[Spoiler Alert: Read ahead only if you’ve watched the mid-season finale of How to Get Away with Murder.]
Michaela’s lost engagement ring. Wes ending the life of Sam. Annalise being more in the know that we ever imagined. Connor’s lie to Oliver. Bonnie returning to the fold.
While How to Get Away with Murder Season 1 Episode 9 marked the 2014 finale of this crazy awesome drama, in many ways the freshman series is just getting started, delivering a number of answers while leaving us with just as many new questions.
Who better to talk to than series creator Pete Nowalk, who gave me the lowdown after last week’s revealing episode and explaind the who, what, where and why of it all... while also offering a preview of things to come. Let’s dive in.
TV Fanatic: How nervous were you going into this episode and it airing? Were you worried at all, or did you think audiences would eat it up?
Pete Nowalk: No. I was so worried. I never think they’re going to eat it up. That’s just my baseline. I really remember lying on the floor of my living room on the weekend when we were trying to write the episode. We knew by episode nine we had to catch up to murder night and we did not know how it all pieced together. We did not know how they all ended up at the house in that moment. So we had a lot of story to work out, and I was just like, ‘people are going to hate this.’
So I’m really just so excited that mostly what I’ve heard...I’ve tried to only hear the good things. People have really responded and felt like it came together, which is just the best feeling in the world because it was really hard. We did not know anything when we wrote the pilot other what you saw there and that we’d have a lot of puzzle pieces to fill in. So I’m just happy that we pulled it off. I’m happy that it’s over.
TVF: When did you know it would be Wes who would actually hit Sam?
PN: I had an idea before the season that the puppy should do it, but was very open and we considered changing that along the way, as you have to, but ultimately, with his relationship with Rebecca and whether you think it’s a good relationship or bad relationship, I find that interesting. I think it just really made sense, and it felt true to his arc for the season and I’m glad that we were able to surprise people with it.
TVF: After the murder happens, Wes stays relatively calm while everyone else flips out. That made me think that he seemed so much closer to Annalise, who I suspect would also be the calm in the storm.
PN: I think he did remain calm. I think he remained protective and just thinking, and I think whether that means he’s more similar to Annalise or not, I think it’s just the idea that we could all react in ways that surprises ourselves. We could all react in a surprising way, even to ourselves, if we’re in a really traumatic situation. Hopefully, we will never have to see that, but I think some people are calm in the storm, and I think Wes, based on what his life has been and what he’s seen, that’s his coping mechanism. I don’t think that makes him an animal. I think Michaela’s definitely having the most normal and relatable reaction that night in terms of just having her feelings and being upset but I don’t know if that’s actually how most of us would respond. I think some people would go into automatic pilot.
TVF: I want to ask you about Annalise because I’m so confused how I should feel about her. Or is the point to her that we shouldn’t be able to figure her out?
PN: I don’t think you can figure anyone out on the show…I think she’s complicated. I think she’s much more emotional. She’s not a sociopath. I will say that. I don’t think anyone on the show is. I think she is a mystery for us and she’s an onion that we will slowly peel back layers about and find things out about but I do think people are complicated and reactive and they’re moody and they don’t make sense in a way that makes them really interesting and fun to see how they’re going to react in different situations and I think she never is predictable.
That’s the thing I’ll say about Annalise in a way. Viola’s such a genius. The thing about her is she’s just never predictable, and Viola’s performance was never predictable, and so I want to get to know her more and I want the audience to but whether that leads to more questions or answers, we’ll see.
TVF: I personally was happy that we got to see Oliver again last night because I’ve been waiting for him to reappear a little bit. Is it safe to say we’ll see more of him in the new episodes in the new year?
PN: Yes. I think there’s, obviously, a big hurdle for him and Connor to cross and the lie that Connor had to tell him at the end of the episode that he has a drug problem. So, I think there’s a really wide river to cross between the two of them, but yeah, we’re going to see more of him and hopefully in a way that will feel surprising and fun.
TVF: Talk to me about Bonnie a little bit. I love that people were so freaked out when we thought that Bonnie was fired. Were you surprised how people reacted?
PN: You know what I was surprised by? I knew that scene was amazeballs the way they performed it, and Debbie Allen directed it, but I did not realize people would be so shocked by her getting fired. I was like, out of all the things that’s happened in our show, getting fired is really not that big of a deal. We had already seen Annalise call her after that moment. That’s what’s so much fun, to watch what people react to. It makes you really feel much more encouraged as a writer to just try different things because the audience surprises you by what they cling onto so much.
TVF: How long before Michaela's ring comes into question?
PN: What I want to say about that is that’s one of the many, many loose ends and f**k ups of that night. You know, if people want to watch the show again, every episode, there are other problems. These are young humans trying to get rid of disposing a body and as we’ve all learned from other TV shows, that’s really hard and things go wrong along the way and there’s a trail of evidence that can screw them over later. So there’s a big list that includes the ring, but there’s other things on it.
TVF: Rebecca and Wes, I’m curious, how would you define that relationship? Is there love there?
PN: I think there’s definitely love there. I think they’re both very complicated people. I think they both come from a very damaged place. I think they both are used to being alone in the world and I think they recognized that in each other. Whether their relationship is healthy or solid or people get it, that’s not really the point. They get each other, and that’s sort of why they feel so close to each other, I think, is because the rest of the world doesn't get them. So, we’ll see a lot more of their relationship. We’ll see how the murder night changes the relationship and hopefully we’ll find out just a little bit more about why the other makes the other tick.
TVF: When the show comes back in January, are we just moving straight ahead from this point on? What’s the plan?
PN: We’re not going to do flash-forwards, per say, like what we did in the first line-up of those. I think, you know, there are six episodes left (the first season is only fifteen episodes) and we didn’t want to make it feel like a contrived device but we will be seeing things from the past and we’ll continue to play with time and do what we call memory pops, which are things where you’re in the character’s head and you’re seeing moments you saw before. So I think, stylistically, it will feel similar to the show, but it’s just not going to feel like such a device because, at least for the rest of the season, we just wanted to change it up and keep things fresh for the audience.
How to Get Away with Murder returns with new episodes on January 29, 2015.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.