While last night's series premiere of the sleek and sexy legal thriller How To Get Away With Murder as part of the Shonda Rhimes Thursday triple-header gave the network its highest-rated Thursday night in five years, with 14 million viewers at the 10 pm hour alone, the true cause for celebration is much simpler:
Viola Davis won last night.
After years of being reminded of what the New York Times' beacon of obliviousness calls "less than classical beauty," after downtrodden roles rained from the sky, and after having her worth questioned at every turn, a few dozen thousand hundred of us gathered around and celebrated and YAAAASSed at this woman's every utterance and spirited inflection as the belle of a widely feted, highly anticipated primetime show not involving Tyler Perry. 'Twas a great moment.
We sat together on social media and in over-decorated How To Get Away With Murder watch parties and loved on Viola Davis. We fawned over her boundless talent; appreciated her masterful timing and thundering voice; and envied her flawless skin (It's okay. #melanin). We adored her brusque and her despicable. We watched Viola Davis be a person.
Say what you will about the show's writing or pacing, but watching Viola at work is a privilege. She makes sweet magic with any character she steps into. She spins lasting impressions from the most negligible exchanges. She is a gift. And, last night, Viola Davis got the praise she so deserves.
So, the idea of watching her shake off those 2D roles and let her soul glow as Middleton University criminal law professor Annalise Keating each week on the Shondaland Get Money Expressway? Hell yeah. Kindly sign me the fuck up for that.
There has been a murder. We don't know the who/when/why, but the episode opens with four fretting law students (Wes, Michaela, Laurel and Connor) in the woods bickering over how/whether to dispose of this newly deceased person on the ground.
When the story rewinds thee months before the murder, we behold an ever-startled Wes (Alfred Enoch) strolling dreamily into a lecture hall to join the rest of the murderous gang. In blows Annalise Keating with the power of 1001 time-worn educators. The action begins with a case study: the tale of The Aspirin Assassin, in which an advertising agency VP's mistress-assistant has been charged with his attempted murder. ¡Escándalo!
The next morning, prime suspect Gina–as-OITNB's-Morello has her achy breaky heart moment before a room of note-taking students and we learn that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow contains a job in Keating's lawfirm. We meet her trusty Ethel Mertzes, Frank and Bonnie. Then, the eager minions are dispatched into the world on fact-finding expeditions and the double-crossing and the purposeful fucking begin.
As evidenced elsewhere online, running through every new development in this roller coaster of underhanded fuckery would take four score and 2500 words. The pilot episode is available online, so here are a few reactions and a realization:
- Annalise's icy countenance is golden. Annalise appears annoyed that the people around her aren't as smart as she is. I look forward to more of her inventive put-downs and reluctant tenderness each week.
- After Wes The Zealous lets himself into Annalise's home and barges in on some burly gent on his knees turning mama's cherry out, she admonishes Ethel 1 (Frank) for not rolling up the partition before leaving, and I fell deeper in love with her.
- Speaking of good loving, if you stand up and attempt to teach a bunch of raggedy ass kids all day, you deserve some tongue work at night, at the very minimum. This should be a mandatory thing. For the greater good. Right on, Annalise.
- I saw Michaela's courtroom victory coming from a scene away. After she won her professor's favor by making a major discovery, the gloating undegrand zoomed through her winning lawyerly strategy and the first rapidfire Staircase Shondalogue of the season was born (see also: the Bitch-I-Will-Ruin-Your-Entire-Lineage Shondalogue and the I-Read-You-Because-I-Love-You Shondalogue, among other greatest hits). If it ain't broke…
- There is implied interracial homosexual booty-eating in primetime. Look how far we've come, America.
- Wes' face: yes.
- Annalise is doing the swirl. The instant outrage that onscreen race mixin' produces in 2014 shouldn't be funny, but it is. I observed a collective gasp on Twitter and I cackled. I reckon two important Black male characters (Wes and a Black ass husband)—neither of whom being a drug dealer, an athlete, or an idiot—would have been too much, too soon.
And lastly, the realization: With that type of opening, Shonda's next show will need to have incestuous left-handed lesbian Siamese twins to keep this pace up.
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