Photo: Mitchell Haaseth / ABC

You Think You Know, But You Have No Idea

Season 1 started with two corpses, finished with a third, and was overcrowded with lies throughout.

I can't be the only viewer with eyes screwed shut and fingers pressed to temples by the end of this whole production. The two-hour season finale takes the kitchen-sink approach, throwing every possible thing at us at once. We've been strung along with so much deceit, so many cover-ups, and so many gratuitous chronological leaps. We, the patient viewers, have more than earned some transparency. But as soon as we finally find out who killed Lila, they turn around and end with a "who killed Rebecca" cliffhanger?! It's exhausting, and not a little bit insulting.

What happened? This show is not what I'd hoped it would be -- in my most vexed viewing moments, I've fantasized about a kind of Stand and Deliver vibe, with Asher thrown in for Night Court-esque laughs. HTGAWM is not about a hardcore attorney who elevates her law-school students and slays the competition in court. In the beginning, Annalise gives the impression that she's going to teach these kids how to be sharp, calculating winners in court. And there are definitely some promising students ready to follow her lead. Throughout, Laurel and Connor prove that they can focus and attack the task at hand. She's always had clarity of mind and reasonably sound judgment on her side, while he approaches problems with cunning and ruthlessness.

By the end, though, they're just two more crabs in Annalise's miserable barrel, struggling right alongside whiny Wes, bratty Michaela, aimless Asher, and Annalise's biggest enablers, Frank and Bonnie. She's brought them all incredibly low (all except for Frank, because we now know he's been hiding a murderous freak under that beard all along). Annalise is only sometime-y in court, teaches classes solely as a means of showing off outfits, and needs all of her hand-picked sheeple more than they need her. But that doesn't stop her from bracing everyone's shoulders and whipping out, "You need to trust me!" and "You have to believe me." Why? She's just a stressed-out, broken woman struggling to stay half a step ahead of each new atrocity. "Freakin' whack-a-mole," indeed.

The season's biggest pick-me-ups have been the guest stars, particularly Annalise's mom and sister-in-law. They distract us from the muddled mayhem that's festering in that law office. But not in the same way that those flimsy case-of-the-week contrivances distract us. Those are just ridiculous (tonight's vengeful-priest farce included). Look, either this show is about a lawyer who takes on a regular caseload, or it's about a lawyer who's secretly so felonious that she's in need of a good lawyer herself. As it stands, it's definitely not great at being both. No, it's brief "glimmer of hope" cameos like Michaela's mother-in-law, Connor's quasi-boyfriend, and Annalise's estranged BFF that show us what this show could be if it focused on developing solid, engaging characters, rather than getting bogged down in hushed conspiracies and dizzying triple-crosses. Those visitors work so well because (in addition to being fine actors) they regularly point out how messed up everything is in the Keating camp.

"This, from the very start, was on you…all of you!" Bonnie fumes when all the little accessories to murder (and the actual murderer) start going off the rails about suspected Lila-murderer Rebecca. As usual, Bonnie's so right. They killed scumbag Sam while trying to…oh, who even remembers anymore. Everything's all their fault, though, that much is clear. Now, if only Bonnie could commandeer whatever universal remote keeps flitting the episodes backward and forward in time, she could change history by ratting them all out when she had the chance. Maybe then we could've ended this too-long charade and Annalise could've moved on to using up another set of interns. Anyone would be better than Wes, who spends all his time snooping up secrets that are better left buried, then regretting it in a melodramatic fashion. Oh, also, he bludgeoned a guy to death.

From day one, I've reserved the bulk of my venom for Rebecca. I mean, who'd still commit to her whole Daria act even after getting arrested for murder and fitted in orange? It's just not convincing that she'd be so disaffected from beginning to untimely end. Yet that's what we're stuck with -- a bad attitude and a worse hairdo (to which she's also really committed for some reason). Though I've loathed her to the extent that I've caught myself cartoonishly cracking my knuckles when she's onscreen, I can't say I think stuffing her dead body under the basement stairs was a fitting resolution. What was so wrong with the "skipping town" idea I pitched aloud every week? With the episode ending how it did, I can't even rejoice in her departure. The way things have been dragging along thus far, we're sure to see more of her in some Season 2 pre-death flashbacks. They'll want to flesh out that whole coded "Eggs 911" text of hers, of course. Plus, since Wes is only good at obsessing over things and brooding, she'll no doubt pop up in many of his future nightmares.

So, what else do we have to look forward to next season? There's yet another drawn-out whodunnit, obviously. Then, too, we have the fall-out of whatever Asher unwittingly spills to the probing prosecutor. There's Connor's HIV scare. Oh, and Nate's murder trial, which looks so similar to Rebecca's that it's unbelievable to think we have to live through that experience all over again.

Will Bonnie break bad, snap up her boo Asher, and pluck herself out of the muck? Will Annalise perjure herself on the stand for Nate, get disbarred, and ultimately move back in with her mom, then write bestselling crime fiction? Will Michaela hawk her newly returned ring (that bit was so random!) and transfer to another, saner law school? Maybe Laurel will remember she's crazy rich and return to Florida like the prodigal daughter, now that Rebecca's death renders her seemingly free and clear. Or maybe Frank will just get bored with this house of cards and kill them all, flipping a coin to see whom he'll frame for it. So many questions, but I predict only 1.5 of them will ultimately be answered.

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