How to Get Away With a Season Finale

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life anymore. Now that season three of How To Get Away With Murder is over, I just don’t know what to do with myself. I suppose I could do some homework, maybe study for a test or two, write a little more of book two. But it all feels so meaningless now. 

HTGAWM is maybe my favorite show on television. For an hour every Thursday, I put my phone down and lean back on my couch, clutching a pillow to my chest and muffling all my unearthly sequels. And then I’ll spend the rest of the week rambling to whoever will tolerate me about the drama and holy shit what suspense and what’s happening next and who’s in danger and why is it not Thursday already?

I was in the middle of a jog (because I hate myself enough to try to be healthy) when I stopped in my tracks, still shook from the end of the penultimate episode. 

Just as a warning, this will not be the only HTGAWM article I will write. There’s so much to talk about, so many characters that I’ve pseudo adopted (much like Annalise). There’s so many beautiful things in the show, so many incredible moments that make you admire the writers who pour life into these incredible characters. This show is my #storytellingporn. The stuff that makes me want to be a better writer, the stuff that inspires me to sit down and write something half as good as this year’s midseason finale.

Today, to keep myself in control, I’m just going to be focusing on the season three finale that aired last night and how I feel about it (and I have A Lot of Feelings) and then also maybe where I think season four will take us. Please be prepared for spoilers and rambling streams of consciousness. 

A quick recap on my emotions towards each character and everything I yelled at them through the screen last night:

Frank. I am over Frank. I was over Frank in season one, and then season two gave me a million reasons to hate him even more. I like that he’s been trying to take the bullet for Annalise, but I actually wanted him to go to jail because he is an actual murderer. But no. My mom loves him so I have to listen to her coo about Frank, meanwhile I was literally begging Annalise to slap him, just once for all the shit he’s pulled. He’s definitely right when he says it should have been him, not Wes.

Bonnie. Bonnie is a terrible lawyer. I don’t mind Bonnie that much as a character and I didn’t want her to be the one that died, but man, she just can’t win. She tries so hard to be like Annalise but just fails every. Single. Time. It’s like watching a kid walk in their parents shoes. She just can’t pull it off. Here’s to hoping she gets a little better at manipulating people in season four.

I don’t know when it happened, but somehow, Asher has become the greatest character on the show. Through season one I was ambivalent; he was the worst of the Keating Five and didn’t even know anything about the murder stuff so he was boring. In season two I even grew to dislike him after the whole Emily Sinclair nonsense, and at the beginning of this season I was prepared to let him go if it meant sparing my other faves from the Sheet of Death. Now he’s the highlight of Thursday nights. He’s so lovable and goofy and in the midst of murder and drama, he’s a silver lining of comedy. Asher’s highlights from last night (aside from every time he was on the screen): admitted he would sleep with an old person for money, “With the state of my bank account currently”; ate Cheetos very loudly after Oliver’s heartbreaking plea for everyone to help him find Connor; made Laurel literally throw up because he was eating pizza so grossly; told Michaela he loved her like fifteen times; “Maybe you’ll love me if I have abs”; that little face he made when Michaela said she loved him too. Here’s to more of Asher in season four, being the lighthearted breath of fresh air this show really needs.

On the subject of Michaela. I’ve loved this girl since season one. She’s ambitious, hard-working, and can get shit done. Everyone always speculated which of the kids is most like Annalise and I think Michaela is definitely a carbon copy of Annalise’s no-nonsense, I-can-destroy-you-with-a-single-sentence attitude. I love her and Connor and their amazing friendship and watching her support him throughout the episode was amazing. I feel like we got to see Michaela’s vulnerable side in the finale and that’s something that doesn’t happen a lot. Seeing her and Laurel talk about boys in the bathroom was painfully cute and her entire reaction to Asher’s confession was amazing, from “I think Laurel is calling me” to finally responding in kind confidently in a women’s restroom in a bar in New York City with an amazed look on her face. I really enjoyed seeing Michaela take charge this season (She stepped up to the plate more than Bonnie, tbh) but next season I hope she gets a break and explore her relationship with Asher a little better.

Laurel. Oh, dear sweet Laurel. She has been a hot mess since Wes’s death, and I understand you’re grieving and I love you so much, but seriously, you need to calm the heck down. My issue with Laurel lately is that she acts like Wes’s death was her tragedy and hers alone. This episode was chock full of Laurel yelling at people who are just trying to help and making bad decisions. She was planning to straight up murder Charles Mahoney on the hunch that his family had something to do with Wes’s death. I know you’re in pain, but that doesn’t mean you get to do really dumb things like send your friends to go flirt with creepy rapists and then pull a gun out in the middle of a bar. Also telling Connor to kill himself was not cool. You didn’t know about the whole bus thing, but still, not cool. Wes was his friend too, and you were also in the house and did not save Wes, so please, chill out and stop attacking the people you care about. Hopefully season four Laurel will take a deep breath, stop being a trainwreck, and quit hurting the people around her so that maybe she can mourn properly with her friends. (Unfortunately I don’t think this will happen, and dear Lord I hope everyone clears a path when she finds out that her father killed Wes.)

