1) How To Get Away With Murder is a bad show.
2) It is not how law works.
3) People are only here for Viola Davis. Only.
Which makes this week’s cross-over episode with members of the Scandal cast all the more infuriating. Because what I just watched was, in no uncertain terms, both the best and worst hour of TV produced in the past year.
Viola Motherfucking Davis. As always. If someone tells you they like this show for “plot” or “ensemble acting” you’re legally allowed to punch that person in the face. Every supporting character on that show is terrible (more in a second) and don’t deserve to do Annalise Keating’s terrible bidding. Also, the acting unfortunately just isn’t up to Davis’ level (although in fairness, neither is … anybody’s? Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington? I think?), which means we’ve seen a revolving cast of guest players give Davis something more substantial to work with. Jimmy Smits, Glynn Turman, Famke Janssen, Cicely Goddamn Tyson, and finally Olivia Pope herself, Kerry Washington. Which means that last night there was a scene where Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, and Cicely Tyson talked about things other than someone’s boyfriend. Washington and Davis talk-shouted lawyering things at each other and it sounded super cool. Washington helped Davis recover when her belief in herself was shaken and convinced her she could handle the case. Washington and Tyson shared in small voices the overwhelming burden of being tasked with cleaning up everyone else’s mess while receiving no recognition for any of their hard work. They talked about the merits of the case, and how important it was to the future of the country. And how important that in turn is to their own sense of self. Washington and Davis just tore through scene after scene. Getting. Shit. Right. It was the best. And it was surrounded by …
Everything else that happened. It was terrible and ridiculous. Were Michaela and Marcus supposed to have some sort of history? And that’s why everyone could tell they were going to bone it out in that car? Because I was pretty sure I missed the setup scene for that tryst, and I couldn’t care about remedying that situation. Other things I can’t care about: whatever’s happening with Laurel’s mom and Wes, whatever is happening at Bonnie’s work, if Conner and Ollie are having a wedding, if that’s the way Conner spells his name (although that is my less preferred spelling, so it feels right). Literally, all that mattered was watching Washington, Davis and sometimes Tyson work together.
Which, by the way, includes the actual lawsuit they were supposed to be working on. I mean, in real life, I would be very interested in a case that helps rectify any of the many, overwhelming problems facing the criminal justice system in order to make it less shockingly horrible, especially to people of color and the poor. But on the show? It makes literally no sense, and I don’t care. As far as I can tell, the setup for this cross-over was “Olivia Pope’s here now. We’re going to the Supreme Court!” And, again, I didn’t care. But what if, and stay with me for a second, we put Kerry Washington and Viola Davis in a good show? What if we remade this episode as a feature-length legal drama centering on two brilliant lawyers taking down a racist system? What if we remembered that the internet existed, and Michaela and Marcus didn’t have to read through twenty law books in thirty minutes because you can just google that shit? Wouldn’t it be better to watch really talented actors just acting their tits off in movies that aren’t hot garbage fires of plotholes?
And all that’s to say, what’s really up, movie producers? People are so desperate to watch talented women of color playing characters who are both complex and competent that we’re watching shows called How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal. And their effing cross-overs. Just make the goddamn movie so we can give you all of our money. It’s not too much to ask for.