We’ve already seen Annalise Keating, the main and fiercest character on “How To Get Away With Murder” take her makeup and her wig off and honestly, it was one of the most poignant moments in television in a long time. Black women everywhere didn’t cringe, we related, we empathized, we saw us on screen. And this incredible ABC show continues to push the envelope so far, it’s out of arm’s reach.
Last night, we were introduced to Annalise’s mother, Ophelia, played by the incomparable Cicely Tyson. Whenever Tyson shows up, you know you’re about to be met with someone who is wise, sharp and don’t take no mess. With this role, Tyson brought grit, authenticity and good God, she brought the Black. From her sitting Annalise between her legs so she could comb out her “tight kitchen,” to reliving and revealing the life-changing secrets that have been held in since childhood (as most Black families do), I remembered sitting on the floor of the house I grew up in, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, having my momma comb out my tight 4C curls and slathering it with Blue Magic grease, before she blew on the hot comb (fresh off the stove) and allowed the heat to sizzle my hair straight.
I’ve never seen a moment like this on TV (and I’ve watched Roots), hell, we’ve never seen a moment like this on TV. The rarity of authentic Black beauty or being Black behind closed doors is never something that’s recreated for the world to live through. When Ophelia told Annalise that her “kitchen” was tight, I tweeted:
I received 150 RT’s and almost 100 favorites. These are stats I rarely see, but that tweet stuck to the ribs of those people and even more people beyond them. This is the type of honesty and slice of Black life that we crave to see on TV. You can miss us with those women who claim to be positive and inspirational who always end up throwing drinks and fists at one another for those reality show checks. This is the type of TV we deserve. And now I want more!
We also learned that Annalise changed her named from Anna Mae, which she though belonged in the “poor box.” That’s one of the strongest memories of her childhood, having her house burn down, only be be poor after. But Ophelia revealed that is was she who burned the house down, killing the uncle who molested her sweet daughter, Anna Mae. Now Annalise understands why she grew up poor, even though Ophelia always kept her hair combed and her belly full.
And there’s the secret that Annalise has been holding on to–the quiet resentment she’s held against the very mother she called for comfort when her husband cheated, allegedly murdered his mistress and then ended up dead on the floor of the home they shared–the home that Ophelia claimed she was never welcomed into. Then Ophelia drops the bomb that allows her to bond with Annalise–she’s been raped by countless men in her life that she was supposed to trust. “Men have been taking things from women since the beginning of time,” Ophelia explains to her broken daughter. Now Annalise knows she’s not alone and that momma is always going to have her back, even if she doesn’t believe that.
This entire episode was like a stage play–deep seeded emotions, revealed through perfect dialogue and you’re left with lingering feelings of defeat, but somehow there’s hope. Thanks to Ophelia, we got a chance to really meet Annalise. She’s a lot of layers and now we understand the hard outer core, because inside, she’s broken and trying to forget the poverty and heartbreak of who she was as Ophelia’s daughter. The instinct to call mom in this time was just that, she forgot that she was reintroducing what she wanted to leave behind, back into her life. But there was healing in between her mother’s legs, getting her “kitchen” combed out.
There was another moment from the show that struck me. Annalise’s detective loverboy, Nate ended up taking the fall for her husband’s murder. Watching a beautiful Black man be institutionalized rocked my soul, but when one of Annalise’s star students, Michaela became obsessed with his case, I knew this moment was part of something bigger. With tears threatening to leave her bottom eyelid, she said, “He’s innocent…and Black,” while looking directly into Annalise’s cold stare. He’s innocent and Black, as are many of our incarcerated brothers in America. “These types of injustices happen everyday,” Annalise responded before revealing that she would help Nate get off.
Too bad the brothers of the world don’t have a diabolical lawyer like Annalise Keating to help them after they were accused of a crime they didn’t commit. This show is set to explore heavy Black cultural themes that make many squirm, but I am here for it. We’re here for it. It’s about time we are able to turn on the TV and see us–unapologetic and authentic, no matter how uncomfortable it may make some people feel.
This episode will go down in the books for stellar writing and some damn good acting. If anyone can keep up with Viola Davis, it’s Cicely Tyson. These women, this show and particularly the combing out of Annalise’s hair scene should be given awards. Can we bring the Emmys back for this show alone? Hands down, “How To Get Away With Murder” is killing it. Pun intended.
What did you think of the Black cultural moments of “How To Get Away With Murder”? Sound off in the comments below.