Annalise has been killing me ever since the mid season finale. She has been through so much. She lost Wes, she got sent to jail, her mom has Alzheimer’s, her house burnt down, she literally got punched in the face a few times. She has been through the wringer, and it was uplifting to see her kick back into battle gear. Trying to help Bonnie do her job better, meeting with Mrs. Mahoney, preparing her case to straight up destroy DA Denvers. But those last moments with her at her support group was especially moving. She was painfully honest for once, confronted her feelings, and I’m relieved to see that she’s finally going to put effort into healing. Viola Davis always stuns me with the power of her acting and the way she can convey Annalise’s pain. While I love watching Annalise destroy people in and out of the courtroom, I hope next season she gets to take a step back and start to piece herself back together a little bit. It’s been a rough year and I think she deserves a break.

Oliver. Hampton. My poor dear child. He’s finally a part of the Murder Club TM. I loved Oliver in this episode. He may be new to the club, but he’s become confident enough to push and shove everyone else around enough. He and Michaela yelling at everyone to freaking stop blaming Connor made my week. This is Oliver’s first finale as a knowing member of Team Murder and he stepped up to the plate. From kitty porn to proposing to Connor, Oliver went through a journey last night. He’s spent so long wanting to know all of the gang’s secrets and inside jokes, and in the last few episodes, we’ve seen him realize what deep shit he’s gotten into, but I think last night he realized just how serious and dangerous their situation is. His concern for Connor throughout the episode was pure and adorable, and I can only hope he holds onto that adorableness throughout season four.

And finally, Connor. I don’t know where to begin. Connor has been my favorite of the bunch for a long while, because he’s one of those characters that are so goddamn tragic. I’ll probably dedicate an article to him one of these days, but in this finale he just got walloped. I spent most of last night shouting at him and crying about him. For starters, what the heck was that opening scene? What the hell did he think he was doing almost stepping in front of that bus like that? Does he know how freaking worried I was? “What do you know?” I screamed at the screen a total of fifteen times during the first twenty minutes of last night. This is the thing about Connor, he acts like he doesn’t care about anything, but secretly cares a lot, and after three seasons of blaming Wes for everything and calling him Wait List and being his usual “I’m too cool for this” self, seeing him try and fail to resuscitate Wes was killer. And then thinking he was to blame. It put a whole new perspective on his adamant declaration that it was Annalise. He just wanted to believe it wasn’t his fault and it wasn’t. Connor is the type of character that has so many emotions but shares about two so I loved, loved seeing him stop being so cold faced and being genuine with everyone for once. Finally protesting that Wes was his friend, calling Annalise out for trying to replace Wes with him, literally crying for once instead of just letting everything fester. And then the unwavering loyalty to the cause suddenly. Throwing himself out there to go on the stand and potentially be incriminated, going to Denvers to tell him what happened, knowing it would put him at risk, Connor felt so damn guilty for no damn reason and it pained me so much to see him try to make amends. He was starved and locked in a bunker for over a day and still refused to turn on Annalise. I think it’s high time Connor got a freaking break. I hope in season four he goes somewhere warm with Oliver and turns off his cell phone.

Also just a quick note about Connor and Oliver. I let out an unearthly howl when Oliver proposed. After such a stressful episode for my two favorite dudes, seeing them together again and then having Oliver. Propose. I may have exploded just a little. I expect full scale wedding mode for season four since aside from Laurel’s dick of a dad, there’s not much more murder plot. How to Get Away With Planning a Wedding. Michaela is best man, obviously. Asher makes dumb comments about flowers and rings and stuff but then gets drunk and proposes to Michaela at the rehearsal dinner. Laurel calms the heck down and takes up floral design or something to help them out. 

If anyone has Shonda Rhimes contact info please let me know because I have ideas and feelings and I will consider writing for season four. I don’t have anything to do know that speculating about my favorite show is over so I could easily fit that in my schedule. Or I could rewatch the whole show from the beginning…

Riverdale: A Great Place to Get Away with Dark Thematic Commentary on the American Dream

Our story is about a show, a CW show, and the people who live in the show. From a distance, it presents itself like so many other shows all over the prime time TV block…Angsty.

Dramatic.

A little cliched.

Get closer, though, and you start seeing the intriguing thematic commentary underneath.

