I want you to imagine the first year of law school. Now, nightmares aside, remember your day-to-day grind: the boring classes, the reading until 4AM. If you were to make your first year of law school a TV show, no one would ever watch it. If your first year of law school was like mine you would probably cancel yourself. But, if you take out all of the reading and actual teaching and replace it with sex and ethical violations, then you have a show, and that show is called “How to Get Away with Murder.”
“How to Get Away with Murder” is Shonda Rhimes’ latest ridiculously disturbing offering on ABC. Set at a fake tier-one law school in Philadelphia, the show follows two plotlines: one set a few months in the future in which four law students are trying to cover up the murder of their professor’s husband and the other chronicling their first year of law school. The first (and really only) class they attend is criminal law taught by Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis).
Keating is a solo practitioner as well as a professor. Unlike the rest of us, she never seems to need to prep her class, probably because of her awesome reputation as bestest ever criminal defense attorney. Unfortunately, she partakes in a litigation practice that would get most of us thrown in prison or maybe disbarred. For example, in the first nine episodes we have seen her:
1. illegally plant evidence
2. lie to the judge’s face
3. disobey gag orders
4. go to great lengths to actively conceal incriminating evidence.
Of course these actions are mirrored by prosecuting attorneys, who act just as unethically by hiding evidence and completely disregarding the Brady Rule. The prosecutors also attempt to cover up their own race-based prosecution and completely coerced confessions. Why? Because every single person in this show is terrible.
Among this clusterfuck of a legal community, Professor Keating decides to take on five first-year law students to work as law clerks. These “law clerks” spend most of their time not writing memos, but instead breaking numerous ethical violations including illegal wiretaps, jury tampering and the unauthorized practice of law. Also important: apparently there are many opportunities for law clerks to trade sex for information. In fact, there is far more sexytime in this school than studying.
So, what is the actual plot? A few episodes into the show Keating begins representing Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay). Sutter is a college student accused of murdering her frenemy Lila Stanguard.
We find out later that Sutter is also involved in covering up a death, but not of Lila… Instead, in a shocking plot twist, Sutter is actually covering up the murder of Professor Keating’s husband Sam.
Sam had an affair with Lila Stanguard, and may have killed her. Oh and also, Lila is Sam’s student. SEE! Everyone in this show is terrible! The most important, and shameful, part of the story came with the mid-season finale episode (yes, we know that “mid-season finales” is a glob of words that makes no sense) in which they showed how Sam was murdered. While Rebecca Sutter was trying to steal information from his computer, Sam attacks her, but he is killed when one the of student lawyer clerk people hits him over the head with a trophy.
This killing is what leads to the ultimate sin of this series. After the death, all the law students present believe that they are liable for murder and need to hide the body. You all know that this would not constitute first-degree murder because there was no premeditation or calculation involved, and even though stealing information from a computer is a felony, it is not an enumerated felony for the purpose of felony murder in the state where the show takes place. My conclusion: if the students would have just taken a little more time studying rather than breaking the law they could have avoided the situation they were in altogether and a more appropriate title for this show would be “How to Get Away with what may be manslaughter if the jury doesn’t believe my protection of others defense.”