How to Get Away with Murder RECAP: This is nothing like Hogwarts (S1:E1)
The episode begins with one of the most rambunctious college pep rallies I have ever seen. There are drunken people, a bonfire, weird dub step music—is that an effigy? They’re burning an effigy. How come my school never burned anything? Maybe I would have gone to the pep rallies if my school burned stuff.
The only four sober students on that campus are ignoring the revelry because they are too busy running away from a crime scene. These are our protagonists, although we don’t know that yet—but I am going to go ahead and give you the brief rundown on them:
- Connor Walsh is the gay dude with the beard and he is a jerk.
- Michaela Pratt is the preppy black chick and she’s a jerk.
- Laurel Castillo is that other chick and she’s kind of a jerk.
- Wesley Gibbins is played by the same guy who played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter movies and he is not a jerk. I’m going to refer to him as Dean Thomas because in my head Dean Thomas left Hogwarts to move to America where is he trying to get a law degree.
I know, I’m a Harry Potter nerd who needs to grow up. Let’s keep going. We’re only five minutes into this pilot.
Anyway, Michaela freaks out when Dean Thomas reveals that he took the murder weapon—a statue of Lady Justice—from the crime scene. Not exactly subtle irony. They kind of beat you over the head with it like it’s a, well, statue of Lady Justice.
Laurel wants to bury the body right there in the woods, but Connor points out that the ground is too frozen to dig. “We have all night,” she says. Laurel, I don’t think anyone wants to spend their night digging a grave when they could be watching an effigy burn.
Michaela and Connor want to put everything back and let the police handle it, but they risk being incriminated. Dean Thomas suggests they flip a coin to decide what to do.
Yes, it is very wise to flip a coin when you are trying to decide how to hide a dead body. God, what’s next, a pros/cons list? Walter White might have one to lend him.
As he flips the coin, we cut to three months earlier, when Dean Thomas was just beginning law school. He rides his bike past a bunch of posters for a missing girl named Lila Stangard. Those posters were so prominent that I am sure they will not be important AT ALL later on.
Dean Thomas enters his busy, crowded classroom. He tries to sit next to the only other black person in the room, Michaela, but she shuts down his attempts to make small talk with her. Connor adds that Dean Thomas doesn’t want “to be a sitting duck when the shooter gets here.” Dean Thomas is so confused that I think he thinks there will be a literal shooter in the classroom.
Unlucky for him, it is much worse—it’s the Head Professor in Charge, Annalise Keating. She tells them they all have bad karma if they got into her class because she’s going to make their lives a living hell. She introduces the class as Criminal Law 100, but informs the class that she prefers to call it “How to Get Away with Murder.”
And in that moment, all the potential serial killers watching at home sat up a little straighter.
Annalise begins her lecture by asking the students about a case study about the Aspirin Assassin. Ha, sounds like a wimpy super villain Batman might have to fight against when he has a headache. However, it’s actually the case of the Commonwealth v. Gina Sadowski—Gina was the mistress of Arthur Kaufman, her boss and CEO of an advertising agency. When his wife found out about the affair and made him end it, Gina retaliated by switching his blood pressure pills with aspirin, which he’s allergic too. He nearly died so Gina is being tried for attempted murder.
Connor and Michaela are able to answer Annalise’s questions about the case, but Dean Thomas is not as lucky. Annalise asks him about the mens rea for the case and Dean Thomas says he didn’t know they had to do reading before the class.
And in that moment, all the college students watching at home inwardly winced.
Then Dean Thomas continues to dig himself into a hole by admitting that he, a law student, doesn’t know what mens rea means. Oh come on, Dean Thomas! Even I know what mens rea means! You should watch Legally Blonde more often!
Dean Thomas explains that he just transferred here two days ago from Hogwarts so Annalise goes easy on him and tries to help him out. However, a smug Laurel Castillo gives the answer.
Annalise is not impressed with Laurel showing up Dean Thomas and goes all Professor Snape on her ass.
The students ask what the verdict of the case turned out to be, and Annalise reveals that there isn’t one—yet. She is actually working on the case at the moment. (Apparently lawyer-clint confidentiality is taught in a higher level course.) Annalise announces that their first assignment is to try to think of a defense for Gina’s case and she will not allow any repeat arguments. She tells Dean Thomas that he has the pleasure of going last. Annalise also introduces the class to her associates, Frank Delfino and Bonnie Winterbottom, and informs the class that she will be taking on four students to work for her firm and help them become America’s Next Top Lawyer. She shows them a statue of Lady Justice and promises that the best student will get to have it.
Just what every student wants—a future murder weapon.
Dean Thomas tries to study in his apartment, but his weird Goth neighbor is playing her weird Goth music and won’t turn it down. He sighs and wonders if he can apply his Criminal Law 100 notes to getting away with killing her. We jump to three months forward again, where the kids are trying to apply their law school and CSI: Miami knowledge to clean up the crime scene.
Michaela is being a brat and refusing to help the gang get rid of the evidence. Come on, Michaela, getting rid of evidence with your classmates is a lot like High School Musical—you’re all in this together.
Thankfully, when a police officer catches them coming out of house, Michaela finally gets her head in the game and is able to deflect any suspicion.
Back to three months earlier, the students are presenting their defenses. Dean Thomas is screwed because everyone keeps taking all the good defenses. When it’s his turn, all he can come up with is “Lord Voldemort killed the man with the Avada Kedavra curse and planted aspirin next to him to divert the blame.”
Actually, Dean Thomas suggests that Gina claim that she was acting in self-defense because the affair was actually a case of Stockholm Syndrome and it was the only way she could leave the relationship.
