Viola Davis' Annalise Keating is "a character whose permission to be bad made her a pop-culture revelation. An openly bisexual character whose struggles with alcoholism and childhood abuse, as well as her unscrupulous legal tactics (among other things), made her one of the most complicated black women in television history," says Kellee Terrell. "Malcolm X once described black women as the 'most disrespected' demographic in America. That sentiment still rings true, though now we’ve somehow also become this nation’s moral compass, the voting bloc expected to save this country from itself. Each week, Annalise has slightly alleviated that pressure. Yes, the pursuit of justice and the need to protect her students are always her primary motivations, but so is her personal survival — which is why she is a cunning liar, a master manipulator and, at times, a criminal. Just being in her presence can turn seemingly incorruptible law students into deceptive, monstrous killers who will do anything to please her. With her, there are no clear lines between right and wrong, and when they go low, Annalise doesn’t go high — she simply knees them in the face. (Or she has her loyal, guilt-ridden underling Frank do the dirty work for her.)" Terrell credits fellow Shondaland "sister" Olivia Pope from Scandal, played by Kerry Washington,for paving the way for Annalise. "Olivia and all her unethical chaos ran so that Annalise could fly — and when the two finally came together for the crossover of all crossovers, the meetings of their brilliant and sinister minds gave us one of the most exhilarating #BlackGirlMagic moments yet," says Terrell. "These antihero qualities matter, because they have long been allotted to white characters only."
HTGAWM will be remembered for its groundbreaking LGBTQ sex scenes on network TV: "When the show first started airing, I jokingly called it How to Get Away With Gay Sex Scenes to friends (and on my burner Twitter account)," says Steffan Triplett. "But in truth, it made me blush. I was shocked to be watching something like it on primetime network television, even in 2014. Now in 2020, it might be easy to take for granted, but HTGAWM and its out, gay creator and showrunner Peter Nowalk made history." He adds: "While HBO’s Looking had one of premium cable’s first male-on-male anilingus scenes since Queer As Folk in 2000, How to Get Away With Murder did the same thing only eight months later, but on broadcast television, in its first episode, with a TV-14 rating. It was something that felt impossible with these qualifiers — because until then it was."
HTGAWM will be remembered for "how brilliantly batsh*t" it was, right until the very end: "Most long-running shows have jumped the shark at some point, but How To Get Away With Murder did stunts on a jet-ski right from the off," says Emma Kelly. "Yes, season one was an innovative take on a straight-forward murder mystery but it also contained the quote ‘why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?,’ so we should have known lunacy was ahead. Over six seasons, we have had 29 deaths, including Sam’s pregnant student girlfriend being strangled, Wes’s girlfriend being suffocated, two of the original Keating Five being suffocated and left to burn in a fire and being beaten to death respectively, Laurel’s mum being killed and scalped and Annalise’s boss being poisoned. But it’s not just who dies that is shocking in HTGAWM, it’s why and at the hands of who that send the murders."