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How To Get Away With Murder - Winter Finale Review: "A Chaotic Mess"

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The flash forwards for this season of How To Get Away With Murder have been a big disappointment, but could the ABC thriller win some critics over with its winter finale? In my humble opinion, no. "Live. Live. Live." was written by Joe Fazzio and directed by Rob Hardy.

On the surface, the winter finale was an excellent episode. The acting was on point, the storytelling was reasonably clear and concise, and from a technical perspective, the cinematography and score were lifted up a notch. However all of this was undermined by a narrative that attempted to go even bigger and better than before, with multiple tragedies, multiple bodies, which combined to equal a massive, bloody, chaotic mess, with some complete dud subplot moments thrown in that should have been well and truly left out.

The episode takes place in the hour or so preceding the mess that was to follow. At the Caplan & Gold party celebrating the Antares public launch, Connor, Michaela, Oliver and Asher had a reasonably well formulated plan: lift Tegan's key card, access the Antares servers, download the incriminating data, return the key card, and continue as normal.

Normal was never going to happen, however, because if these characters' brains were dynamite, they wouldn't blow their ears off. With Oliver spilling the beans to Connor about the plan last week, controlling that potential damage meant Frank had to be involved as well. Frank's role was about the only thing that played out correctly - it pays to be an expert in this area after all. Further complicating matters was Laurel injecting herself into the frame, having been ordered to stay at home initially. How she was able to access the Caplan & Gold party without being stopped and questioned is a rather large plot hole, and the blame for the tragedy that followed falls squarely on her shoulders.

So, long story short, Simon is the guy who owned the blood at Caplan & Gold. He confronted Michaela, Asher and Laurel as they were discussing what to do with the key card after they stole the data. Simon had earlier come out as gay and in love with Oliver - the episode's biggest cringe moment. However he overheard the discussion about the key card, took Laurel's bag from her shoulder (why he decided to want to randomly inspect the bag was another plot hole), found Laurel's gun, then stupidly flailed it around as he tripped on a chair, shooting himself in the head.

One, down, two to go. Michaela showed some signs of having been through a similar situation before, which was probably the best part of the hour for me. She sent Laurel away from the scene, stopped her dimwit boyfriend, Asher, from contaminating the evidence after he, for God knows what reason, picked up the gun, and did some terrific acting in the party to frame the death as a suicide. Note: the gun wasn't returned correctly.

I've got this, Laurel.

So, now for the elevator crime scene. This was an unfortunate series of events for sure. Laurel had taken a blow to the stomach in an earlier scuffle when Frank was trying to choke Connor. I don't know what the medical term for her condition is, but it caused severe bleeding which came about around an hour or two afterwards. The baby began coming while she was on the elevator to Annalise's hotel room - an elevator which Annalise had discovered was faulty only a short time earlier. With no cell service, Laurel couldn't call for help and passed out with blood loss. We watched as Annalise battled to save the baby, but she wasn't able to open the elevator cage to assist Laurel. As the end title sequence rolled, cries could be heard, perhaps indicating the baby may have survived, though from a realism standpoint this surely doesn't stack up. Kudos to Karla Souza for this scene though - she did a superb job playing Laurel here.

The flash forwards this season have been disappointing to say the least, because there hasn't been enough of them and the few we've seen have been awfully short. However they were all a red herring, with none of them taking place in this winter finale. Yes, that's right. Every single flash forward contains events that are yet to occur in present day (though those events will begin to take place literally minutes after what we've seen).

I'll take my hat off to the creative team here. This is clever, even if myself and others are a little bitter about the break in tradition. There was a method to the perceived madness, but unfortunately no one's speculations on what was going to happen were ever going to be correct, and that is a shame.

Don't accuse the one friend you have right now of lying.

Let's look at the other subplots briefly. The first was Bonnie and Nate's cringe-worthy drinking session. Nate holds all the power here, and he's completely aware of Bonnie's more nefarious player tactics. This scene was designed to be awkward, and that was accomplished. A minor plot point is Bonnie wasn't wearing the same clothes we saw in the flash forwards, meaning she goes elsewhere before going to the crime scenes, by which time Laurel, the baby, and Simon have gone to hospital.

The second dud subplot was Annalise's interaction with Isaac. This was all a cringe-worthy blur for me because the pair have no chemistry whatsoever, and they've suffered enough tragedies between them that possibly the only tragedy that could top their others would be if they got together. I can only hope this was a vehicle to bring Isaac into the flash forward events, but even so, it failed at that, and honestly the whole thing should have been omitted from the episode entirely.

We can't keep expecting to get away with these things.

So, where are we at then? It's difficult to tell, but let's start with Simon being dead. Cool, but he wasn't murdered, and with the series being called "How To Get Away With Murder", this does bother me. Asher was arrested but no reason was given, and the gun can't be tested for fingerprints that quickly (if at all) so it wasn't that which caused that to occur. It's now going to come down to whether the state can prove foul play, which Annalise shouldn't have trouble debunking, especially if there are security cameras, and she will be more motivated than ever since seeing Laurel and her baby in dire straits.

Also, Laurel's father, Jorge, didn't make an appearance, but Wes's murderer, Dominic, did. He can be seen eavesdropping on Connor's phone call with Michaela in the closing seconds, so he could now have a role to play in what happens next. My early money is on him perhaps planting the drugs Frank speaks about in the flash forwards, in Laurel, maybe in a play that failed to kill her. I can't help but wonder if everyone saying Laurel's father killed Wes will come into play as well, because that's factually incorrect. I guess we will have to wait until next year to find out.

In all, this winter finale was an underwhelming, chaotic mess, with the only real positives being that the flash forwards are still yet to play out, the general quality of the hour being excellent, and getting definitive answers about the two crime scenes. I don't really care that Simon is dead, but the brainless and incompetent behavior of those involved at Caplan & Gold turned a relatively simple plan into a complete trainwreck that fails to live up to the show's name. Honestly, everyone involved should be so much better at this stuff by now. The Annalise/Isaac and Nate/Bonnie stuff should have been left on the sidelines too.

I for sure won't be spending the next 8 weeks speculating over what comes next this season, because we're again not left with enough to work with despite the flash forwards revelations, but I'd love to hear whether you will be. Head down to the comments below and leave your thoughts and theories there for us all to pour over. Thanks for reading my reviews and commenting this year, and I'll see you right back here for the midseason premiere of How To Get Away With Murder on January 18.

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