I don’t ship couples. For as long as I can remember, that’s been my personal philosophy. For years — and our Managing Editor Heather Hogan can attest to this, as I repeated it in the comments section of her Pretty Little Liars recaps many, many times — my mantra was, “I don’t care what happens, just as long as the story is good.” I had my favorites, of course, but at the end of the day, I could forgive most things, as long as the acting was solid and the storylines were well-written.
But then came Annalise Keating and I finally got it. I got to see myself represented in a way I’d never experienced before. My personal stories — of being “less classically beautiful,” of abuse, of frayed relationships, of addiction, of ambition, of queerness — were so woven deeply into this character that I couldn’t help but see myself in her. Even last Thursday, during a god awful hour of television, Annalise tells Eve, “Your privilege lets you be gay. I’m black from the damn Bible Belt, so stop trying to figure out what’s gonna make me happy,” and it hits me — black and from the damn Bible Belt — right in the chest. A painful reminder of how irrevocably linked Annalise and I are.
So, of course, I start shipping Annalise with Eve: Annalise feels like a part of me and I want to see her with the only person in her world that makes her face genuinely light up. I want to see her with the person who loves and accepts her, flaws and all. Also? Eve is Famke Janssen; she’s one of the X-Men. Of course, I want Annalise with a superhero. I wanted that for her so much because I wanted that for me so much… and it was just easier to foist those wishes on this fictional character than to talk about it out loud. I was officially a shipper and I finally understood why other people had been for years.
Still, though, I was patient. I didn’t need Annalise and Eve to be together right away. I understood that Annalise, in particular, needed to undergo some personal growth before she could give Eve the love she deserved. I was fine with that. I was fine with Eve moving to San Francisco to chase love with Vanessa. And I was even excited for the possibility of a Tegan and Annalise hook-up. If both Vanessa and Tegan pushed Eve and Annalise closer to the people they’re supposed to be before they reunite as endgame, then that’s fine. But last Thursday night, what HTGAWM did to Eve and Annalise, that was not fine. It was the opposite of fine.
Pete Nowalk and Sara Rose Feinberg killed my OTP and just in case that knife wasn’t jabbed deep enough into my heart, they twisted it by employing some really bad writing. Days later, I remain astounded by their cruelty.
A quick recap of Annalise and Eve’s relationship: they met when they were classmates at Harvard Law and, at some point, became lovers. It was serious for Eve and it was serious enough for Annalise that she had to run away. People like her — people like me — don’t deserve things that are that good, that are that real, so Annalise runs, first, into therapy, and then, into the arms of her therapist, Sam Keating. It takes Annalise years to tell Eve that their love was something genuine and, in the meantime, the pain eats at Eve. It doesn’t matter how successful her career is or how many women she’s bedded in the interim, the pain lingers, just beneath the surface, ready to be unearthed every time she interacts with Annalise.
“Part of me’s still in love with you,” Eve confesses, after having come to town at Annalise’s behest to defend the man suspected of her husband’s murder. “It’s pathetic, I know. I mean, we were forever ago, but I guess I’m just stuck. Yes, I’ve been with plenty of other women, buried myself in work, but you show up again in my life, Annalise, and I’m just done. You still have me, and I hate it. I don’t hate you, but I hate how you make me feel because I can’t have you.”
But once Eve knows — once she knows that their love wasn’t something that she’d imagined — their relationship settles into a comfortable unease. Eve wants more, that’s always obvious, but she never asks for more than Annalise is capable of giving. They have fun together. They dance. They have sex. The space between them is the only place where Annalise doesn’t fear judgment. Eve sees Annalise’s beauty and her bruises and never turns away… that is, until Annalise asks her to.
“You should go,” Annalise tells her, after learning Eve has a girlfriend waiting for her in San Francisco. “You deserve it more than anyone. Go. Let yourself be loved.”
Eve does leave but not for a moment do I believe it’s for forever. And I’m right about that: 826 days after saying goodbye to Annalise, Eve returns to Philadelphia and to Annalise’s side. But there’s something different about the Eve that greets Annalise this time: the warmth between them is gone. They radiated chemistry, even through Annalise’s worst moments, but it’s missing from Eve’s return. There’s a flirtiness to Eve’s style — the silk robe, the two (!!) off-the-shoulder sweaters — but it’s unmatched by words and deeds. Annalise barely smiles in this episode and never as brightly as she normally does with Eve.
Don’t get me wrong, Annalise has cause to be angry. Last week, we learned that Eve’s been keeping a secret from Annalise: back in 2005, she hacked Sam’s e-mails and discovered that he had a child from his previous marriage. He was planning to leave Annalise, the grief still palpable from the loss of their child, to reclaim the family he’d left behind and Eve stopped him. Working with Frank, she’d blackmail Sam into staying with Annalise, into convincing his wife that she wasn’t alone. Not knowing about Sam’s history left Annalise exposed: she unwittingly invited Sam’s vengeful son, Gabriel, into her classroom, into her workplace and into her life. Annalise has reason to be mad.
When Eve’s comforted about her actions, her response is dispassionate: she was worried and didn’t want Sam to leave Annalise when she needed him most.
“You wanted him to leave me,” Annalise responds pointedly.
“No, I wanted to help you save your marriage,” Eve answers. Later she adds, “I thought I did what was best for you. I was wrong.”
