Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes is pushing the metaphorical envelope with the second season of her hit show, “How to Get Away With Murder.” The first season, which aired last fall, dealt with affairs, lies and, of course, murder. Now that the show has a wider fan base, Rhimes is pushing her envelope one step further in every episode.
In the first seven episodes of the second season—which currently airs Thursday nights as the third part of Shonda Rhimes’s trifecta of shows on ABC—“How to Get Away With Murder” also addresses sexual abuse, transphobia, bullying, polygamy and the bystander’s role in rape.
But, the most stirring step? Revealing Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), the main character, as bisexual in the second season premiere.
This bold move hasn’t gone unnoticed. Fans have been raving about a woman of color over the age of 50 representing a queer relationship. Annalise is not the only dynamic LGBTQ+ character on the show, as one of her students deals with his boyfriend’s HIV diagnosis during the first season. Annalise is, however, starting the biggest number of conversations, especially since Davis is the first woman of color to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a drama series for her role as Annalise.
While it seems that Rhimes addresses so many controversial issues in her episodes that they don’t have enough time to fully develop, her characters and their issues give so many viewers an opportunity to be represented on television. Unlike ABC Family’s “The Fosters” or Amazon’s “Transparent,” both of which directly discuss LGBTQ+ issues, “How to Get Away With Murder” focuses on court cases about murder and secrecy, not exclusively on the character’s sexualities or race. It’s not a show about LGBTQ+ characters—rather, it’s about lawyers who happen to have different backgrounds that revolve around sexuality, gender and race.
Would it be nice to give greater importance to the characters’ diversity? Of course. But, for now, Rhimes is normalizing characters that don’t fit into the “Straight White Character” box while at the same time developing an addictive murder mystery.
It would be hard to follow up the success of Rhime’s other two ABC mega-hits, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” Regardless of this, “How To Get Away With Murder” is making a name for itself on the primetime front. The show isn’t perfect, but Rhimes and Davis are breaking the glass ceiling of representation. As Davis so poignantly stated during her Emmy acceptance speech, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” Rhimes is creating those rule-breaking roles—and successfully changing television.