Warning: This photo recap of the “Always Bet Black” episode of How to Get Away With Murder contains spoilers.
When it comes to genuine edginess, network TV is like the kid with good grades who shows up in the fall sporting a leather cuff and a T-shirt for a Christian rock band worn over a button-down shirt. In other words, network TV is not very edgy, especially when it tries to be. How to Get Away With Murder is one of the better shows when it comes to agreeable darkness, but this week it proved it can be so casually nihilistic that it gives you pause. Which is a surprise? Credit where credit’s due!
“Always Bet Black” was an almost unpleasantly nihilistic episode, but at least it was well done. Let’s talk about it!
We began with our main hero six weeks from now, under arrest and without a cellphone! Annalise was not in a great place.
But that was a story for another time. Don’t even worry about it. YET.
In modern times, Annalise was still lookin’ cute and fab, and her biggest problem was that a hunk was trying to make her drink green smoothies in the morning. Don’t worry: She threw this one directly in the trash when Nate wasn’t looking. Which is not to say everything was simpler. Annalise’s new president at the university was pulling a total LaGuerta by being all smiley while engaging in backstabbery, PLUS Annalise’s newest pro bono client was a dude who’d taken a selfie with a dying hooker!
Now, when I hear “pro bono,” I usually assume the attorney has chosen someone who’d fallen through the cracks of the justice system and could really use the help. In this case, it was simply a terrible guy whose story had been in the tabloids a lot. Nobody wanted to represent him, not even on Annalise’s team, so this was going to be an annoying case for them. Like, this guy wrote a blog called “Spread ‘Em” in which he rated the hookers he’d hired. He seemed great.
Laurel, meanwhile, was sent to see her evil father, mostly because he had used his military-grade tracking intel to find Frank. But it wasn’t long until their reunion devolved into a verbal grudge match, all in some kind of mysterious foreign tongue!
We’ve known for a while now that Laurel’s dad is not a great guy, and it turned out there were two reasons for this: He’d left Laurel’s mom when she was in the throes of mental illness, and also he had once refused to pay a ransom when Laurel was kidnapped as a teenager. Also he made, like, “drones y bombas” for a living. She was not a fan. But he DID have info about Frank’s whereabouts, and if she wanted it, she was going to have to “sell” her “soul” to him for it. Or however that’s said in Spanish.
I’m not sure it was the coolest friend move on Connor’s part to throw in Michaela’s face the fact that her ex-fiancé had gotten engaged to another woman. As he scrolled through all the professionally photographed engagement photos, she looked like she was going to vom. But this ended up being a real ex-a-palooza when Bonnie entered!
She now knew for sure that Asher and Michaela were doing sex, and she did not seem particularly into the idea. Good times!
There was a spunky new assistant district attorney on the case, and when Annalise attempted to set up a plea deal for her awful client, the ADA told her she would agree to a plea deal at never o’clock. Annalise was persona non grata around these parts, and even if that was technically prosecutorial misconduct, she was sticking with this scorched-earth policy forever. This irked Annalise a whole bunch and it was now ON. Watch out, girl!
Meggie is turning out to be a real creep, like in this scene when she flirted with Wes by pretending to do a medical examination on him in bed. OK, weirdo.
But it’s not like Wes is so into Meggie that he won’t interrupt a hookup to take Laurel’s calls. Some awkward, bad-idea crushes die hard!
There is no shinier, more glistening character on TV than Nate. Shine on, you crazy boyfriend hunk.
Here’s where the episode got DARK. Annalise’s schlubby client had accidentally killed a prostitute, yes, but it turned out he’d actually killed another one. Apparently she’d called him fat and ugly and he hit her in the head with a baseball bat and stuffed her body in an abandoned refrigerator! Obviously he hadn’t been charged with this yet, but Annalise and Bonnie clearly struggled with whether they could in good conscience try to defend him from jail time when he was quite clearly a monster. And after splitting a bottle of vodka, Annalise and Bonnie decided NOT to go to the police!
The darkest thing about this was that this episode had to basically bend over backward to make all this seem not terrible. It was all pretty gross.
Meanwhile, Michaela had snatched 10 grand from the client (don’t ask) and the gang went to Atlantic City! Let it be known that even in Atlantic City they still weren’t drinking as much as Annalise and Bonnie back at the house, but at least there were fewer tears.
At one point a dude was hitting on Oliver, but then when Oliver turned around, the dude told Connor he wasn’t into Asians. Connor rightly told the guy to kindly STFU, but then Oliver assumed Connor was merely c**kblocking him! It was just not a great situation for anybody, but Oliver seems especially lame lately — sorry. Breakups aren’t easy, but you know what is easy? Not assuming the worst of your ex. Just my opinion!
So then Frank finally called Laurel on the phone and he basically told her to kick rocks, or whatever kids are saying these days. The GREAT news, though, was his face was healing nicely from the beating he’d gotten last week, so that made me happy. Get well soon, Frank’s face!
In a classic Annalise moment, she got her client to reveal the whereabouts of the other dead hooker while on the stand (he pinned the crime on a former cellmate), thus helping “solve” the missing-persons case while exonerating his character AND making the ADA look like a fool. Considering he had actually for real murdered a teenage girl, this comeuppance felt especially bitter, which was why Annalise was NOT done.
She had no choice but to slap his damn face! This happened when he seemed hesitant to accept the three-year (!) sentence in the plea deal she’d negotiated. I’m not sure how often Annalise straight-up slaps her clients in the face, but I’m guessing not often. It felt right.
Our final tease about who does NOT die in the flash-forward eliminated a major player: Bonnie! Bonnie will not die in the flash-forward, so that’s a relief. But neither she nor Oliver looked particularly happy when a fireman informed them that he’d found a live one at the scene. Uh-oh! Someone who was supposed to be dead wasn’t!
Not to sound like an alarmed soccer mom, but more than just being an edgy episode of television, “Always Bet Black” was almost too dark in a kind of unpleasant way. Tons of murder and justifications for murder parade across our screens all the time — particularly in police procedurals — but there’s at least a semblance of justice, and our heroes usually don’t make themselves accomplices to these terrible crimes. So while this episode was still well crafted, I just felt a little too icky about what Annalise and Bonnie did. Even if that was the point — Bonnie seems to be getting pushed ever closer to her breaking point — it still detracted from its entertainment value. But maybe I am just being sensitive. Anything’s possible! Still, great show.
What did YOU think of “Always Bet Black”?
How to Get Away With Murder airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.