We. Can't. Breathe.
Last night's How to Get Away With Murder winter finale left us literally breathless, and even in the harsh light of the next day, we're still not over all the shocking twists and turns that went down.
From Wes (Alfred Enoch) delivering the killer blow to Sam (Tom Verica), to Annalise (Viola Davis) knowing that Wes killed her husband and is helping cover it up, to Bonnie's (Liza Weil) multiple (!) hookups, we got executive producer Pete Nowalk on the line to talk through it all, and to get some major scoop on what's coming next when HTGAWM returns this January!
E! News: Did you have the entire storyline of Sam's murder and his killer planned from the beginning or did it evolve and change as the season went on?
Pete Nowalk: I wish I could say yes, I'd feel really smart if I did! But no, we did not have that planned out and that's what so fun about writing for me, throwing stuff at the wall and backing yourself into a corner and seeing how you can get out of it. Luckily, I have a brilliant staff of writers that help me do that. We didn't know and it's been really fun and so satisfying to see that we pulled it off. I had so many sleepless nights thinking about this episode but it's been so much fun to watch how it all came together.
I loved all the payoff you delivered, but there are still a lot of questions about that night, including new ones like how long Annalise was in the house and what she and Wes talked about. Are we going to see more of that night going forward?
Obviously, the episode ends with that question mark and if people want to try to go back and piece it together, I love that so much. There's a version of where we ended and gave more answers to what happened but this is the one we went with. I think the audience likes playing the game and likes trying piece the puzzle together themselves. When we come back, there will be more puzzle pieces filled in. I don't ever want to make it frustrating where you don't know what happened. Everyone will get answers to the questions they have when we come back in January.
Are we going to see the Keating 5 bonded more after the murder or will some of them start to unravel and turn on each other?
You'll see both. They were never really friends until murder night. And I don't think "friends" is the right term, but they're definitely bound by blood at this point. They have to learn to trust each other even though they don't. That's going to be the real struggle for them. What I'm excited about is to show how their dynamics change and how different relationships take on unexpected depths. That's all the mess we're coming back to, how these people all relate to each other and look at each other and trust each other now that they've done this terrible thing together.
Are we going to get a definite answer as to who killed Lila (Megan West) by the season finale?
What can you tease about how that mystery is going to play out?
It's not only going to be a question for the audience, but it's going to be a question for the characters, too. Obviously, there's really big repercussions and scary feelings that go along with the idea that Sam was innocent of Lila's murder. That's going to be a question that we bring up the instant we come back.
How big of an effect will Michaela's (Aja Naomi King) missing engagement ring have when the show returns?
Michaela's missing engagement ring is one loose end that they have to worry about. There are a lot of other loose ends, too, if you think about the whole murder night. This is not the perfect crime. These are people who made mistakes throughout the night. They did things they weren't supposed to do. If you look at the whole night, you can come up with a whole list of things, like more than 20 mistakes. It's a mess, what they did that night! [Laughs.]
How will Sam's murder affect Wes going forward?
He's going to be affected quite deeply by it. He's the puppy in so many ways and he was really strong that night. But how long can he stay that strong? He's not a superhero. That's going to be a huge question. His relationship with Annalise will also change a lot. It's very complicated with her. He has trust issues in general, but also with her. He doesn't have a mother in his own life and here's this very strong woman who might fill that void. We're going to watch him go through a roller coaster of experiences based on what he did.
Was Bonnie's decision to sleep with the random dental equipment salesman and Asher (Matt McGorry) in the same night a part of bigger plan of hers or was she just in a downward spiral after getting fired?
One more than the other. I will say, that scene where she's making out with the dental guy—Dennis is his name—they did not sleep together. That was a sad, lonely moment for her that made her stop and need to call Asher. That was a dark, miserable night for Bonnie. She had just gotten fired, she poured her heart out to her boss that she adores and admires, and I don't think anything she did after that was that shocking.
Laurel (Karla Souza) kept her cool the entire night even in the face of some shocking and intense situations. Should we be reading into that?
I think that says a lot about who she is as a character. We were showing how four different people have four different reactions in the midst of a panicked trauma. Why was she able to keep her cool and think so much ahead? I would probably react that way because it's all about control. By thinking that far ahead and being so pragmatic, that's Laurel's way of coping. I don't think any of them are sociopaths and have no emotion, but they're all just reacting and coping in extremely different ways.
How is Connor's (Jack Falahee) lie to Oliver about his fake drug addiction going to affect him going forward?
It was a lie he had to come up with in the moment to explain away his crazy behavior. It is going to throw a wrench in their relationship and make it harder for Oliver to want to be with him. We'll see what Connor actually wants with Oliver, but I think that's heartbreaking, because all Connor wants is to not make more of a mess, but now he has to lie and call himself a drug addict to make his real self seem less bad. It's going to put a wall up between them.
Now that we know most of what happened the night of Sam's murder, how is the show going to look different when it returns in January?
It will look a lot different. We're not going to be doing any more flash-forwards. That story is over so structurally we're telling the episodes in a different way. We're really going to delve into the characters and their dynamics with each other in a deeper, more complicated way. Of course, we'll still have our twists and turns and central murder mystery and questions we have to answer, but to me, right now, it's all about how the characters are interacting with each other in the midst of all of this.
HTGAWM returns Thursday, Jan. 29 at 10 pm on ABC.