Pilot Perception: How to Get Away with Murder

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: How to Get Away with Murder, ABC in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, Thursdays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: The show was written and created by Peter Nowalk (Grey’s Anatomy), who executive produces with Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) as well as Bill D’Elia (Boston Legal). Michael Offer (Longmire) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Viola Davis (The Help), with a large ensemble cast including Liza Weil (Gilmore Girls), Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter), Matt McGorry (Orange Is the New Black), Jack Falahee (Twisted), Charlie Weber (90210), Karla Souza (Instructions Not Included), Aja Naomi King (Emily Owens M.D.), Katie Findlay (The Killing), and Billy Brown (Sons of Anarchy).

The Premise: A brilliant but unconventional criminal law professor and her ambitious students become involved in a murder plot.

A Taste:


What Works: The cast is amazing, and it’s great to see another show with a black woman as the lead. The tone is slick and just this edge of soapy, and aside from the flash forwards (see below), I thought the pacing was good. The pilot set up some interesting characters and situations, though the only ones I really care about so far are Wes and Rebecca. The writing was fine but not particularly interesting — the focus was much more on the action and the big reveals, and the writing did its job. Overall, I didn’t love this the way I’d hoped, but I definitely liked it enough to keep watching.

What Doesn’t: Well, first of all, the whole premise of this show is completely preposterous. I haven’t been to law school and am no expert, but several people close to me have (one in Philadelphia, where this is set!), and just from talking to them I am confident in saying this is not how law school works. I mean, even aside from the whole “actually murdering people” issue. Now, this is far from a unique problem — no TV show ever gets its portrayal of a career correct, really. But it’s one of those things that some viewers just will not be able to get past, and that’s fine. And speaking of the supposedly real murder — I found those flash forward scenes to be extremely boring, and I almost wish we didn’t know that this is where the season is headed. Hopefully that was just a pilot thing and we won’t continue to flash forward to people wandering around in the dark throughout the show.

Our Favorite Line: “Never take a learning opportunity away from another student. No matter how smart you need everyone to think you are.”

You Might Like This if you like Shonda Rhimes’s other shows, especially Scandal. So far, at least, it seems to have more in common with them than with most legal procedurals. Maybe don’t watch with your lawyer friends, unless you’re in the mood for frustrated ranting.

If You’re Interested: It looks like the pilot is rerunning on ABC Family tonight (9/26) at 10/9c, or watch it on the ABC or CTV sites or Hulu, then set your DVR for Thursday at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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