Both seasons of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” have held me spellbound. I generally take forever to watch anything. Shows – show that I really do like – pile up in the DVR. Programs that friends and family strenuously recommend stay on my “to watch” list for months (for years!) because I’m still slogging through the things they recommended before that. I love shows across the genres: science fiction, law dramas, detective shows, fantasy, historical fiction, anything that’s well done. Yet, for all my enthusiasm, I still usually plod through programs because there’s only so many hours in a day. I like to watch when I can actually pay attention, and carving out time for that isn’t easy. This show, however, is one I’ll watch a season of in three days. It’s like a train wreck that I can’t look away from.
In part, it’s because the stakes are about as high as stakes can be: murder and its consequences. In addition to the high stakes, the show uses secrets in a wonderfully ruthless fashion. When will the secrets come out? Who will discover what, and when? How will people react to those discoveries? It makes it almost impossible for me to stop watching. The success of the plot comes, I think, from how horrible the secrets are combined with how sympathetic the (very flawed) characters are. They get caught in terrible situations, make understandably bad decisions, and then do everything they can to mitigate the resulting disasters. Since most of their decisions are fear-based, instead of resulting from malice or greed, I keep feeling bad for them. The chief cast, comprised of young law students and adult law professionals, can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble. The inexperience of the former and general dysfunction of the latter provide just enough reason for their ongoing poor judgement.
As much as I enjoy the series, I find myself hoping it will be a short-lived one. Law school has to end sometime. But long before that, people caught in such circumstances would surely either snap under the pressure, or walk away (or run) from the group that attracts mayhem to itself like a whirlpool.