Through With The Looking Glass
Annalise peels away her layers, and the show gets back on track.
At first you're thinking, "Why? Why am I being forced to sit through yet another bonfire-burning, coin-tossing repeat of a formula that stopped working two weeks ago?" The dead teacher whodunnit still looms large and, once again, the show's piling an unrelated court case on top for further obfuscation. This week, it's an insider-trading case filed against Annalise's personal friend, which gets handled with the usual sneaking and tritely "slick" lawyering. Along the way, there's some actual decent acting, some self-defenestration (seriously, since when do skyscraper windows open wide like that?), and one juicy reveal after another. But honestly, there's only one reveal that even matters. All of a sudden, it becomes plausible that this show's worth sticking with after all.
Pretty sneaky, sis. I see you, Professor Keating. Lulling me into boredom with your classroom lectures on preliminary trials and grilling suspects. Sticking to your usual routine of sending interns off to snoop while you stomp around in sleeveless sheaths and chunky necklaces. You even let this week's guest star steal your thunder there for a minute. But then, you finally get a good, strong whiff of your husband's dirty laundry, thanks to Wes's sleuthing.
And then comes the de-wigging. And the lash-plucking and the face-scrubbing. Some chicks simply yank off their earrings when getting ready to brawl. You get really, really extra-real wit' it and drop your entire calculated façade. It's a metaphor for all the fake B.S. you've willingly tolerated up until this point and you slowly, methodically wipe it all away. Then, you matter-of-factly ask those nine little words guaranteed to ruin any husband's day: "Why is your penis on a dead girl's phone?"
Well played, Annalise. You go from being a letdown in previous episodes to an afterthought in the beginning of this one to being Thursday night's biggest TV talking point. If she actually chucks the wig entirely and proceeds to flaunt her natural, raw beauty henceforth, I will forgive this show each and every future sin.
Before that final scene bumped her down, I actually had Elizabeth Perkins's guest character pegged as the list-topper. She puts on her best Mae West face and gives a solid brassy boss bitch performance, starting with her very first scene burning the FBI's warrant. She knows she's innocent and so completely sidesteps all that fear and panic, even when the feds press play on her seemingly incriminating sex tape. "Take some notes, kids, because this is what Pilates can do for you." That line -- along with the fact that she revels in watching the video in front of the entire office -- get a good hardy chuckle-snort from me. She does, however, lose points for the lame gloating speech she lobs at the traitors who framed her. That scene seems so odd and tacked-on, I started to wonder if there was some nugget hidden within it that we're supposed to retain for later.
Overall, though, Marren's way too good a character to be wasted as a one-off. She makes Annalise crack a smile, keeps her on her toes, and takes her to task ("You exhaust me!") when she's being typically brusque and elusive. None of the regulars are as good a sparring partner for the show's lead. With any luck, someone will have the good sense to bring her back.
"Hair Gel" won the lottery this week. He's the first and only cast member allowed to show a wide range of emotions. And he pretty deftly crams them all into one episode. Sure, he logs his requisite sex-for-secrets scene and disses easy-target Mikaela whenever possible. But he also gets to get tender (for him) with his self-loathing hacker "boyfriend" Oliver. He gets to prove he's the only intern with any sense of logic when he starts cataloging all of the no-duh ways that the interns' body-absconding plot is bound to fail -- the eyewitness cop, their DNA all over the crime scene, the carpet fibers embedded in his car, etc. And he gets to lose his shit when he's hacking away at the dead body and then again when he retreats to Oliver's to eventually have a mental breakdown. Through it all, I buy each one of his Sybil-like shifts.
"I'm, like, the most grown-up grown-up ever!" Asher shouts through the window when he's excluded by the other interns. Though it's barely audible, that's the best line of the night. Honorable Mentions go to his comment at Rebecca's bail hearing ("A million? That's a lot of lap dances!") and his sheer goofy glee when he realizes, "We get to be spies!" on the insider trading case.
Ooooh...behind those pursed lips lies a pair of fangs. It's slowly becoming clear that she's working her own angles and isn't merely sucking up oxygen like her colleague Frank. She catches Nate sneaking around in Sam's car, then rats him out to his cop boss in order to get the evidence the team needs for Rebecca's murder trial. She's either a wrathful woman scorned, a sly woman on the come-up, a woman who's about to stumble onto something bigger than she knows...or, a little from Columns A, B, and C. (As I write this, it's late and wine's been flowing, so I'm not too clear on which.) However it plays out, she's clearly becoming more and more relevant.
He's at the heart of yet another windfall this week, but that doesn't make him and his Dudley Do-Right act any less punchable. Any of the other interns, if wielding two such powerful secrets about the professor, would surely use them to their advantage. But this simp is so blinded by his virtuous quest to save his ungrateful-ass neighbor that he just derps his way right on past an obvious power play.
She's walking free, thanks to Wes. Yet she's still an ungrateful wench toward him. Clearly, something happens between the two of them because, in the "Sam's dead" fast-forwarded future, they share plenty of caring caresses. They're just individually so grating that it's hard to muster up the energy to care about the path that led them toward each other.
Another week, another huffing-and-puffing tantrum. She's the perma-worst. But, to her credit, she always looks gorgeous, even when she's huddled up on the floor falling apart.