While most of America (or at least most Shonda Rhimes fanatics) count down the hours until we found out who exactly is getting away with Lila Stangard's murder, I've been wracking my brains trying to imagine what Season 2 of How To Get Away With Murder could look like. We've all been so obsessed with cracking the cases of Sam Keating's and Lila Stangard's deaths that it's hard to think about what comes next for the show. [UPDATE: ABC has announced that HTGAWM will premiere on Sep. 24.]
Other shows built around central mysteries have come up with various ways to solve this problem. On AMC's The Killing, for example, the writers strung viewers along with the question of "Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" (who was played by HTGAWM's Katie Findlay, aka Rebecca Sutter, ironically enough); in the Season 1 finale, it was revealed the show had no intention of answering that question, and the mystery was dragged into Season 2 to the audience's consternation.
Could something similar happen on ABC's legal thriller? Fortunately, HTGAWM fans will be spared that particular frustration. Regardless of what happens in Season 2, the case regarding Lila Stangard is unlikely to be prolonged past Season 1, considering the fact that the two-hour finale is titled "The Night Lila Died / It's All My Fault." If that title doesn't promise answers, I don't know what does.
So the question remains: What will the show look like when it returns next year? And yes, despite ABC having yet to officially renew any of its shows, I'm saying "when," not "if." There's no question that HTGAWM is coming back — the pilot episode tied FOX's Empire as the highest-rated premiere of the 2014-2015 TV season at 3.8, it has routinely won its 10 pm Thursday time slot, and TVByTheNumbers' reliable Renew/Cancel Index has the show listed as "Certain To Be Renewed."
The events of HTGAWM's Season 1 finale are likely to be so explosive that it seems the most logical way the show will recover is with a time jump. Maybe nothing drastic — I'm not talking several years here — but at least a few months. But it does seems improbable that Season 2 would pick up right where the first leaves off, if only because I'm hoping Season 1 doesn't end with an infuriating cliffhanger. If Season 2 picked up six months or so down the line, it would give the characters time to recover from the undoubtedly traumatic events of the finale... before they're thrust into the midst of yet another brutal murder mystery.
But even more than a time jump, I believe the show would benefit in Season 2 from a shift in location. In its first 15 episodes, HTGAWM has been so inextricably linked to college — think the twirling cheerleader, the bonfire, Annalise's class — that Season 2 would risk feeling repetitive if it stayed put. The best way the writers could shake things up going forward would be to give the show a different setting every year. Just like a student moving off-campus for the first time, moving HTGAWM away from Middleton University would give it room to grow and mature.
Where could the show go next? Perhaps when Season 2 opens, we'll learn that Annalise has quit her job at Middleton and opened up a private practice in a big city like New York or Los Angeles. A big city vibe would feel expansive after the claustrophobic confines of a small college — and the mystery could involve the murder of a prominent socialite or a despicable real estate tycoon.
Then again, maybe the events of Season 1 will send Annalise on the run, and Season 2 will find her in a more exotic location. Can you imagine a season of HTGAWM set in the Bahamas or Paris or the Alaskan wilderness? Yeah, me neither... But! The point is, the options are literally endless. The writers shouldn't confine themselves to the borders of one cramped setting — especially now that anthology series are in vogue, thanks to American Horror Story, True Detective, and Fargo.
HTGAWM could be unique in the realm of anthologies, in that it could constantly reboot its story and setting, while not requiring its audience to become reinvested in new characters every year. Because, let's face it — characters like Annalise Keating and Connor Walsh are at least half the reason we tune in every week. I'd follow the show to Timbuktu if they were still on it... and I'm sure most Murder fans would, too.
Images: Mitchell Haaseth/ABC (3)