The class titters because, really, the Lord Voldemort answer is more believable, but Annalise is impressed with Dean Thomas’s quick thinking. She informs them that all of their answers suck, so she wants the class to come to the court room the next day to see her in action.
Michaela protests that she has other classes and Annalise is all, “Make it work!” in her best Tim Gunn voice.
In the courtroom, the assistant is claiming that she saw Gina pull out yellow aspirin pills at the office. Michaela runs in late and whispers something in Annalise’s ear. Annalise is all, “So you saw a yellow pill? The same color as that dude’s shirt?” The witness is all, “Yeah, totally.” And Annalise is all, “BOO YAH THAT DUDE’S SHIRT IS BLUE! YOU’RE COLORBLIND! THEREFORE YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED!”
It’s all very Legally Blonde up in there.
Annalise is impressed with Michaela and tells the other students to get on her level. Dean Thomas takes it to heart and goes to Annalise’s house to give a suggestion about the case in an attempt to impress her. She doesn’t answer but the door is unlocked. So he goes inside the house and sees a light from one of the rooms. And do you know what he sees?
Annalise Keating reading Harry Potter.
Haha, he wishes. Actually, he walks in on Annalise getting some loving from a very fit, younger man.
Luckily for him, Annalise is okay with her coitus being interrupted but tells him that his idea for the case is actually dumb and orders him to get out of her house. “I am Oscar nominated actress Viola Davis, and it’s time the country realized how sexy I am,” she tells him as she pushes him out the door.
Sex must be in the air tonight because Connor is at a bar hitting on a dorky IT guy from the Arthur Kaufman’s agency. Specifically, he is there to get some dirty details on the case and the IT guy is so thirsty for Connor that he agrees to blab. So Conner gets sex and evidence to impress Annalise with—he truly is a winner that night.
Annalise, with the emails Connor got from the IT guy, is able to get the jury to suspect Kaufman’s business partner as the murderer. She tells the students to come by the dean’s cocktail party that night if they have anything else for her to use. Because emails make for lousy television.
Laurel goes into the bathroom where Gina is reapplying her lipstick. Through the stall door, she sees Arthur’s wife enter. Instead of the women having a catfight because, you know, Gina might have almost killed the other lady’s husband, something very interesting happens instead.
What does it mean? I don’t know, but it’s incriminating and Laurel got to witness it.
Meanwhile, Dean Thomas goes back to his apartment where his weird Goth neighbor is arguing with a jock. He tries to check on her but his Goth neighbor is all, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM, YOU PREP!” so he is all, “Guess I’ll go try to suck up to my law professor one more time” and heads to the dean’s cocktail party.
He is a little late to the party and joins his classmates as they talk to a psychology professor, Sam Keating, who is giving them advice about law school and dealing with Annalise’s class. Wow, he has the same last name as Annalise does that mean—
YEP. HE’S HER HUSBAND.
Dean Thomas is all, “OH MY GOD! Scandal! Wait, that’s a different Shonda Rhimes show.”
Flash forward time: the kids are carrying the body through the woods and see a pair of horny college students ready to get down so they scramble to hide. However, Laurel’s phone goes off and Michaela can see it is Frank calling and the contact photo is a shirtless picture of him.
And it’s not even a good shirtless picture of him, that’s what makes this even more shocking.
We cut to the law office where Laurel is telling Frank that she thinks Gina and the wife teamed up to kill Arthur. She worries that Gina is actually guilty. Frank doesn’t care and tells Laurel that she can take her cute little idealistic Elle Woods act elsewhere. “Hey, Elle Woods won because she was idealistic!” shoots back Laurel. “You’re a misogynistic ass!
She storms off and Bonnie ducks her head into the office to tell Frank to stop screwing the students. Uh, was he sleeping with Laurel? Or is Bonnie just telling him not to mess with the confidence of the kids? Or maybe both? “Hey, Frank, remember we’ve got an early meeting tomorrow. Also: don’t sleep with the students or tear down their self-esteem.” “Oh my God, almost forgot about that! Thanks for the reminder!”
Back at the cocktail party, Dean Thomas goes into the bathroom and Annalise follows him to thank him for keeping his mouth shut. Dean Thomas reacts exactly the way you would after you catch your married law professor having sex with another man and she corners you at a party and cries about her marital problems: he runs away.
After the party, the Keatings go to the law office where Bonnie and Frank are watching another news report about the missing Lila Stangard. Bonnie is crushing hard on Sam and jealously watches Sam kiss Annalise good night.
Back at his apartment, Dean Thomas and his Goth neighbor finally make nice—but only for a second. His Goth neighbor has to continue to be angry and anti-social for another couple episodes.
In the courtroom, surveillance footage shows Gina buying aspirin at a convenience store, which makes her look suspicious again. Annalise is mad and swears to fix it. Does she call Olivia Pope to handle it? No, Annalise Keating is her own fixer! She calls a new witness to the stand—Detective Nate Lahey, the supervising detective on the case.
And he has the added bonus of being the dude she was cheating with when Dean Thomas caught them together. Oh, and he is also married and was cheating on his wife that night as well.
Since Annalise has dirt on him, he is forced to claim that the department sometimes alters surveillance footage for the prosecution. Wow, so does this kick off an FBI investigation, lead to firings and resignations throughout the force all the way up to the chief of police, trigger automatically retrials for 600 or more violent criminals convicted on video evidence, and generate national headlines for weeks? Nah. Gina is declared not guilty and Annalise wins another case.