Showrunner Shonda Rhimes returned last night to reclaim her throne as TV's reigning drama queen, with her Thursday trifecta — Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away with Murder.
All three shows, which air on ABC, launched new seasons last night, and fresh off her historic Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, LGBT ally Viola Davis reintroduced fans to professor Annalise Keating, the multifaceted protagonist of How To Get Away With Murder.
Fans gleaned a clearer look into Annalise's past, including (spoiler alert!) the revelation that Professor Keating has had female lovers. Early in the episode, viewers see Annalise lock lips with her unnamed ex-girlfriend, played by Famke Janssen. Janssen's character is a friend of Annalise's from law school, who turns up to help Annalise's on-again, off-again boyfriend and former cop, who Annalise framed for the murder of her husband at the end of last season.
Shortly after reminiscing about their past, Davis and Janssen's characters take the nostalgia into their own hands — or lips, as it were.
The new bisexual storyline tracks with Rhimes's commitment to “normalizing television” by featuring LGBT characters, strong female leads, and characters of color and size at the center of the action. Last year, the Human Rights Campaign honored Rhimes with an award for diversity — prompting Rhimes to announce in her acceptance speech that she actually dislikes the word, as it automatically defines marginalized groups as "other."
"I really hate the word 'diversity," Rhimes said at the Los Angeles HRC gala where she recieved the award. "It suggests something … other. As if it is something special, or rare. Diversity! As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: normalizing. I’m normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people, equal way more than 50 percent of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary."
Indeed, Rhimes's shows have always included a diverse cast in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation. How To Get Away With Murder’s first season featured a plethora of realistic gay sex scenes and frank discussions of relationship dynamics from on-screen couple Connor Walsh and Oliver Hampton, played by Jack Falahee and Conrad Ricamora, respectively. In Thursday's season premiere, law student Connor and tech wiz Oliver navigate the realities of Oliver learning that he is HIV-positive in the last season, which prompts Connor to start taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, better known as PrEP, a real-life treatment that is 99 percent effective at preventing HIV infection when used as directed.
Shondaland begins every Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC.