Annalise Keating may be dead inside, but her mom Ophelia always manages to breathe new life and lingering rage-fire into her and the show. Guest star Cicely Tyson’s appearances are few and far between, but a little dose hits hard as she gnaws at her daughter to be a more noble-minded control freak: family-focused, God-fearing, ultimately good. What is she, nuts? But Annalise is different at home. She’s vulnerable, prone to dinner table outbursts, and willing to lean into the profoundness of the Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson posters on her bedroom walls as she tries to piece together where it all went wrong. (Certainly not in that inspired pastiche; nice collaging, set designers!) I love what a frustrating yet effective foil Ophelia is for her daughter. If she could have had babies, if she would just give up whatever isolating quest she’s on and settle down with a new man, surely Annalise might be happy. She’s has been hearing this her whole life. As the Lady Keating hides out down South to avoid her arrest warrant in Philadelphia, Nate the beefy cop arrives on demand to thoroughly charm her family and friends at the homecoming party she can’t stand. They get down after dinner, dancing as if there’d never been a Bonnie or a Hapstall Mansion or a trophy used to bludgeon her husband to death last year. It’s bliss! But it can’t last. Nate leaves, and Anna Mae (homegirl’s given name) breaks down, drunk enough for the truth to seep out: “I had a baby, mama. He died.” Ophelia’s confused and hurt for a while, but the rush of feeling needed overpowers all that nonsense. She forces her daughter out the door and hands her a shovel. Middle of the night or not, it’s time to write a letter to her lost child and bury it in the backyard. Annalise’s tendency to leak out snot at the same rate as her tears has always been compelling, but this week’s nasal drainage is relentless. It totally works. When it comes to watering the grave of what might have been, every facial secretion helps. She buries her face in her mother’s robe, shaking with sobs. It feels like a rebirth, almost. The next morning, she continues to dis her back-in-town father, but this time she begrudgingly internalizes their similarities. “We are not our fathers,” Laurel insists to Wes elsewhere in the episode (I almost forgot there were other characters), but only because if she says it out loud, maybe it won’t be true. It’s always true. Like her father, Anna’s been running away from home her whole life, yet she keeps returning to her mom, who reminds her of who she “really is.”
Big revelation back in law-law land: The reason Frank is so blindly loyal to Annalise is the same reason he was willing to kill Lila for Sam: Frank was indirectly responsible for the car crash that killed Annalise and Sam’s baby 10 years ago. His hair — and, it follows, his whole character — changed from floppy to slick the moment he agreed to bug his boss’ hotel room for a suitcase of cash. When Laurel tells him that Wes is Wallace Mahoney’s biological son, Frank starts spiraling in guilt and shame, and by episode’s end, he’s skipped town. Whether he’ll turn out to be the one who gunned down billionaire monster Mahoney on a crowded New York street remains to be seen. He better not have just set up season 3 and bounced, though, because as far as TV dramas go, a con man in a three-piece suit is soooo my type. I don’t just tune in for the snots and beef. There must also be ziti. In other news, Caleb Hapstall, who’s currently bleeding out in his bathtub, apparently orchestrated the double murder of his parents we’ve been vaguely following/ignoring all season. Once Annalise learns he leaked her obstruction of justice to the ADA, she turns him in as a “sociopathic serial killer” thanks to — get this — the fitness tracker he’d been wearing the night of the murders. As if! Separate fitness tracking devices are so late-2014 at best. Where’s your iPhone, you rich freak? In a similarly low-tech vein, Oliver impersonates Connor over the phone — late at night, no less — to respectfully decline his boyfriend’s acceptance to Stanford Law. Let’s hope Connor doesn’t, I don’t know, ever go online again. And finally, Asher and Michaela engage in the biggest faux pas of all: a sober hookup. Amateur hour! She stops herself before it goes too far, but once the booze starts flowing again next season, it is so back on.
What will become of Wes? The timid puppy of the group has now bathed in the blood spatter of both his parents, not to mention that of his stand-in mother figure Annalise, by his own hand(gun)! Somehow I think Wallace’s death will serve to make Wes less insane and more full of steely-eyed resolve like his boss, whom he now understands better and knows he can trust given her SEVERE ISSUES regarding him. I just hope it’s not an all-out war for his affections between Annalise and Laurel, because you know who’ll be getting murdered next if push comes to love. And Laurel can’t die, not yet. Mexican getaway in season 3 or bust!