Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The season four premiere of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder danced around last season’s biggest cliffhangers by bringing some clarity to underlying plot points.
The episode started with Laurel (Karla Souza) showing her snake of a father (Esai Morales) around the Middleton University campus. She told him she was pregnant and opted to get an abortion, which was a lie, and left him believing Frank (Charlie Weber) was the father of her child.
Frank is Laurel’s ex and the go-to phone call for rich people who need a convict to do their dirty work (like murder, not maintenance). He spent years working for/with Annalise and is a continual force of passion and drama in Laurel’s life.
Laurel avoided bringing up the elephant in the room — that her dad killed her boyfriend Wes (Alfred Enoch) — and went on to meet with Annalise (Viola Davis) and the rest of the gang for dinner.
The majority of the episode took place in a flashback to a visit Annalise had with her family. We recently discovered that her mother Ophelia (Cicely Tyson) has dementia and now Annalise is trying to get her help at a memory care center. Ophelia is not happy about this and goes on to yell at Annalise, leaving her with a need to cope. She can’t drink, so she tries her hand at intimacy and ultimately just goes home to sleep.
Later that evening, Ophelia has a spell in which she thought the house was on fire, alluding to the time she burnt their home down leaving Annalise’s abusive uncle to burn, and ends up wetting herself. This leads her to agree to check out the care center.
Sincere moments between Annalise and Ophelia bring light and love to the hard and sometimes unsympathetic character of Annalise. Davis and Tyson are both masters of their craft and able to easily make viewers feel the pain of their fictional struggles.
The visit to the care center ends in a big fight between Annalise and her father, Mac (Roger Robinson). Before Annalise heads home, she shares heartfelt moments with both of her parents. Ophelia tells her, “I promise you I’ll hold on to me for as long as I can, and what I want is for you to hold on to me, too,” in a deep discussion about Ophelia’s inevitable passing. Mac finally apologizes for the sexual abuse Annalise experienced as a child, something she had been waiting on for a long time.
While Annalise’s family dynamic is a necessary and entertaining aspect of the show, the closure she experienced in this visit is a good sign that this season will focus less on Annalise’s backstory and personal troubles and more on the powerhouse legal skills she spent her life creating and impressing onto others.
Meanwhile, Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) has been pushing Connor (Jack Falahee) to respond to his marriage proposal while Asher (Matt McGorry) and Michaela (Aja Naomi King) navigate their relationship troubles through mattress shopping.
It’s difficult to watch the characters in such normalcy without Wes around. Wes, who was revealed as dead in season 3, was the glue that held the group together and a fan-favorite character. His perspective on their drama and ability to work through the toughest situations practically made the show. It will be interesting to see how the show move on without him as the subject of the season’s leading mystery. So far, it feels a little lacking.
Finally, back in the present, Annalise faces her disbarment hearing for violating her probation by drinking. She begged for mercy and expressed her responsibility for Wes’ death.
Afterward, Annalise, Bonnie, Connor, Michaela, Asher and Laurel gathered for a dinner in a scene that felt like a series finale instead of a season opener. Laurel revealed she’s keeping her baby and Annalise announced she won her hearing. It feels like a should be a celebratory moment, but instead, Annalise gives each of the students a letter of recommendation, lets them go as employees and tells them to remember who they were before they met her.
Of course, they’re all pissed because the last few years of their lives have been defined by the crimes they committed and covered for her and now Annalise is forcing them to move on.
The next minute of the episode showcases how the crew adjusts to life after their disassembly while the voice of Davis read the words of Annalise’s letters.
These moments before the show’s ending fell like the cleanest conclusion to all the show’s drama to date, which is bizarre for a season premiere. This semi-comfort quickly comes to an end: fast-forward three months later when Laurel wakes up in a hospital, grabbing at her flat stomach and frantically screaming, “Where’s the baby?” at Frank.
Now we wait for the rest of the season, where the magic of producer Shonda Rhimes will start to unravel the mystery behind Laurel’s missing fetus and explore the post-Annalise lives of the Keating 4.