'How to Get Away With Murder' Creator Teases Killer Season Finale Reveal

THR caught up with showrunner Pete Nowalk to discuss Lila's killer, who's next to fall and where the Viola Davis-led drama goes from here.
ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

At long last, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and her students will finally get an answer to one of their biggest mysteries — but not without sparking a whole new set of questions first.

After a roaring year filled with murder, mayhem and nine little words, ABC's How to Get Away With Murder wraps up its freshman year run Thursday at 9 p.m. with an action-packed two-hour finale and a reveal that's been a season in the making: Who, actually, killed Lila Stangard?

While the deceased Sam (Tom Verica) has been heavily implicated in Lila's slaughter, the penultimate episode threw a wrench into the situation, making it more complicated than ever. Driven by a growing mistrust in his relationship with Rebecca (Katie Findlay), Wes (Alfred Enoch) sought out his apartment's former tenant, the mental institution-bound Rudy, and discovered that not only was he committed on the night of Lila's slaying, but, upon seeing a picture of Rebecca, could finally open up with one word — "wet."

What does this mean for the Keating Five? Can justice ever be served in the Murder world? What does this reveal mean for season two? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with series creator Pete Nowalk to answer these and other burning questions heading into Thursday's two-hour season finale.

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The season started with a murder (Lila) and a cover-up (allegedly, Sam), and the midseason finale had another murder (Sam) and a cover up (Annalise and the Keating cabal). Is it fair to expect we might see the pattern continue in the finale? Will the dominoes continue to fall?

In the finale, we definitely answer and show who killed Lila. And for the rest of the show, I don't ever want there to be a pattern, except for the pattern of following the story, and you were correct in saying the dominoes have fallen. I think the first domino — well, I wonder if we'd even know what really the first domino was — one of them is Lila's death and that sets our characters on a path that I want to keep following. I don't want to be like, "We're done with season one! Here's a whole new thing for season two!" I want to follow, to me, what would be the real aftermath of what these characters went through in season one.

Who is in the most at danger of being the next one that falls? Who is the last one?

It's definitely constantly being negotiated. From the episode that aired [last Thursday], Wes is really wearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. He got Rebecca signed on as Annalise's client, and now he wonders if he was wrong the whole time. It's a lot for a 26-year-old, innocent guy like Wes to carry around with him, and it blows up his world. He is really the person who we're going to be following and feeling his shame about and also his terror that he got them all into this mess.

With so many mysteries and questions from throughout the season still up in the air, how many answers can viewers expect from the finale?

We'll definitely give the audience a lot more answers. That's always been our goal for all the things we set up in our pilot to really answer by the end of season one. What I'm really happy about is some of these answers do launch more questions and you'll know exactly what I mean once you've seen it. And those are [questions] we'll answer in season two. 

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But will there be some sort of justice served?

In terms of justice, Annalise has tried to instill in her students that for her, justice is very messy. It isn't black and white. It's extremely gray. The justice system is more of a game, and that's the version of justice we're going to see in the finale.

If it is all just a game, will there ever be a clear winner or a clear loser? Or is it just a constant back and forth of never knowing which side they are actually on?

I think it's what you said last, you never know if you are winning or losing or even if you win, there's a loss that goes along with that. There's never the pure feeling of relief. I think that that will never be true for these characters no matter what. They've all killed a man, innocent or guilty, and no matter what, they will have to live with that for the rest of their lives, and that's going to impact them in ways that could possibly ruin their lives.

Connor (Jack Falahee) has really been one of the breakout characters this season. What's coming up for him in this final episode?

He has a big storyline in the finale with Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) and that's the next step in their relationship. He's also dealing with the fallout of Rudy, I'll say, from the previous episode. He's distracted by personal story throughout the first half of the finale before he really gets pulled into the saga that is Rebecca.

Speaking of Rebecca, it seems like she might have jumped Sam as the prime suspect in Lila's death. With the true killer — Rebecca, Sam or otherwise — being exposed in this episode, how will that reveal lead the show into season two?

I don't want to say too much one way or the other because I feel like it might spoil things, but I think all of the characters are left with questions

Before the midseason premiere, you said that it represented a bit of a "mini-reboot" of the series. Will we see the same sort of thing for season two?

I hope to always keep the show fresh. We just finished season one, so it's not like I've mapped out all of season two yet (laughs), but for me, the goal is that we always do these — it's always going to be about Annalise and a lot of these characters, but it's our goal to keep it fresh so you guys don't get bored and go, "Oh, we know where this is going." That's the fun part of the show and coming up with things that feel different. We're going on a new journey.

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The Keating Five are now indelibly tied to Annalise because of their participation in the Murder Night. If each of the seasons is a new year or semester, how will we see these people continue to interact? Would it be fair to say that some people might not come back? Could there be new characters next year?

I'm not necessarily sure that each season will start with a new semester. Annalise works all year round and she's not just a professor, especially with these students, whether they work for her or not or are in her class or not, they're all tied to each other. She feels very protective of them, and I feel like they fell very protected by her. So, whether there are new characters or where the old characters go is all still to be determined.

With one murder mystery being wrapped up, will we ever see the characters get any true closure to the Sam/Murder Night story and move on to other murders, or will that continue to be the titular murder throughout the series? With her participation, can the show only end with some sort of conviction for Annalise?

No, I think there's definitely other ways this can end, and we'll see how long people keep watching and what we do with the story, but that's all up in the air in. It's our goal to come up with storylines that are left turns from where the audience thinks we're going and whether that means less murders or more murders, it will be surprising. That's what I know will give the audience more of a surprise.

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Switching gears a bit, you've now arrived at the end of your first season as a showrunner. What are the biggest lessons you've learned through this process? How close does where you finished match with where you hoped to be at the start?

I've learned so much I can't even begin to describe it but really what I've learned is to really act and think like an audience member. I think in that way, the things that I assumed would happen at the end of this season have changed because I'm reacting to what was in the previous episode before and things that I assumed were true, I felt like were too expected. It was always a job to be like, "Oh this is the expected thing, how do we turn this on its head?" So, for me as a storyteller, it's really just being in the moment and in the current episode and learning to trust the instinct of what feels surprising and what feels real to the characters. And in that way it's been nice in that you really can't plan it all out, you just sort of go with your gut.

Curious who killed Lila? Wondering if they will actually get away with murder? Chime in with your theories and thoughts in the comments below. Stay tuned to THR's The Live Feed for more Murder scoop ahead of Thursday's season finale. The Murder two-hour finale airs Thursday at 9 p.m.

Twitter: @NotPhelan