The two-part crossover event finally happened and the Annalise/Olivia meeting of minds (and egos) was better than I thought it would be. I have to confess that I stopped watching Scandal somewhere during the second part of last season because it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore, but I did watch the Scandal episode of the crossover. It was great to see Liv and the gang again (even if I had to do some Googling to figure out WTF was going on).
The episode picks up right where the Scandal hour left off. Annalise and Olivia are prepping their argument for the Supreme Court hearing. Olivia is really making Annalise work for it and now all I want is for Olivia and Annalise to get off their respective bullshits and start a firm together. Fitz sends up a bottle of champagne with a nice, Go-Get-‘Em-Tiger-type note for Annalise. Someone probably should have told Fitz that alcohol is the worst possible gift he could have chosen but the sentiment was a nice one so I’ll allow it.
Meanwhile, D.C. Lawyer and general nightmare Ingrid Egan (representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the case), is on TV shit-talking Olivia and Annalise. To be fair, they both have pretty shady pasts and there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for the opposition to pick from.
The episode cuts to the squad in back in Philadelphia and, to be honest, I don’t even care. The Philly parts of this episode were basically info-dumps and were very weak compared to the Annalise In D.C. parts. I wish they would have used that time for more scenes of Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, and Cicely Tyson together. I don’t care about Connor’s feelings right now or about Laurel’s baby or her mom and Wes or any of it. Even I, who has been stanning Jimmy Smits all season, do not care what’s going on with Isaac right now. Just give me more Annalivia.
One of the only parts of the Philly story that’s even remotely important right now is Isaac, and that’s only because Jacqueline keeps calling Annalise. Things with Isaac got really ugly and she made matters way worse by calling Jacqueline and telling her about Stella. Seems like a great time to bounce to D.C., focus on the case of her dreams, and not think about the whole Isaac situation at all. But Jacqueline keeps calling so Annalise calls Bonnie to find out what’s going on. She learns that Denver isn’t reopening the case against Isaac. Bonnie suggests that Annalise invite her family to D.C. but Annalise doesn’t want to. She can’t have any distractions and Ophelia’s dementia might make things even more stressful.
The other important part of the Philly goings-on is Nate, who goes to visit his father in prison to tell him that his case is going to the Supreme Court. Every scene with Nate and his dad this season has been emotional and made me love Nate even more than I ever thought possible. Dare I start to ship Annalise and Nate again? The Isaac thing is looking highly unlikely at this point, and too toxic even for my taste.
One of the most powerful parts of this episode was watching Annalise walk into the Supreme Court. We see her on the verge of achieving a lifelong dream—to argue a case in front of the highest court in the land. Annalise has a real Moment but because Annalise is never allowed an extended period of pure joy, Olivia comes in and tells her that the TV smear campaign backfired on the opposition and now the ACLU and NAACP have offered their assistance. Olivia thinks they should take it but Annalise is out here trying to do this on her own—start to finish—and she doesn’t want to let anyone else in on it. Olivia reminds her that it’s important that Annalise actually win the case, because if she doesn’t, it will set back criminal justice reform for decades. No pressure or anything, right? Annalise ultimately decides to call her mom and invite her, making the Annalise-Olivia-Ophelia dream a reality.
Before we get to that good stuff, though, we get some quality Michaela content. Michaela is the only member of the squad I care about right now, both because she’s The Best and also because she’s playing a huge role in the D.C. storyline as the only squad member Annalise takes to D.C. Michaela fits in perfectly in the D.C. of the Scandal universe. She also hits it off with Marcus who is basically her ideal man. I don’t hate Michaela/Asher but, bless his heart, Asher not the right guy for Michaela. Marcus on the other hand…
And Michaela knows it, too. On a stakeout of Ingrid Egan’s house, they see a pizza delivery guy, but no one relating to the case comes for a secret ex parte chat. During their time watching and (seemingly) failing to gather any pertinent intel at the house, the sexual tension in the car is off the charts. Michaela is very hot and bothered by Marcus and she ends up word vomiting that she has a boyfriend—blah, blah, blah. Ultimately, that doesn’t stop either of them from getting it on in the car. I feel bad for Asher—I do—but Michaela/Marcus is kind of great.
