OK, first things first. If you haven’t seen the first season of How to Get Away with Murder but want to, read no further. Here be spoilers.
So, at the end of season 1 we discovered that 1) Frank (Charlie Weber) killed Lila at the insistence of Sam, now-dead husband of Annalise (Viola Davis); 2) that Annalise has set up on-off boyfriend Nate (Billy Brown) for killing Sam when really it was her favourite student Wes (Alfred Enoch) who brained him; and 3) Wes’s girlfriend and general loose cannon Rebecca (Katie Findlay) is dead. Just as Lila’s death was the enduring mystery of season 1, the producers have resisted the temptation to set up Rebecca’s demise in a similar vein for this season. No, instead the perpetrator of that crime is revealed in the first episode of the season. The thread for season 2 is instead provided by the case of two wealthy (apparently adopted) siblings, Caleb (Kendrick Sampson) and Catherine Hapstall (Amy Okuda), accused of murdering their parents. The twist in the tale comes at the end of episode 1, when it’s revealed that (two months later) a significant character has been shot in the palatial Hapstall mansion.
Armed with these elements, you can expect season 2 of How to Get Away with Murder to be a case of more-of-the-same from season 1. In other words, lots of drama, lots of twists and more than a little soap. Of course, this is a Shonadaland production (the vehicle for hot TV producer, Shonda Rimes) and it’s not going to depart from a successful formula. The problem is going to be whether the writers can control their urge to go for ever-bigger “sugar hit” twists that may send the show into high farce. One of the key traits of season 1 was the show’s ability to straddle the line between credibility and camp. Too far one way or the other could send everything spiralling out of control.
A few things that the new season does herald are larger roles for Frank and Bonnie (Liza Weil). The flip side of that however is that the students, who were the focus of season 1, tend to fade into the background a little. Also, the early eps of this season don’t treat Wes terribly well. I know he’s supposed to be suffering a form of PTSD from the shocking events of last season, but he comes across as a petulant child. That may smooth out as things progress. Also new is the appearance of Famke Janssen as Eve Rothlow, the hot-shot attorney whom Annalise convinces to take on Nate’s defence. There’s more going on between those two than meets the eye.
Fresh from her Emmy win, Viola Davis is once more outstanding as Annalise. Indeed, she manages to find even more light-and-shade in the character than she did last season. Alfred Enoch, as mentioned, isn’t particularly well treated by the script in his role as Wes. The other students, played by Jack Falahee, Aja Naomi King, Matt McGorry and Karla Souza, all perform strongly, even if they seem to have less to do in the early running.
If you liked the first season of How to Get Away with Murder, you’ll no doubt be back for more this time around. The early episodes of season 2 promise much; though as always, it remains to be seen whether that promise is fulfilled. At this stage, this season has the potential to be either better than season 1, or a train wreck – although given Shonda Rimes’ track record and the way the first season went, the former seems more likely.
How to Get Away with Murder screens on Mondays at 10.45 pm (from October 5) on the Seven Network.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television