In the beginning,i have to say I found pretty much all the leads hard to root for as everyone seemed unsympathetic. But I wanted to give the show a little more wiggle room to catch me, because back then and even now i know it can be hard for shows focusing on dark-skinned black women to get made.
Now at the end,i am glad i gave the show some time. Examining those characters now,it is clear there unsympathetic qualities mostly came from them dealing with unresolved trauma. And when these trauma’s started to leak through,and they had to start facing them in a more head-on direction,it gave them the vulnerability needed to move me.
These trauma’s would also sometimes bring them closer or put characters at odds. And sometimes it would lead to them showing great kindness or lead them to making horribly selfish decisions. And regarding those selfish decisions while you generally understood why they did it, it never felt like the show let them off the hook for those decisions. And in regards to the racial diversity of the show it managed to make some strong points about how unfair and prejudiced the criminal justice system without making all the POC saints. They struggled with traumas, guilt, and all the other messy parts of a well-defined character. But they also had there moments of vulnerability and kindness for others.
The plot got more complicated as it went on,leading to some twisty moments that left me in shock. And when talking about the show with my dad,he would often jokingly ask if they got away with the murder yet. But looking back i think a major theme of the show is that while you may sometimes be able to get away with something horrible legally, dealing with guilt is a whole other matter. The leads all manage to get away with some seemingly heinous acts legally,but the compounding trauma stemming from those incidents still linger. And that to emotionally move forward in life,you have to find a way to make peace with any residual guilt and trauma from those incidents.
A good illustration of this is the ultimate fates of Connor and Michaela. While Michaela managed to legally get away scot-free her friendship with Olivier and Laurel is clearly left damaged. And while she seemingly got to pursue her legal career, her lack of presence at the funeral of Annalise implies those friendships were never repaired. Because her childhood left her so scared of legal consequences, she lost the friendships she made.
Connor however decides he to face his guilt head-on,and accept legal consequences rather then further it by leaving Annalise out to dry. It does seem like he is sacrificing his marriage, but him and Olivier’s presence at the Annalises funeral at the end implies they get back together again after he served his sentence or at least managed to keep on good terms.
The other characters fate’s all revolve around this same theme. Nate decides to stop solely blaming Annalise for there affair, and on the stand even though he has the moral high ground to implicate Annalise for framing him before instead he decides to say what he knows about the FBI knowing it will weaken there case and he will lose out on there financial offer. And later we see him start a center for men that have been hurt by the system like his father. By seeing her humanity and refusing to compromise his morals when it would have benefited him the most, he won out in the end just like Connor.
Annalise takes responsibility for dubious actions she has taken up to the point in a confession to the jury. She is able to live a full life with a healthy,loving relationship by owning up to her past. And in a meta-sense, i think that scene challenges the audience to look at themselves and there own actions in a more critical light, and to take responsibility for people we may have hurt in our own lives. And to not run away from our past and trauma’s we may carry,but to face them so they don’t end up turning us into a lesser version of ourselves.
One major complaint i had in the first season,was how the show handled one of Michaela’s love interest having had a past hook-up with Connor. As a bisexual it left a extremely bad taste in my mouth. But later with the introduction of Eve i felt they rectified that, and hearing Annalise taking on the label of bisexual in the courtroom scene touched me on a deeper level.
For those reasons, HTGAWM will stay with me as a personally important show.