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How To Get Away With Murder - Series Finale Review: "An Unmitigated, Unsatisfying Disaster"

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We're finally here. It's the series finale of ABC's How To Get Away With Murder. Six seasons consisting of 15 episodes means last night's series finale is the 90th episode to air. And a great deal has happened in the preceding 89 episodes.

How To Get Away With Murder debuted in 2014, and its first season - which I still think is the best of them all - told an enthralling flashback-filled story of how Sam Keating met his fate, along with his mistress and student, Lila Stangard. It introduced Annalise Keating, her assistants Frank Delfino and Bonnie Winterbottom, and her five specially selected students: Wes Gibbins, Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt, Asher Millstone, and Laurel Castillo. Nate Lahey was introduced as a cop who, in addition to being Annalise's friend-with-benefits, could be called on to look the other way when required. By the end of the season he was in jail accused of murdering Sam. One of my favorite characters, Rebecca Sutter, had a big part to play in the debut season, and for a time took the fall for Lila's murder, and also hooked up with Wes. She was murdered in the season finale. Also back in Season 1, Michaela had a fiancĂ© - infamously losing her engagement ring - and Annalise uttered the most famous words of that season: "Why is your penis on a dead girl's phone." It was revealed that Wes murdered Sam, and Frank murdered Lila.

Season 2 did well to follow Season 1, and I did enjoy it for the most part. The Hapstall family were the center of attention here, with adopted siblings Caleb and Catherine accused of murdering their well-off parents. Right off the bat, Bonnie was revealed to be Rebecca's murderer, and the flash fowards for that season set out to explain how Annalise came to have a gunshot wound while in the Hapstall mansion. It turned out that Wes shot Annalise at her insistence, but only after she revealed that she knew his birth name, Christophe. Asher murdered ADA Emily Sinclair by hitting her with his car, and later throwing her body off a balcony with Bonnie's help. Character including Eve Rothlo, Todd Denver, and Oliver Hampton were introduced - the latter more prominently than he was in the first season, as a relationship with Connor becomes a thing, alongside Frank and Laurel. Bonnie's past was fleshed out somewhat, and we learned Wes's mother had committed suicide when he was young. Asher's father would also take his life this season. Wes would go on to meet his father for the first time, only for him to be gunned down by a sniper, and Frank left town.

The third season was much more personal for Annalise, as the flash fowards built up the story of how her house came to be razed to the ground, and a body found inside. Annalise's tenure with Middleton University was threatened thanks to her alcoholism and other issues. Asher and Michaela begin a relationship of sorts, and we get a first glimpse at the infamous Castillo family. Connor and Oliver took a break from each other, and a new lover for Wes, Meggy, was briefly part of proceedings. Annalise was later arrested, and would spend the back half of the season in jail. It was later revealed that Laurel was pregnant with Wes, and she was hospitalized from the explosion in Annalise's house which caused it to burn down. Wes's body was revealed to have been in the house before the blast, with Connor narrowly escaping moments beforehand. The season finale revealed it was Laurel's father, who hired a guy called Dominic to kill Wes.

Season 4 brought with it a significant change in how flash forwards would be used for the remainder of the series. 'Minimal' is the word I'd use to describe how flash forwards proceeded from this point on, and it was also this season which signaled a definite downfall from the glory days of the first couple of seasons. It was also the infamous missing baby season, with Laurel waking up in hospital only to find her unborn baby was now missing. Dr. Isaac Roa was introduced as Annalise's shrink, and law firm Caplan & Gold, along with Tegan Price, would also prove pivotal. As the students investigated Laurel's father's involvement in Wes's death, they took advantage of the relationship between Caplan & Gold and Antares, but just as they were about to make off with a hard drive, Simon Drake interrupts them, and accidentally shoots himself in the head, though he later survives and is deported thanks to Michaela. Dominic reappeared, and was killed by Frank, and DA Todd Denver also didn't survive the season. The final seconds of Season 4 introduced Gabriel Maddox for the first time.

