'How to Get Away with Murder' boss on that killer finale and what's next
WARNING: This story contains major spoilers from the season finale of How to Get Away with Murder. If you have not watched yet, turn back now!
How to Get Away with Murder delivered a killer season finale on Thursday night as one of the show’s central characters met her demise—and viewers will now have to wait roughly seven months to figure out who killed her!
During the two-hour season-ender, Wes (Alfred Enoch) was determined to figure out whether Rebecca (Katie Findlay) was responsible for Lila Stangard’s (Megan West) murder after mental patient Rudy all but pointed the finger at her. Through flashbacks to that Murder Night, we learned that Rudy witnessed Rebecca and Lila fighting as the sorority girl blamed Rebecca for all her horrible recent decisions—like sleeping with Mr. Darcy, aka Sam Keating (Tom Verica). Because Lila vowed to get back with Griffin (Lenny Platt), Rebecca hooked up with him to prove he was a bad guy. Little did she know, Rebecca had inadvertently ruined Lila’s plan to sleep with her old boyfriend so she could say Sam’s baby was actually Griffin’s. Running out of options, Lila planned to tell Annalise (Viola Davis) the truth about her husband, but was thwarted by Bonnie (Liza Weil).
When Sam later met Lila on the roof of the sorority house, he promised that he was finally leaving Annalise and ran off to tell her—but, of course, that was all a lie. Instead, he called Frank (Charlie Weber), pointing out that Annalise’s bulldog owed him a favor, after which you see that it was not Rebecca or Sam who killed Lila, but Frank, who choked her to death before dumping her body in the water tower. Dun. Dun. Dunnn.
Meanwhile, in the present, Annalise and the Keating Five held a mock trial to prove Rebecca was guilty of Lila’s murder—sadly, she was only guilty of drugging Rudy with PCP and bath salts so he couldn’t talk to the cops about her fight with Lila and finding her wet after she hid in the water tower when she discovered her friend’s already-dead body. Forced to tie her up in the basement after she sent a cryptic text to a mysterious number—what the heck is Eggs 911?—Rebecca suddenly seemingly escaped the Keating residence to everyone’s dismay. In truth, someone killed Rebecca and hid her body under the staircase. Who did the deed? And what’s next for the Keating Five? EW sat down with series creator Pete Nowalk to press him for info in the exclusive postmortem below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you always know Frank would be Lila’s killer?
PETE NOWALK: No. It was a possibility, but I was more like, the audience watching it in terms of the way we wrote it: which one of these two people, Rebecca or Sam, killed Lila? That’s always how it was in my head, and I was like, “That’s going be cool. Which one?” It’s like in Serial: Did Adnan do it? But then that was in the midst of rewriting and feeling things out and being really excited about that idea when it was being pitched, because, for me, it raises so many more questions about Frank and Sam and who Frank is. I’m really excited to delve into all of that.
You actually had two different endings. Do you want to say what the other one was?
I don’t want to say what the other ending is, because it might be incorporated into the next season.
Who else did you consider besides Frank? There was a moment I thought it could be Bonnie or even Asher (Matt McGorry).
If you could figure out how Asher would have done it, then you would have deserved a medal. The world can’t be tiny town in terms of, how would Asher have known? We only had a few options, to me, that felt real, unless it was someone completely random. One of the other writers pitched it to me in our mad “let’s just think outside the box of everything that could happen.” Again, it just felt like this weird thing we’ve had set up the whole season of who Frank is and what his deal is. The only real scene that Sam and Frank were in together was in the pilot, when Sam comes home and Bonnie’s watching the news about dead Lila, and Frank is there, but they don’t exchange any words. It’s just really fascinating to me now that that scene, where we watch Sam and Annalise come home from the cocktail party in the pilot, and Bonnie’s all there and she kisses Sam on the cheek—Frank and Sam are ignoring each other, but they have this whole, huge knowledge of something that just went on between the two of them. It’s probably the first time they’ve seen each other since the phone call. All of that just felt so rich and like we’d planted it from the beginning. Or maybe we had subconsciously.
There was a question of how the characters would feel if Sam didn’t kill Lila, which helped them justify his death. Technically, Sam gave the order to kill Lila. Do you feel that still justifies it?
