Shame, Shame, We Know Your Name
We finally know whodunnit and why, but things aren't any clearer.
For the midseason finale, the show's trying to provide clarity to the muck that bogged previous episodes down. They're rehashing old scenes and fusing together scraps of past conversations. We learn who killed Sam (which my husband more or less called weeks ago) and find out precisely what went down on that fateful bonfire night. But while we have some answers, we still don't have concrete evidence as to who killed Lila. And there are a few other loose ends left untied.
Standing face to face and hashing it out, things between her and Sam get darker than the house they're stomping around in. "You mean nothing to me!" she shouts, before taunting Sam with some choice R. Kelly-isms to describe what she'd been doing behind his back with Nate. He retaliates with "you're a monster," "nothing but a piece of ass," and "disgusting slut!" Add some property damage and a bit of light strangling and you've got some pretty heavy Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf-type stuff in the very first few minutes. This sadistic grittiness is the most compelling the episode ever gets, even including the big reveal(s) toward the end.
Annalise licks her wounds (and, ostensibly, other things) at Nate's place after her big fight with Sam, but then heads back home to try to patch things up. This serves the purpose of eliciting indignant screams from viewers inclined to yell at their TV screens. Why would she call him and apologize? Why beg his forgiveness, profess her love, and attempt to make things work? Ha, ha! You (and I) fell for it! Having seen her resolve falter in the past, it was easy to believe she was caving into him again, but: she's just leaving all those sappy messages to cover her butt once she discovers that Sam's dead. I'm not even mad for getting played by these writers. In fact, I'm relieved to see Annalise ultimately being duplicitous and calculating, rather than a doormat. Still, when we do get served our final "gotcha!" of the night, I'm left wondering why, in all her restored mercilessness, Annalise doesn't just pin the case on Wes and go on about her business.
Though she bluntly states, "This is murder. None of us know what we're talking about," Laurel keeps her head in the clutch. She's unbelievably clear-headed in the face of all the drama that's unfolding. She rightly breaks down an essential fact for her excuse-making, second-degree-murdering peers: they broke into Sam's house, thereby making them the "bad guys," any which way you slice it. She warns stupid Michaela against stupidly using her geolocatable cell phone to call her fiancé from the murder scene. She realizes that it's smart to hide the murder weapon in plain sight, sensibly cleans off the statue, and then comes up with a believable alibi for its whereabouts. Every team of felonious twentysomethings needs to get themselves a Laurel. She's like the Penny to their Inspectors Gadget.
As Annalise said (foreshadowing as hell), "Everyone's violent, given the chance." It only makes sense that he's Sam's killer. Nobody's moral compass could be that perpetually northward-facing. Wes is down to kill for his lady. And he barely bats an eye at the notion of lying to cops for both his boss's benefit and his own. Not that he ever bats his eyes anyway. It's good to see that he isn't such a simp after all, but a bummer that he had to do a complete 180 before he could be even remotely likable.
Aside from all that corpse-bashing and bodybag-ditching, he's got the most authentic reactions to all that's going on around him. Connor blows chunks; he's incredulous, angry, frantic, spiteful, and remorseful, all in relatively appropriate amounts and at the right times. Like Laurel, he's good at coming up with a durable impromptu lie. Plus, he's never too overwhelmed to craft a good Michaela smackdown. ("Enough about the ring, Frodo!")
He's the reassuring shoulder Annalise needs to cry on. But their having sex in the midst of all that's going on is hard to fathom. I mean, on top of everything else, his wife's in the hospital, for God's sake! Clearly, this is just a desperate attempt to sandwich in the hump-o'-the-week. But with his glinting, throbbing muscle shots, though...who's complaining?
He's stuck, once again, in footnote territory. He narrowly escapes getting ensnared in Sam's murder fiasco. (How cold-blooded of Laurel and Connor to want to drag him down with them!) Instead, Asher ambles off to do what he does best: partying. First at the bonfire, then with self-loathing little Bonnie. Murders and whatnot notwithstanding, I could actually see those two being a couple. A resentful, bitter married couple with too much money, not enough love, a couple of sidepieces, and longstanding couple's therapy sessions on the books.
When a man -- one you barely know, who's also your boss's husband and clearly drunk -- tells you emphatically to get out of his house, how do you not do it? Furthermore, how do you take off your coat and have a seat, babbling about tests and junk? Michaela's fond of blurting that their whole predicament is Rebecca's fault when, in fact, the fault's all hers. If she'd decided not to trespass on this man's property, he'd probably still be alive, Rebecca would've faced him alone and been put out of my misery, and then Wes would've been too grief-stricken to continue attending law school. Wins all around. When it first seems like Michaela's the one who "killed" Sam, it's mildly surprising. She's finally got a dog in this fight, it seems. But she couldn't even do that right. And to make matters worse, we're gonna have to worry about her damned missing ring some more in future episodes.
Now, all Michaela wants is a perfect marriage to her perfect man to help rid herself of the nightmare of being, first, a near-killer, then an accessory to murder. A prenup starts looking like a walk in the park by comparison. She's back to sweating the small stuff, like grades and Vera Wang gowns. That's about what I expect from her.
She's the pair of hands to swipe a computer, to palm an evidence-smuggling thumb drive, and to fetch motel coffee. She's the neck to get throttled. She's the damsel to be saved. No more bad girl, no more wisecracks. Just a prop to be used for misdirection. Even though she's at the bottom of the barrel here, I do give her props for finally being useful...or trying to be, at least. Offering to take the fall for Wes is a noble act. Now, trial or no trial, they should devise a way to let her skip town like she was trying to do early this season. This thread needs to be snipped. But I know it won't be.