The name of our show is Riverdale. 

~~~~~~~~~

I love Jughead Jones, I really do, but his writing style… 

There are two TV shows that I care about enough to watch live every week: How to Get Away With Murder and recently, Riverdale. (I’ll be writing an article soon about The Murder Show™.) You would think that there wouldn’t be enough in three episodes to write a whole article about, but I’m convinced that there’s this deep meaning beneath the surface of this seemingly simple teen drama. 

Riverdale is based on the Archie comics series (one of many comic based shows on the CW). I’m not an expert on Archie comics history and characters, but a quick Wikipedia search has confirmed my long held impressions. Archie Andrews is the all American teenager, Betty Cooper is your typical girl next door, Veronica Lodge is a slightly spoiled socialite, and Jughead Jones is the every lazy yet supportive best friend. It’s a harmless, goofy, colorful comic, not meant to be taken too seriously. 

Riverdale, however, opens with Jughead Jones narrating the death of Jason Blossom. The whole scene is idyllic, aesthetically beautiful, with the Blossom twins in matching pristine white contrasting with their blood red hair. Everything is so bright and pretty and yet there’s this darkness that we don’t get to see: the death of Jason. 

At the end of the episode we learn that Jason had been shot in the head, and Jughead Jones narrates us out of chapter one saying the Riverdale was not the same town after the discovery. 

But I disagree. I think Jason’s murder didn’t mark a change in Riverdale at its core, but rather the first cracks in the perfect idealistic front of the town. 

Our characters are not just the perfect archetypal characters from the comics. Archie, our ideal American teen, is having an illicit affair with his adult music teacher. Sweet girl-next-door Betty is dealing with mental health issues as a result of her abusive mother and absent sister. Veronica is coping with her father’s arrest and being a stranger in a new town. Jughead is a social outcast who shakes down Boy Scouts and writes murder mystery novels. 

They’re undoubtedly based on the characters from the comics, but twisted in intriguing dark ways. 

Meanwhile a character like Cheryl Blossom who you’d expect to embody the mean girl archetype, is given many moments where the audience sympathizes her. She may be mean, but she’s reacting to her brother’s death and whether you like her or not, you feel for her. 

The show also employs some… problematic throw away lines, specifically concerning characters’ sexualities. When first meeting Kevin, Veronica immediately decides that he is gay and that subsequently they must become best friends. This is a trope that a lot of people are done with, because it implies that gay characters are mainly there to support their straight leads instead of possessing their own agencies and motivations. I cringed when I watched that scene, but just a few scenes later Cheryl is there, calling it out with a flippant retort, “Is being the Gay Best Friend still a thing?”

Even later in the episode, to ‘shock’ Cheryl and show that they have the fire to be cheerleaders, Veronica kisses Betty. Once again this trope utilizes the shock of two girls kissing like it’s something strange and unexpected instead of something genuine and normal. Cue another cringe. This time the moment is barely over when Cheryl is once again pointing out the moment, “Check your sell-by date, ladies, faux lesbian kissing hasn’t been taboo since 1994.”

These are just two examples, but most of the time, when one character says something that makes the audience (me) cringe with its offensive connotation, another is there to make some retort that calls it out. The fact that it’s typically Cheryl, our villainous queen bee, adds a whole other layer of complexity to the shows already muddled lines of good and bad. 

The closer you get, the more Riverdale seems to be shouting out a message through all of its subtext and juxtapositions. Our clean cut American teenagers are not perfect. They have issues that get glossed over and ignored by the plot and the other characters, but that wrongness remains in the forefront of the audience’s mind. Our perfect American ideals aren’t perfect, and this isn’t something that happened suddenly. 

In episode three, Betty decides to start up the school newspaper with Jughead to investigate Jason’s death. “Jason’s death changed Riverdale. People don’t want to admit that, but it’s true. We all feel it. Nothing this bad was ever supposed to happen here, but it did,” she says. I think she’s wrong. Jason’s death didn’t change Riverdale. 

During the episode, she and Veronica decide to fight back against the slutshaming and other misogyny perpetuated in their school by the football team. When they start investigating, they end up with a room full of girls who had been harassed and shamed by just one guy. This is not something new to Riverdale. The difference is that now, it’s coming to the light. Betty and the others are reporting about it, going to principal, not letting the issue hide behind Riverdale’s clean cut facade. 

Riverdale was never a perfect town. It had these problems beneath the surface, being glossed over, hidden from sight. But they’ve always been there. In episode three, we learn that Jason didn’t drown at the river, but rather was faking his own death to run away, to get out of Riverdale. Jason’s death wasn’t the start of the darkness in Riverdale, it was the end of ignorance, of hiding behind pretty suburban aesthetics. 

And that’s only with four episodes of content to examine. As the series progresses, I’m excited to see more of the darkness get called to light by Betty and Jughead and the others. As we learn more about Jason’s death, as Riverdale’s pristine facade crumbles, I’ll be sitting raptly every Thursday night.