- "Think carefully, everything after this moment will not only determine your career but life. You can spend it in a corporate office drafting contracts and hitting on chubby paralegals before finally putting a gun in your mouth. Or you can join my firm and become someone you actually like. So decide, do you want the job or not?"
- —Annalise Keating to her class
"Pilot" is the first episode of Season One of ABC's How to Get Away with Murder. It was written by Peter Nowalk and directed by Michael Offer. It is the first episode of the season overall, and premiered on September 25, 2014.
Annalise Keating is a tough as nails Criminal Law Professor and when Wes Gibbins starts his first day at Middleton University, he has no clue what he's walking into. In her class, "How to Get Away with Murder," Annalise challenges her students to solve some of the most difficult criminal cases that her law firm takes on, and in the end, she selects a group of the smartest, most promising students to come work for her. The competition is on and the students will stop at nothing to make sure they get to the head of her class. While Annalise seems to have it all together, we soon learn that her clients' secrets aren't the only ones she's keeping. Meanwhile, in flash-forwards, we learn that the price of impressing Annalise might just be too much for some, when a group of four students, Wes, Connor Walsh, Michaela Pratt and Laurel Castillo get involved in their own murder mystery cover up.
There’s a football bonfire and pep rally. They light a giant pyre and effigy of the opposing team. Four teens are in the woods and they discuss burying a body and the murder weapon. One says they need a trophy but they argue about carrying the body across campus in the middle of the night. They debate over what will get them caught and what will keep them out of jail. One decides they should flip a coin to decide what to do. They flip to decide to get the body or leave it where it is.
Three months earlier, a guy rides his back on campus. He locks his bike up and heads into the law school building. There are fliers up for a missing girl named Lila. He heads into a large classroom. Some students discuss how nervous they are about the class. Wes, the bike guy, plops into the first row but Michaela says seats are assigned. Those are two of the killers.
The professor, Annalise Keating, comes in and welcomes them to criminal law 100 or how to get away with murder. She says she doesn't teach how to study the law but how to practice it like a real lawyer. The first case to study is the aspirin assassin. She calls on Connor Walsh. He rattles off case facts. Another students says the guy’s mistress replaced his meds with aspirin. Michaela says this caused anaphylactic shock. She calls on Wes and he asks what the mens rea is. She says she emailed the assignment two days ago and he says he didn't get it.
She tells him she spends all day around professional liars and tells him to do better. He says he was wait listed until two days ago. She tells him men rea means guilty mind. Laurel speaks up and says the intent was to kill. Annalise tells her to never take a learning opportunity from another student just because you want everyone to think you’re smart. Connor asks if she did it and she says to ask herself. She brings them to see her client.
Annalise brings them to see the mistress that allegedly aspirin poisoned Arthur. She says she loved him and would never want to hurt him. She tells them the trial starts in two days and tells them each to present a defence the next day to see if they can beat the ones she has. She offers them the discovery files, access to her associates, Frank, Bonnie and her library. She tells them that this assignment will help decide who comes to work for her. It’s a statue of the scales of justice she says will get you out of a test.
Wes goes over the case fact in his room which is largely unfurnished. A neighbor starts loud rap music and he groans and bangs on the wall. He goes over and introduces himself and asks the girl to turn it down. She says no and tells him to deal with it and slams the door. He lies on the bed and looks at claw marks on the wall. We see the coin toss from the beginning of the show and then the kids rolling up a body in the carpet. Michaela says she never agreed to it.
They washed the statue off with blood and put it back. They wrestle the body up – looks like Annalise’s law office on campus – and stagger out of the office. Outside a campus cop asks them if the car is their’s. They try to conceal the body they’re carrying in the rug. One of the guys says it’s his and he’ll move it and the campus cop asks if it’s the law professor’s office. Michaela offers to call the professor but then he backs off as a crowd from the football game break loose.
Michaela says they should offer up Arthur’s wife Agnes as an alternate suspect. Wes crosses that one off his list. Some suggest jury strategies and some forensic errors. Wes crosses item after item off his list. He has to go last so he’s in a tough spot since his has to be original. Diminished capacity and many others are suggested. Finally, Annalise calls on Wes. He stands and says they should say it was self-defense because Gina had Stockholm Syndrome and says the affair was just one example of his brain washing.
