Sunday, December 28, 2014

No mess: Deliciously devilish ‘Murder’

(Dec. 14, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

A legal procedural, murder mystery and education drama series in one, “How to Get Away With Murder” cleverly interlocks these elements without resulting in a messy hodge-podge.

Starring Viola Davis as Annalise Keating, a lawyer and criminal law professor, the show starts with a bang—in the debut episode, some college students are arguing over a dead person, while each and every player in the drama is introduced via flashbacks.

Keating teaches her students how to defend their clients in the courtroom and win—hence, get away with murder.

It’s not a whodunit; it’s clear from the get-go that her top students are the ones arguing over the disposal of that aforementioned body. But the circumstances that lead to that incident months later unravel in each episode, connecting with the characters’ fleshed-out lives and/or shenanigans.

Viola Davis is, in a word, fantastic. Annalise brooks no overbearing or unnecessary posturing from others, at least most of the time. The show centers on truths, so there are mind games, duplicities and secrets galore.

The esteemed thespian, now Golden Globe-nominated for the role, is remarkable in layering the complex Annalise. She is at once a believable and an unflinching person who demands only the best from others, a fighter who is also vulnerable and deglamorized as a wife wanting to bear children.

While relatively not as complicated, her mentee-assistant characters are still rich, and are explored accordingly. There’s the wide-eyed idealist Wes (Alfred Enoch); the entitled rich girl Michaela (Aja Naomi King); the quiet but cunning Laurel (Karla Souza); the sneaky-smart gay guy Connor (Jack Falahee), and the frat boy jock, Asher (Matt McGorry).

Add to that mix a drug-dealing bartender, Wes’ neighbor Rebecca (Katie Findlay) who knows details about a missing student, and the dynamics are simply combustible.

There are no saints here; by the ninth episode, the big questions are finally answered, which reestablishes the characters in a major way—sort of in a “Desperate Housewives” manner, back when that old show was good, but somewhat crossed with “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.” But it is definitely its own show; there is cohesion and a mindful consistency. Darkly humorous, deliciously devilish, racy and edgy—the show gets away with a lot of things, and it deserves to.

(“How to Get Away With Murder” airs 7:20 p.m., Saturdays on Sony Channel.)

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