In between scenes I care about, we learn during one of Frank and Bonnie’s weird parking lot meetings that Laurel’s mom paid Wes $100K to stay away from Laurel (or so she says). Frank wants to Bonnie to dig into Wes’s bank records and find the money. Bonnie wants Frank to tell Laurel the truth about her mom. OK, cool. Now Back to The Good Shit.
Ophelia arrives in D.C. and she’s made what I can only assume is the world’s most delicious stew. She wants everyone well fed before the big day and it’s just such a mom thing to do and I love her. Also, she’s super excited to meet Olivia Pope, because Olivia is A Big Deal. Ophelia is just so proud of Annalise and is happy to have women like Olivia and Annalise out there trying to fix the country, which has been broken her whole life. It’s incredibly moving and Cicely Tyson is a national treasure. The experience of having her, Viola, and Kerry on screen together was everything and I’m never gonna be over it.
There are a few problems, though, because there always are. Somehow, Ingrid Egan is trading information with one of the justices. Also, Nate shows up and Olivia flips out that their face case is Annalise’s ex-boyfriend’s dad. It seems pretty amateur for Olivia freakin’ Pope to not have known this before now, but I’ll allow it because it gives us a great scene between Viola and Kerry, and the more Annalise/Olivia content I get, the better my life is. Olivia is tired of Annalise’s distractions and wants her more focused. Annalise is tired of Olivia bossing her around and “handling” her and treating her like she’s the only one with a bad reputation. Obviously they need each other and they are stronger together but I’ll totally watch them fight about it until they figure that out for themselves.
The day of the hearing has arrived. We see Nate prepping his dad and shaving him, which is another A+ Nate/Nate moment. We see Annalise dressed and ready to take on the world. Then we see that the squad has arrived at the court, and when Michaela and Marcus walk over it is immediately obvious to Laurel and Connor that they boned. Asher is, of course, oblivious and heaping some hero-worship onto Marcus. This makes the whole thing 1000x more uncomfortable and now I’m feeling real bad for Asher.
Before things can get even more painful, Michaela notices a guy in the hallway—one of the conservative justice’s aides—and realizes he’s the same guy that was “delivering pizza” to Ingrid’s house. Marcus texts Olivia to let her know that Justice Strickland’s aide is the source.
After Annalise has another Moment when she signs the Supreme Court guest book, she (for some reason I will never understand) picks up her phone when she gets a call from a blocked number. I barely pick up my phone when I know the person calling me so I can’t imagine in what universe Annalise would take a blocked call while actively avoiding Jacqueline and, you know, about to argue a case in front of the friggin’ Supreme Court.
But, again, I’m willing to overlook it because it opens up the opportunity for another great Annalise/Olivia scene later on. The blocked call is from Jacqueline, because of course it is. She tells Annalise that Isaac overdosed and, while he didn’t die, his kidneys are failing and he’s in real rough shape. She tells Annalise that she already knew about Stella and blames Annalise for everything that happened. Jacqueline’s core message is basically that Annalise is the worst person in the entire universe and ruins everyone around her—not exactly what one wants to hear before the single most important moment in one’s career.
Annalise does not take it well. She has a complete meltdown and ends up catatonic on the floor. Michaela finds her and goes to Olivia for help, thus giving me another epic Viola/Kerry scene. Olivia gives Annalise the world’s most twisted pep talk. When Annalise says she needs vodka to get through it, Olivia—knowing she’s a recovering alcoholic—has Marcus go rustle up a bottle of liquid courage. She then proceeds to build up Annalise’s confidence and, when the vodka arrives, she tells her to drink it if she wants, but that everything she thinks she gets from the bottle is already inside her. Annalise chooses not to drink and pulls herself together.