Wes says in this manner the poisoning could be self-defence. He goes to move to the wall of shame but Annalise moves him to the finals. Then she shows them her approach – discredit witnesses, introduce new suspect – his business partner Lionel – then bury the evidence so the jury can’t comprehend anything but doubt. She says that’s how you get away with murder. She tells them to come to the courthouse tomorrow at 11. Michaela says she has Torts at 11 and Annalise says come or drop out of the finals.
Arthur’s assistant is on the stand and Annalise is crossing her when Michaela comes running in. She goes to speak to her. Connor asks what that was. Annalise asks about the pill she saw on the desk and asks if it was yellow. She tells her the shirt is blue and asks if she’s color blind. She says yes, but she knew what she saw. Annalise says her client takes anxiety medicine is blue. She asks if she saw a blue or yellow pill. The woman doesn't know.
Michaela explains how she chased down the vision issue. Annalise is impressed and tells the others to step up their game. There is news on about Lila who was last seen leaving a fraternity party. Wes rifles through piles of papers looking for evidence. He finds something and grabs his bike and goes. He knocks on the door at Annalise’s and then sticks his head inside and calls out for her. He follows the sound of voices to the back and finds her with a man. He tells him to get the hell out.
He apologizes and she asks why he’s here. She calls Frank and yells at him about not locking up. She asks what he wants and he recommends going for an immediate dismissal – she says it’s called a directed verdict and is too big a risk. She kicks him out.
The kids are at a gas station and Connor is singing a Christmas carol along with the radio. Michaela tells him to stop. He changes the lyrics to be about killing someone and ending up in jail. At a bar, Connor flirts with a guy from Arthur’s office and gets some evidence from him. He also sexes him up something fierce. He tells her that he didn't get it through the most legal of means.
The business partner is on the stand and is being asked about moving the mistress to another department. He reads an email about asking Arthur to step down because he was sleeping with employees. Annalise makes a shady move and gets it accepted into evidence. She asks if he swapped his medicine to kill him and get sole control of the company.
Asher asks how he got the email and Connor tells them he doesn't kiss and tell. The wife parks Arthur in the hall and goes into the bathroom. Laurel also heads in and hides ina stall. We see the wife touch Gina and they pat hands briefly. Gina walks out. Wes carries his bike upstairs and hears shouting from his neighbor's place and a guy stomps out. He asks if she needs help and she tells him to go away.
Later, he heads to the cocktail party Annalise told them to be at. Asher tells a psych professor that the law school is a dog fight. It’s Annalise’s husband, but not the guy that Wes saw her with. Wes is surprised. Annalise walks up, kisses her husband and glares at Wes to threaten him into silence. We see the kids hiding from a couple of kids that are making out in the woods when they’re out trying to hide the body.
One of them gets a call from Frank and the ringing sound scares them away. Michaela asks Laurel why Frank is calling her. We see Laurel telling Frank what she saw go down between Gina and the wife in the bathroom. He doesn’t like it because it makes their client look guilty. She asks if he already knew and he says he didn't say that. She’s annoyed that he might knowingly be representing a guilty client. He says he guesses she went to Brown – she did – and he talks about her faux idealism. He says she’ll quit the law as soon as she gets pregnant. She calls him a misogynist. Bonnie comes out and tells him to stop screwing students.
Wes tries to apologize to Annalise in private at the party about bursting in on her at her office. She tells him she owes him an apology. She cries and tells him she and her husband have been trying to have a baby and they’re doing all these measures that are making it worse. She touches him and thanks him for keeping this between them. She runs her hands up and down him and then steps closer. He steps away then walks back. After he leaves, she dries her tears and looks at herself thoughtfully in the mirror.
Griffin, Lila’s boyfriend, holds a news conference about his missing girlfriend. Bonnie comes in and finds Sam, Annalise’s husband watching the news. He heads up to bed so she can work with Annalise. Wes looks at bite marks on his bed. He finds a bottle of wine outside his door from his neighbor Becca and he asks if she wants to open it with him but she says she can’t tonight.
