ABC Shondaland series How To Get Away With Murder is chocked full of, well, murders. Every season is typically centered around a central character’s death. Viewers see things backward and in pieces as they try to figure out who’s dead and/or how they got there, teased each episode with pertinent details, bit by bit.
Increasingly, however, seasons feature multiple deaths, many of which are both surprising and acutely startling. But the show’s main characters, including lawyer and former law professor Annalise Keating, played by Viola Davis, and her team of hand-picked star students, referred to as the Keating 5, are at the center of the drama. And it keeps following them, with lies piling upon lies as they dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes. So, of the many deaths on the series—so far, we count about 26—which were the most surprising? Here they are, ranked.
The death that kicked it all off was that of Lila Stangard, a university student who was involved with Annalise’s cheating husband Sam. But the true shocker was not that Sam was two-timing his wife, but that he was the murder mystery viewers needed to solve in season one. Adding more to the shock factor about his death was discovering who did it, why, and how. And, as the title of the show suggests, what this group did to actually get away with the murder.
To say it was a surprise when Rebecca was murdered is an understatement, but most surprising was who did it. While the group initially captured, bound, and gagged her believing that she was Lila’s real killer, once they realized she didn’t do it (or at least that they didn’t have enough evidence to prove it) they found themselves in a tough spot. But before they could figure out what to do with her, Bonnie suffocates her with a plastic bag, convinced she’s guilty and has Frank dispose of the body.
Revealed to be Wes’ grandfather, it wasn’t all that upsetting when the wealthy, misogynistic and racist businessman was killed. But it was truly surprising when he was shot in the head in the middle of the street just as Wes approached him to reveal he believed him to be his father. (It was really his son who impregnated Wes’ mother.) We really thought that whole story would play out further, but nope, Wallace was gone.
Being an Assistant District Attorney or District Attorney on this series doesn’t seem to bode well for characters, as Denver—as he was often called—is one of two people on the series to die while holding this position. While he was often portrayed as a villain, we were shocked when he got into his car after discovering Bonnie bribed an officer and crashed. It appears someone tampered with his brakes.
It was surprising to discover of Sam Keating Jr.’s existence followed by his subsequent death. The child of Annalise and Sam, Sam Jr. died in the womb after Annalise got into a major car accident that was secretly planned by the Mahoneys. Viewers didn’t even find out about Sam Jr. nor that Annalise was ever pregnant until season 2. So to find this out, followed by the emotional scenes of the couple holding their stillborn child, was incredibly surprising.
Father of main character Asher Millstone, William only appeared in the first two seasons. But the most unpredictable thing about this death was that he supposedly hanged himself after realizing that the public would find out about his past dirty deeds and cover-ups. Equally surprising was Asher’s discovery of the death, and his reaction after the fact.
Following the death of his father, Asher, in anger, reversed his car and hit the prosecutor who was slandering him, killing her. Oops. We realize she turns up dead earlier on in the season, but the fact that Asher was responsible, followed by the group’s deeds to cover up yet another murder and save his butt, makes it all the more startling.
Poor Nathanial Sr. was locked up in jail since the 80s, put in solitary confinement that led to him beating another inmate to death, then served as the face of Annalise’s class action suit for not having received proper representation through his many trials. While we thought he was finally going to be released, the curse of Annalise prevailed, and he was murdered in cold blood during a prison transfer, and it was staged to look like he attacked and it was self-defense.
True to the show’s M.O., almost as surprising as the fact that this Assistant District Attorney, and Bonnie’s boyfriend, was killed was who did it and how. Viewers desperately wanted to believe he was innocent and had nothing to do with Nate Sr.’s death—spoiler alert: he was. But deep down, Bonnie and Nate probably hoped he did so they wouldn’t feel so terrible about killing him. After seeing Nate beat Miller almost to death, we thought maybe he stood a chance. But when Bonnie smothered him and watched the life drain from his eyes, all the while crying at seemingly having to do it, it was seriously heartbreaking.
Without a doubt, the most unexpected death on the series was that of Wes, who was a central character on the series and a character who was quickly uncovering truths about his past, how he was linked to a wealthy family, and how Annalise has been tied to him since he was young. With a baby on the way and him finally getting closer to telling the truth about the past murders, viewers were shocked when his body was found burned in Annalise’s home. It was later determined that he was dead before the house fire. While additional bits and pieces have been revealed about his death, some holes still remain as the saga continues.