How To Get Away With Murder Recap: Love Thy Mother

Photo: Richard Cartwright/ABC.
Now this is what a procedural should be.

A lot of the hype around the third season of How to Get Away with Murder has focused on who's under the sheet after the upcoming fire at Annalise's (Viola Davis) house. But this week's episode was less concerned with the shock factor.

Instead, the episode brilliantly tied the legal clinic's case with what was going on outside the courtroom. And the result wasn't cheesy or forced — it was so well-written that its ending (more on that in a minute) came as a genuine shock, and it didn't feel cheap.

This week, the students in Annalise's clinic are defending three adult siblings accused of attempting to poison their mother with antifreeze. It's an uphill battle, because there are text records between the trio that include "jokes" with graphic details about just how, exactly, they'd send their mother to the grave. (There's no first chair on the case this week, so Annalise offers an "A" on the class midterm as an incentive to motivate her students.)

While the team works on the case, Annalise is still attending AA meetings. And as we recently learned, Soraya Hargrove (Lauren Luna Velez), the university president, attends the same ones Annalise has been going to.

In this episode, we see a tearful Hargrove speak at a meeting about how she wants to convince her children, with whom she has supervised visits twice a week, that she's doing better, to make them understand and appreciate her progress in recovery. She's done so much for her children, but worries she'll always be the drunk mother in their eyes.

The idea of children being ungrateful and unappreciative is a common thread this episode, with the antifreeze case reflected in Hargrove's story. Annalise calls her trio of clients "ingrates" when talking about the case with her students. And eventually, that helps her solve it — after listening to an interview with the mother, Annalise realizes she poisoned herself, to make her children be more appreciative. (During conversations with the team, the siblings have done nothing but complain about their mother's controlling behavior.)

Laurel (Karla Souza) confronts the mother in court about poisoning herself, a move that earns her the instant "A." The mother's response is telling: "Children always take their mothers for granted, maybe now mine won't."

The quote sets the stage for the most shocking twist of the episode. There's a third relationship involving a child and a mother figure — yes, we're talking about Annalise and Wes (Alfred Enoch).

The underlying roommate-sitcom situation the two of them have going on has been quite entertaining this season; in this episode alone, Wes tells Nate (Billy Brown) the delightful line that he hasn't seen him around the house lately. Still, the fact that Wes shot Annalise not too long ago isn't lost on him.

Nate tells Wes to be careful, but Wes tells Annalise everyone must be thinking she's the one who should be careful around him. Annalise tells Wes that he doesn't deserve to feel guilty; his mom sacrificed herself (Annalise's words) for him to have a better life.

There's always been an underlying parent-child relationship between Annalise and Wes. She knew his mother, and helped get him off the Middleton waitlist; he grew up without his own mom. This season, it seemed like they'd put the whole shooting thing behind them — which is why the last few minutes were such a surprise.

In the flash-forward scenes, we see Wes helping the authorities bring Annalise down, in exchange for immunity. Meanwhile, Annalise is being charged for arson and first-degree murder — and we see Wes agreeing to "help take her down."

It's looking more and more like Connor (or Frank or Nate, but more likely Connor) will be the one under the sheet. Connor (Jack Falahee) was the more obvious choice to betray Annalise — he constantly disagrees with her decisions and always seems like he's on the cusp of leaving the Keating Five.

But the fact that the betrayer is Wes, the least expected person of all, ties the mother-child tone of the episode together perfectly. The case, Annalise's personal struggles, the fire — it's all related. The episode uses the show's procedural format to its advantage, without losing its dramatic edge. How to Get Away with Murder has still got it.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Wes was safe from the fire at Annalise's. We thought the show was revealing one "safe" character each week — but it turned out Wes was at the police station before the body was brought out of the house.
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