Photo: Mitchell Haaseth / ABC

The House Of Horrors

Annalise tries to dodge her demons by taking on a monstrous new client.

The students are dripping with paranoia when they reconvene after the holidays. But they scarcely have a moment to dwell on their secret crime spree because now they have Sam's sister lurking around like a pencil-skirted McGruff the Crime Dog. Oh, and there's also some heinous old rapist locking up local teen girls and impregnating them in basements. His wife would really rather he didn't, so she turns to Annalise for a spot of legal help. Add in a few Christmas Day personal-backstory scenes and some more of those obligatory murder-night scenes (still?!) and you've got yourself an unbalanced episode that would've been better off either going full-on SVU, or just sticking with the germane murder matters at hand.

  1. Laurel
    Fortified by only a few sips of red wine and a bite of something gourmet-looking, she proceeds to live out many of our deepest holiday fantasies: spectacularly (and bilingually) telling off her obnoxious family members once every last one of her nerves had been worked. Aspirational stuff right there. Back at school, she's far more familial with her fellow students, trying to be the glue that holds them together. Initially, you think, "Why bother?" Laurel's too smart and -- as we've learned this week -- far too rich to be wasting her time with these fools. But their lie only works if they tell it together (at least, that's what they think). So, at this point, she's stuck trying to be the voice of reason in a sea of whiners.
  2. Connor and Oliver
    Though he's still prickly with the gang (step up your caustic one-liner game, writers), Connor's personal lives make him one of the few characters worth caring about. We all go "aww!" as he gives Oliver a heartfelt gift, then giddily watches The Thorn Birds and does the dishes with him. He went from slutty to wifey, and all it took was a little bit of murder. As for Oliver, he has my same sofa pillows, so bonus points there. Their relationship lends the show a small dose of realness. They're strung out on each other and it's messy, engaging, and well-acted.
  3. Jackie
    "I wanna do what you did," this week's creepy client bleats. She's looking to turn in her abusive husband for child abduction, but wants to negotiate a plea deal first. I avoid stuff like this whenever possible, as it doesn't take much to give me nightmares. That said, I have to tip my hat to Jackie. She is the craziest kind of crazy. Like, I wouldn't be surprised if the actress herself is actually unstable; she was too convincing. It's those eyes, man.

    This secondary sex-slave basement story is long on creepy, but short on cogency. (I mean…there was a dead baby, but then it was neither a baby, nor dead. Instead, it was a four-year-old in a cabin in the woods with only a stuffed giraffe for protection???) Still, Jackie's able to throw Annalise off her game with her insane lies and it's entertaining to see the master liar get trumped for once.

  4. Annalise
    The show opens with her living out yet another holiday dream. Well, maybe not with all that crying in the fetal position. But who hasn't wanted to stay in bed throughout the holiday season, curtains drawn in your luxury hotel room, abusing the mini-bar and ordering room service that comes under those fancy silver cloches? It's wise of her to hibernate, as it seems to do wonders for one's lying stamina and evil masterminding skills.

    Things she does that are relatively un-wise: giving Sam's not-at-all-dense sister a box full of actual evidence-y evidence, instead of misleading fluff to throw her off the scent; taking that insane abduction case in the first place, rather than calling the damn po-lice on that freak show; and not changing the name of her course. (Given her highly publicized personal drama, what university would even be willing to keep her on staff, let alone keep that course name?)

  5. Hannah
    I want less hiss and more venom. She came to town in search of answers and she's clearly smart enough to get them. She's given every indication that she's the only person who can take Annalise down, but all we get is her "Seriously? Brussels sprouts?" bit during that dinner that wasn't. Come on now, Hannah. Don't talk about it; be about it. She's doing loads of "There she is, officer!"-type shouting in next week's preview, so I'll just sit tight.
  6. Frank
    He's proving to be a pretty good fixer -- concocting a sham Sam sighting, hiding Connor's evidence-filled car, offering to "take care" of Hannah. Frank also wins for line of the night with his big "no duh" to Laurel: "This is how you get caught; by talking about anything inside the courthouse!" I've shouted this at some point during every episode so far. I guess they finally heard me.
  7. Asher
    Who did he piss off? Why are the writers sticking this character with little more than wankster one-liners and a hollow unrequited crush? I want to go back to liking Asher again. It's almost doable when he gives Bonnie his dopey, yet laughably endearing "You hurt my feelings. A lot" speech. But overall, he's become a fratty footnote.
  8. Michaela
    Her precious wedding slips through her fingers -- at Gracie Mansion on New Year's Eve, no less -- and all she gives us is a bit of whining and pleading? With all she has riding on this union, we should've gotten full-fledged Maggie the Cat ranting…especially since she's already a couple of champagne flutes under. What a missed opportunity!
  9. Wes and Rebecca
    Merry Christmas! They've been gifted a new subplot. In between guild-induced night terrors and wading through Rebecca's sass, Wes has become mildly obsessed with the mysterious tenant who lived in his apartment before him. Even now that he has his own business to mind, Wes is still over in somebody else's pot. Why are they happening to me?
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