Sam’s body has been uncovered, and now the heat is on in “She's a Murderer,” the 12th episode of How to Get Away with Murder's Season 1. Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and her students are out of options and need to learn just one thing: how to keep their mouths shut.
Some have a harder time than others, of course. Five minutes into the episode, Connor (Jack Falahee) airs his insecurities again. It’s always the untrustworthy people that never trust anyone, and this time he’s assuming that the discovery of Sam’s body means Keating is trying to frame her students as the murderers. To be fair, they are the murderers, but still.
The only thing they know for sure is that they’re under scrutiny, starting now. Even that’s better than Keating, who is immediately accused of the murder by Hannah (Marcia Gay Harden). The show’s been back from winter break for a few episodes already, but now it really feels like it’s back.
Keating doesn’t skip a beat, and is already advising those connected to the case to keep their mouths shut. That’s all the strategy she has, however, as Frank (Charlie Weber) states later in the episode. They can’t afford to do anything else other than what’s already in motion.
Hannah’s strategy is simple: act like a middle schooler. As soon as she hears her brother is dead, she loudly accuses Keating in front of the police. Next, she finds a detective and snitches on a lie Keating told the police, that she hadn’t known about Sam’s affair before the night of his disappearance. Hannah isn’t a mastermind of deductive reasoning; she just knows that the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. Or a search warrant.
Meanwhile, Keating refuses to let go of the case of the week, in which she tries to get a heroin smuggler’s case thrown out. Unlike last week, this case is tied to the ongoing murder mystery, which keeps it engaging. Everyone – attorneys, police, even the clients – think Keating killed her husband and pollute her work by mentioning it constantly.
The case itself isn’t complicated, but the fact that it dovetails with the greater plot makes it work. Meanwhile, a series of smaller plotlines move along. Wes (Alfred Enoch) is looking up his room’s last resident, Rudy, and finds out that Rebecca (Katie Findlay) called the cops on him when he was last seen. When he questions her, she deflects him. Pretty shady. They’re building up to something, and it doesn’t look great for Rebecca.
Murder works best when the plot is rapidly unfolding, and this episode is a strong example. The warranted search of Keating’s house doesn’t incriminate anyone, but a third-act reveal does: a ring has been found in the woods, and Keating agrees to be questioned about it.
Now Connor’s suspicions that Keating will sell out her students seem plausible. Assuming the ring is Michaela’s lost engagement ring, Keating will either need to dig herself deeper into a hole of lies or turn on her accomplices.
Instead, there’s a bigger twist: the ring is Sam’s, and Keating had Frank plant it at the crime scene on the night of the murder after adding a fingerprint from Nate (Billy Brown), Keating’s lover! The episode ends with his arrest. Keating’s framing him for the crime in order to take suspicion off of herself and her students. As for whether she’ll help defend him, we’ll have to wait until next week.
It’s a great plot twist because it’s grounded in information that we already knew, such as the fact that Keating spent the night with Nate after the murder. I had assumed that she was giving herself an alibi, but now she just has to deny they were together in order to take away Nate’s alibi.
Also, this plot development is solid, emotionally underpinned drama. Earlier in the episode, Nate and Keating had one of their sweeter moments, when Nate actually accepted her regardless of her guilt, unlike everyone else in her life. And now she’s betraying his trust. At least their relationship is going somewhere, unlike Frank and Laurel (Karla Souza), or Bonnie (Liza Weil) and Asher (Matt McGorry).
The episode is summed up in an unlikely heart-to-heart Keating shares with Connor. After accurately diagnosing his mistrust as stemming from his constant worrying, she admits that she worries, too, and that it makes people like them “very successful, but very tired too.” The more tired these characters are, the more successful the show is. And by now, they’re very tired.