Annalise makes it to court with seconds to spare but Olivia isn’t with her. Ophelia is having a dementia episode and thought that she was going to one of Annalise’s debates. She accidentally spilled stew all over Olivia’s suit (which probably cost more than my life) and the two of them go to the bathroom to clean up. This is also a way for Olivia to keep Ophelia out of the courtroom during her episode. While the case begins, Ophelia and Olivia have a sweet moment. We haven’t seen much of Liv’s softer side this episode, but it comes out with Ophelia. Ophelia doesn’t know Olivia personally but she can tell that she’s the type that fixes everyone else but doesn’t take the time for self-care. Ophelia can relate to that. It’s a lovely moment and makes up for the fact that neither of them are in the courtroom.
Annalise does her best to present the case but Judge Strickland is really going for her jugular. She is trying to argue that Nate Sr.’s (and so many other people of color’s) Sixth Amendment rights have been repeatedly violated but Strickland keeps interrupting her. He’s very argumentative and refuses to accept her contention that the case is about race in addition to being about the general failings of the justice system to properly fund the public defense system. Annalise does the best she can in the face of this jackass to argue that race is a central factor in the case. I love the fact that HTGAWM isn’t afraid to go hard on systemic racism in the criminal justice system. The entire class action storyline, especially the parts in the crossover event, are both effective and important.
You know what isn’t effective or important? Anything having to do with Wes. Yeah, I said it. I’m over it. This episode reminded me that HTGAWM can be so much more than it has been recently. Why are they dragging out #WhoKilledWes over two seasons when they could be giving me this kind of quality content on a weekly basis?
Anyway, Strickland is trying to throw the case out and Annalise, feeling the whole thing getting away from her, chooses to save the remainder of her allotted time for rebuttal. She’s got a plan and she sends Michaela to the library to look up the ruling for Bryant v. Topeka. Michaela and Marcus search frantically through about a million thick-ass law books and find it just in time.
Turns out, the ruling was by Strickland himself. Annalise uses the justice’s own words and it’s so satisfying to watch him have to listen to his own opinion being turned against him. In the old case, Strickland had ruled that “race must always be considered a variable” in a legal case.
Annalise goes on to finish strong, giving a solid and substantive argument that the American promise of civil rights and racial equality has never been truly fulfilled, and that the justice and prison systems are just different forms of slavery and Jim Crow. She argues convincingly that people of color are routinely denied their Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial, leading to a prison population that is disproportionately made up of POC. Basically, she nails it.
Annalise and Ingrid are both being questioned by the media on the court steps. Annalise takes this opportunity to actually give Connor some credit for all the work he put in to the case by singling him out for public praise. Sorry, Michaela, but he deserves it.
We pop back to Philly for a hot minute (yawn) and get some info about the whole Wes thing I don’t care about. Bonnie tells Frank that there’s no money in Wes’s accounts so he goes searching around Wes/Laurel’s apartment for a secret stash. He doesn’t find any money but he does find a USB drive in a hiding spot in the bathroom. The drive has a recording of a convo between Wes and Laurel’s mom in which Wes says that he’s going to tell Laurel about their meeting. I literally could not care less about this but there that is.
We go back to D.C. where we get one last amazing scene between Annalise and Olivia. Olivia says that the justices might be swinging in her favor, although nothing is 100% yet. She goes into Olivia Pope mode and tries to tell Annalise how to deal with the media when she gets back to Philly but Annalise stops her and tells her that she doesn’t need to be handled. This time it’s not an argument, though. These women now have a genuine, mutual respect for each other and I just kind of want them to be BFFs who support and love each other while effecting substantive change in this shitty world.
Sadly, we’re about to be back on that Philly bullshit because Bonnie calls Annalise with bad news: Awful Simon is awake. This is bad for everyone, but right now I only care about Annalise and her case and now she’s going to be distracted because she’s got to clean up the squad’s mess.
It’s going to be hard to go back to garden-variety HTGAWM after the crossover event. This episode breathed some serious life back into the show and I fear that a return to the land of #WhoKilledWes is going to fall flat. I’ll keep watching, though. Maybe they will surprise me.
Tune in to How To Get Away With Murder on Thursdays at 10pm EST on ABC.