The big mystery of the third season’s second half continues in episode 12 as everyone tries to figure out who killed Wes. We immediately see that (unsurprisingly) Frank was lying about being with Wes through the time of the fire. Wes actually ended up getting into a cab and calling a mysterious contact marked “In Case of Emergency” and telling the mystery person, “It’s Christophe.” Hmm. Who still knows him by that name?
Despite Frank’s confession from the previous episode, Annalise remains in jail charged as a co-conspirator. Her younger cellmate continues to very thinly skirt the line between likeable and one-dimensional until, switching into and out of AAVE at breakneck speeds, she calls Annalise “Casey freakin’ Anthony” (hard n), and I find myself having traumatic flashbacks to the unnatural, poorly written dialogue the Black characters had in Orange Is the New Black.
After that, the arraignment approaches, and… OH MY GOD PAPER BOI IS A PUBLIC DEFENDER. Brian Tyree Henry of recent Atlanta fame makes a cameo as Frank’s lawyer, who skittishly prepares to do his best as Frank encourages him to relax and essentially let him take the heat. Finally, the hearing begins, and… we’re treated to more of Bonnie’s incurable ineptitude. At this point, I’m wondering if Bonnie fucking up is starting to be a running gag in the show—like, is the plot point of Annalise in jail there just to show Bonnie not growing as a character? Annalise is in for another fun surprise during the hearing—mama walks in with one of her good church hats on. And she brought the daddy. Oop.
After nervous greenhorn Paper Boi soundly hands Bonnie her ass, we get another entertaining battle—Mama Ophelia versus Nate (or Nathaniel, as she keeps calling him in standard Black mama fashion). Mama wants Nate to help, and Nate is saying his hands are tied—mama is not having it. Some of her highlights:
“Don’t be sorry. Just tell us how you gon’ fix it.” GET HIM MAMA.
“And I thought you was a good man.” Yikes.
Mama leaves Nate steeped in a shame only a Black mother can invoke.
Meanwhile, we see Wes’s funeral, which is… sparsely attended. Laurel gives the most awkward eulogy anyone has ever seen, culminating in her seeing some random white girl crying in the audience and going off on her, which… I was actually really here for? Like, this is a fucking mess as a eulogy, but on the lowest of keys her whole speech was exactly how I feel about white people since Faygo Impeach got elected. Random crying white girl sad about… ??? “It’s not your tragedy.” Tell her, Laurel. (I’m projecting.) Sidebar: Meggy is just watching the girl who stole her man go through all this at the funeral, and… shit. Poor Meggy. I’d feel bad if the writers had made her less cloying and sugary. A little over the top with that, I think.
After the funeral, the cast loses track of Laurel, who is on a mission to see Wes’s body. The police call Oli’s ol’ jumpy ass for questioning. Lord. Everyone is freaking out (because of course they are), and Connor continues to crack his morbid ass jokes. I’m pretty sure he’s accused everyone on the cast of every crime that’s happened in the show at this point. I thought Asher popping him in the mouth last episode would hold me over for a little while, but I’m ready for the next phase of Connor Shutting the Fuck Up.
Mama and daddy visit Annalise in prison, and I have to take my hat off to papa’s actor (Roger Robinson) because he is SELLING this unreliable greasy father role. Things with the family get a little more complicated—mama says she’ll “fix” Annalise’s situation and admit to the crime… of burning down the house with her brother-in-law in it years ago. Oh, goodness. Turns out mama has occasional episodes of dementia—daddy tries to reassure Annalise that she just makes stuff up sometimes, at which point Annalise lets him know mama actually did burn down the house and kill his brother years ago. Papa is stunned, and Annalise hits him with the classic “ol’ fool ass” facial expression Black women have been shooting at clueless Black men for centuries upon centuries.
We go back to wandering, grieving Laurel, who finds Nate and guilts him into showing her Wes’s body. Goodness. Everybody is shaming this man today. They open up the body bag to find… A nigga who is not Wes. WHO IS THIS NIGGA? We may never know. We probably won’t. What we do know is that… they have no idea where Wes’s body actually is. They lost the body. They. Lost. The. Damn. Body. Look… I’m no forensics expert. But bodies are like… Kind of heavy. How does one not only mistakenly misplace a body, but put another body in its place without realizing the switch happened? Did they mix up Wes and this other dude? What perfect storm of logistical skill and pure foolery needs to happen for a whole entire body to be misplaced, particularly one central to a high-profile murder investigation?
