In the pilot of “How To Get Away With Murder,” an intense criminal law professor, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), selects five of her first-year students to work at her law firm, because it’s so realistic for first year students to get thrown into murder trials instead of working on their appellate briefs. The episode begins in a 3 month flash-forward involving only four out of those five students, debating what to do in a horrific situation. They’re stuck with a dead body to get rid of and a murder weapon which they decide to clean and hide in plain sight. All of this occurs in the first minute of the show. We’re left wondering where the fifth student, Asher Millstone (Matt McGorry) AKA doucheface, is for the murderous flash-forward.
We’re clearly not supposed to be privy to the entire scenario yet. To quote another one of the students, Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza), “This is murder… None of us know what we’re talking about!” This becomes abundantly clear when Wes Gibbons (Alfred Enoch) flips a coin to decide what the group will do with the mysterious dead body. What we do know so far is that the other two students, Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) and Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King), are clearly butting heads about how to handle this butchering of the law.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: Clearly there has been a murder here, and these students are involved in some way, whether they’re perpetrators or accessories, but I only explore crimes when we know the exact circumstances surrounding them. I will cover this when we find out more. Please do not take this to mean that murder is okay.
Broken Law # 1 Alert!Later in the episode, we learn that the students went back to their professor’s house, during an especially wild night on campus, to get the dead body which they wind up setting on fire.
18 PA Cons. Stat. § 5510. Abuse of corpse.
Broken Law # 2 Alert!Regarding both, the body and the murder weapon: 18 PA Cons. Stat. § 4910. Tampering with or fabricating physical evidence (in relevant part).
Broken Law # 3 Alert!18 PA Cons. Stat. § 903. Criminal conspiracy (In Relevant Part).
Michaela also helps discredit a witness in Annalise’s murder case, which happens to be the first step out of three in getting away with murder. Step two is presenting another suspect, and step three is burying the evidence, according to Annalise. Michaela discredits the witness who allegedly saw the yellow Aspirin pill in question, by proving that the witness is color blind; what looks yellow to the average person looks blue to the witness. Michaela almost wins the deadly trophy for this achievement, but not quite.
In a flash-forward, we see Connor changing the words to “Jingle Bells” to make the song about murder instead of Christmas. We then transition to present day, where he flirts with an I.T. guy who works in the same building as Annalise’s defendant. Connor ends up sleeping with him to get evidence for the case; he convinces him to give him emails which make one of the victim’s co-workers look incredibly guilty. The I.T. guy protests that the legal department said not to discuss this incident before caving in approximately two seconds later. Step two, present a new suspect! These emails were not in the discovery files for the case, but Bonnie lies to the judge and claims that she obtained them from the defendant’s previous attorney.
Broken Law #5 and 6 Alert!Connor and the I.T. Guy’s conduct:
18 Pa Cons. stat. § 4108. Commercial bribery and breach of duty to act disinterestedly (in relevant part).
Broken Law #7 Alert!Bonnie, under Annalise’s direction, lying to the judge:
204 Pa Code Rule 3.3. Candor Toward the Tribunal.
Laurel becomes suspicious when she encounters the defendant and the victim’s wife together acting as if they might have planned this whole incident together. In a flash-forward, we see Laurel receive a phone call from Frank, and he is noticeably lacking a shirt in the picture that Laurel has chosen for him on her phone. In present day, she approaches Frank about her suspicions, but he behaves in a dismissive manner. When Laurel questions his morality, he lumps her in with his generalization about women who come to law school with intentions of protecting the innocent… Because that’s obviously an atrocious concept. When Laurel leaves, Bonnie scolds Frank, “stop screwing the students.”
In court the following day, a detective comes onto the stand with footage of the defendant purchasing aspirin the night before the alleged accident. Annalise fires back by calling a different detective to the stand, Nate Leahy (Billy Brown), the man with whom she’s having an affair. She questions him in a menacing manner until he reluctantly testifies that he knows of prior incidents with doctored surveillance footage in his department. The court finds the defendant not guilty.
In class — yes the students do still attend school occasionally — Annalise presents the murder weapon/ trophy to Connor and announces that he, Laurel, Michaela, Asher, and Wes will be working at her firm. Wes confronts Annalise about forcing Nate to lie under oath, which will be further explored in my entry on episode two.
Towards the end of the episode, a dead body, presumably that of Lila Standgard is found. When Sam informs Annalise, she comments that she bets the boyfriend is behind her murder. The episode concludes in a flash-forward during which Wes, Laurel, Michaela and Connor burn the dead body to get rid of DNA evidence. Before the body is incinerated, we see the dead man’s face; it’s Annalise’s husband!