Season 5 brought with it some serious issues at Connor and Oliver's wedding. Bonnie was revealed to have been the killer, but we didn't know who she was finishing off. This was the season where Nate was more prominent thanks to the death of his father, who he blamed on ADA Ronald Miller. By this point, the series had moved away from the more procedural case-of-the-week format, towards a more serialized format as we learned of the powers of Governor Birkhead and the wider Castillo family. Gabriel was out to impress at his studies, but Frank had him bugged, and eventually we would learn he was Sam's son. Nate was revealed to have severely injured Miller at the wedding as he demanded information about his father, with Bonnie finishing her then boyfriend him off after believing he was guilty, when he would later be proven innocent of wrongdoing. Newly introduced Caplan & Gold manager Emmett Crawford is seen dying in the final moments of the finale, not long before Laurel disappears without a trace.

This sixth and final season began what feels like a very long time ago now, with Annalise in rehab for drug and mental problems. Asher, Michaela, Connor and Oliver are desperate for answers regarding Laurel's disappearance with baby Christopher. Connor and Michaela are seen in flash forwards being interrogated by the FBI, while Gabriel finds information about his father through a dump of tapes from Sam's therapy sessions. Michaela's father, Solomon Vick, is introduced for the first time in the series, as is Robert, a one-time boyfriend for Annalise, though he has competition from Tegan. Annalise flees to Mexico, only to return virtually the next day. Flash forwards signal Wes's return at Annalise's funeral. Asher is revealed to have been killed by Castillo plant and FBI Agent Pollock, and Laurel reveals that Tegan helped her disappear, and returns to testify in Annalise's murder trial. Nate has Jorge Castillo right where he wants him after killing his son, Xavier, and Sam Keating's long-lost sister, Hannah, is found dead. Finally, Frank is revealed to be the son of Sam and Hannah Keating.

With all of that - including some excellent midseason and season finales having gone before, it's a real shame that How To Get Away With Murder's series finale was, by and large, an unmitigated, unsatisfying disaster. I think the showrunners confirmed the concerns a significant number of fans - including myself - had, most important of which being that there was too much to wrap up in a single episode, and a great deal of questions went unanswered.

"Stay" was written by creator Pete Nowalk - the first episode he's written since the Season 5 premiere - and directed by Stephen Cragg.

Following on from last week, Annalise's trial continued. Governor Birkhead and Jorge Castillo were the star witnesses this week, and according to everything we've been led to believe up to this point, they were supposed to have been colluding with one another to cause all sorts of chaos. However both denied they even knew each other, and both were poorly examined and cross-examined by the U.S. Attorney and Annalise. This was very early on in the hour, and I could tell things were on very unstable ground.

Then you add Nate to the mix. Last week's episode left him in prime position to be the kingmaker in this finale, but that opportunity went largely unexploited. The U.S. Attorney and FBI offered him a $20 million deal for favorable testimony, but he rightly blew that to smithereens on the stand. His conversation afterwards with Annalise was enlightening - probably my favorite scene of the hour. Of all the endings the characters got, Nate's was the most satisfying in my opinion.

Running alongside the debacle of a trial was some fluffing around the edges by the other characters. After Bonnie told Frank his parents were the Keatings, Frank went AWOL and coerced Hannah's lawyer into giving him some more information. Bonnie was understandably concerned and went to Laurel's hotel to look for him. Laurel freely admitted she hoped Bonnie and Frank would essentially live happily ever after.

Things were more explosive between Connor, Oliver, Michaela and Laurel though, and one of the better outcomes of this finale was that all four characters remained true to themselves. We've seen Oliver do dumb stuff in previous seasons in the hope that it would benefit Connor, and Connor knew it was too good to be true for him to suddenly receive an out-of-the-blue deal equivalent to Michaela's for his testimony. Right since Season 1, Connor has always been the character most willing to give the game away and confess to the authorities for his wrongdoing, and so he stuck to his existing deal and went to prison later on. Michaela was never afraid to go a step too far essentially, often alienating those around her in the process, as Oliver was at pains to point out. Laurel was generally good at analyzing the big picture, and she did in this and last week's hour too.

