Finally we get some momentum! Relationships are getting set up, vital evidence is almost uncovered, and the trophy/future murder weapon is stolen. By the time “He Has a Wife” ends, we’re already at the evening that all the future-set scenes have shown, and it’s murdering time. Let’s find out how we get there.
There’s a bizarre twist to this week’s new case: a mother murdered her nanny while under the influence of sleeping pills. Her home life is twisted, too, although it is only weird because of how normal it remains. Despite her murder charge, the mother is only concerned with hiring a DJ for her child’s birthday party. This follows in Murder’s tradition of making virtually all their characters workaholics.
The workaholic is a great TV character: they are hyper-competent at their job, so they’re fun to watch when solving crimes or diagnosing ailments, but they fail at everything else, so they add a lot of drama that’s just as fun to watch. Murder seems to hate anyone who isn’t one, as Sam Keating (Tom Verica), the only laid-back cast member, is a liar, cheater, and probable murderer.
Speaking of which, this episode’s best plotlines gives us the entertaining fallout from last episode’s revelation, that Lila was six weeks pregnant when she was murdered. Keating (Viola Davis) tells Wes (Alfred Enoch), Wes tells Rebecca (Katie Findlay), and Rebecca tells Nate (Billy Brown), who convinces her to try getting DNA evidence to prove Sam was responsible. This subplot, at least, is grounded in the characterizations of all five actors. The show juggles too many plots and relationships for its own good, but in every episode, one of them rises above the others.
This time, Conner (Jack Falahee) and his ex-boyfriend Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) lose out, getting no screen time whatsoever. The show’s first break is coming up—after next week’s episode, it won’t be back until January—and it looks like Conner is one of the least plot-relevant characters this time.
Also, I think Rebecca talks too fast. I’m surprised I’m just starting to become bothered by this now, but she delivers every line as if she’s upset she hasn’t already reached the end of her sentence. It’s distracting in the flashbacks, where we finally get to see a living version of Lila. Instead of relaxing and enjoying a little character development away from her murder charge, past-Rebecca just speed-reads through the script.
The plot machinations come fast and heavy in this episode, partially because everything needs to move into place for the murder next episode. We’ve seen flashforwards for the whole season so far, and they’ve given us a lot of information. For instance, Asher’s (Matt McGorry) trophy is used to bludgeon Sam to death, but it needs to be stolen from his flat first, which turns out to be the work of a distraught Michaela (Aja Naomi King), hoping to keep her life together even if her marriage won’t go through. It’s all complicated, but our foreknowledge helps keep the plotting, at the least, acceptable.
Even the case of the week gets little attention. In a predictable twist, the son was having an affair with the nanny. Whenever you don’t know what’s next on this show, it’ll be someone having an affair with someone else. The broad strokes for the whole case: the father turned out to be also sleeping with the nanny, was jealous of the son, and framed his wife using her convenient sleeping pill problem. Every single scene in which the family shows up drives this plot, with little other need, but it all flows quickly as a result.
It even manages to tie in thematically, when the defendant confronts Keating about saving her by implicating her husband. Keating just tells her that he betrayed her trust, which is unforgivable.
Then, in the end, Keating finally makes a move that she’s postponed too long: she makes sure Sam gets the DNA test. He claims he knows nothing about the pregnancy, another obvious lie, and Keating is finally letting the truth out instead of hiding it for her husband. She’s decided that his betrayal is unforgivable.
Unfortunately, it takes her the entire episode to come to this conclusion. If she could have accepted it earlier, she might not have fired Bonnie (Liza Weil) for trusting her instead of Sam. I’m betting that will have repercussions in the future—after all, Bonnie ends up in bed with Asher later that night, which, given how little she appears to like him, smells like an alibi to me. I expect she’s involved in the murder somehow.
This episode is full of plot that feels similarly weighty. The final ten minutes have an urgency that comes from knowing something the cast doesn’t: they are only hours away from the life-changing murder in next week’s winter finale.
Adam Rowe is an information writer and science history enthusiast who runs 70sscifiart.tumblr.com. Follow him @AdamRRowe.