'How to Get Away With Murder' Boss on What's Next After Annalise's Shooter Twist

Pete Nowalk talks with THR about where the ABC Viola Davis drama goes in the second half of its sophomore season.
Mitch Haaset/ABC

[This story contains spoilers from the winter finale of ABC's How to Get Away With Murder.] 

After eight weeks of flash-forwards and hints about who pulled the trigger on Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), How to Get Away With Murder's winter finale, "What Did We Do," finally caught up to that fateful day in which the professor's life hung in the balance, and Emily Sinclair (Sarah Burns) went over the edge. 

In a shocking twist it was Asher (Matt McGorry) who ran down the prosecutor with his car after she antagonized him over his father's suicide, and Bonnie (Liza Weil) who came to his rescue. In a convoluted and slightly mad twist, Annalise again attempted to protect someone she loved (Billy Brown's Nate, who was being targeted by Sinclair), by having Bonnie drive Sinclair's body to the siblings' house, throw her over the edge as though Catherine (Amy Okuda) had done it, then called in her own shooting to complete Catherine's framing. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately?!), it was all too much for the Keating Five. As Annalise begged everyone to shoot her in the leg, it was finally Wes (Alfred Enoch) — who learned that girlfriend Rebecca (Katie Findlay) was dead — who pulled the trigger. Only he didn't shoot for the leg and seemed to aim to kill Annalise instead of wounding her. In the final moments of the episode, Annalise muttered "Christophe," before, in typical HTGAWM fashion, flashing back to Wes' mysterious childhood, revealing that Annalise (and Framke Janssen's Eve) were clearly somehow a part of. 

In order to find out where to go from here, how the Christophe reveal factors into the second half of the season and what the writers have plotted out, THR caught up with showrunner Pete Nowalk. 

Was Christophe always the end point to this midseason break?

Not at all, that's the last thing we figured out. We had written a draft of the script where that was not in it, and we asked ourselves to come up with something different but still in the formula of the show. I never thought I would want to tell the backstory between Wes and Annalise so soon, but what I've learned in writing the show is we usually move things to be sooner and then worry about it later. It felt exciting to look backward, as we're usually looking forward. 

So the idea for the second half is to flash back rather than forward and answer the Christophe question?

Yeah, we're going to definitely flash back. I'm only two episodes ahead of you, but we will continue to go back to that time period. 

How does this affect Wes and Annalise's relationship?

Obviously he shot to kill; he definitely shot out of anger and emotion. And then all of a sudden his whole life changed with one word. It makes him reassess everything. Wes had a picture and a story of what his past was, and now that Annalise knows what his name used to be and what was going on, he's going to have to question his entire life. 

What about for Annalise to Wes?

She kind of had a death wish and the minute it came she had regrets. We've read researched about people who have attempted suicide and instantly regretted it. Thinking that's what she wanted is different than the actuality. She's going to have a lot to think about and feelings to sort through. What does she want with him, if anything? She's going to be really angry. 

Was Wes always the shooter?

That came later. We don't know a lot when we start. All we knew is that Annalise was in that mansion bleeding out. Then we come up with our theories. Eventually we came up with the idea that Annalise shot herself or had someone shoot her. I was really freaked out by the idea for a while but the writers encouraged me to keep going with it. We didn't know who it was going to be at all. The whole time. A lot of us thought it was going to be Laurel (Karla Souza) but it wasn't until we got into that episode and really started to talk about the why and how that we figured out it was Wes, and Annalise would have pulled that final card to make it happen. 

Asher is now a killer too. How does that change his dynamic with the other four?

He is definitely part of the murder crew, especially now that he knows they killed Sam (Tom Verica). Out of all of them he is the least equipped emotionally and psychologically to handle this in an OK manner. What's fun about when we come back is it will be two weeks later and we'll see how the dynamics have changed and if any of them have been able to move on from this.

Is it safe to say the siblings continue to have an important role going forward?

Definitely. We still haven't seen how that night ends. They play a huge role because Annalise's entire crazy plan depends on them. When we come back a lot of questions will be answered and certain others will have to linger. It's always the goal not to let them linger too long though. 

Philip (Jefferson White) is still a part of this, but is he prominent or hiding out in the background?

He's a huge hanging Chad because he was at the house and then we didn't see him. So he plays a huge role. He's definitely still a suspect in the original parents' murder because his DNA was at the crime scene and he has all the motive in the world. Philip is not going away. 

Nate is a part of this cover-up now too, how will he factor in?

That is a big question for me. Does he cover for Annalise or does he just sell all of them out? We'll get an answer to that when we come back. Nate is a big mystery when it comes to his motives. Is he really on board with Annalise? Or is he playing a long con?

Bonnie was back in full force in the finale following her breakdown. Is she back on board with Annalise?

Bonnie and Annalise will constantly be battling their demons together but when it comes to go-time, they are there for each other. That is one of the other benefits of doing flashbacks — to tell more about their backstory and understand why they're bonded so strongly. That Keating household used to feel very different.

Things are getting so crazy; Asher is a killer, Annalise is begging to be shot. Is there a stop point to these killings or do the bloody hands have to keep going for the story?

That's too philosophical for me. My question is how do the characters feel? They're asking themselves the same things. Bonnie asks that, "When do we become the people that you need to be protected from?" It's like, um that happened. You are the people that we all need to be protected from. It's how far do they want to go to stay out of jail and to not be evil?

As a writer, how do you balance people who are doing these terrible things and still keep the audience rooting for them and invested in them?

I don't know. I'm on this ride as you all are and I'm always ready to fail miserably and that scares me. I guess I don't know if to watch a TV show you inherently need to want the people to succeed and root for them. Maybe you do and I'm wrong, but that's not what I'm writing toward. I'm more following what happens next and trying to figure out how these specific characters would deal with it and how they would react. Whether you like them still or don't is up from grabs. 

How to Get Away With Murder returns Thursday, Feb. 11. What did you think of the winter finale? Sound off in the comments below. 

Twitter: @amber_dowling

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