I needed a day to process the series final of “How to Get Away with Murder”. So much happened in one hour that I had to watch the episode twice. In the end, this was a series finale that will be ranked among the best in tv history.
The episode began as a continuation of Annalise’s trial. Remember, Annalise was on trial for a majority of the murders that happened over the course of the series, when in fact she didn’t kill anyone. But, just about all the real murderers were in the courtroom testifying AGAINST her!
Annalise was banking on her deal with Sam’s sister Hannah being her get out of jail free card, but at the conclusion of the previous episode we learned that Hannah killed herself. This left Annalise feeling defeated.
One of the many great moments of the finale was a sequence in which Annalise prepares for her cross examination of her ex-boyfriend Nate. As she talked into her handheld recorder, Annalise unloaded all of her frustration and distrust for the man she once loved. It gave us insight as to how she planned to discredit Nate on the stand. When the moment comes, Nate shocks us all by turning on the prosecution, saying that the charges against Annalise aren’t true and also reveals that the FBI had Asher killed. My mouth dropped. I had written Nate off and was ready to never forgive his betrayal. After Nate’s about face the two former lovers had a poignant conversation about forgiveness and owning their sins. Nate gave Annalise Wes’ confession to use at her trial, but instead Annalise burned it. That moment was moving because Annalise decided that she wouldn’t impugn Wes’s reputation any longer. This was important moment, which would be even more meaningful later in the episode.
Nate wasn’t the only man who showed up to help Annalise. Frank was able to obtain a recording from Hannah’s lawyer that showed Hannah and Laurel’s family were conspiring with the Governor to frame Annalise. Frank, who ended up being responsible for the deaths of two of his siblings (Annalise and Sam’s son and the unborn baby of the college co-ed Sam had Frank kill), he did right by his brother Gabriel, giving him thousands of dollars in cash and telling him to leave town and start over. Gabriel wisely took the money and ran.
Another touching moment was when Tegan finally admitted to Annalise that she was in love with her. I think we could all feel Tegan’s disappointment and heartbreak when Annalise told her she couldn’t promise to give Tegan the love she deserved.
Viola Davis probably sealed her fate as this year’s Emmy winner for Best Actress in a Drama series when she gave Annalise’s closing argument to the jury. As Annalise described herself to the jury, the honesty, fear and humility shined through in Davis’ performance. This wouldn’t be the only time Davis would deliver an incredible performance during the final minutes of the episode.
Once the jury delivered their verdict of not guilty on all counts, Annalise headed to the stairs outside the courthouse to talk to the press. While giving her remarks, Frank shows up. Bonnie, standing behind Annalise sees the distraught look in his eyes and knows he’s about to do something devastating. As she runs over to Frank, he pulls out a gun, shooting and killing the governor who had been working with Hannah and Laurel’s family to bring Annalise down. When Bonnie gets to Frank, he’s laying on the stairs, bleeding. Bonnie tries to stop the bleeding telling Frank to hold on. Annalise rushes over to them just in time for Frank to take his last breath. In that moment, Bonnie looks down and sees that the blood on her body isn’t just Frank’s. She’s been shot too. Annalise tries to put pressure on the wound, screams for help and tells Bonnie to hang on. But, Bonnie succumbs to her wounds and dies in Annalise’s arms. This moment is poetic because earlier in the episode Frank had promised Bonnie that although he needed sometime apart from her after she revealed to him that he was the product of an incestuous relationship between Sam and Hannah, he would come back to her, and he did. The two tortured souls will now spend eternity with each other. Bonnie dying in Annalise’s arms was chilling. The two women loved each other and would do anything for the other. Annalise screaming at Bonnie “stay with me, stay with me” meant so much more than that moment. While their relationship was fraught with conflict there was no doubt Annalise couldn’t imagine her life without Bonnie. She needed her.
Back in the courthouse before the shooting we saw Connor being taken off to jail. His husband Oliver had offered to cut a deal and testify against Annalise if it meant Connor not having to serve any time in prison. Connor wouldn’t accept that deal and instead served Ollie with divorce papers, and in a gut wrenching scene told our Ollie he didn’t love him. Of course this wasn’t true and the two men shared an emotional hug goodbye before Connor was taken away. As Michaela tried to comfort Oliver, he pulled away, telling her it should have been her going to jail and he walked away, leaving her in tears. As she tried to call Laurel who had left the courthouse, the phone call revealed that Laurel’s number had been disconnected, leaving Michaela alone and friendless.
The story then jumped to Annalise’s funeral that had been teased throughout the season. As the camera panned pictures of Annalise throughout the years into old age, it became apparent that Annalise hadn’t been murdered as the ABC promos teased, but had lived a long life and we were witnessing a time jump into the future. The young man who looks exactly like Wes made his way to the front of the room to stand next to a grey haired older woman, who was revealed to be Laurel. As Laurel looked around she saw a familiar face, Connor. They smiled at each and Connor reveals an older and still handsome Oliver standing next to him. Yay! Our favorite couple survived being apart and found each other once again and made it. When the two men saw the young man who looks like Wes, we the audience realized that it wasn’t a back from the dead Wes, but instead Christopher, Laurel’s son with the dearly departed Wes.
As Annalise’s first true love, Eve, gave her beautiful eulogy that talks about forgiveness and knowing that even the worst parts of ourselves are important to acknowledge, we were treated to glimpses of what happened to some of the other characters. Nate started a justice center named after his late father. Annalise attended her mother’s funeral. Michaela became a judge like she always wanted and had two daughters with her at her swearing in ceremony. Annalise lived a full and vibrant life. We saw her dancing with Tegan, so maybe they did take a go at a relationship. We also saw that Annalise relapsed and started drinking again. We also saw Annalise holding hands with another woman through various stages of her life with the hands getting progressively older. We don’t know if it was Tegan, Eve or someone else. But in the end we saw an older Annalise, alone walking on a beach, finally rid of all the masks she had worn. No wig, no makeup, just Annalise in paradise. I think that was the moment Annalise died and finally found peace. As Annalise stood in the sun, Eve delivered the most meaningful line of the episode “When the sun shines on you, you’re a fool to turn away.”
A great series finale alway honors and calls back to its first episode and in its final moments that’s just what “How to Get Away with Murder” did. We see Christopher riding his bike on the Middleton campus, just like his father did in the opening scene of the pilot. He then walks into the class telling the students to take their seats and welcomes the class to criminal law 101 or as his mentor liked to call it, “how to get away with murder” writing it on the board as Annalise did. Christopher looks out as the class, seeing Annalise sitting at a desk, just as in the pilot, Annalise looked out into the classroom and saw Christopher’s father, Wes. Another poignant moment as we remembered how Annalise saved Christopher’s life we he was born and how much she loved him when he was a baby. The fact that she could be the mentor to him that she couldn’t be to his father brought the closing moment of the series full circle.
Take a look at Annalise’s closing argument below.
Here’s the final scene of “How to Get Away with Murder”