How to Get Away With Murder Series Finale Recap: So… Did They Get Away With It? — Plus, Grade the Episode
Need to catch up? Read our previous How to Get Away With Murder recap here.
Ever since Annalise Keating wrote the name of her law course on that chalkboard in 2014, she’s been teaching those closest to her How to Get Away With Murder. It’s fitting, then, that Thursday’s series finale gave us closure on who — if anyone — managed to get away with their many crimes from the past six years.
Heading into Murder’s final hour, we had plenty of other questions that needed answers, too. Would Annalise really fake her death and start a new life? Would Hannah Keating’s killer be revealed? Has Wes been alive this whole time?! And though the ABC drama only had 43 minutes to tie up loose ends, many of our questions were addressed — some of them with devastating results. (Click here for our full post mortem interview with series creator Pete Nowalk.)
Read on for the details of “Stay”:
MAN DOWN? | We begin in the future, seemingly after Annalise’s trial has ended. There are gunshots. Reporters and onlookers scream and start running away from the courthouse. We see a close-up of a blood-soaked body, though we don’t find out whose it is. Inside the courthouse, Annalise’s mother frantically asks if Annalise has been hurt.
In a later version of this same scene, we get a few more details: When shots are fired, Tegan tells Annalise to get down. We still aren’t told whether Annalise has been shot, but there is a glimpse of Tegan looking horrified. Laurel, meanwhile, is putting Christopher in a car seat when the shots ring out. She turns around to see what happened, then looks like she’s been punched in the gut after spotting whomever’s been hurt. “Drive. Drive right now!” she cries to the person at the wheel.
SAM’S CLUB | Three days before that shooting takes place, Annalise is still figuring out how to win her case, and she’s none too pleased that Bonnie blabbed to Frank about his real parents. Tegan is still certain that Gov. Birkhead orchestrated Hannah Keating’s death — but when we return to the scene of that crime, it seems Frank was the one to kill Hannah, after all. It’s not that we get explicit confirmation of this, like a flashback of Frank finishing the job; rather, when Hannah’s lawyer, Floyd, gets back in his car that night, a gloved Frank is suddenly there, pointing a gun at Floyd’s head from the backseat. So it tracks!
“Don’t move. I just want to talk,” Frank tells Floyd, who asks what this is about. “My mother,” Frank replies. (Well, it’s more like “my mothah” when you add a little Delfino to it.) The next time we see these men, Floyd is presenting Frank with everything that was in Hannah’s safe deposit box, including her passports and will. But when Floyd accidentally reveals that there’s something he’s still keeping from Frank, Frank threatens to end his life right then and there — and Floyd immediately crumbles, revealing that there’s a flash drive with crucial information on it.
Later, during a break between testimonies at Annalise’s trial, she and Frank speak in the hallway, and he denies that he killed Hannah. “You know what you never get? That you’re it for me,” Frank tells her, tears in his eyes. “You got me out of the pound. Sure, I mess up. But all I want now is to make you happy.” (Man, Charlie Weber is a heartbreaker here.) After their sweet conversation, in which Annalise implores Frank to stop hating himself, he presents her with the aforementioned flash drive. “What’s that?” she asks. “How you’re gonna win,” he replies. (But we’ll get back to that!)
That evening, Bonnie — who expressed to Laurel in an earlier scene that she regrets telling Frank about his real parents — comes home to find Frank carrying a suitcase. “What am I supposed to do now, knowing what’s in me?” he asks her, adding that she should have known better than to burden him with the truth about Sam and Hannah. Bonnie insists the burden is on both of them, and she wants to support him through all of this — but Frank counters that “you should put a bullet in my head, ‘cause that would have been nicer than what you did.” (Ouch.) Despite Bonnie’s pleas for Frank to stay, he can’t be persuaded. “I’ll forgive you. I will,” he tells her. “Just not right now.” And after kissing her one last time, he leaves.
As it turns out, Frank’s suitcase isn’t full of his belongings. Rather, it contains $87,000 — the money he got from the Mahoneys, I presume — which he presents to Gabriel, who was potentially going to appear as a surprise witness in Annalise’s case. Though he knows that Gabriel still wants the truth about what happened to Sam, Frank reminds him that Sam was a bad dude; he even reveals that Sam enlisted Frank to kill Lila Stangard a few years back. “Take the money. Get away from all this,” Frank tells Gabriel, urging him not to testify against Annalise. “Or Sam’s gonna destroy your life like he’s done everyone else.” (As we later learn, Gabriel does take the cash, instead of taking the stand, and seems to get outta Philly for good.)
