A group of frantic law students bicker in the woods about an issue that is unfamiliar territory for them outside of a classroom or courtroom: murder. The weapon used in the killing is a trophy. The issue at hand is what to do with the body. Do they leave it in a house or do they risk dragging it across campus on a cold, busy night to bury it in the frozen ground below?
The decision is left to a coin flip. Does it come up heads? Or is it tails? What will they do? Before that answer is revealed, we jump back four months to determine how this quartet of law students found themselves in such a dire situation.
Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is a tough as nails Criminal Law Professor at Philadelphia’s Middleton University, where there are signs posted for a missing girl: Lila Stangard. Annalise affectionately calls her Criminal Law 101 class “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) is the first student called upon in her class. He and several others, including Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King) are well prepared for the professor’s rapid-fire questions. Wes Gibbins (Alfred Enoch) is not. Laurel Castillo (Karla Souza) tries to help him out. Professor Keating chastises her for taking a learning moment away from another student.
The law students learn that the case they’ve been studying is one their professor took on just last week. Gina Sadowski has been dubbed the “Aspirin Assassin” after she was charged with attempted murder of the CEO of advertising agency, Arthur Kaufman, a man with whom she was having an affair. Kaufman is allergic to aspirin, so taking any would cause serious harm.
Annalise orders her students to come up with a solid defense. Her associates, Frank Delfino (Charlie Weber) and Bonnie Winterbottom (Liza Weil), are at their disposal. The four students who perform best get to come work with her. The top student gets a trophy, one that looks exactly like the one that’s apparently used as a murder weapon four months later.
In the present day, the coin flip determined that the four students would move the dead body out of Professor Keating’s place. Michaela wants to know why Frank is calling Laurel as they bring the body into the woods. In the past, Annalise orders the students who moved forward in the competition to join her in court even though none of them beat her approach. Michaela helps discredit a witness. She takes the lead.
At night, Wes interrupts an amorous moment Annalise is having with a well-fit man to float a theory on what to do in the case. The theory is rejected. Connor, however, resorts to illegal tactics, not to mention sex with an information-sharing IT guy, to help Annalise introduce new evidence the next day.
Laurel catches Gina sharing a moment with Arthur Kaufman’s wife. She floats her theory that the two of them are in cahoots by Frank, who already suspected this. But this information doesn’t help their client. After Laurel storms out, Bonnie warns Frank to “stop screwing the students.”
Wes learns that Annalise is married to a psychology professor named Sam, who was not the guy she was with the other night. Annalise tearfully apologizes to Wes. She reveals that efforts with her husband to have a baby have put a strain on their marriage. Annalise moves close to him. Wes promises to not say anything as he makes a hasty exit. In other news, Bonnie seems a little upset when she sees Sam showing affection toward his wife.
Video surveillance footage shows Gina Sadowski buying aspirin just before the alleged attempted murder took place. Annalise calls Detective Nate Lahey to the stand. He’s the man who was with her the night Wes barged in. He’s also the supervisor of the police officer who handled the video surveillance tape. She humiliates him on the stand in order to make a point that corruption exits in the Philadelphia police department. This is enough to get her client an acquittal.
Annalise awards Connor the trophy. The others joining her at work are Michaela, Laurel and Asher Millstone. Due to increased workload, Annalise has decided to hire one more student: Wes. She assures him that he was chosen because he can think on his feet. Annalise wants him to join her firm so that he can become someone he actually likes.
Wes has several altercations with Rebecca, the woman in the apartment next door, before they eventually make nice. He also witnesses an altercation between her and a Middleton football star, Griffin O’Reilly. This guy happens to be the boyfriend of the missing student, Lila Stangard. Griffin shows up at Rebecca’s place in a panic when a body is found at a sorority. Annalise’s husband, Sam, watches the news report with interest. Lila Stangard was one of his students. Annalise says, “I betcha the boyfriend did it.” Sam responds, “I guess we’ll see.”
In the present day, the four law students agree to burn the body they brought out to the woods before burying it. That’s the only way to destroy the DNA. A match is lit. The body is set ablaze. The identity of the murder victim is finally revealed. It’s Sam Keating, husband to Annalise Keating, the professor who vowed to teach all of these bright, young law students how to get away with murder.