Bonnie Winterbottom is the nicest person one could possibly meet in a show like How to Get Away with Murder — her meekness and compassion ensures that everyone who meets her begins caring about her. On the flip side, she can be violently ruthless, even to the point of murdering multiple people in order to “protect” her friends from prison.
Bonnie is closest to Frank and Annalise, and it can be seriously argued that her interest in the Keating Five only extends as far as their impact on her loved ones, considering that she keeps exhorting her mentor to abandon them to the law. She is not a naturally open person, having experienced the worst kind of traumatic childhoods, but gradually starts sharing her life with everyone. There are a few episodes that make audiences proud of Bonnie, just as there are those that disappoint.
10 Best: Don’t Tell Annalise (S3 E4)
Asher and Bonnie work together to help Tristan, who has been accused of stealing a ton of money (although it’s meant for his unborn child.) While he is obviously innocent, Bonnie’s attention is directed towards Susan, the kid’s teacher, because she suspects her of statutory rape.
She bluntly demands to know, in court, if Susan had actually manipulated her student, which is more or less proven when she pleads the fifth amendment. Tristan is not happy at all, claiming that their child will now be forced into the system just like he was, but Asher consoles Bonnie by telling her she did the right thing. Which she most certainly did.
9 Worst: The Baby Was Never Dead (S5 E3)
Bonnie has internalized a terrible image of herself, based on the fact that she had been sexually abused in her early childhood, placing the blame on her own head rather than where it belongs. This causes friction between her and Annalise, especially when the latter tells her that her new beau, Ron Miller, might not react well to her past.
However, it is he who responds like a mature adult, saying that she “should have told him”, but Bonnie retorts with, “Told you I’m a slut?” Her shame is understandable, but for how long can she carry it around with her?
8 Best: I Want To Be Free (S6 E8)
With incredible difficulty, Bonnie listens to her ex-boyfriend, Ron Miller’s mother, as she blames her for causing the death of her son (not knowing exactly how right she was.) In a later scene, she offers Tegan a rather crucial solution to their case, saying that it would be best if Gov. Birkhead was the first to take the stand.
As smart as she is, Bonnie falters while talking to Annalise, especially when she is told that Frank is in love with her, something she still cannot accept with all her insecurities. This episode highlights her vulnerability rather well, concluding with a cliffhanger of Bonnie zooming into oncoming traffic in a brake-less car.
7 Worst: He’s Dead (S4 E9)
The gang freaks out when they learn that the hard drive containing incriminating information has disappeared, and Annalise’s first instinct is to implicate Bonnie (a side-effect of their recent confrontation.) She decides to get Laurel’s bag from the evidence room, but the device remains unfound.
Later, though, she tries to have Asher released from jail by claiming that he’s her “ex-boyfriend”, which is clearly just a convenient excuse to avoid any slip-ups on his part. Bonnie uses their relationship but does not acknowledge it.
6 Best: I Love Her (S4 E5)
In a series of flashbacks, the audience is told the story of Bonnie and Annalise’s first interaction with each other; to everybody’s surprise, they are actually antagonists. However, when the lawyer successfully defends her client, a Councilman accused of raping an underage Bonnie, she has a massive change of heart, which subsequently results in her leaving her high-paying job.
To see Bonnie being harshly interrogated in court, with all sorts of slut-shaming techniques employed against her to break her spirit, and finding her standing resolute against the barrage of Annalise’s questions, is rather inspiring. And the best part: she learns to love her.
5 Worst: Hi, I’m Philip (S2 E8)
Bonnie is shown to be Emily Sinclair’s killer, which depicts her in quite a negative light (at this point, audiences have no clue that the DA had already been killed by Asher.)
Regardless, she is furious at Connor for not following the plan, saying that he should “either get on board” or become “the next dead body out there.” In a world filled with cut-throat politics, even a sweetheart like Bonnie can be driven to such extremes when the situation calls for it. But to threaten someone’s life?
4 Best: Who’s Dead (S3 E9)
In a rather stunning turn of events, a heavily drunk Annalise goes over to Bonnie’s house to rant about their inevitable criminal records, and they share a passionate (and strangely platonic) kiss before going to sleep.
On the other hand, Frank is more upset than he has ever been in years, and Bonnie’s attempts to placate him are turned against her. Thankfully, in the end, she achieves a modicum of peace in the Keating household by convincing him not to shoot himself in the head: with Annalise furiously screeching the exact opposite.
3 Worst: Your Funeral (S5 E1)
It’s true that Bonnie loves Ronald, but she claims to be working in close proximity with him so that she can secretly obtain ADA Denver’s documents on them.
Annalise attempts to get her on her side, suggesting that they should work together to establish a pro bono clinic for those who cannot afford legal fees, but for some inexplicable reason, Bonnie can’t stop with her quest for the “files.” Interestingly, she gives both Annalise and Nate an identical excuse, raising doubts as to her real motives.
2 Best: Meet Bonnie (S2 E5)
This is probably one of the most emotionally moving episodes in the show — when Asher learns that Bonnie had been raped, abused, tortured for her entire life by none other than her father (who also sold his child to other men like him.)
The fact that she has not only survived, to quote Maya Angelou, but thrived, after experiencing one of the worst childhoods a human being could possibly have, shows how strong Bonnie Winterbottom truly is. A force of nature that shows the full extent of her power when her loved ones need her the most.
1 Worst: I Want To Love You Until The Day I Die (S5 E8)
So the worst thing Bonnie could have ever done occurs in this episode — Nate Lahey is so angry with what he thinks DA Miller did to his dad that he beats him to a literal pulp.
Bonnie finds the scene before anyone else, and seems to accept Nate’s conjecture regarding her boyfriend’s affiliations with the governor, and therefore finishes the job by cruelly suffocating him until he dies. It’s strange how she can extinguish the life of someone she loves without the slightest hint of hesitation: in other words, this is what serial killers do.