After the Show: The ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ Premiere

For the last few weeks, the Shonda Rhimes takeover of Thursday night (and ABC for that matter) has been inevitable. With the shift of her staple Grey’s Anatomy to 8 pm and Scandal to 9 pm, ABC made ample way for the Shondaland-produced, Peter Nowalk-created legal drama How To Get Away With Murder. I know the proper network ratings won’t be out until later, but the real-time reactions, direct quotes and instances of #yasssss on my Twitter feed let me know Shonda Rhimes and her crew not only won Thursday night but also took home the crown. Here’s how:

Discredit the witness.

This week on The View, Viola Davis said that she’s had wonderful roles but they have been “downtrodden… women who are asexual, unrealized… they have careers but no names.” After HTGAWM’s premiere episode, we’ll all know the name Annalise Keating and that no one other than Viola Davis could have given her life. If those 8 minutes in Doubt were enough to garner her an Oscar nomination, then what Davis does with 44 minutes as a brilliant, mysterious, conflicted lawyer will surely earn her an Emmy nod. And that asexual thing gets blown away by the time Keating is pulling up her panties after she’s caught with her lover. More on that later.

Introduce a new suspect.

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Oh, you thought the show would tie up nicely with the supporting characters, namely Aja Naomi King as Michaela Pratt and Alfred Enoch as Wes Gibbins, being welcomed to Keating’s law firm? Well, you’re wrong. If you stepped away during the last seven minutes, you missed the cliffhanger that already has me wishing for next Thursday. After the show’s did-the-assistant-poison-her-boss case was solved, we were introduced to a second storyline: the likelihood that Keating’s in-the-dark husband may have been having his own affair and may have had a hand in killing his college student/lover. As the camera closed in on Keating, who went from consoling her husband to giving him the side eye, viewers were swept back to the woods scene we saw in the beginning of the episode (but forward in time) to witness Keating’s students rolling out the professor’s husband’s dead body. They all made a pact to set him on fire because, as Michaela said, “it’s the only way to kill the DNA.” Oh, I’m all in.

Bury the evidence.

I didn’t research the full breadth of Viola Davis’ career, but I’m confident she hasn’t had many roles that call for her to sit on a desk with a man kneeling between her legs. Seeing it tonight I pray removed any images of her only playing the faithful friend (The Help, Eat Pray Love) or unfit mother (Antwone Fisher, Get on Up). All I hope anyone will see is a strikingly beautiful, fully realized woman who has perfected her craft. I also like to think that when Keating firmly told her students, “Step up your game,” Davis was also sending a subliminal message to Hollywood.