I’m disappointed that this episode wasn’t titled “The Plot Thickens.” There’s a definite format to those titles: they are always a short, punchy quote from the episode—five syllables, tops—and it’s a distillation of the soapy drama that this show loves. And this time around, the plot is definitely thickening.
The “case of the week” format is finally side-stepped in favor of the case that has been progressing through the entire season: defending Rebecca Sutter (Katie Findlay) for the murder of Lila Stangard. But to ensure that the level of plot twists can stay on par with a typical episode, the Keating team must fight two opponents: the ever-sleazy prosecutor, well played by Orange is the New Black actress Alysia Reiner, and the representative for quarterback Griffin O’Reilly, the other suspect. All three attorneys work against each other, and this episode showcases how far they’ll sink to win.
With all this genuine conflict bubbling up, it’s surprising that the show finds time for a few of the most fun scenes so far: Wes (Alfred Enoch), Connor (Jack Falahee), and Asher (Matt McGorry) all head to a bar in an attempt to flirt their way to information. Instead of being his normal suave self, Connor self-destructs over his relationship problems, while Wes fails to keep Asher from using cheesy pickup lines and listing increasingly ridiculous euphemisms for his genitals.
It’s a shame that the show only gives this one scene, as the actors are all game for having fun together. But this isn’t a friends-style hang-out show, and plot complications take precedence over shenanigans, regardless of their wackiness.
In the end, things don’t look great for our protagonists: they lose their bid to prevent an exhumation of the victim for a second autopsy. However, the show is still poor at the element it needs to make this all matter: character development.
Rebecca isn’t any less characterized than most of the cast; she’s just the one that the case hinges on, and therefore needs to pull more weight than the others. Of course, we are still supposed to be invested in Laurel (Karla Souza) and Connor’s relationship issues, so if they felt a little more well-rounded, that could help. Both of them talk about loving their respective significant others, or in Connor’s case, the ex, but we never get to see that in action.
I harp on this show’s character development pretty often, so I’ll make a concession here. It isn’t missing entirely in this episode. It’s just given to the one character least likely to use it: everyone’s favorite future dead guy, Sam Keating (Tom Verica). By now, we’re just two weeks away from his untimely demise, and so the emotional screws are being tightened on the Keatings’ marriage. Sam is slowly reassuring Annalise (Viola Davis) that their relationship will be okay eventually, which will make it all the worse when she’ll have to deal with his death.
And in the lengthy flashforwards, we learn some solid plot building. For starters, Sam’s demise may not have been that untimely after all. As Rebecca puts it, right before quoting this episode’s title, “I had no other choice. I had to kill him, or he was going to kill me.”
By now, the future murder looks pretty clear, and it is just as straight-forward as it has always been. Rebecca had to kill Sam because he tried to kill her to cover up his murder of Lila, which was motivated, as we learn in the final scene of this episode, by Lila’s six-week-old pregnancy. I was hoping for a twist, and there still might be one, but it looks more like the show doesn’t trust its audience to follow a twisty story set in the non-linear future.
Also, does a “standard autopsy” typically miss a pregnancy? That really seems like revelation that we didn’t need to wait seven episodes and an exhumation for. Looks like we could use an episode about the gross incompetence of the coroners on this show.
Adam Rowe is an information writer and science history enthusiast who runs 70sscifiart.tumblr.com. Follow him @AdamRRowe.