Shonda Rhound-Up: Flashbacks

KEVIN MCKIDD, ABIGAIL SPENCER
ABC/Mitch Haaseth/Courtesy

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Both “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away with Murder” focused on unresolved conflicts this week: “Grey’s” between siblings and “Murder” between lovers. In each case, the conflict involved guilt and overstepped boundaries, but the resolutions (or lack thereof) were on complete opposite sides of the map.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’

The disorienting nature of this week’s episode wasn’t helped by the hiatus the show took last week. Last we saw (two weeks ago), Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) was leaving the hospital with Owen (Kevin McKidd), after she decided to stay with him and recuperate from surgery. This week offered no transition between the moment Owen drove Amelia home and the moment he was saying goodbye to Megan. We were dropped right into his flashback to the war, where he served as a trauma surgeon alongside Teddy (Kim Raver), Nathan (Martin Henderson) and his sister Megan (Abigail Spencer).

When we return to the present, Owen is preparing to say goodbye to Megan: It appears she’s moving to Malibu with Nathan and her son Farouk (Bardia Seiri). It was frustratingly unclear where we were in the world of “Grey’s” at first, but the show tried to quickly calm that frustration in the flashback: We saw the moment Nathan first proposed to Megan, before her disappearance all those years ago. The moment was sweet and unexpected, but it hardly compensated for the disorienting start to the episode — and the proposal feels a lot less sweet when we find out that Nathan proposed with another woman’s necklace.

We then bounce between the present and the past for the rest of the episode. We see everything that led up to Megan’s kidnapping and some resolution to the conflicts that came before it. It turns out that both Nathan and Megan had cheated on each other during a fight, and although they weren’t allowed a resolution before Megan disappeared, they both felt that past mistakes were finite compared to the chance to be together again. “Grey’s Anatomy” knows how to allow its characters recovery from infidelity and pain (especially through more pain).

The episode is marred by Owen’s paternalistic approach to his relationships with women — his sister included. This week we learn that Owen was fighting with Megan before her disappearance because he intentionally prevented her from getting a promotion she deeply wanted and worked hard for, because he wanted to “protect” her. He fears losing her again after her move to Malibu, so he accompanies her on the drive from Seattle to Southern California and spends much of the trip not only justifying his past intervention in her career, but also trying to convince her not to move because it’s “not safe.” For nearly the whole drive, he’s condescending to her — which is incredibly frustrating, even if his intentions are well-meaning.

ABIGAIL SPENCER, KEVIN MCKIDD

ABC/Mitch Haaseth/Courtesy

Just before they arrive in Malibu, the two end up arguing on the side of the road. Megan has had enough of Owen judging her decisions and trying to make choices for her. He doesn’t know everything about her relationship with Nathan. She’s dreamt of living by the beach, and after what she’s been through, she’s not going to give it up. She hopes he can create the kind of happiness she’s creating for herself, too.

The two make up, and Owen ends up flying home. Upon arrival, he decides to split from Amelia — they’re not only unhappy, but they also don’t “really know each other.”

It’s not as somber of an ending as it may sound, and it certainly leaves a lot of doors open for the rest of the season, especially for the characters left behind after the departure of Nathan and Megan.

‘How to Get Away with Murder’

After we saw Bonnie (Liza Weil) posing as a patient named “Julie” at the office of Annalise’s (Viola Davis) therapist last week, questions loomed as to her intentions. This week’s opening scene confirmed that her intentions were to hurt Annalise, while the rest of the episode provides context for their relationship: Annalise was a defense lawyer for a man who abused Bonnie when she was 14 years old.

The episode opens with a scene of Bonnie, drenched from the rain and her own tears, desperately running to the office of her therapist, Isaac (Jimmy Smits). Upon arrival, she confesses guilt for hurting “Mae” — clearly a pseudonym for Annalise/Anna Mae, but Isaac doesn’t figure that out until the end of the episode; and when he does, he’s pissed.

While still posing as “Julie,” Bonnie tells Isaac about all the pain Mae has caused her. Conflicted, she desperately wants to get back at Mae for all the times Mae hurt her, but Isaac seems to think that the resentment comes from somewhere else.

In a series of flashbacks, we see Annalise working the case and dealing with the trauma of having to defend a rapist. Annalise had reservations about working the case, but her boss is disgustingly brutal — offering her a promotion (and therefore a secure job) if they win the case. Trapped, Annalise feels that she will look like a “weak woman” if she doesn’t go forward and question Bonnie, so she does. In the process, she makes Bonnie out to be hysterical, but despite Annalise’s attacks, the young Bonnie stays assertive, confident.

Annalise wins the case anyway, and it was because of her that the man, one of many who abused Bonnie, went free after accusations of sexually abusing a minor.

After the case, Annalise quit and promised to help Bonnie. She ended up reaching out to Bonnie, convincing her to consider becoming a lawyer and then mentored her for years. We know that these years lead to mutual pain between them, as well as a fraught power imbalance.

Weil’s performance in the therapist’s office is not just powerfully vulnerable — it’s complex, too. She performs the kind of scenes Davis is known for on “Murder” — the kind that make you reach for tissues and clench your fists with anger at the same time.

In the more recent past — i.e. earlier in the day — Annalise is seen approaching past clients of public defender Virginia Cross’ (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). By the end of the hour, she has 40 people willing to work with her. But Bonnie was right behind her the whole time — just after Annalise begins celebrating her victory, calls start ringing in from clients who no longer want to work with her, as they want to work with Bonnie instead.

VIOLA DAVIS

ABC/Mitch Haaseth/Courtesy

Near the episode’s end, we see a confrontation between Annalise and Bonnie.

Bonnie accuses Annalise of being selfish for claiming to push this class-action suit for the clients and not for herself. In Bonnie’s eyes, Annalise never does anything for anyone but herself. Annalise tells Bonnie that she knows Bonnie doesn’t need her anymore and that maybe she never did. This triggers a transition back to Bonnie’s visit to Isaac’s office.

When Bonnie admits to stopping Mae’s process of a class-action suit, Isaac realises that the woman she’s been talking about is Annalise Keating.

Meanwhile, Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Laurel (Karla Souza) enlist Oliver’s (Conrad Ricamora) help trying to uncover top-secret files on Laurel’s father from Caplan & Gold — and they use the online account of Michaela’s mentor to do it. Asher (Matt McGorry), feeling left out, catches Michaela in a lie when he sees her in Laurel’s apartment telling him over the phone that she’s still at work. He has no idea that she’s working with the others to bring Wes’ killer to justice.

In another unsurprising web of lies, Laurel and Frank (Charlie Weber) are still hooking up (even after that disturbing scene last week), but the stakes of their relationship are higher than they seemed at first: Frank asks Laurel if she’s sure that Wes is the father of her baby. For him to even wonder means that the two of them slept together when she was with Wes.

Connor (Jack Falahee), bored and lonely after dropping out of school, goes to Annalise’s rather than hooking up with another man (Oliver’s lying to Connor just as Michaela’s lying to Asher). She enlists his help in pursuit of the class-action case that she hopes will “break the cycle of discrimination.” For her, the class action suit is about “taking on the system as a whole.”

The episode ends with the typical flashback, revealing that, whatever the impending bloody crime is, Asher is likely a suspect.

Sophie-Marie Prime is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].