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How To Get Away With Murder - Let’s Hurt Him - Review: "A Decent Sidetrack"

17 Apr 2020

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I made it well and truly known that I wasn't at all impressed with last week's episode of How To Get Away With Murder in my review. Fortunately, last night's episode was a comparatively vast improvement, though I do still have some concerns. "Let’s Hurt Him" was written by Daniel Robinson and Matthew Cruz, and directed by Janice Cooke.

This hour was fast paced, but in a good way. Things weren't rushed to an extent they became incomprehensible, but the cards were placed where they needed to be. It really does go to show how much of a waste of time last week's episode was. It was a Cicely Tyson swansong and nothing more. The quality of this episode only makes last week's look even worse.

With that little rant over and done with, let's look at what happened in this hour.

Two big subplots were at play: Annalise potentially being up for the death penalty, and Xavier re-emerging in circumstances that weren't to his liking.

Annalise's situation was made a whole lot more precarious when the AUSA announced she would be charging Annalise with capital murder the moment she lost the hearing in which Tegan was attempting to get Annalise's house arrest conditions loosened. The clever thing the showrunners did here was that although the question of whether Tegan and Annalise would win the subsequent Capital Review Committee hearing was a foregone conclusion, the point of the subplot was to create action among the characters as they responded to this.

Four big players appeared as a result. Robert, a lawyer and Annalise's dinner buddy, who I'm certain will be back before the end of the season. Solomon, Michaela's father, who revealed he had involvement in the FBI side of things against Annalise, as well as nonchalantly breaching attorney-client privilege to find out his daughter's plays. Vivian Maddox, Gabriel's mother, who reappeared largely due to her son reaching out for help, but who also revealed Sam Keating's sister, Hannah, may be the driving force behind Annalise's troubles, and lastly Xavier, Laurel's brother, and the Castillo family cleaner and all-round bad guy.
I'm being accused of murder and any sane person would run for the hills.
Robert could have - and perhaps should have - been quietly retired to never be seen again. I never felt the chemistry he and Annalise had when they were seeing each other last season. What I'll give the showrunners credit for is perhaps covertly acknowledging that lack of buy-in from fans, and presenting him in a way that wasn't looking to pursue a relationship any further, but was instead looking out for a friend in need. The way Tegan's feelings for Annalise were essentially telegraphed by Robert in what was her biggest outing in her time on the series was a key part to that. What Robert can contribute to any further legal stuff isn't quite clear, but I was convinced that his head and heart were in the right place, and despite Tegan and Annalise's reservations, they should bring him on board.

Solomon's stint was, I think, a way to give Michaela someone to talk to in the way that Connor and Oliver have each other to talk to, even though it was brief. Thankfully he didn't try to influence Michaela into keeping her deal with the FBI alongside Connor, because if he did, Michaela and Connor wouldn't have gone to Annalise to apologize for turning against her, and thus giving Annalise the evidence needed to take the death penalty off the table.

Vivian Maddox was almost as pushy as Robert when it came to getting face time with Annalise. However she revealed two vital pieces of information to Annalise that shaped her plays in this hour. Vivian revealed that Gabriel witnessed Asher's murder, and could pin it on the FBI. Though Annalise wasn't prepared to hear any more from Vivian in the Caplan & Gold parking building, she did task Frank and Bonnie with tailing Agent Pollock. Only when that lead snowballed into goodness did Annalise then decide to listen to what Vivian had to say in addition, which was that Hannah, Sam's sister, may have a part to play in all this mess. More on that later.

Xavier's return was also inevitable, but what I didn't expect to see was his departure at the hands of Nate, who, like I mentioned in last week's review, had his judgment clouded by his father's death. Earlier, Frank picked Xavier up after seeing him collect a plane ticket and passport from FBI Agent Pollock. Xavier was surprisingly malleable, and didn't take much convincing to talk.