Yes. When Annalise said Sam killed Lila, it’s true. What she doesn’t know, and what nobody else knows besides Frank, is that it’s much more twisted and messed up, and it’s going to cause a lot more problems for them than she even realizes. Along the same lines of that, Rebecca is dead, but that is not justified in any weird morality, “eye for an eye” type of way. So yes, whether they were ever justified in killing Sam, that’s just something they’re telling themselves so they can move on in their life, but the house of cards is still falling down, and mistakenly, bad things are happening to other people who maybe don’t deserve it.
Will we find out what Frank owed Sam?
Yes, for sure. That is a very big favor, and we would be mistaken not to answer that question for the audience.
Deep down, do you think Annalise knows Frank killed Lila? Or is she as unaware as anyone else?
That is a question I want to leave hanging for people, because some people could assume Annalise knows that. There’s also the possibility that she knows nothing. Another man has betrayed her in her life, someone she thought was loyal and she could trust. That’s something I want people to wonder about before we answer it.
So, the audience knows that Frank is the killer, but will the Keating Five ever know the truth?
When we end this episode, Annalise truly believes they’ll never know for real, and she started the season saying that: “You just don’t know people, and you’ll never know.” There can be all the evidence in the world that says one thing, but unless you see it with your own eyes, I don’t think you can believe it. There’s a way that they can find out the truth—in fact, someone’s still living that knows the truth. That will be the fun mystery for next season is if they’re going to figure that out and how that then affects them.
During the episode when Bonnie and Asher are in bed, Bonnie makes mention that she knows things about Frank that could bury him. Is she alluding to him helping cover up Sam’s murder or does she know he killed Lila?
It could definitely run deeper. There are questions of like, “What did Bonnie mean by that?” and “How much does she know?” The question, of course, is, “Does she know that he killed Lila?” With Frank and Bonne, we haven’t even touched upon what their backstories are, when they first met, and how they know each other, and what they know about each other. There’s a lot of ground to be investigated there.
Let’s turn to Rebecca’s shocking death. When did Katie Findlay find out that Rebecca was going to die? And will we see her back next season?
I hope so. Obviously, we do a lot of flashbacks on the show. As a person who loves Katie and [she] has become my friend, that made it a little bit easier for me to have to tell her, “Look, your character’s going to end up dead at the end of the finale.” Just knowing that Sam’s dead, but we still see him a lot, and not wanting to lose a wonderful actor on the show and a character I really find fascinating. So, I hope so. That’s all to be determined right now. There’s the questions of who’s Eggs 911? There’s the question of how did she end up dead in the basement? I feel like there’s things we’re going need to hopefully see her for.
What came with the decision to kill off Rebecca? And how far back did you know she would ultimately die?
Not far back. Part of me wanted to not do another death, so it was really just following the story. Once we got back from the holiday for the New Year, and we were breaking the final hour of the finale, we were just following the story and it just felt right, especially after learning that Sam is really the one responsible for Lila’s death—and Frank. It just made it much more sad to me that she died. Emotionally, it felt very interesting to play for next season. There’s also the interest in that Annalise is lying to Wes when she says, “We’ll find Rebecca.” There are more secrets that come from it and a lot of Annalise wanting to protect Wes from this knowledge, because she knows that he really does love Rebecca.
And yet, part of me thinks: What if Wes killed her? Is that a fair question?
That’s a very fair statement. The last person we saw with her alive was Wes. Time has passed since that, but everything’s fair game in the show.
He was really emotional in that final scene with Annalise. Some might say that’s because he worries he wasn’t justified in killing Sam, but it could be because he just killed Rebecca.
The puppy is a mystery to us, too. Rebecca says that thing about his mother being dead, and whether it was really a suicide. Obviously, I like the idea that people wonder about the characters and what they’re capable of, because they’re all human people, but, “Who knows what we’re all capable of?” has been a central theme, for me, just in writing the show. It’s fun.
Rebecca seemed to be trying to turn the Keating Five against each other when she said that about Wes’ mother, but could it actually be true?
I want people to wonder about all the characters, so that’s all I’ll say.
Let’s go back to “Eggs 911.” Is this something that we could figure out if we go back and rewatch the episodes? Or do we not have enough information yet?