Before long, the trial reached the latter stages, and because all hope was lost with the sheer lack of cohesion between any of the witness testimony, and next to no physical evidence presented, all that was left for the showrunners was to allow their lead character one last crack at a closing argument, with between this closing argument and all of the ones she's done previously being that it was about her, and what she's done, and survived in her tumultuous life.

Am I a bad person? Well the mask is off so I'm gonna say yes. But am I the mastermind criminal who pulled off a series of violent murders? Hell no.
Maybe it was because the outcome of a trial was a foregone conclusion, but I felt no sympathy for Annalise during her closing. I just couldn't. Despite the things that were out of her control, so much in these six seasons has happened that she had ample control over. She's never been a character I've liked, admired, looked up, or related to. And regardless of how much sympathy you beg for from a jury in a closing argument, juries have to base their decision on the facts. I've been a foreman on a jury, so I know what this bit is like. I'd have called her closing argument an absolute joke, and I'd also have found her not guilty based on a disaster of a case by the prosecution that should have never made it to trial. Of all the hearings and trials we've seen on How To Get Away With Murder, this one should have been the best. But I think it was the worst.

With the not guilty verdict handed down, there was still around 10 minutes of run time left for the showrunners to explain away the cliffhanger of Wes's return, and Annalise's death. However they made an absolute meal of it, and I found it far from satisfying.

To cut a long story short, Frank did a switch play and decided to gun down the Governor outside the courthouse while Annalise was speaking to the press. Frank understandably had gunfire returned at him, but Bonnie was also hit. Annalise tried to comfort Bonnie and Frank as they bled out. She was unharmed.

This scene looked to have been poorly thought out and directed. Who fired at Frank was never shown, and the actions of the extras in the scene seemed completely incoherent, and didn't even resemble similar Hollywood scenes, let alone real life occurrences. I was somewhat saddened to see Frank die, and likewise with Bonnie, but by that point, we were cutting between the shooting and scenes at Annalise's funeral, by which point I didn't care about the shooting because it wasn't going to answer how Wes ended up at Annalise's funeral.

Trying to artificially age most actors - let alone young actors - 25 years or so just doesn't work, and I was frankly disgusted at this choice of storytelling as a way to end this series. It appears Annalise lived to a decent age, eventually carking it, with a slightly more convincingly aged Eve returning to speak at her funeral. Her words were nice, but lost on me among the blur of horrifying visuals as we saw an aged Connor with Oliver, Michaela in absentia in a separate scene, and Laurel, with Christopher supposedly looking identical to Wes.

How To Get Away With Murder is not a series that needed a happily-ever-after ending. That montage we saw should have been dead last on a list of possible options for a conclusion. Proposing that Christopher grows up to be a young professor in the same university, lecturing the same subject as his mentor Annalise did is a take-off of a common trope seen in the endings of various movies and television series, but it just doesn't work in this attempt. How To Get Away With Murder has never strove for a happy ending. It's always been about the next murder, the next mystery, the next shocking twist. It's in no way warm, or romantic, or sympathetic. It's the opposite to all three, and I didn't devote 90 hours of watching, and several hundred hours of previewing, reviewing, and compiling flash forwards because this show tickled those emotions.

I could rant on seemingly forever about why this finale - and its ending - just fail miserably. It's been an unmitigated disaster. There are countless unanswered questions and plot holes. I don't want to list even one because then I'll be compelled to list several, and then many more. I never watched Game of Thrones, but judging on how poorly that final season and series finale was received, mutual fans of How To Get Away With Murder may very well place both shows in the same boat: a poorly designed, shoddily built boat full of holes that sinks under its own weight.

That brings to an end my review of How To Get Away With Murder's series finale, and means it's time to thank you, the readers, for taking time out of your day to read what I think, and share your thoughts on it for the past six years. I have it on good authority that the combined tally of page views on all of the content I've written and produced for How To Get Away With Murder on SpoilerTV comes to around 280,000, which is pretty humbling! So for one last time, what did you think of the How To Get Away With Murder series finale? What are the most pressing questions you want answered? Which characters' ending were you the most or least satisfied with? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks again, so much, for reading!

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