Or: What Shonda Rhimes and Co. Get Away With Every Week On TGIT
The term ‘hate-watching’ has been in usage for almost a decade, but I can honestly say I never understood what it meant until Shonda Rhimes came into the TV business. Her entire world, which keeps expanding, despite the ever diminishing returns, seems to be based on the worst bits of TV’s Golden Age with none of the rewards. I all but gave up on the majority of the craziness of her work two years with one notable exception. If you’ve read the title of this piece, you know what show it is.
Television has basically become a world where its harder and harder to find any real good guys outside of CBS’ procedural dramas. In many ways, this has been an improvement, yet there are time I can’t help but long for the days where we had simple good versus evil structures. How To Get Away With Murder would no doubt have you think, like so many series in Shondaland, that there are no good people any more. Certainly, the central characters in Murder are anything but pleasant people, and with each season, they get more and more monstrous. You could make the argument that this is the very mindset behind such brilliant dramas as Breaking Bad, which take a good man and turn him evil. The difference is, there were some truly good people in Walter White’s world, and part of the brilliance of the series came when we saw the victims of this evil get ground beneath Heisenberg’s Pontiac.
There are no good people in Murder. The central characters are all just various people who do bad things, and spend an entire series trying to have Viola Davis fix it. Everybody in the world of Murder is out for themselves, and when a truly good person gets involved with them, they have no problem sacrificing him to keep themselves safe. There are so many examples of this by now it could be a running gag, but I’ll settle for this one.
In the first half of this season, Laurel decided to get revenge on her father for having her boyfriend murdered last season. To do that, she decided to completely bring down his business, and got involved in such an elaborate scheme to get information, it naturally ended up involving the whole Keating crew except Annalyse. The plan fell apart, when Simon, a douche guy who had been dealing with his own issues — he was an illegal immigrant from Pakistan, and he was gay — found out what they were doing. Laurel panicked, and accidentally shot him in the head. They were all upset about it — for all of an hour — and then, naturally tried to figure out to blame everything on him. So they decided to put everything on a man who was in a coma. Real classy.
Then it got worse in the last two episodes of the season. Simon miraculously came out of his coma, and they found out he remembered everything that had happened. In order to try and save their own asses, they manipulated the situation, so that Annalyse would become his attorney and negotiate a deal for immunity that would allow him to stay in the country. Then in the last episode, Simon got scared, and Michela decided that the best way to protect them was to have him deported. Annalyse and Bonnie saved him. Michela did it anyway. And justified by saying that Annalyse wouldn’t do the necessary thing.
I’d say this is the kind of thing that antiheroes do, except Gus Fring and Walter would have just had Mike kill him. Sending a gay man back to Pakistan is even more horrendous somehow. But that’s how everybody in Peter Nowalk’s and Shonda’s world works. There are no good people. But because the stakes are really so low, what we basically see is a world of corruption, where the Keating Four just become more and more ruthless, with no real consequences, moral or otherwise. Michela says to Connor: “Do you think I’m evil?” And Connor answers: “We’re all evil.” That makes it okay. Seriously. I’d expect this attitude from gangster or meth dealers, but second year law students. I didn’t think attorneys became morally bankrupt til they actually starting practicing.
The real question is, why does Shonda continue to get away with? And the answer is, she isn’t. Ratings for all her ABC series have dropped dramatically over the last two seasons. (There’s a reason she’s heading to Netflix, other than to use the actual obscenity that describes what all the characters on all her series are doing all the time.) Fewer and fewer people are embracing the craziness behind all of the Shondaland series, yet ABC is doing two more series from her world this season alone. I’m starting to feel that basing your entire network on one person and American Idol is a bad idea. Then I consider all the revivals that are coming. And I shudder thinking: how long will we have to wait to see Grey’s Anatomy: The Next Generation?