I’ll just relate it to the fingernail scratches: If you could figure out that, then you could figure out Eggs 911. If you feel like you could not figure out that, then you probably will not figure out Eggs 911. I’m just trying to give credit. Some people spin really interesting theories, and sometimes I’m afraid that they’re going to get it right; that’s our challenge is to make sure that they’re not obvious enough, but they also feel real.
Is the recipient of the Eggs 911 text a new character or a character we already know?
I won’t say.
Before she died, Rebecca went to the police. Was that just to find out who the rent-a-cop was?
She went to the campus police. It might not be clear, but I want to be clear that she did go to the campus police. Whether that was just to find out where the rent-a-cop went or was she leaving a breadcrumb there for someone is up in the air. We didn’t see her in the police station. That’s a fair question.
I’m sure many will suspect Frank killed Rebecca, even though he told Annalise he didn’t. But is it too obvious that it would be him? Should we widen our scope to even some of the Keating Five?
I don’t want to steer people in any direction in how they should think of the show. Sometimes we’ll give them the most obvious answer, and sometimes we don’t. I feel like as long as people are wondering and questioning and trying to figure out who did it, then we’ve done our job for the season, and we’ll answer those questions when we start again.
You said you were hesitant to do another murder night. This technically wasn’t at night, but do you feel the show needs to be marked by these big murder events?
The show needs mystery more than murder events. The first season has been a few murder mysteries, so whether those are murders or other types of mysteries, that’s really, for me, the fun in writing the show is solving these questions. But again, literally our rules, we just follow the stories. We try not to think of it in terms of, “What is our hook this season?” but more, just write what feels like the natural next step that would happen in these circumstances.
Do you think Wes still really cared for and loved Rebecca?
He’s definitely heartbroken over the idea that she lied to him, because she did never tell the whole story of that night. Part of him wonders if he still does know the whole story. He’s confused. The pure side of him wants to believe that she’s telling the truth, and she’s a wounded bird, and he needs to love her in order to heal her. The other’s scared. He’s caught in the middle still.
Can he come back from this? Or has he cracked completely?
He can come back from it. How that looks and who he turns into—to me, the conflict is: Can he stay the puppy? Can he want to see good in the world anymore, or is he just now totally scarred and cynical and turning more into Annalise? Has he seen too much?
Annalise yelled at him, “Be a man!” How does their relationship change moving forward?
It’s always going to be a rollercoaster ride. They’re tethered to each other in a very screwed up way, but they really need each other. Annalise is figuring it out whether she should be maternal to him or whether she should be a teacher or what that looks like. They’re both reacting to everything in the moment. When she’s yelling at him, she honestly means that, like “Be a man!” Then when she sees that Rebecca’s dead and realizes Wes is so broken, she feels like she needs to comfort him. She’s just like a parent figuring it out as she goes, how to handle him. But there’s still a lot of secrets between them that will rock them a lot more.
Annalise has been staying strong, likely because she’s determined to help these kids, but will she be able to take a breath again soon and realize how messed up her life has become?
When does she get to take a breath and be like, “Okay, everything in my life is going to be okay?” I don’t think soon. There are a lot of problems to be fixed, and she deals in the darkness. She chose a job where she’s representing the darkest parts of life, so that is life to her. She went to therapy, as someone pointed out, “Why do you dip your toe in the dark waters versus choosing a simple and happier life?” That’s just an interesting character flaw for her. She ultimately wants to make things OK, and she’s going work very hard to do that, and struggle with what that looks like.
After Annalise told ADA Emily Sinclair (Sarah Burns) a new story about Sam and Nate (Billy Brown) having a physical altercation—all so she could get Nate out of jail, surprisingly—the prosecutor showed up at Asher’s house to ask questions about Annalise. Why did she go to Asher in particular?
That’s a good question. Where did this prosecutor come from, and what does she know, and how did she end up at Asher’s? Annalise is really smart, but there’s a lot of other smart people that work on the other side of the courtroom. To me, what’s appealing about that character is that she seems kind of daffy on the outside, but clearly is maybe using that as a cover. To me, what I want people to think about her going to Asher is like, “Oh, they know. They’ve been watching these people and know things at a much deeper level than we’ve come to suspect at this point.”
