The Life and Death (?) of Annalise Keating

The Life and Death (?) of Annalise Keating

From the very first time we met Annalise Keating, she was a force to be reckoned with. She held control of a classroom and a courtroom with equal parts grace and power and fear. She was a marvel to behold, awe inspiring and someone to look up to.

For five seasons, we followed her on the Shondaland rollercoaster of ups and downs, twists and turns, never knowing which way she (or the story) was turning. Told in a mixture of flashbacks and flash-forwards, How to Get Away With Murder left us gasping for breath each week, wondering how each episode topped the previous, but knowing somehow it would. We knew that, no matter what, Annalise would come out on top.

Then, in the premiere of the final season, season six, we ended the first episode with a funeral. This, in and of itself, was normal for the show. Every season, at least one person died and we wondered how, again, we would all get away with murder.

This time, though, the dead was one Annalise Keating.

A Different Anti-Hero

Unlike a great many main characters on mainstream linear television, Annalise is not a hero. She isn’t a ‘good guy’ or even a rakish rebel. Annalise is a black woman who takes on white America with the weapons at her disposal. She wears a wig to hide her natural hair, she dresses conservatively, in colours that are seen as acceptable. She married a white man.

Viola Davis as Annalise Keating.
(ABC/Bonnie Osborne) VIOLA DAVIS

But instead of hiding behind those trappings, instead of acting meek or smaller than she was, Annalise used her mind, her talents, and the assumptions others made of her to rise to the top.

This came at a great cost. She did sacrifice much of herself. She suffered and walked through fire, coming out alive and stronger, but pained. Annalise was an alcoholic, understandable following the tragic loss of her son, but she had a secret she had to keep from both sides of her life.

You see, in addition to every other challenge faced by Annalise, she kept one close to her chest. Annalise was bisexual.

A Ground Breaking Character

When I found out that Annalise was bisexual, I was elated. We had a black woman, the lead character on a series, who was embracing all the complicated and challenging aspects of what it meant to be a bisexual black woman in America. Annalise kept her sexuality secret because the world is not okay with that. Neither her mother nor her university would accept her and be supportive, and we knew it.

As the seasons went on, we saw hints of this struggle. Her ex girlfriend, Eve, had moved on, even though she still loved Annalise, and the conflict was palpable. Eve struggled to understand why Annalise couldn’t come out, why she wouldn’t leave her husband Sam, even though he cheated on her. It was painful and clear to Annalise. Neither white nor black America was ready for that.

Finally, in season six, the stories were laid out for all. Annalise told her mother that her friend Eve was more than that.

An Historic Coming Out

The confusion, the lack of understanding, is a story I’ve heard a million times. So many friends feel erased, that because they date or marry a man or a woman, they aren’t really a bisexual, and all the times before were just experimentation.

Of course that’s totally wrong. A bisexual woman who marries a man is still a bisexual woman. A bisexual man who dates a man is still bisexual. The love isn’t 50-50, it’s not half, it’s some. And while homosexuality is often ignored or dismissed as people being “just good friends,” the outright hostile fight against the basic reality of bisexuality can be even more damaging.

To have Annalise come out, to tell her mother she is both, made people cry with joy. To have her say that she and Eve were more than friends made people seen. It is, in fact, why I love making this site. I can help people see themselves and know they’re not alone.

Is She Really Dead?

Even though the penultimate episode was called “Annalise Keating is Dead,” that is an unknown.

While as of the time of this post, we have Annalise flagged as dead, I honestly don’t know for sure if she is or isn’t. With one episode left to air tomorrow, I hold my breath wondering if she will throw back the curtain and rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

I am scorned. I’m scorned by a system that doesn’t like when a black woman speaks truth to power.

Annalise Keating, season 6 episode 14 “Annalise Keating is Dead”

Regardless of if Annalise is dead or alive, her character will have changed the world. In last week’s episode alone, we were witness to the myriad decisions Annalise had to make every day when going to court. From makeup and clothes down to her hair, we were gifted one last look at how many variables a black woman is faced with just to save herself and not make herself smaller.

We saw, one more time, Annalise coming out. This time she did so to an entire courtroom, stating boldly “I am a bisexual woman.”

The words have been said, and they will not be erased.

To Annalise Keating, the most badass and impressive bisexual lawyer I have had the pleasure of watching on television.

Long may she reign.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

One thought on “The Life and Death (?) of Annalise Keating

  • wow , that was so nice bordering on beautiful, yes a joy to read….if that was in a little “paper” book and I had a coffee table …. I would be looking at it now — Don’ t know if I am using the right word here but a little book of “vignettes” is still nice to think about….just passing through going to take in a little sun..glad I signed on … that was nice….thanks , have a great day !!

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