LET’S MAKE A DEAL | Meanwhile, there’s Connor, who’s starting to think that he, Michaela and Oliver should just come clean about all of their crimes. (Perhaps this deleted scene has something to do with his guilt?) Neither Michaela nor Oliver is on board with that plan; Michaela insists that her nightmarish, abusive childhood was enough imprisonment for one lifetime, and now she plans to make something of herself.
That night, Oliver comes home from doing research at Middleton’s library, happily revealing that he’s figured out a way to get Connor the same immunity deal as Michaela — one that doesn’t include any jail time. Connor isn’t thrilled by that news, and he wishes Oliver would respect that he wants to go to prison; Oliver is irked by Connor’s stubbornness and threatens to divorce him on the spot (!) if Connor doesn’t do what’s best for his husband this time.
Suspiciously, though, Connor receives a phone call from Agent Lanford that same night, and he visits the FBI offices the next day, where he’s suddenly offered the exact same immunity deal as Michaela. U.S. Attorney Lennox tries to convince Connor that he simply had a change of heart about the immunity deal, thinking it unfair that Michaela got a better arrangement than Connor did. But Connor doesn’t buy it: When he returns home, he seems to know that Oliver wasn’t actually doing research at the law library the previous night; rather, he was secretly meeting with Lanford and Lennox in an attempt to get Connor a better deal. What’s more, in order to secure that better deal, Oliver had agreed to testify against Annalise — and he was going to lie that Annalise had asked him to wipe dirty photos of her and Wes from her hard drive.
That’s when Connor drops two bombs on Oliver: He turned down the new immunity deal, and he wants a divorce. He’s got the paperwork all drawn up, in fact. Connor will be taken away to prison as soon as the trial is over, and he doesn’t want Oliver to wait for him while he’s behind bars. And sure, Oliver might be alone for a while, “but only until you meet someone who’s actually good for you,” Connor insists, adding that the only thing holding their relationship together is death and trauma and lies. Oliver refuses to go through with the divorce, especially since he’s certain that Connor still loves him… but Connor then breaks it to him that “I don’t love you.” (And Oliver weeps, just like the rest of us watching at home.)
TAKE THE STAND AND DELIVER | As for the actual trial proceedings, there are three major testimonies that take place in Thursday’s finale. First up: Jorge Castillo, who isn’t much help. Not only does he deny working with the governor and the FBI to take down Annalise, but he identifies Tegan as the informant who got him locked up in the first place. (You might recall that Jorge isn’t supposed to have that information; Tegan had previously shared that she only helped Laurel get out of Philadelphia because Laurel had threatened to tell Jorge that Tegan was the informant. And apparently, Jorge found out anyway!)
Next, there’s Gov. Birkhead, who similarly denies knowing the Castillos and conspiring with the FBI. But during the cross-examination, Annalise plays an audio file that was on the flash drive Frank gave her, which is a phone call from Hannah Keating to Xavier Castillo. “I just saw the governor on TV saying Nate Lahey Sr. died,” Hannah is heard telling Xavier, who confirms Nate Sr.’s death. “Because the governor killed him?!” she continues, incredulous. “I wanted Annalise to go down for my brother, not hurt all these other people.” (Gov. Birkhead maintains that she doesn’t know why Hannah and Xavier are speaking so intimately of her on that call, but this doesn’t look great for her regardless.)
And finally, there’s Nate’s testimony. Now, Annalise doesn’t have a lot of faith in him at this point, because Lanford and Lennox just offered Nate a $20 million (!) settlement for his father’s wrongful death lawsuit. And for that kind of money, surely Nate would tell whatever lies about Annalise that the FBI wanted, right? But when Nate takes the stand, he comes through for her. He lies that Hannah Keating was the one who framed him for Sam’s murder (when it was really Annalise), and he reveals that the FBI tried to coerce him into saying what they wanted. (Annalise, for her part, looks like she just won the Powerball.)
That evening, Nate stops by Annalise’s apartment, and she asks why he decided to help her. Though he admits he hated Annalise for a long time, he also wanted to take responsibility for the role he played in their collective mess. In order to truly move on, he needs to “own my side of the road” — and he thinks Annalise needs to do the same, which isn’t exactly her strong suit. Before he goes, he has one last parting gift for Annalise: Wes’ written confession, which he found on Xavier Castillo after killing him. “Goodbye, Annalise,” Nate says, kissing her on the cheek and leaving for good. Annalise, meanwhile, wisely burns the confession, then gets a surprise visit from her mom and sister, who have come to offer her moral support.
