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How To Get Away With Murder - Season 6 Premiere Review: "Cautiously Optimistic"

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I think it's fair to say I haven't been looking forward to the return of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder with a great deal of enthusiasm. I skimmed through the fifth season finale yesterday in preparation, but even those few minutes provided ample opportunity to refresh my memory with all the things that were bad about season 5. My review of the finale wasn't overly positive, and can't promise this review of the sixth season premiere will differ greatly. "Say Goodbye" was written by Sarah L. Thompson and directed by Stephen Cragg.

The fifth season finale left two dead bodies behind, along with two missing persons. Rather appropriately, the opening moments of the premiere were at Ronald Miller's funeral. Last season's finale effectively exonerated him in the death of Nate Lahey Sr, but that fact resides only in the minds of Frank and Annalise - for now. That funeral didn't last long before the scene morphed into a mini-nightmare occuring inside Annalise's brain.

Yes, out of the blue, this episode rapidly became the Annalise Keating show, as the majority of the hour would be devoted to a rehab stint that was all over the place. Ironically, Annalise adopted an alias, "Karen", for most of her time at the rehab center, but aside from the occasional outburst at her teammates (can they be called that?), the stay consisted of her participating in therapy rather begrudgingly until she finally managed to release her anger into a pillow, had an epiphany, and went on to force her students to perform the same aggression absolution ceremony back at home. More on that shortly. Flashbacks told us how Annalise ended up in rehab to begin with - after finding out Emmett had died, she got blind drunk and took a cocktail of drugs which landed her in the ER. But despite the alias, Annalise did reveal her identity to her roommate, along with a taste of what she had gone through, and that's surely going to come back to bite her later on.

At the forefront of the minds of Connor, Oliver, Michaela and Asher was the missing Laurel and baby Christopher. Frank and Bonnie were also concerned, but behaving somewhat differently given the unique relationship they have with one another. Oliver made some minor progress in the search, but I'm guessing the wait will be a long one before any substantial progress is made. At least Bonnie and Frank finally notified the authorities of what had happened, but things only became more intriguing when Frank removed a key hidden in a photo frame. The lock that key opens may shed some light on things.

Meanwhile, Nate was the only character looking into the other body that dropped in last season's finale - Emmett. His funeral didn't take place in this episode because it was revealed his body was shipped straight to the UK for the autopsy at the request of his colleagues in C&G's London branch. Tegan signed off on this, but given her shady undercover dealings with the FBI last season, along with her history with the Castillo empire, Nate was right to take everything she said with a grain of salt. We later heard the London medical examiner ruled the cause of death as a heart attack. Yeah, right.

I'm sick of every relationship I've ever had ending in doom.
Outside of the deaths and missing persons, newlyweds Connor and Oliver finally broke what seemed to be a very long dry spell in the bedroom, and after some tedious decision-making and reassurance from ex-boyfriend Asher, Michaela took the initiative with Gabriel. I had to laugh at Michaela asking Gabriel to promise not to lie to her when that's exactly what she did when she explained how Laurel mysteriously left without a word, and again after their sex session when she had to leave prematurely to go and meet with Annalise instead of cooking dinner for the other students. Meanwhile, Gabriel's mother revealed herself for the first time after having long been teased. Marsha Stephanie Blake takes up the role fresh off the back of her Emmy nomination in the Netflix limited series When They See Us. Her character looks to be a rather overprotective mother who covertly surveils her son at one end, while on the other end she has her crosshairs locked on to Annalise, with a box labeled 'Dr Sam Keating' placed on a shelf in her apartment, and a text message from an unknown informant notifying her Annalise had returned from rehab. Ominous signs for sure.

Rounding out the premiere in present day was the aggression absolution ceremony which I mentioned earlier. I have to say I was rather surprised that Annalise would so easily discard Laurel and Christopher, especially given the fact that she was the last person to see Laurel alive. It definitely won't be as easy for Connor, Oliver, Asher or Michaela to simply give Laurel away given she was a close friend and confidant to each one of them, so I can't see the aggression absolution lasting for long at all. I feel as if this release was a attempt to reset the characters somewhat, and while it might have worked to a degree with Annalise, I just can't see the same thing happening for anyone else.

Asher couldn't have timed his big reveal any better, when he announced on behalf of himself, Connor and Oliver that they knew the identity of Michaela's father. Michaela had earlier expressed a limited degree of interest in getting to know her birth parents, but the revelation that Annalise knew her birth father, and also successfully defended him in court came as a massive surprise to Michaela, to which she said...
If that's true, I'm gonna kill you.
This smooth segway led to our first glimpse of the infamous How To Get Away With Murder flash forwards. The camera worked its way through from behind a crowd of mourners at a funeral. The casket was closed, but just beyond it stood a large picture of none other than Annalise.

Killing off the series' main character might be the golden ticket to revitalizing what was once a flagship feature of this series. But if the previous five season have taught us anything, it's that nothing is what it seems. Count me as cautiously optimistic that the flash forwards this season might indicate the showrunners have listened to the concerns and complaints from myself and many other fans. Like anything, time will surely tell.

I'll reuse 'cautiously optimistic' in my overall summary for this sixth and final season premiere of How To Get Away With Murder. This premiere is probably the most low-key, uneventful premiere in the series' history, but I believe that was by design. The creative team didn't set out to do too much, and avoided stirring the pot too vigorously. That's not to say their past mistakes are forgiven, especially dragging out the Castillo conspiracy for yet another season, but we're in too deep now so we just have to ride it out.

Thanks for reading my review of this sixth season premiere. To the regulars, welcome back, to the new readers, welcome! As always I'd love to hear what you thought of this episode, and any early theories you may have so do make sure to drop them in the comments below and be part of the discussion. See you right back here next week.

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