Shonda Rhimes does it again with HTGAWM season 3

By Madison Graver

Avid audiences of ABC were well prepared for the return of #TGIT (thank goodness it’s Thursday), despite the replacement of Scandal with the new show Notorious. But have no fear because the powerhouse lineup of Shonda Rhimes produced shows returns this winter. One of the shows in the lineup, How to Get Away with Murder, had fans on the edge of their seats waiting for the new season to begin. After two seasons of thrilling mystery and drama from the Keating Five, fans of How To Get Away With Murder were more than ready for it to begin it’s third season this past September.

HTGAWM is based around a group of five law students who are brought under the wing of the notorious professor and defense attorney Annalise Keating (Viola Davis). When they aren’t in the courtroom fighting for people’s freedom, Annalise, joined by her two associates Frank Delfino (Charlie Weber) and Bonnie Winterbottom (Liza Weil) and the Keating Five are doing everything in their power to cover up the various murders that seem to have plagued their lives. Chaos ensues as love interests begin interfering and outside forces try to take down Keating and the rest of her law firm. Season 3 picks up just moments after season 2 ended with the police questioning Wes (Alfred Enoch) after the fatal shooting in the season 2 finale. The show’s known for starting out each season with a dramatic event that occurs in the future, then flashing back to the present day. The show continually unearths more exciting details as the season progresses, leaving the audience in awe. The central question of the season “who is under the sheet?” is built in suspense, and each week a new character is revealed to be alive. It all leads up to the pinnacle moment as the person under the sheet is revealed in the mid-season finale titled “Who’s Dead?”. How to Get Away with Murder also stars Jack Falahee, Matt McGorry, Aja Naomi King and Karla Souza.

Despite how short of a time the show has been on the air, it has definitely gained some attention. The past two years has brought awards and attention to the cast, most specifically Viola Davis. In 2014, the show carried home Television Program of the Year at the American Film Institute Awards and in 2016 Davis won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series at the 22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards. The track record of awards appears to be leaning heavily toward Davis based on her breathtaking acting throughout the series. Only two awards have been given to the show as a whole, one coming in 2014 and the other in 2015, which is a shame. Davis is clearly the most experienced actor on the show, having also won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards, but the show itself definitely deserves a few more of the 38 nominations they have received over the years.

Scenes between just a few of the actors have a lot of power on this show. Episode 8 of season three delivered one of the most dramatic and tear filled arguments ever seen between Annalise (Viola Davis), Frank (Charlie Weber) and Bonnie (Liza Weil). Raw emotion and heart wrenching truth poured through the screen as you could practically feel the pain of each of the characters. Large group scenes also carry a dynamic like no other. When the Keating Five is all together, you know they’re either discussing their upcoming midterm or the latest murder that they were connected to. Each member of the group carries a different personality that adds yet another layer to the various aspects of this show.

Lighting sets very different tones throughout the entirety of the show. All of the flash forward scenes in season 3 have a greenish-blue filter on them, possibly to help the audience distinguish the flash forward from the current day scenes. The usage of the filter also adds to the eerie mood that always looms over those types of scenes. This aspect really does help put the audience in the shoes of the characters because we feel almost as scared and vulnerable as they do. Music also plays a role in developing the tone of the show. One of the most clever yet ironic audio components came in the mid season finale “Who’s Dead?”. Just as the audience was about to discover who was under the sheet, you could hear the sound of a pumping heartbeat as one of the characters walked closer to the body. It seems as if the editors put it in not only to be ironic, as we were about to see a body that lacks a heartbeat, but also to channel what the audience was feeling in those seconds before the identity of the body was revealed.  

I appreciate that this show isn’t like many other shows currently on the air. There aren’t any well known shows airing at the same time as it (Thursdays at 10pm) so it gives people the opportunity to watch this and not miss other popular shows. One of the minor downfalls tends to come from the episodes in the middle of each half season. Most of the huge revelations and plot twists come in the first few or last few episodes of each half season, leaving episodes in the middle that don’t draw as much interest. This could also be what contributes to the decline in viewership ever since season one. It’s still averaging around five million viewers per episode, but if you compare that to the almost 15 million that watched the season one premiere it is a drastic difference. But I still believe that HTGAWM has some of the most attention grabbing storylines and I give major props to the writers of the show for keeping things fresh. Writer and producer Erika Green Swafford was even awarded Outstanding Writer for a Drama Series at the NAACP Image Awards in 2015 for an episode she wrote in season one.

The jaw-dropping cliffhangers and stellar acting allow How to Get Away with Murder to continue its popularity among viewers of all ages. The first half of season three was sure to bring utter disbelief as we found out the shocking identity of the person “under the sheet”. You can catch the second half of season three on Thursday January 19 at 10/9c on ABC.