When Viola Davis’s character (Annalise Keating) called and asked her Mama (Cicely Tyson) to come help her, none of us were prepared for the powerfully explosive exchanges that produced major revelations in this edgy courtroom drama. How to Get Away with Murder has hammered out some hard hitting scenes since it was launched in September 2014. In this episode, “Mama’s Here Now,” ‘Mama’ is a small, seemingly fragile, black woman from a poor rural southern background who packs a surprising punch that has her tyrant-in-the-courtroom daughter reeling and punching back. In an intimate mother-daughter moment ‘Mama’ reveals how, years before, she dealt with her child’s tormentor saying, “….sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Even if all you have is a long match and some very flammable hooch.” With that line, ‘Mama’ shows Annalise/Anna Mae that she was a protective mother and just how alike they are. With emotions spilling out, Mama reveals how she exacted her own brand of justice for her violated child and, unbeknownst to Annalise, became the unconsciously embedded role model for how to get away with murder.
In one fell swoop, the pair demonstrates the impact of addiction, child-abuse, poverty and family ties, creating dynamic shifts in perception and relationships. There is just no going back. From the shattered vodka glass in the kitchen, to the traditional hair combing in the bedroom, we are stunned by the stark reality of their experiences. Life, now different in retrospect, can be embraced as it never had been and the future sees Annalise summoning up the courage to leave her self-imposed prison and begin to de-construct the entanglements she created.