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Friday, September 26, 2014

3 Reasons Why "How to Get Away with Murder" is Better than "Gotham"

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER: Wallpaper Available Here

I have a new obsession. How to Get Away with Murder is the best new show of the season. I had high hopes for Gotham. Watching the first episode but that ended after the first episode. How to Get Away with Murder is instantly enjoyable. Want to know how?

Full Spoiler Alert: I'm not holding any punches and I'm not hiding anything. Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers.

1. Pretend Your Audience Has a Brain

Many of the finer moments of How to Get Away with Murder are quiet, subtle moments shared between actors. At the end of the first episode, there is a moment between Professor Annalise Keating and her husband, Sam Keating. The body of a young woman has just been found. Here is what they say:

Annalise Keating: I think the boyfriend did it.
Sam Keating: I guess we'll find out

Here's what is implied by the actor's doing what actors are supposed to do:

It sounds like Professor Keating is talking about the young woman's boyfriend but she's actually saying she knows or believes her husband had an affair with the young woman and believes he killed her.

That is powerful storytelling.

Gotham assumes you are stupid making every easter egg so prominent a blind person could find them. Did we really need Poison Ivy to be standing behind plants to realize who she was? Groan.


2. Solid Writing is More Important than Easter Eggs

Comic book fans admit it: the reason you liked Gotham, wasn't because of Jim Gordon. The scene featuring the Wayne murders was well done. I enjoyed seeing Edward Nigma and Falcone. However, by the second time they showed Selina Kyle I was bored to tears. She does nothing in this episode except stand there and crouch. It's like the showrunners were more concerned with giving Catwoman screen time than actually giving her something to do.

How to Get Away with Murder did not waste time with an origin story. It hit the ground running with an active court case and let us discover the characters as they progress through events. Writing 101 says no back story until you are 1/3 through the work. Gotham tells us Jim Gordon used to be in the military. Try showing us instead. Have him deal with Post-traumatic stress disorder or, I don't know, act like a soldier.

3. Make Us Care About Your Heroes More than the Villains

Gotham has potential. The characters are interesting and there are several strong actors in the cast. Most notable is Jada Pinkett Smith whose character, Fish Mooney, could carry the entire show. In fact, she kind of does. The villains in Gotham are far more interesting than Jim Gordon. There's only one reason for this: bad writing.

How to Get Away with Murder makes us like Wes Gibbins very quickly. They show us he's a nice guy in way over his head surrounded by smart, callous people. Professor Keating shows incredibly strength and a willingness to do anything to get win. One scene shows us she's cheating on her husband. The show trusts Viola Davis to convey the quiet despair as she watches her marriage fail because she's unable to conceive a child with her husband.

What does Gotham do? It throws in a completely unnecessary lesbian scene that does nothing to further the plot or make us connect with the characters.


I understand How to get Away with Murder and Gotham may seem like completely different genre shows. But they're not, really. The central plot of Gotham is "Who Killed the Waynes"? The central plot of "How to Get Away with Murder" is well, murder. At their hearts, both are supposed to be mysteries.

At the end of  Gotham, I didn't really care who killed the Waynes. That's a bad sign. There is no evident "Big Bad" in the show. Sure we see Falcone and Fish Mooney, but they don't feel like bad guys. Couldn't we get a hint of the Court of Owls? That would have me hooked, not a simple retread of stories we've all heard a hundred times.

Sound off in the comment section and let me know if you agree or disagree.

Links: Gotham: The Good, the Bad, and Ugly

To see how I helped someone get away with murder in my own writing, check out the links below.

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

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