavily involved in the Season 3 death of Wes Gibbins, though he isn't aware how much she knows about that. Laurel steers her father away from visiting her apartment, for reasons unknown, but she did reveal that she was pregnant - minus the details of the father, and had had an abortion. Red flags were waving and alarm bells were ringing all over this scene, and it was the episode's iconic timeshifted closing scene which brought some additional context to this later on.

Annalise, meanwhile, had a sizable part of her season laid out for her in this hour. She spent much of the episode with her parents as the family bickered over what was to happen to her mother, Ophelia, who is in the early stages of dementia. This sequence was generally very well done, but part of me kept thinking that maybe this could have been left out entirely, just so Annalise could perhaps catch a break that contained something positive for a change.

Meanwhile, Asher and Michaela are still an item, as are Connor and Oliver. The former couple was obsessed with buying a new bed, while the latter couple spent most of their time together debating Oliver's marriage proposal from last season's finale. They managed to find some common ground towards the hour's end, which is great because one of the things that drives me up the wall for no reason that I can identify with is couples going on and on about getting married.

We don't need each other any more.

That aside, the hour's 'coming together' moment happened at an upmarket restaurant, and covered the variety of reactions to Annalise's announcement that she's disbanding her practice and letting her interns go. I have to admit I rolled my eyes here because there is no way that the showrunners can run the series without them coming together again, but I'll roll with it for now.

Differing reactions and opinions being expressed by the Keating 4 at big decision moments are nothing new. Laurel looked relieved and somewhat in agreeance with the decision, and was first to take her recommendation letter and depart. Michaela was the most fired up, and clearly disgusted that Annalise was bailing out though law school was only partially completed. Asher was more subdued, but sided with Michaela. Connor, meanwhile, was more satisfied with the decision than anyone else, and even managed to thank Annalise before leaving.

Last to be given her marching orders was Bonnie, who was completely surprised by Annalise's move to let her go as well. Frank didn't feature here at all, despite earlier being seen with Bonnie checking out new office locations.

We're no good for each other.

Through superb use of voiceover, we heard what Annalise had written on each of the recommendation letters she handed out. Asher and Michaela were fired up and immediately set to work on their resumes, while Oliver was rightly bitter that he wasn't involved at all, especially given his larger role in the happenings of last season. Laurel - who told everyone at the table that she was keeping her baby, seemed more obsessed about it than what was to come in the meantime. However the most interesting move of all was Bonnie opting to interview with the DA's office for a role there. This didn't go unnoticed by Nate, who saw Bonnie enter DA Denver's office in his only appearance in the premiere.

Just like last season, Frank was nowhere to be seen either, but he was present at Laurel's bedside in Season 4's newest flash forward mystery. In the final 37 seconds of the premiere, Laurel is seen in a hospital bed, and wakes up to notice her baby is no longer inside her. A mystery therapist, who also appears to be Latino, walks into the room with Frank. In present day, this therapist is seen beginning the first counselling session with Annalise, which was ordered as part of her deal to retain her license to practice law.

Where's my baby!

The showrunners made the right move abandoning an elimination-style flash forward sequence like we saw last season. I'm happy that it's a main character at the center once again, however, as this makes things simpler to follow. Because Laurel is involved, Wes will continue to live on in the story somewhat, and the cynic in me is kind of happy that it's an unborn baby that's in the most danger, as opposed to one of the characters, which is what we've seen in each of the previous seasons. We have very little to work off as is the usual case on premiere night, but I'm already liking where things could go substantially more than in Season 3. Another random thought is that what's happened here may not be a crime at all. Time will surely tell.

Two final points I'd like to cover before I wrap up. Firstly, Annalise's encounter with Desmond on the plane and in the hotel was bizarre and forced, and it didn't fit into the episode. This time could have been used more productively. Secondly, it really is time for the Sam Keating side of things to be phased out for good. That stuff has run its course, so it shouldn't be someone from that side of the family laying a claim to Annalise's burned out house.

In all, things needed a refresh and I'm mostly pleased with what we got. I'm glad the couples last season are still couples this season (for now). The subplot with Annalise and her parents was good, even if it is a dead end eventually, and the early points of interest such as Bonnie working for Denver and Annalise's therapist being involved in the flash forward provide some early intrigue. I can't help but shake the suspicion that the content of the letters of recommendation the students and Bonnie received will play a crucial part in upcoming events, so I'll be keeping an eye out for that.

That's a wrap for this review of How To Get Away With Murder's fourth season premiere. Thanks for reading, and be sure to stop by the comments section below to share your thoughts and theories on what you think is in store for Season 4.

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