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Cortney’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2014: How To Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis 

Cortney’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2014: How To Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis
Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

Wow. I mean, I know she’s a SAG-winning, Oscar-nominated actress, but seeing Viola Davis kill it (no pun intended) as Annalise Keating every week on How To Get Away With Murder has blown me away. We first met Annalise as a tough, no-nonsense law school professor. But as the layers began to peel back, we learned she was far more. And the mysteries, whew, don’t even get me started on the mysteries. Davis manages to play Annalise in such a way that we never truly know how much she knows until she wants us to know, which not only sends my brain in to a scramble but also puts me in complete awe.

Photo Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth
Photo Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth

Like I said, Davis first revealed Annalise as a tough law school professor who had no problem calling out any and every student on their bullshit, their tardiness and their brown-nosing. And I have to admit, she truly made cringe, cover my eyes and want to crawl under my seat during those scenes and I wasn’t even the one in the spotlight!

But as the series continued, Davis showed us there was more to Annalise. Not only did she know her husband was cheating with students, a dead girl and even potentially her own assistant, but she was also cheating herself.  Annalise’s scenes with her lover, Nate, are some of my favorite. Rather than the tough, brick-wall of a persona we saw, when she is with Nate, there is a sensitivity and softness to her that Davis nails with impeccable grace. But that softness never lasts for long, especially once she found out that her husband may potentially be the killer.

Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth
Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

Honestly, the scenes between her and her husband, Sam, are some of the most complex and gut-wrenching, especially  the one that took place on the day that Sam died. I can’t even begin to do justice to Davis’ performance. Her strength and power balanced with her fear and vulnerability, it was truly an Emmy-worthy performance.

Annalise: I don’t wanna think about you, us.

Sam: Why are you doing this?

Annalise: You knew she was pregnant, how stupid could you be? Bonnie, of course she’d tell me.

Sam: Alright, Annie, wait. I lied, yes, but only because I was afraid you’d think I killed her.

Annalise: Did you?

Sam: No, god no. Annie, please, just….

Annalise: You lied so much, your words mean nothing to me, you mean nothing to me.

Sam: Would you just stop for one second?

Annalise: No, I’m DONE saving your ass, I’m DONE believing in you, I’m DONE LOVING YOU! GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE!

Sam: I am begging you, do not give up on me.

Annalise: I already have.

Sam: I’m your husband, I love you.

Annalise: Get out of this house or I’m gonna call 911.

Sam: I am not leaving until you talk to me. I am not a violent man, Annie.

Annalise: Everyone is violent given the chance.

David: No, not me, you know that.

Annalise: I tried to believe you this whole time and I didn’t listen to myself.

Sam: Calm down, I’m still the man you married.

Annalise: You are NOT that man anymore! And I don’t think you ever were, which is why you chose me, ISN’T IT? I’ve been the window dressing for you. The black woman on your arm so you can hide so that people only saw the good guy and maybe it took me 20 years to see it, but I do now. I SEE IT! And that’s why you killed Lyla because she was pregnant and you knew that if it got out, people would see you for the PATHETIC man you are!

Sam: You think I killed her?! Why not just go to the police? Why get them to run a DNA test instead? It’s so you can cover your own ass because that’s who YOU are! Some scared little girl who pretends to be strong but is really just weak and selfish.

Annalise: I did everything I could to protect you!

Sam: You’ve done everything to make my life miserable!

Annalise: I’ve been screwing another man. His name is Nate and boy is he good to me. He knows me, just what I like and how I like it. He knows how to make me scream and groan and sweat. And so I let him take me wherever he wants on this counter, on my desk…

Sam: You hypocrite. Shaming me for cheating all this time…

Annalise: Thinking about him right now makes me…which is how I could sleep with you all of these months because I would think about him and I would be able to stand you on top of me.

{Sam pushes Annalise against the wall with his hands around her throat}

Sam: And I’d think of Lyla every time I’d try to get it off with you.

Annalise: I bet you did. Killing her, you enjoyed it, didn’t you? Strangling her, feeling the life go out of her body. You still think about it, don’t you? Hands around her neck while you were still inside of her. It’s exciting you right now, isn’t it? Remembering it. You want to do it to me now, don’t you? Go ahead. Kill me. KILL ME!

{Sam let’s go}

Sam: You’re a monster.

Annalise: Monster, huh? Is that all you got? You can do better than that.

Sam: You want the TRUTH? You’re nothing but a PIECE OF ASS! That’s what I saw when I first talked to you in the office that day. Cause I knew you’d put out. That’s all you’re really good for. Dirty, rough sex I’m too ashamed to tell anyone about. That’s how foul you are, you disgusting slut.

Annalise: Well, at least you were finally able to tell the truth.

It gives me chills just reading it again. You could literally feel the raw emotion and intensity jump off the screen. And watching Davis switch between being on the defensive and going on the offensive was beyond incredible. As Sam begins to fight back, Annalise is literally trembling with fear. But in the blink of an eye, she re-established her ground and turns the tables, becoming a force to be reckoned with. And yet, it was a blink you could see because Davis handled the transitions with such talent and precision.

Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth
Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

And then after she found Sam’s blood-surrounded corpse on the floor of her office, the the pleading voicemail, her panicked call to Bonnie and the wig-less, robed appearance as a grieving wife truly had me compelled and transfixed. Davis never gave any indication that Annalise’s actions were anything but genuine, which would not have been nearly as convincing in the hands of a lesser actress. And without that conviction, this show would not be what it is.

Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth
Photo Credit: ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

Davis truly nails the role of Annalise Keating in every sense of the word and week after week she pulls off this twisted, complex character with both impeccable skill and grace. If you don’t believe me, her SAG, Golden Globe and People’s Choice Award nominations for the role are proof that others agree. I don’t know what the second half of the season has in store, but if it’s anything like the first, you can bet that Davis will be a viable contender come Emmy day as well.

New episodes of How to Get Away with Murder return Thursday, Jan. 29 on ABC.

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