Detective Gill is on the stand discussing surveillance footage. The prosecutor plays it. It shows Gina buying soloxacore – a brand of aspirin – at the store. Later, Annalise screams at Gina for not warning them. She says her one job was to warn them of things like that. Annalise says she’s going to go to jail and she’ll be the crappy lawyer that sent her there. She’s furious at her team. She calls Detective Leahy to the team. No one knows who it is. He comes in – it’s the guy she was screwing when Wes burst in!
Wes is stunned. Annalise asks where he was two nights ago. He says he was supposed to be there but was not. She asks where he was – at home with his wife who’s been diagnosed with cancer. He says he was at a friend’s. She says there is something strange about the chain of custody. She says Gill said he got it at 8 pm from the store but didn't log it until 2 am. He says sometimes it takes a while to log things. She asks if they ever alter footage to help the prosecution.
They call for an objection. She asks if he’s personally aware of any instances of doctored surveillance footage. He takes a breath and says yes. Bonnie smiles. Wes is even more stunned. Gina gets her acquittal and Annalise makes a speech about Gina’s innocence and that she hopes the police find the real killer. She tells the students it’s time to find out who will be joining the firm. She calls out Connor for the prize. Then also names Asher, Michaela, Laurel and says she decided to hire one more and announces that it’s Wes. Wow.
He chases her down after class. She says the detective is her boyfriend. He says he doesn't want the job if she’s buying his silence. He asks if she got the guy to lie. She tells him to think carefully because his next action will determine his life and career. She tells him he can work in corporate law and flirt with chubby paralegals or come to work at her firm and make a difference.
A guy knocks on the door of a sorority house to check on the low water pressure. He goes to check the water tank and finds Lila’s body. Sam, Annalise’s husband, tells her that she was his student and her body has been found. She says she’s sorry. He says he just feels bad for her parents. She says she bets the boyfriend did it and he says he guesses they’ll see.We see the kids unroll the body out in the woods. They have lighter fluid and they douse the body. Wes says it’s the last chance. They tell him to do it now before the bonfire ends. Michaela says it’s the only way to destroy the DNA. They light the fire. We see in the light that it’s Sam, their professor’s hubby!
- This episode scored 14.34 million viewers.
- Connor Walsh was the first to get the trophy.
- This episode mark the first appareance of Annalise Keating, Wes Gibbins, Nate Lahey, Connor Walsh, Rebecca Sutter, Michaela Pratt, Asher Millstone, Laurel Castillo, Frank Delfino, Bonnie Winterbottom, Sam Keating, Griffin O'Reilly and Lila Stangard.
- During this episode are introduced two important frames for the season, that are resolved during the season:
- Wes find out that Annalise and Nate have an affair.
- Rebecca and Wes meet each other.
- Wes, Connor, Michaela and Laurel move and incinerated Sam's body.
- Annalise's classroom in the pilot is an auditorium at Ursinus University in Pennsylvania. After filming the pilot, it was recreated as a set.
- When Professor Keating is trying to discuss mens rea with Wes, we are led to believe, by her reaction when someone else says it, that the mens rea is "to kill." Mens rea, Latin for "guilty mind," can only, properly, be one of four things: negligence, recklessness, knowledge, or intent. There are a few nuances available (reckless with depraved indifference to the value of human life, for example), but "to kill" is not a mens rea. The more appropriate answer (given the facts presented) is "intent" or, perhaps, "intent to kill."
- When the students are discussing what to do at the beginning, they suggest, alternately, that murder prosecution is impossible without either the body or the murder weapon. In fact, a murder prosecution can go forward without one or the other or, in fact, without both, so long as there is sufficient alternative evidence to prove that the victim is in fact dead and that the defendant did in fact kill them.
- The episode is entitled Pilot just like many other first episodes series.
- It's the only, so far, episode to not have a phrase by a character.
- "Dark and Stormy" - Hot Chip
- "I Come with Knives" - IAMX
- "Push 'Em" - Travis Barker & Yelawolf (feat. Skinhead Rob & Tim Armstrong)
- "Apoidea" - Roman Remains
- "Jingle Bells" - Rosemary Clooney (Sing by Connor for seconds)
- "Levitation (Autonica Remix)" - Special
- "Sensation (Acid Remix)" - Val Kononov