When Nate called Annalise to meet, I was worried that he was recording her. Not true, right?
I won’t say either way.
Nate did call the phone number that Annalise had given him, so will whoever is on the other line play a big role next season?
I won’t say a big role, because I don’t know yet, but I hope it plays a very important role. Who is this person that Annalise knows that can help him? That’s really exciting to think about who that person is and how they know Annalise and if there’s any backstory there.
Do you have any dream casting?
I do, but I don’t want to say, because I don’t want it to be like one sex or the other. I just won’t want people to read into it. And it’s still such in its preliminary stages that it could change completely.
Could Annalise live with herself if Nate died because of her?
It would be very hard for her to keep going and also question what the hell she’s doing with her life and how did she end up here. But it would be very difficult for her to keep going.
Turning to the Keating Five, after Connor (Jack Falahee) and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) got tested, we learn that Oliver is HIV positive. How is this going to affect their relationship? And why did you decide to introduce this storyline?
I wanted to introduce the storyline because it felt very real to me, and I actually haven’t seen it dealt with on TV very recently. Especially in their age group, with people maybe not using condoms as much as they should, people end up HIV positive. Really it just felt real and important in a certain way, because I like visibility of certain things that we don’t see a lot. How it affects the relationship is going to be twisty and turny and hard. Whether they stay together or not, They’re really bonded, and Connor feels very grateful for how much Oliver’s helped him—even though Oliver doesn’t know it—through the post-murder stuff. Connor has a good heart and wants Oliver to be okay. Just watching him feel that distraught and scared at the end with the news that he’s positive, Connor needs to figure out what his role is in the relationship now.
Laurel (Karla Souza) actually had Michaela’s (Aja Naomi King) ring the whole time. When did you decide that was the answer to the missing ring? And how will the Keating Five feel about that since it is a betrayal of trust?
They’re all liars; they’ve all been lying to each other since the beginning. That’s what is fun to me. We had lots of options throughout the season. Like the audience, we would wonder where the freaking ring was. But when we were really writing the finale, that felt really interesting to me and really a perfect conclusion to Lauren’s arc. She’s much more mischievous and sinister and smart than anyone ever gives her credit for, and we’ve seen that now through the season. They’ve all lied, so this will definitely will cause some conflict between Michaela and Laurel, and that’s what I’m really excited to explore. They have a really interesting relationship that we haven’t so much, but I can’t wait to see how that affects them next year. Basically, I want to see what Michaela’s going to do in response.
Michaela has basically walked away from Aiden. Might we see someone new in her life next year? Or is Aiden still going to be in her world?
Both of those things can be true. Where we left Michaela, she’s really done with him, and she’s a changed person. Her bubble has been burst, so maybe she would have been happy married to him for a little bit, but ultimately she would have realized that she’s betraying who she really is to take on this kind of perfect, traditional lifestyle. She’s much more untraditional than she’s ever admitted to herself, and she’s darker, too. I definitely think there’s going to be more mess in her life next year, her personal life. I’m very excited about that, and so is Aja, about what that looks like.
Asher wanted to make sure Annalise didn’t find about him and Bonnie, and inadvertently told everyone.
That’s a big red flag. It’s definitely a big red flag from Bonnie. How is Annalise going to react to that with Bonnie, and is Bonnie going be able to justify, and is it going to burst the bubble of Asher and Bonnie? Are they going be able to actually stay together, especially now that he’s being questioned by the other side? There’s a lot of complications there.
Is this now a chip that Frank and the Keating Five can lord over them?
It’s funny to me, because it actually feels like such a small secret in comparison to the other secrets. All the characters are always thinking, “Is this something I could use to help myself later?” They’ve learned that from Annalise, to be strategic. If they have secret information, they might want to hold onto it until they can use it.
How do you feel about making it through the first season?
I feel relieved, and I feel excited that I really do see mysteries. I feel like we’re just starting to get to know these people and the web of intrigue between them all. I feel excited because I can see more than just the season. But mostly, I feel relieved because I’m really proud of the finale. I loved the last act. It’s fun and exciting, and it all feels like a good jumping-off point for next year.
Share your thoughts about the How to Get Away with Murder finale in the comments below.