How to Get Away with Murder
You're going to need a lot of downtime to unravel this plot. (Illustration by Natashna Anderson, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
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How to Get Away with Murder
You're going to need a lot of downtime to unravel this plot. (Illustration by Natashna Anderson, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

They’ve gotten away with murder for six years — but wait, who died?

Bloody secrets always find a way into the light, no matter how deep Annalise Keating tries to bury them. With murder after murder to hide, “How to Get Away with Murder” has taken audiences on a five year thrill ride, but this killer legal drama has reached its end.

The sixth, and final, season hits ABC late September, which leaves little time to binge-watch the first five seasons on Netflix. So, welcome to “How to Get Away Without Binging!” The perfect article, whether you’ve lost track of who killed whom, missed a season or two or just want to see how heart-racing Shonda Rhimes’ series finale will be.

Warning: murders, spoilers and some other triggering topics abound below. While the show enjoys playing with time, it’s best if I keep this chronological.

First Season

The series begins with Wes, Conner, Michaela and Laurel arguing about how to handle a body, before the scene jumps back to their first day in Annalise Keating’s coveted How to Get Away with Murder class. Between their impressive minds and willingness to do whatever it takes, these law students manage to impress Keating enough for her to offer them a job helping her on cases.

Along with another student, Asher, and her two other employees, Bonnie and Frank, Keating and the students take on different murder cases, trying to keep their clients out of jail — perfect training for these future murderers. As the season unfolds, audiences slowly learn the details of the murder that night and, jumping back in time, another murder comes to light.

The death of a student, Lila Stangaurd, sparks another mystery as Wes’ neighbor, Rebecca, is accused of her death. Rebecca wasn’t the killer, and neither was Stangaurd’s football player boyfriend. Rather, the killer was one of Keating’s employees, Frank. Frank worked under the orders of Keating’s husband, Sam. Sam slept with Stangaurd and she became pregnant.

The main four students discover Sam’s involvement in her death and when they finally get the proof they need he attacks them and Rebecca. The attack ends with Sam falling over the railing of his stairs. But he’s not dead yet. Wes delivers the final blow when Sam strangles Rebecca. The four students eventually agree to burn Sam’s body to remove any DNA, then chop him up and bury him.

However, his body is found. Keating decides to pin the murder on Nate Lahey, a detective she had been sleeping with. Lahey is eventually acquitted of Sam’s murder. But the group still doesn’t know who killed Stangaurd. With many believing it was Rebecca, they kidnap her and put on a “trial.” Keating intends to let her go because there’s not enough evidence against her, but, before she can, Rebecca disappears.

Second Season

The second season delves into Rebecca’s disappearance and death — which, viewers learn, was by Bonnie’s hands — along with a new murder entirely. After agreeing to be the defense for a high-profile murder case, Keating gains the attention of District Attorney Sinclair. Sinclair decides that in order to take down Keating she needs to go for her students. The DA chooses to go after Asher Millstone and his father.

Millstone had stayed away from the murder and mayhem last season, but this time it got personal. After his father kills himself, rage consumes Millstone and he runs over DA Sinclair — just another murder Keating needs to cover up. With a plan in place to throw the DA’s body off the roof and frame one of her clients, all Keating needs is a defense wound to prove she was an innocent party.

She asks one of the students to shoot her in the leg. No one takes the gun until Keating prods Wes by telling him that Rebecca’s dead. He shot her in the side and just as he’s about to take another shot, she calls Wes “Christophe.” The rest of the season delves into how Wes’ past weaves into Keating’s. When Wes was little, his mother took part in a trial Keating spearheaded against the rich Mahoney family.

Wes discovers that Wallace Mahoney is his father and drove his mother to kill herself. After Frank took a bribe from the Mahoneys to spy on Keating, the Mahoneys cause her to have a horrible car crash. The crash results in the stillbirth of her unborn son. This loss fractured the Keating marriage.

Third Season

The season sparked trouble when the Keating house goes up in flames with a core cast member still inside. The buildup to the murder shows Wes taking an immunity deal and confronting Wallace Mahoney about his mother’s death.

But before Wes can testify, he’s killed. The police arrest Keating for his death, even though he was killed by Laurel’s parents.

Fourth Season

The fourth season sees a pregnant Laurel and the group trying to take down her father to avenge Wes’ death. The Castillos killed Wes because if any of the murders and Laurel’s involvement came to light his company would lose everything. While trying to steal the evidence against the Castillos, another law student catches them and accidentally shoots himself in the head.

The student lives to remember what happened so Michaela gets him deported back to Pakistan, even after he came out to Conner’s hacker boyfriend, Oliver. Laurel has the baby that night in Keating’s elevator, but her father gains custody of him. Keating fights to get the child back and send Jorge Castillo to prison, which she manages to do after he kills the next DA. Keating also takes a case to the Supreme Court where she argues for better public defenders, with the face of her cases being Nate Lahey’s father.

Fifth Season

Not even weddings are happy with this group. At Conner and Oliver’s wedding, the new DA dies. Nate and Bonnie together cause his death after they get convinced he was working with the governor to kill Nate’s father. The governor has been coming for Keating ever since her Supreme Court case and even goes so far as to point the finger at Keating’s new boss.

The new DA, who got close to Bonnie, however, was innocent and the death of the elder Lahey was due to the Castillos once more. By the end of the season, Laurel and her baby disappear and the FBI work to reopen the Sam Keating case with Gabriel Maddox, Sam’s son, poking around.

Maddox doesn’t believe the story that Wes alone killed his father and neither does the FBI.  Both the governor and the Castillos know that Keating tried to adopt Wes after his mother died, which is enough for the FBI to reopen the Sam Keating case.

The full truth about Sam’s death will be a big plot point in the upcoming season. The only question remaining … who will survive?

That is just an overview of the events of the last seasons surrounding the complicated plotlines of “How to Get Away with Murder.” It does not include the numerous affairs and hookups including Bonnie and Asher, as well as Laurel and Frank, among others. There are also several other traumas and plotlines not mentioned, like Michaela’s birth parents that could be at play in the next season. With the end in sight, the creators will fully wrap up the loose ends of the show, or so fans can hope.

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