The season 6 premiere of How To Get Away With Murder hints that Annalise herself may die by the end of the show. The final season of How To Get Away With Murder starts with a bang (although not a gunshot, for once!), with "Say Goodbye" a premiere episode that plays with the usual format and promises a major ending.
The series, which stars Viola Davis as law professor Annalise Keating, was officially announced to be concluding back in May. With five seasons under its belt and a sixth to go, it's fair to say that while it's had a good run, it is time for How To Get Away With Murder to end.
Since the very first season, How To Get Away With Murder has been all about twists, turns, and cover-ups, and with the plot getting thicker and thicker each year, it makes sense to wrap things up before they get completely out of hand - but it looks like that end may come at the cost of Annalise's own life.
How Previous Seasons Have Built Up To The 'Big Murder'
Thus far, every season of How To Get Away With Murder has followed the same general structure, with two main timelines (and a few flashbacks for good measure). Each season premiere has given viewers a glimpse of a shocking murder/accident, before cutting back to several weeks prior, and working up to the big reveal over several episodes. In season one, it was Sam's murder. Season two was all leading to Annalise being shot in the Hapstall mansion, season three saw her house burn down (and Wes die), season four was about the loss of Laurel's baby (and that bloody elevator scene), and season five was leading to the murder at Connor and Oliver's wedding.
What this format does is spoonfeed the audience bits of a dramatic scene, keeping them guessing at every step of the way over what, exactly, has happened. Who is dead, who killed them - these are the big questions, and each season has taken time to get to the answers, using flash-forwards in every episode to reveal another living character, or point fingers at a possible murderer. The show uses this brilliantly to keep audiences hooked, but the final season changes everything up.
How "Say Goodbye" Changes The Status Quo
At first, it seems that 'Say Goodbye' is going to stick to the usual format, with the opening scene at a funeral. However, it is quickly revealed that this isn't the same as every other season premiere: for one thing, multiple main characters are present (Bonnie, Frank, Michaela, Connor, Oliver, Asher, and Nate), whereas previous seasons have made a point of revealing survivors slowly. In addition, the identity of the dead is also revealed immediately to be Annalise. (In comparison, when Wes died, it took well over half a season to reveal that he was the one killed in the fire). The reason for this change becomes quickly apparent when Annalise is seen screaming - and while the show (thankfully) didn't go the 'it was all a dream' route, the funeral is revealed to be a visualization exercise in a rehab center where Annalise is receiving treatment.
From there, the rest of the episode goes by without a flash-forward, leading viewers to think that perhaps for the final season, there won't be one big mystery to solve... and then pulling the rug out from under them with the final shots. At the end of the episode, after Michaela learns that Annalise knew her birth father, while she is holding a poker (that was being used for a 'let go of your anger' exercise). How To Get Away With Murder's season 6 premiere ends with a quick shot of that same poker, bloodied and casting blood on the wall, and then a second version of Annalise's funeral. The implication is that there will be a flash-forward murder to unravel, and that Annalise is the one who will die.
What Else This Funeral Could Mean For The Series
However, it's worth noting that this isn't guaranteed to be a real flash-forward. The premiere is very much playing with the viewers' expectations by setting up a dramatic opening in the usual way and then revealing it to be a visualization, so it's very possible that this is going to be some other kind of dream/visualization/etc. Yes, How To Get Away With Murder could just have that one bait and switch up its sleeve, and is now going to build toward Annalise's murder - who held the poker? Is that her being killed, or something else?
However, in many ways, it would make more sense for this to be another scene that doesn't turn out to be the actual future. For one thing, the funeral doesn't look quite how fans would expect. None of the Keating Four appear to be present, it seems to be taking place within a mausoleum with a standing-only crowd of students, Annalise's mother isn't present (despite being a large part of the series so far) - in many ways, it feels more like a memorial than a funeral, yet her coffin is there as well as a photo with a floral wreath. This just doesn't seem realistic for a real funeral, which points toward it being another fake-out.
More importantly, the change in structure this season suggests that ABC is doing something different in order to wrap things up. The choice to create a false funeral to play into fan expectations, and then take that away, is a conscious one to remind viewers that even after five seasons, How To Get Away With Murder is not a show that anyone can predict. It looks like the final season is going to intentionally play with the status quo, choosing to create something a little bit new for the end of the series - intentionally going above and beyond with the twists and turns to make this last season the most surprising of all. And, whether real or not, the inclusion of two of Annalise's funerals and the title ("Say Goodbye") are definitely proving that the series is going to get a little self-referential in this last season, especially when wrapping things up. All of which, of course, means that this season can be expected to pack a serious punch.
Should HTGAWM End With Annalise's Death?
Still, one question remains: if the final season of How To Get Away With Murder is building up to Annalise's death, is that a good thing? In many ways, this would make a lot of sense - where else does Annalise go from here? She's lost her baby, her husband, her home... she has been involved with multiple murders, she is an alcoholic, and the FBI (while put off for now) have a fairly impressive murder-board with her face in the middle. Having already been in jail, having her end up there for all these murders would be a bit of a let down for the final season, which leaves two options: death, or recovery.
Death may be the easy choice, but it's not necessarily the best one. It would give the rest of the Keating Four a chance to separate and move on with their lives, the final season's flash-forwards could deal with them processing her death, there would be one final mystery to solve (who killed her), that would wrap up the show's narrative conclusively, and then the Keating Four could pin everything on her, saving themselves and allowing themselves to move on.
However, this feels like the lazy way to end things. Killing off and then placing the blame on such an incredibly strong and capable black female character just doesn't seem appropriate - in many ways, it would seem like a moralistic punishment for her becoming so powerful in the first place. Instead, Annalise living, recovering, and finding her way through all the dark times with the Keating Four at her side - that's a redemption arc that would be incredibly inspiring to watch. Seeing Annalise end the show striding back into her classroom, in her own power, while her Keating Four each find their own ways to move past what they have done, that would be an end worth watching. And that may even be the end hinted at, as the premiere episode focuses on rehab, recovery, and moving forward. Or, of course, there is one other option (although one that also feels a little lazy) - that Annalise, sick of absolutely all of this, fakes her death, and the final shots will be of her sipping a non-alcoholic cocktail on a beach.