Eventually, Nate gets getting chewed out for taking Laurel to see the body in the first place by A.D.A. Renee Sexy-But-Can’t-Actwood and… that other dude. I really do wish Atwood’s acting were better. I really want to like her as an antagonist for Annalise. Bonnie finds out about the rogue corpse, and she thinks there’s a silver lining: the loss of the body proves Annalise is being framed. I… am not a lawyer, but that sounds a little flimsy. Annalise, more focused on her mother than anything, seems to think so, too.
As she tries to put a plan in place for mama, Annalise has an argument with her daddy during visitation, and we get into some more of her familial trauma—papa knew his brother was sexually abusing Annalise but seemed to be drinking/absent and ignored the reality of it, driving mama to burn the house and kill Annalise’s uncle. I find some of Shonda’s dips into race heavy-handed, but I actually like this one, in large part because it doesn’t feel as forced as others—the way the characters move into and out of silence around the past events feels genuine and brings up a lot of problems with how we deal with sexual assault in Black families. In any case, papa bullshits around it a little, but he also verbally puts a boot up Annalise’s ass and tells her to get up and defend herself instead of wallowing. I could use more Roger Robinson reads in this show, truth be told. Instead, I get the anticlimax of Laurel and Frank being angsty at each other some more, and then Connor being angsty at everyone and reminding us that we don’t know who killed Wes yet… Okay.
At the eventual meeting with the judge, Atwood is unable to come up with a better explanation than saying it’s “an unfortunate clerical error.” Um. That’s a hell of a misfile, girl. Bonnie throws a Hail Mary and calls the loss of the body a “civil rights issue,” and Atwood reacts with the same “Bish, whet?” face everyone watching the show did. Bonnie is truly trying it. In one of the most comical cuts in the show so far, Bonnie asks for Annalise to be released on bail (again)… only for us to immediately cut to a scene of her saying the judge refused to release Annalise on bail. LOL. Bonnie’s new plan is to try and get a new judge… I guess after that doesn’t work, she can try to get a new set of state laws and maybe a new Constitution. Bonnie, girl, you’ll get it one day.
Annalise (who had clearly already phoned it in asking Bonnie for help in the first place) decides to stop moping and get out herself, taunting her cellmate into beating her ass. Um, well. That’s certainly a plan. Proving that she can’t succeed without Annalise’s help, Bonnie finally gets Annalise out on bail with the threat that she’ll release pictures of Annalise’s beaten face to the press along with the aforementioned civil rights lawsuit. I guess Bonnie’s unhealthy dependency streak will continue. Go figure. Annalise lies to mama about the charges getting dropped, so I guess that’s all we’ll see of Cicely for a while.
The last five minutes basically show all the characters losing their shit. Oli, having successfully lied to the police, is losing his. Connor rounds out their dysfunctional relationship with his clear cries for help that are more annoying than relatable at this point. Oh, and… Oli saved a copy of what he erased from Annalise’s phone the night of the fire. RUH ROH.
Of course, we can’t go an episode without the writers trying to make me give a fuck about Frank and Bonnie and whatever bullshit they have going on. So Frank calls Bonnie, and apparently, he fired Paper Boi because he was too competent. Jesus. Ugh. I want to know Paper Boi’s backstory as an attorney! I want to see Paper Boi fighting crime. Paper Boi vs. the Forces of Evil. Make it happen, Hollywood.
We end the episode with Atwood and Company meeting late one night… Apparently someone from the D.A.’s office signed off on Wes’s body being transferred to another morgue. They then pull out paperwork with Nate’s signature… Looks like Nate is getting set up. Yikes. Seems like that sexual harassment threat can only go but so far. Maybe between this and mama’s shaming, Nate will end up back on Team Annalise. Or maybe not… It looks like Nate’s foray into Annalise’s house the night of the fire led him right to… Wes. And the meeting looked tense. Nate keeps wondering if the autopsy said Wes was dead before the fire… HMMMM. Did Nate do it?! Honestly, I feel like probably not. But it would be interesting as hell. And with Nate’s chest and abs making heartbreakingly few cameos lately, I could use interesting for him.