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"How to get away with Murder" is one of the best known of the dramas released by Shonda Rhimes but is not a creation of the writer and producer Shonda Rhimes. The show was created by "Grey's Anatomy" writer, producer, and showrunner Peter Nowak who has created an acclaimed series based on complex and complicated characters.
The "pilot" episode begins with a group of students burying a body and discussing the reasons why they are all disposing of a body in a shallow grave. The story uses a popular narrative device of using flashbacks to jump between the present day digging of the shallow grave and the recent past which led the group to this point.
Flashbacks pushing back just four months show the group of students is studying law at Philadelphia's Middleton University under the high-flying Annalise Keating. The five students are shown to quickly become a member of the inner circle of the criminal defense attorney who early in the show explains the need to cheat to win at all costs. The Keating five are made up of Wes, Connor, Michela, asher, and Laurel who are chosen from the group of first-year students to become interns for the city's leading criminal defense attorney.
In all aspects of her life, it appears Annalise is willing to cheat and do whatever she wants to get ahead in life. Annalise is cheating on her husband, Sam with a police detective and seems to be unwilling to settle for anything less than all she wants in life.
The flashback sequences are used to slowly reveal the identity of the body being buried and that of a second murder victim who has been killed in mysterious circumstances. Both murder victims are closely associated with Annalise and her involvement in the deeds is hinted at throughout the first season of the show.
MOrals are not the strong point for Annalise as she is shown to be willing to bully and cheat her way to victory in court and in her business life. Not only are we given an insight into the reasons why the murders took place but we are also told how they impact the lives of the Keating five as they hope to become lawyers with the help of their mentor.
The first season can be described as happening in two distinct parts up to the mid-season finale and the episodes after the reveal of the murders take place. Annalise must come to terms with the actions of her interns and decide how best to handle the situation as she begins to understand the motives and reasons for at least one of the murders.
"How to get away with Murder" has run for five seasons with a sixth already commissioned as part of ABC's "TGIT" lineup. The show has taken many twists and turns over the course of the first five seasons with much of the focus shifting to different cases tried by Annalise as the season's progress. The impacts of the murders of the first season are still being felt throughout the later episodes as the Keating five are making their way in the legal sector with the aid of their impressive mentor.
"How to get away with Murder" stars Viola Davis who became the first African-American woman to win the Emmy for lead actress at the Primetime Emmy's. Davis has won what has been called the triple crown of U.S. acting following her Emmy, Oscar, and Tony wins for various roles over the course of her career. Recently, Davis joined the DC Comics Cinematic Universe with her role as Amanda Waller in "Suicide Squad."
One of the now infamous, Keating five is the British actor Alfred Enoch who plays the role of Wes Gibbins in all five seasons of "How to get away with Murder." Gibbins is the son of former "Doctor Who" actor, William Russell and began his career in the "Harry Potter" franchise playing the role of Dean Thomas in all but one of the entries. Enoch has appeared in many touring plays across the U.K. and has appeared in the West End of London in various roles before being cast in "How to get away with Murder."
Peter Nowalk was working as a production assistant in Holywood when he decided to write a book about his experiences and provide an insight for those who would follow him to Los Angeles to work in film. Nowalk would eventually make his way to the ShondaLand production of "Grey's Anatomy" which would give him his break into screenwriting. Nowalk has become a trusted ally of Shonda Rhimes and worked as a producer and writer on her shows, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal" before creating "How to get away with Murder."
The show was first announced by Shonda Rhimes on her Twitter account in 2013 with details being scarce but reports stated the involvement of Viola Davis. Eventually, news leaked out that Davis was only able to appear in either 15 or 16 episodes per season because of her busy schedule which would lead to a limited series tag being given to the show. "How to get away with Murder is set in Pennsylvania and films on location in the state to add a sense of realism. Interior scenes are shot in Los Angeles in the Studio City area. Among the directors for the first season of "How to get away with Murder" is Laura Innes who previously played the role of Dr. Kerry Weaver on "E.R."
"How to get away with Murder" received generally positive reviews with Rotten Tomatoes providing an average rating of 878 percent and Metacritic giving an approval rating of 68n percent for the first season. The second season saw a rise in the average ratings for the show with over 90 percent awarded by Rotten Tomatoes. The success of "How to get away with Murder" in the eyes of most critics is based on the work of Viola Davis who many felt had the most fleshed out character in the first season. As the seasons have progressed, the continued success of the show has been based on the building of more characters across the show.
Aja Naomi King plays the part of the conservative Michaela but thought she had ruined her chances because of a bad internet connection. The actress had to audition via Skype and couldn't get her connection to remain stable enough for her audition to last more than a couple of minutes at a time. Peter Nowak has no history in the law and found himself stumped after coming up with the idea for the show. As Annalise is a law school professor, she needs to be up to date on the latest aspects of the law which meant Nowalk had to read many of the textbooks mentioned by the law school students on the show.