I’ve now seen the first two episodes of How to Get Away with Murder, the first one because I was mildly curious, the second because I had to make sure the show was actually as bad as I thought it was. The second episode did not disappoint, it didn’t just match the idiocy of the first episode, it blew the first episode out of the water.
The show revolves around a group of law school students who decided they care more about their “criminal law” class, than they do about graduating law school, as they seemingly cut every other class they have to join their professor on daily field trips.
The professor, Annalise Keating, is a law school professor by day, and a criminal law attorney… also by day. How does she perform two full time jobs, you ask? Well she uses her criminal law class for trial preparation, killing two birds with one stone. Somehow these law students consistently come up with strategies for her active cases, though they don’t seem to actually learn criminal law in their criminal law class, and have no actual experience that would reasonably explain how they could come up with strategies that actual attorneys couldn’t figure out. I digress, back to the classroom.
Part of the interest I had in this show was to see how realistic it is compared to my personal experience in law school. Based on what I’ve seen so far, not only do the writers not know what goes on in a law school class, they do not understand the very function of a law school. Law school doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer; I will guarantee you that there is not a single lawyer who would tell you that law school prepared them to be a lawyer. Law school is meant to teach you the very basic concepts of various fields of law, and to prepare you for taking your state’s bar. The latter is what’s most important for the school, as bar passage rate will determine a school’s ranking the following year. So, Professor Keating’s class falls so far into the realm of complete nonsense, that it’s impossible for me to take this show seriously.
What’s worse, the poor students have yet to learn anything about actual criminal law. Professor Keating introduces the class as “Criminal Law 100, or, how to get away with murder.” First, there is no such thing as criminal law 100. There is just criminal law, in fact, there is no graduate school that teaches any level 100 classes. Next, are they really only going to focus on homicide? What about every other part of criminal law? Finally, they’re not even learning about homicide. They’re learning about obscure trial strategies that have nothing to do with criminal law. The first lesson they learned was that the best defense to Professor Keating’s case is to: 1) discredit the witness, 2) provide the jury with a different suspect, and 3) bury the evidence. This isn’t criminal law, this isn’t even evidence. This is bullshit that will never be on the bar, and will ensure that her students fail. I honestly don’t know how this woman still has a job with the school, surely another professor from her department would have had to sit in on a class at some point and think to himself, “what the fuck is going on here?” This is far from the only problem with the show, there’s so much more.
The next issue is that every single character is unsympathetic and difficult to care about. Some characters are written poorly, others are performed poorly by the actors, but whatever it is, the characters are a catastrophe. The writers attempt to present Professor Keating as a strong, determined woman who’s good at her job and doesn’t take shit. What I actually get from the show is a self-absorbed, manipulative woman who’s overly and unnecessarily intense 24/7. Viola Davis does her best with what she’s given, but what she’s given is unsaveable crap.
The next big red mark is the male protagonist Wes Gibbons. This character is just a complete train wreck. I don’t know what kind of direction Alfred Enoch is getting but his performance is stiff and lacking in any realism or subtlety. It’s almost like he’s just reciting the words from a page and then raises or lowers his voice based on whether the page says that he should be angry or happy while he’s talking. To add to the poor acting, there is some shit writing going on, I honestly don’t know anyone who speaks the way the people on this show speak, including Wes Gibbons.
I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse, but all the characters suffer similar problems, it’s like they’re all just caricatures of stereotypical tv show law school students, instead of seemingly real people. In the first episode, Wes is walking down a classroom (which is way too big for a law school classroom) and hears one person say that he clerked for Chief Justice Roberts (bullshit, he’s a 1L and this isn’t Harvard, there’s no way in hell he got that job) and another student “nerdily” debating the merits of two famous lawyers (again this would never actually happen on the first day of a 1L class). These aren’t characters that attempt to resemble real people, these are characters that attempt to draw the attention of the lowest common denominator audience, by satisfying this audience’s precepts, instead of challenging the audience in any way.
The show attempts to create twists by introducing, you guessed it, a mystery murder that the students are trying to cover up. But there’s nothing about this plotline that is remotely interesting. The flash forward scenes that show the students attempting to hide the evidence is poorly cut and jumps all over the place. In the words of great Roger Ebert, “To the degree I do understand, I don’t care.”
The amount of issues I have with this show is almost limitless. It’s devoid of substance. It sacrifices plot and storytelling for forced drama. It has characters that no one could possibly care about. And, it feels like it’s made specifically to attract an audience of lowest common denominator instead of trying to make something great. I honestly find the show so bad that it’s almost enjoyably laughable. I find myself watching the show and laughing to myself about how silly the whole situation is. The hilarity might not be caught by all, as my brother tried to watch the show and only found it cringeworthy and dreadful, and couldn’t understand why I was laughing the entire time we watched the first episode.
I won’t tell you not to watch the show. Maybe, like me, you’ll find the show to be so bad that it’s hilarious, or maybe, like my brother, you’ll find it unwatchable. That’s for you to figure out, but I warn you there is nothing redeemable about this show.