Xavier tried to get the upper hand by mentioning Frank's past mistakes, and his love for Laurel. I was amazed at how unaffected Frank was by those jabs. He freely admitted that though he loved Laurel, he was at peace with her not reciprocating, and admitted he loved Bonnie instead. That's a remarkable turnaround - recall that Frank spent much of last season AWOL supposedly searching for Laurel. It's almost not true to his character how he reacted to that in this episode, and I'll label that as one of my criticisms.
Birkhead called every shot.
It was Nate, however, who got the most out of Xavier. He managed to get him to admit Governor Birkhead was calling the shots, and supposedly wanted to take Annalise down a peg or two. Like with Frank, Xavier wasn't holding much back, and promised to give Nate an opportunity to take out his father, Jorge. Nate's response was ruthless. He snapped Xavier's neck on the spot. That's not the way to get to Jorge that Xavier intended, but it's likely that it will be just as effective. Frank's phone call to Annalise the moment he heard what Nate had done went unanswered.

So where do things stand now? Well if you look at the big picture in low resolution, this Capital Review Committee subplot was a big sidetrack. It did manage to throw a few spanners in the workings of the FBI's case, but as the committee chair said, Annalise doesn't get to escape the charges of murdering Asher or Emily Sinclair - the latter is an interesting victim to tie to Annalise because of all the victims we've seen in this series, why her? In addition, with an internal review of how any immunity deal is reached now set to take place, what we may now see is no immunity options for anyone, and that could lead to a significant change in how the final three episodes play out, provided the showrunners make use of the opportunity they've just created.
Why did she and Asher both say that Wes had help killing Sam?
Returning to my earlier mention of Sam's sister, Hannah. In Vivian's words, "what happened with her and Sam" was the cliffhanger at the end of this episode, and Hannah's likely return is again something that no one could have seen coming. Hannah was last seen in the Season 1 finale. Gabriel's attempt to extract more information from Connor, Michaela and Oliver again failed, and is what eventually forced Connor and Michaela into going to Annalise and admitting they did a deal with the FBI in order to kill Gabriel's leverage, but there's no doubt Gabriel ruffled a few feathers, and I'd say it's a certainty that by the end of the series Gabriel will have the answer he's sought for the last two seasons.

To wrap up, I do have concerns about how How To Get Away With Murder will end. What's quickly becoming apparent is that a large number of small-time characters are going to have a large part to play in how everything wraps up. We had the aforementioned four characters in this hour, and while Xavier is now dead, it's highly likely we've got Jorge and his hangers-on, Hannah, Governor Birkhead, and also Wes and perhaps Laurel still to come (yes I know they're former regulars). In addition, what happened several seasons ago is likely to be pretty important, and that will stretch the limits of what fans can recall unless that's clearly revisited in flashbacks. There are too many deaths to list that need to fit into the picture somehow. Anyone remember Emmett Crawford? His death is still unanswered too. We know the killers in a majority of cases, but with the number of small-time characters returning in these vital final three episodes, the cast size effectively doubles.

It's asking a lot to have a clean and satisfying ending, and perhaps most sadly, it effectively kills any opportunity for fans to guess what may happen. How To Get Away With Murder went viral with massive season 1 ratings precisely because there was a guessing game for fans to play. That opportunity doesn't look like it will be available as the series wraps up, which I think is pretty disappointing. If you can't make an educated guess, then why guess at all?

All up, clearly a much better episode than last week. Though this episode was effectively a sidetrack, it was a decent one on the whole. Robert reimagined was a decent improvement. Tegan's most significant episode in terms of screen time was impressive, though I don't care much for her and Annalise growing closer romantically. Frank acting out of character irked me a bit, and although Xavier is dead now, the return of the Castillos and a whole host of others is now inevitable. Guessing now seems futile at this point. We will just have to wait and see what happens. And it's a fortnight until the next episode. Yay!..... not.

Thanks as always for reading. Be sure to share your thoughts and theories in the comments below. See you right back here in a fortnight.