For the past month, Thursday nights on ABC have been renamed #Shonda-land because the power house writer and producer Shonda Rhimes is behind the entire lineup. And one can’t help but to be proud of Rhimes, even though I detest “Grey’s Anatomy” and not really all that into “Scandal”, you have to give credit where it’s due. Rhimes, a black woman, is making waves on a major network and has power in an industry that normally shuts women and blacks out.
Her latest show “How to Get Away with Murder” might have me hooked already. Even though I’m not normally a “crime drama” type of person, “Murder” has a real addictive quality to it that makes me want to tune in every week. (Though I normally watch it on the weekends because 10pm is kind of late for me lol!).
Before I get into the addictive details of the show, I want to preface by saying I intended to write about a very specific and small portion of the show. I’ll get to that later, but for now let’s talk about what goes on in “Murder”.
The series follows Annalise Keating (played so intensely by Viola Davis) a hard-ass defense lawyer and law professor, this woman has a very cynical view of humans and seems to doubt everything. The show started (sort of) at the beginning of a new semester when she announces to her class that she plans to chose 5 students that will work for her firm.
Keating takes on a different murder case each week, and so far her track record is flawless. However, the actual murder cases are not what makes this show so intriguing. One of the main draws for me is the side stories of the 5 students and Professor Keating herself that add a little extra sense of personality, humor and mystery.
There’s Michaela (Aja Naomi King), the head strong pretty girl who is determined to become the next Michelle Obama. Laurel (Karla Souza) who is struggling to find her lawyer voice, and definitely has a crush on Keating’s employee Frank (Charlie Weber). Wes (Alfred Enoch) the uber-naive “wait list” kid who is almost unbelievably innocent. He has the hots for his drug dealing next door neighbor (Katie Findlay), a side story that has connected to this weeks case. Even Asher (Matt McGory), the semi-douchey guy of the group, is a great asset to the show since he provides all the comic relief. These characters are interesting, but Rhimes and company only give us small peaks into their lives, which makes the viewer want to know even more about them, which leads viewers to their addiction to the show.
Now, Viola Davis does a great acting job during her lecture and court scenes, but her acting chops go to a new level when her home life is slowly revealed. She’s in a marriage with a man she doesn’t quite trust or love, she has a side-boyfriend in a cop that she used in Episode 1 to win a case. And it seems she has the hots for one of her students Wes, which I’m sure that will play out before the end of the season.
There is also a parallel storyline that intrigues me. Somebody was murdered, and the students are somehow left with the responsibility of taking care of the body. Little but key details are revealed each episode about this murder that happens 3 months after the beginning of the semester. Details like who got killed (Professor Keating’s husband), and which of the students is more manipulative than previously thought (*gasp, it’s Wes). This “LOST” type quality of this “flash forwards” further hooks viewers because we want to fill in all the holes before anyone else.
So yeah, “Murder” is a good show. The acting is good, the pacing is quite fast but manages to work, and the writing is pretty inventive. (I also wanted to add, the styling for all characters but mainly Keating is PERFECTION!)
Now what I really want to talk about is small, but sometimes small differences help to make big changes.
If you remember last year, my initial complaint about HBO’s series “Looking” was the lack of any lead Asian characters. It seemed like a horrible casting choice because San Francisco is a highly Asian populated city. So I was pleased to see Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), a really good looking Asian man who gay student Connor (Jack Falahee) seemingly used to get information on the case of the moment. It bothered me slightly that Oliver was an IT guy, but I was really surprised to see his arc went a little further when him and Connor had sex that night.
On the second episode, Oliver was used again by Connor, but later in the episode it seemed as if Connor was genuinely interested in Oliver, “I’m not here for work, I’m here for dinner”. Oliver rejects him at first, but reconsiders before they have yet another steamy sex scene, this time with their roles reversed.
This is a very small portion of the show, and Ricamora didn’t appear at all in the 3rd episode. It’s noteworthy though, because it’s not often you see an Asian man sexualized on mainstream television. Normally, Asian actors get stuck with the “nerdy” stereotype, where they can be smart but not sexual. So I fully applaud Rhimes and company for allowing an Asian man to be shown as desirable and HOT. Connor is what you might consider the “standard of Gay beauty” these days. He’s thin, he’s young, he’s incredibly groomed. So to have a guy like that pining for a guy like Oliver is great. This is the kind of equality I’m talking about, because… WHY NOT!?
Seeing people of different races, body types, and etc. in different lights than the stereotypes we are used to is nothing but great. Because in day to day life, not every Asian you see is a math wiz, not every big guy is on his way to Dunkin Donuts, and not every gay guy is attracted to a Tom Daley-type twink. And American viewers need to see characters that are different from the stereotypes, with the hopes that some viewers don’t pre-judge certain types of people based on the limited views they get of them on TV or elsewhere.