Entertainment January 6, 2017
“How to Get Away With Murder” is a blueprint for how to present commanding, multi-faceted women on television.
For three seasons, the drama series, produced by Shonda Rhimes, has depicted the power of a woman’s intellect, drive and vulnerability.
While we wait for the show’s return to ABC on Jan. 19, here’s a look at the intellectual legal leaders who make this series unmissable.
Annalise Keating didn’t get her infamous reputation by accident. She is a high-profile defense attorney and a law professor at Middleton University who takes no prisoners. At the beginning of the series, Keating’s multifaceted character was introduced to audiences as a seemingly perfect woman – fearless, successful and confident. In public, her voice never falters, her demeanor is unshaken and she conquers the courtroom in high heels and a pencil skirt.
Competitors envy her talent and her students admire her. She has successfully taken on some of the hardest criminal cases, including those pertaining to fraud, arson and murder. She also doesn’t seek the approval of others and isn’t afraid to call people out on their ignorance, laziness or attitude. In short, Annalise Keating is everything you’d hope your defense attorney to be.
But on the other side of the coin, Keating’s private life reveals that she is deeply flawed. Aside from the controversial choices she’s made to succeed in her career, she is emotionally destroyed. She was sexually abused by her uncle as a child, fell in love with a man who cheated on her and miscarried her baby while working a controversial case. And as her story develops, she ends up shouldering the heavy and dangerous burden of lies surrounding various murders.
And while she is no role model, Annalise is easy to empathize with. Her brokenness reveals a truth about success, passion and pain. It’s not always beautiful; it’s not perfect. Because of this, Viola Davis has said that her character helps redefine a woman’s beauty. “It’s about being who you are,” Davis, who won an Emmy for this role, told NY Mag. “It’s about stepping into [a mentality of] this is how I am in private, this is how I look, this is how I act, this is my mess, this is my strength, this is my my intelligence.”
As Annalise Keating’s dedicated associate attorney, Bonnie Winterbottom spent the beginning of the series in the shadow of her formidable boss. Regardless of the kind of trouble Annalise got herself in, Bonnie could always be relied upon to help. That has continued as time has gone on and now she can take over when needed.
Through three seasons, Bonnie has displayed her hardworking nature as she tirelessly reads case studies, interviews suspects and finds solutions for any problems that may arise.Because of this, her character was initially dismissed as shy and obedient and sometimes confused as the sweet counterpart to Annalise.
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However, as the series progresses, Bonnie develops into a powerful force of her own. She no longer shies away from an argument and she isn’t afraid to raise her voice. As life around her continues to get hectic, Bonnie maintains her steely-eyed composure. Whenever her boss is off dealing with her own personal problems, Bonnie takes on the role as the head honcho of the Keating team.
Similar to Annalise, Bonnie has secrets of her own, including her history with child sexual abuse. And when you put these aspects of her character together, she just seems like a woman who’s trying her best to figure it out and survive.
“Bonnie is somebody who’s probably not operating on a great level of self-esteem,” Liza Weil told TV Guide about her character. “You’d never guess that from what you’ve seen. I think a lot of confident people or people who present as confident people — that’s a bit of a mask. It’s like, ‘You fake it ’til you make it.'”
Between her expensive tastes and sassy attitude, Michaela Pratt is often teased as a “spoiled brat” by her peers. Michaela, however, who was adopted by an unstable family, isn’t afraid to put her critics in their place. Because of her rocky background, she’s learned to be self-sufficient and to put herself first.
She is the prime example of a woman who knows how to respect herself. Many of the decisions she makes are calculated, intentional and confident. She knows who she is and she is proud of it.
Another one of her most powerful assets is her ambitious personality. She was born knowing how to make her presence known.She’s a woman that does, a go-getter in every sense of the word. Not only has she worked hard to develop an impeccable resume, she is also always prepared to amaze any person of authority.
Laurel Castillo is introduced to the series as the wallflower in Annalise Keating’s army. Despite Laurel’s evident intelligence, she’s regularly dismissed. And unlike Michaela’s self-assured personality, Laurel seems to find validation in other people. She frequently apologizes for things she doesn’t need to and sometimes hides her talent. Then, when she finally musters the courage to speak up for herself, she often shrinks back to the background once she’s done.
As frustrating as her character may be to watch sometimes, Laurel is easy to empathize with. She’s the woman who always feels like she has something to prove. She keeps her head down and constantly doubts her abilities.
However, as “How to Get Away With Murder” progresses, Laurel begins to shine as a character. After three seasons of deceit and crime, she’s managed to pull it together better than her peers. Now, she’s like the rock of the team. She’s loyal, deeply cares about her friends and constantly tells everyone not to give up.
Slowly, Laurel is learning to use her sensitivity as a strength. Paired with her attention to detail and inventive mind, she can easily become Annalise Keating’s secret weapon.
As intense as “How to Get Away With Murder” is, the series would be nothing without powerful women who take the lead. These four complex characters each contribute to this being one of the highest-rated, and most highly regarded, shows on TV today.
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