‘THERE’S A VERDICT’ | And now, the trial has reached its end. Despite some initial doubts that she even deserves to be acquitted, Annalise gives an emotional, compelling closing argument to the jury, admitting that she’s a flawed, messy person — but she’s no murderer. Then, while Annalise and Tegan wait for the jury to deliberate, Tegan finally reveals what we’ve all known for months: “I think I’m in love with you, Annalise.” (Thank you, Pete Nowalk, for not letting this go unaddressed!)
Though Tegan insists that she can give Annalise love and make her happy, Annalise can’t promise her the same. “That’s what you deserve, and it’s out there for you,” Annalise assures her. “But it’s just not me.” Moments later, they’re interrupted by Bonnie, who tells them the verdict is in — and once everyone has returned to the courtroom, it’s revealed that Annalise has been found not guilty on all charges. There’s tears! There’s hugging! There’s Lennox looking defeated, as he should!
The acquittal isn’t great news for everyone, though: Connor is handcuffed shortly after the verdict is announced, and he shoots down Oliver’s pleas for them to stay together while he’s behind bars. “Oliver, thank you. Now I know how to love,” Connor says — sob! — before he’s whisked away, and Oliver has no interest in Michaela’s attempt at comfort. “That should have been you,” he says icily before walking away, and when Michaela tries to call Laurel, she’s stunned to find that Laurel has changed her number.
Here, we catch up with the episode’s earlier flash-forwards (with an acute sense of dread, I might add!). Annalise is on the steps outside the courthouse, triumphantly answering questions from the press; one reporter even remarks that Gov. Birkhead is also at the courthouse that day, where she’s taking a meeting with the attorney general. Then, Bonnie spots Frank working his way through the throng of reporters, looking both miserable and determined. (In an earlier scene, Frank had paid a visit to Baby Sam’s gravesite, full-on weeping that he was sorry.)
Seeming to realize Frank’s plan, Bonnie tries to intercept him on his way up the courthouse steps. But she can’t stop him in time: As Gov. Birkhead makes her way out of the building, Frank raises his gun and shoots her multiple times, making her the casualty we saw at the top of the hour. But after Frank opened fire, someone on the governor’s security team grabbed their own gun, and we realize that Frank was also shot amid the chaos. “I had to make it right,” Frank tells Bonnie, bleeding out in her lap. “Tell Annalise.” But just as Annalise rushes over to help, Bonnie discovers that she had also been shot during the pandemonium — and despite Annalise’s best attempts to keep her conscious, Bonnie dies on the courthouse steps, as well.
OUR DEARLY DEPARTED ANNALISE | With that, we’re suddenly back at Annalise’s long-teased funeral — and not only is it revealed to be a real funeral for Annalise’s legitimate death, but it’s set many years in the future. That photo of Annalise we’ve been seeing, surrounded by a wreath of flowers? It’s standing right next to a photo of Annalise as an old woman, as she apparently got to live a long and full life after her acquittal. And kudos to those of you who correctly assessed the Wes twist from earlier this season: Alfred Enoch isn’t playing Wes at this funeral, but an adult version of Wes and Laurel’s son, Christopher.
“Do you want to say anything?” Christopher asks (in Spanish!) to Laurel, who is also in attendance. “No,” she responds. “But you should.” As for the acquaintance who was brought up to say nice things about Annalise, that would be Eve, who delivers an honest, emotional eulogy. As she does, a number of storytelling gaps are filled via montage: Annalise and her sister, Celestine, mourn their deceased mother. Nate is photographed at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Lahey Justice Center. Jorge Castillo is stabbed to death in prison. (!) Michaela, now an older woman, is sworn in as a lawyer (or judge?), seemingly accompanied by her two daughters. And at Annalise’s funeral, Laurel looks back in the crowd and spots both Connor and Oliver, who stayed married, after all. (Yay!)
The very final scene probably feels a bit familiar: As adult Christopher walks into a Middleton classroom, he introduces himself as the professor of Criminal Law 100 — “or, as my mentor liked to call it,” he says, writing an alternate course title on the board, “How to Get Away With Murder.” (He’s got the Keating cadence down pat, too.) And when he looks out to the lecture hall, he envisions Annalise sitting in one of those seats, beaming at him.
It’s been a pleasure watching and theorizing with you, Murder fans! Now, it’s your turn to weigh in. What did you think of the series finale? Cast your votes in our polls below, then hit the comments with your full reviews!