I keep waiting for more of it explanation but it never comes. That’s it, that’s all we get. The thing is, we know Annalise is right: there’s no way to watch “Something Bad Happened” from Season Two and walk away believing that Eve wanted that marriage to survive. She admitted to not liking Sam and it was obvious that she was still in love with Annalise. But last Thursday’s episode studiously avoids delving into the couple’s history and, at certain points, I’m left wondering if I’ve imagined it all, if I somehow confusing canon with the few great Annalise/Eve fanfics I’ve read. Eve’s return isn’t the celebration I anticipated; instead, it feels like I’m being gaslit.
Annalise and Eve huddle together to find a way to keep Gabriel from re-opening Sam’s murder case. The blackmail information that Eve’s tracked down isn’t enough to dissuade Gabriel from his quest so they turn to Eve’s co-conspirator, Frank. He hands over all the information he has on Sam’s kid and his ex-wife but it’s not enough; keep searching, Annalise instructs. Before he leaves, though, Annalise asks for his phone: she wants to remove the connection between Frank and Eve by deleting her contact information. She scrolls through his directory but can’t find the listing.
“It’s saved under ‘The One,'” Frank says, earning a delighted smirk from Eve. “I always thought you two were endgame.”
I cheer this moment. I literally yelled, “me too, Frank, me too!” at my TV screen. I was so happy about the acknowledgement that someone else, outside the recesses of the Autostraddle TV team’s Slack channel, saw Annalise and Eve as endgame. What I missed in that moment — and what turned out to be a harbinger for the rest of the episode — is that Eve was deleted from history, literally.
Later, we learn that Eve and Vanessa are still together and, surprise, they’re having a baby. I’m shocked by Eve’s audacity. Sure, finding out you’re having a baby is exciting, especially after multiple failed attempts — but, maybe, sit on that piece of information until a moment when your ex-girlfriend isn’t being forced to relitigate one of the most traumatic moments of her life? With the wound already open, Feinberg and Nowalk decide to add more salt: Annalise reminds Eve that she used to say she didn’t want kids and this latest development must mean that she just didn’t want kids with Annalise. It’s a startling revelation about the depth of Annalise and Eve’s past relationship — one that, to be honest, doesn’t fit with what we know about them — that’s tossed out capriciously as an insult.
Then? More salt: Eve admits that she’s as happy as she’s ever been and resents feeling like they’re competing with one another. Annalise claims that she wants Eve to be happy but the visible lump in her throat as she says it suggests otherwise. Instead of addressing it though, Eve pivots to talking about Annalise’s alcoholism, which she recognizes without being told. It’s a legitimate thing to discuss, of course, but everything that we’ve seen about Eve until now has revealed a woman unafraid of conflict… willing to confront Annalise about her unspoken truths and then comfort her when the harsh truths come out. But that’s not the Eve we see here, instead of comfort, we get this:
“Your life is hard, God knows, but you chose it, and you continue to choose it every day,” Eve says, leaning across the kitchen island. “So there has to come a point where you take responsibility for your own mistakes, or you can just stay unhappy.”
This is a cruel thing to say to someone. It is an especially cruel thing to say to someone who’s a survivor of abuse. It is an especially cruel thing to say to someone who was once so overwhelmed by grief that they tried to take their own life. It is an especially cruel thing to say to someone who’s battling an actual disease like alcoholism. This show and its characters afford Annalise very little respite from their cruelty: even though they’re the killers, even though nearly everything she does is in defense of others, everyone affixes blame on Annalise. To hear that from Eve, of all people, is really unfathomable. This was just awful, awful writing.
It all just begs the question: Why did this show need Eve to come back anyway? What benefit did her appearance serve? She’s stayed away when Annalise nearly died at the Hapstall Mansion or when she was wrongly imprisoned for killing Wes. They could have easily written this exact same storyline without Eve coming to back to Philadelphia. There’s no road back to endgame for Annalise and Eve, especially not with a baby in the mix. Did the writers feel that in order for the audience to invest in Tegan and Annalise that they needed to deaden any lingering enthusiasm for Annalise and Eve? If so, mission accomplished — all it took was ignoring the canon, gaslighting your audience and ruining a great character. Congratulations.
If there was a silver lining from this episode — and, believe me, I’m reluctant to even call it that — it’s that we got to see progress with Tegan Price. When she finds out from Emmett Crawford that Eve Rothlo’s in town and staying at Annalise’s apartment, she’s curious to find out more. I suppose she knows from the Legal Lesbian Family Tree that Eve plays for the girls’ team and she asks Michaela if Annalise and Eve were together at Harvard. Michaela looks at her in disbelief, quietly astounded that she hadn’t put the pieces together.
“Bisexuality is real, Ms. Pratt,” Tegan proclaims.
“I know that,” Michaela answers back, only to met with Tegan’s own look of disbelief. “I have personal experience with the matter.”
Michaela explains that her ex-fiance was bisexual and Tegan’s curiosity is clearly peaked and, honestly, so is Michaela’s. If you had your heart set on Tegan and Michaela falling into bed together, things look good for your ship. That is, until Tegan tells Emmett what she suspects about Eve and Annalise’s relationship. She assures him that it was just a law school thing for Annalise so he’s still got a shot with her.
“Projecting much?” Emmett retorts.
“What?” she asks.
“I think you meant to say that you still have a chance.”
It’s a credit to Amirah Vann that for a second, I forget how mad I am at this episode; the dance she does to feign indignation over being called out for her crush on Annalise is absolutely adorable and I smile despite myself. The lady doth protest too much, indeed.
It’s hard to guess whether Tegan will end up with Michaela or Annalise but it’s even harder to know if I should care, after what they did to Annalise and Eve last week.