How to Get Away with Murder Review: “Smile, or Go to Jail”

(Episode 1.03)

TV Reviews How To Get Away With Murder
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<i>How to Get Away with Murder</i> Review: &#8220;Smile, or Go to Jail&#8221;

After this week, I could argue that the pilot of How to Get Away with Murder was the best episode. While there was a lot of transition from past to present in that introduction, it seems as if we did need the present to clarify the past, and vice versa. Last week, I mentioned that the transitions were becoming annoyingly daunting. Now, after, “Smile, or Go to Jail,” I am just confused. Why is it important that Michaela’s engagement ring is gone? Obviously we knew something was going to happen because of how much the writers honed in on it in the beginning scenes. But really, does that require a flashback? And why are we still seeing the “heads, we go get the body” scene? We know that Keating’s students have retrieved the body, wrapped it up in a rug, avoided questioning by cops, missed the bonfire, and yet still here we are still tapping into the scene. Hopefully it will make sense soon, but I am getting a bit frustrated.

Speaking of the bonfire, no joke—that would be your alibi, Laurel. How many other alibis can you think of that would be simultaneous happening and coincidentally involve the smell of smoke and the residue of ashes on your clothes? For some fairly intelligent law students, these gladiators-in-training do not connect all the dots very easily. Michaela is not happy about being there but Connor pushes her in a selfie saying, “Smile or Go to Jail.” Hence, we have our tagline.

This week’s case revolves around Paula Murphy. Keating has just had charges against her dropped, when she finds out Paula Murphy is actually Alina Aguilar—and there’s a warrant out for her arrest for killing a man during the bombing of the world financial institute. Turns out she was a member of an anti-globalization group with Gabriel Shaw. Somehow this correlates with the plot line of Michaela Pratt, her fiancé and Connor—as Connor says to Michaela, “Makes you think what secrets Aiden is hiding from you huh?” Well, honestly, I do not think Michaela was thinking about that during a murder trial, until you said that Connor. But now she definitely is, and we are too…

Within a matter of seconds, Asher easily tracks down Shaw, who has been out of the picture for several years—another misstep. I find it hard to believe that this first year law student could do the job of a private investigator within a matter of hours. Then Professor Keating convinces him to go on the stand and prove it was not Alina’s idea to set off the bomb. Of course, the DA’s office has reached him first and promised him early release, so he goes on the stand and says it was Alina’s fault. Keating accuses him of lying and then as the gladiators-in-training go to uncover more information, Alina goes missing. Flash to the next scene, and she is on a bus with Shaw. There are so many loopholes in this, that I just cannot even handle it. How on earth would the two most important people in a trial be able to escape a courthouse, let alone a courtroom, under everyone’s noses? And how would Alina just decide that she wanted to return to a wild and crazy life within what we assume is a mere twenty four hours of being on trial. Not much of it adds up. The writers really need to pick a more believable story. Although it was still just as unbelievable, I preferred last week’s story for the simple fact that it was entertaining. This one, however, was not.

We find out that, of course, Connor has slept with Michaela’s fiancé. In a bout of arguments and frustration the duo splits up, and then makes up as if nothing happened except that Michaela threatens his wealth and status, if he is gay. Guaranteed, if Aiden is gay, he will never come out to Michaela.

Meanwhile, this mystery phone with the code rings, Wes answers, and it belongs to Lila Stangard, the girl who was murdered. Why is the person on the other line looking for Lila when it has been well-publicized that she was murdered? This is yet another fluke that the writers should have fixed before the premiere of this episode. Griffin O’Reilly asks Keating to represent him and wants to pin the murder on Lila. Wes freaks out, goes to see Rebecca, who calls the guards on him, and in what is supposed to be an act of heroism he asks Professor Keating to defend Rebecca. We find out in class that Keating agrees, as Wes is awarded the trophy for having the courage to speak out. Only they go to the jail and Rebecca has confessed. Cue the end of the episode—finally!

Other thoughts on “Smile, or Go to Jail”
•Viola Davis is becoming less believable as a strong, bad-ass character, and much more vulnerable. I feel bad comparing her to Olivia Pope because at least Olivia has the cold capability of emotionally removing herself. Keating does not and I hope that changes.
•Why did Detective Nate lie about Sam? He has made it clear he owes nothing to Professor Keating. It will be interesting to see how this all adds up in the end. Also, of course Sam did not show up to the meeting, nor was his car there. DUN DUN DUN…
•I sincerely hope that this show does a quick turnaround. I was thoroughly impressed at the beginning, but am becoming less and less intrigued to know what is going on. I feel like it will either be extremely predictable, or blow the viewers out of the water.
•I hate how Keating was feeding the gladiators-in-training what her defense would be in the format of a Criminal Law 100 case. It seems very unlike what her character would do, and I hope that she will no longer spoon-feed them the answers.
•Let us hope that episode four is more promising.

Best Quotes from “Smile, or Go to Jail”
“Don’t worry I don’t even remember what his penis looks like… wait oh yeah I do.” —Connor
“Hooker Mom turned out to be bomb Mom. I freaking love this job.”—Asher
“Choose your husband carefully, Ms. Pratt. You only have yourself to blame if it ends badly”—Keating

Lesley Brock is a Nashville-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.