From two men or two women cuddling and kissing to grisly murders and attacks against the black community, ABC’s TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday!) legal-thriller, “How to Get Away with Murder” unfailingly offers you these bold and controversial story arcs that reshape the face of television series. And undeniably, no one gets away with it.
Oscar and Tony Award-winning actress Viola Davis continues to slay each scene, in her intense portrayal of badass criminal defense attorney Annalise Keating, who tries to redeem her messy life by trying to fix the mess brought about by people that surround her and even fixing hind results of her chaotic and complicated past. No matter how complex the manoeuver of the story gets, HTGAWM consistently maintains its high viewership as it fearlessly tackles present relevant issues of racial disparities, HIV and the LGBTQ; and of course, the death mystery that is always introduced in the pilot of every season would hook the viewers’ thrill and interest with its chopped flashbacks weaved into intriguing scenes.
Following her class action win at the Supreme Court, Keating (Viola Davis) works for the law firm Caplan & Gold, alongside her ‘then murderous’ but now ‘good people’ Keating-5, Connor (Jack Falahee), Michaela (Aja Naomi King), Laurel (Karla Souza), Asher (Matt McGorry) and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora).
In the current fifth season, “How To Get Away with Murder” centers on racial injustices experienced mostly by the black community. The face of Annalise’s class action is the case of Nathaniel Lahey, Sr. (Glynn Turman), a black American boxer and the father of Annalise’s former lover Nate (Billy Brown). Lahey Sr. has been in and out of prison. After serving his time sentence in jail for his first charged crime, he came home facing enormous bills he couldn’t pay (which typically happens to ex-cons), automatically putting him in a place of desperation where he would be forced to break parole. Back in jail, Lahey Sr. has been picking fights with some inmates which led him to be placed in solitary confinement for 12 months, which he thought had only been a month – a mental situation that allegedly caused him to kill another inmate during another fight. Over the years of being in and out of prison, Lahey Sr. has been handled by around 15 public defenders, each of them didn’t represent him properly that eventually e
nded him pleading guilty for a crime which was never perused properly plus the allegation of being given a longer sentence for being black – a story that customarily circulates in the black community.
Two reports (2010, 2012) concurred by the United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch of the federal government of the United States, consistently shows that the length of sentences in most courts are influenced by skin colour. In the report’s key findings, it states “Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders. Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders…”
The intense court fights of Annalise Keating translate in television the undervalued fight of the black community who, despite the claim for improved equality, still struggles to get fair and unbiased trial in the court of law. With black characters portraying both the protagonists and the villains at some point, “How to Get Away with Murder” creates a pragmatic representation of what it is like to be black in a community where skin colour is still considered a gauging factor for progress. Each scene in the series is socially relevant and contemporary – situations that practically happen inside trial courts that are normally absorbed within the four walls of the court room. Revolutionary arguments that are sometimes undermined by some racist judges and members of the jury, who deliberately turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to pressing obnoxious realities rolling out before them.
Aside from racial subjects, “How to Get Away with Murder” remains to perfectly traverse the road less travelled when it comes to storytelling – the sensitive issues of the LGBTQ community. In the first three seasons of HTGWM, Connor and Oliver’s love story has captured millions of viewers, especially the LGBTQ folks. At last! We have a TV character! From Oliver’s HIV infection to the couple dealing with PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis), a one-a-day pill that can help reduce the transmission of HIV in people who are HIV negative and are sexually active with those who are positive. HTGAWM blatantly lays out what it is like to be someone living with HIV.
As Coliver’s (as what their love team is called) relationship progresses, in this current season, same sex marriage is one of the major arcs. Oliver and Connor’s characters walk through the details of preparing for a wedding, from picking the perfect romantic venue for the reception, to picking the ideal church (Yes, there are churches in the US that wed same sex couples) that share their values on the relationship, to even resolving conflicts involving their mothers-in-law. Olive and Connor normalise the actions of a gay couple being able to feel the excitement of getting married.
From the very get-go, HTGAWM has been fearless in showing gay scenes that a lot of people might flinch at, but it did open a new level of understanding that these affections of kissing, hugging and sex are not just shared unilaterally among straight people, but rather these are universal forms of love and affection that are equally celebrated in both straight and gay relationships.
Diverse representation of people from all forms and all walks of life (both the good and the bad) made “How to Get Away with Murder” still in the running to success. Lead actor Viola Davis once said in one of her winning speeches, “The role of an actor is to make people feel less alone” – and certainly the gays and the blacks would really feel less alone after watching it. With two guys kissing, brash criminal defense attorney that most of the time becomes the protagonist and villain of the story, characters surprisingly dying in mysterious murders usually committed by one of the major characters – “How to Get Away with Murder” is indeed a show of utter mayhem, and viewers can’t get away with it.