First off let me say that as a white woman I feel inadequate at best to review last night’s epic Scandal/How to Get Away With Murder episodes. With a searing commentary on the criminal justice system and how racism is, as Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) says, “built into the DNA of our country” these episodes were hard hitting and truly beautiful to watch. Shonda Rhimes is always great, but these will shine as two of her best. This will not be the typical mix of recap/review that I try to do, but really my feelings and some standout moments. These episodes need to be seen, need to be felt.
Starting off in Scandal we see two incredibly strong willed women in Annalise and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) who – well – rub wrong on each other. They’re both used to being the only one in charge, truly going at it alone. Having to share responsibility for this class action doesn’t sit well with either. Olivia uses all her contacts in an effort to bring the case before the Supreme Court, but is foiled time and again by her past relationships coming back to haunt her. Thankfully with the help of Annalise’s team (most notably Michaela played by Aja Naomi King) and some determination they’re able to prevail. In the end its the pure merits of the case – reforming the criminal justice system, fighting for those too poor to fight for themselves – that push the case onto the Supreme Court docket.
One of the moments that really jumped out at me was the two leads, Annalise and Olivia, getting their hair done together. They seem to be bonding, but when a breaking news story reveals a weakness in Olivia that she hasn’t disclosed, Annalise loses it. She calls out Olivia for looking down her nose at Annalise from the beginning, “like a white man in a boardroom looking down on me, like my hips are too big and my hue too dark.” This accusation hits home to Olivia, who as a privileged, light skinned black woman has had, seemingly, somewhat less of a fight to succeed than Annalise. That’s not to say she hasn’t clawed and fought through sexism and racism, but Annalise calls her out for still thinking she’s better than those around her who appear different, or who come from different backgrounds. Watching Olivia’s face in this moment was interesting – but being Olivia she turns it around and tells Annalise that people don’t dislike her because of race, but because she’s terrible. Probably truth to what both women say.
When HTGAWM takes over from Scandal we’re headed to the Supreme Court. Even in this it seems like the world is against Annalise, we find out that one of the Supreme Court justices is actively working with opposing counsel. Olivia and Annalise are finally working as team, moving forward together. Annalise is able to push through her opponents, push through getting truly terrible news about Isaac having an overdose back home, and give an impassioned speech about racism in the criminal justice system. I have a couple of quotes of hers that truly stood out to me:
“The only safeguard that people of color have is the right to a defense, and we won’t even give them that.”
“Some may say that slavery has ended, but tell that to inmates who are kept in cages and are told that they don’t have any rights at all.”
The looks on Nate, Michaela and Olivia’s faces during this speech, I imagine were matched by people around the country watching this speech. It spoke to the heart of a terrible issue in this country. I know there are people out there right now fighting for criminal justice reform and I’m so glad that Shonda Rhimes decided to highlight this particular issue as the one her crossover episodes would address.
We don’t find out what the Supreme Court will rule – hopefully we’ll find out a ruling in Annalise’s favor for next episode. For other HTGAWM plotlines quickly – Michaela cheated on Asher (UGH this killed me), Frank discovered that Laurel’s mother was lying – she didn’t pay off Wes and Frank now has the recording to prove it. Isaac is in the hospital, his kidneys failing after an overdose and then – the big one – Simon is awake!
HTGAWM will next air March 8th at 10/9c