Credit: Gilles Mingasson/ABC

In the wake of Wes shooting Annalise in the How to Get Away with Murder fall finale, the Keating Five we’ve come to know and love are very different when the show returns — as is their fearless leader, who we now know shared some sort of connection to Wes as a child.

After Annalise (Viola Davis) masterfully orchestrates a plan that would pin all their woes on Catherine Hapstall (Amy Okuda), she enlists one of the Keating Five to shoot her in the leg to really sell the frame-up job. When everyone refuses, Annalise reveals that Rebecca (Katie Findlay) is actually dead, sending Wes (Alfred Enoch) into a rage spiral where he shoots Annalise in the gut and nearly kills her until she whispers the name “Christophe.”

A flashback then reveals a young Wes, a.k.a Christophe, being questioned by the police about his mother’s apartment suicide, with Annalise and Eve (Famke Janssen) on the other side of the glass. What did they do to that poor boy who would go on to kill Sam (Tom Verica), shoot Annalise, and maybe even kill his own mother?

Below, we go in-depth with executive producer Pete Nowalk to find out what’s in store for Annalise and her Keating Five for the rest of season 2:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where does the midseason premiere pick up, and what tone does that set for the back half of the season?

PETE NOWALK: The first scene is immediately after we left off in the finale, with Annalise on the floor being shot. We go right back to that scene and we see the immediate aftermath of that moment. Most of the episode takes place two weeks later on the first day that Annalise gets home from the hospital. The goal for the back half of the season was really to answer the question of who is Wes to Annalise? Who is Christophe to her? What happened that led up to that Annalise moment that she had with Eve that we saw?

Very simply put, that’s our mystery for the back half of the season. Why did Wes’ mother die? Did she kill herself? Those are all the questions that Wes is now going to be asking, and Annalise, I guess, has the answers. In the midst of all that, Wes and Annalise, we left them in quite a mess, so it’s a little bit more complicated than him going to her and saying, “Tell me the truth.” That’s pretty much the main arc of our back half of the season. I think it ends in a very surprising way.

How is Annalise dealing in the wake of being shot?

She’s got a big mess to deal with and she’s really psychologically disturbed. It’s two weeks later, she’s been in the hospital, she’s outed a few big secrets about her life, so she is alone. She feels very alone, and she feels — you’ll see this in Viola’s performance — extremely different. It’s a much more weak Annalise, physically and emotionally, and that’s what makes the performance so riveting. She vulnerable, she’s raw, which allows for us to explore some backstory for her.

Would you say that the second half of the season is really about Annalise’s past coming back to haunt her?

Yes, I think that’s a great way to put it. Obviously we don’t know a lot about her past, but we’re going to be flashing back to 10 years ago and revealing a big part of her past. So we’ll see Sam again. We’ll see other characters from our show from 10 years ago. I don’t want to say who. It’s her past coming back to haunt her, but it’s also how you can’t ever run away from your past — like the scars that you have always show up again if you haven’t really let them heal properly. She has not healed properly.

What about her past with Eve is going to shed light on what’s happening — not just with the Christophe situation, but also who Annalise eventually became?

Well, 10 years ago, she was married to Sam, so Eve definitely plays a big part in the mystery of what happens with Christophe. But she’s left Eve at that point and been with Sam for a while and is married to Sam. We’re going to see what their relationship was like 10 years ago when the pain was more raw. Annalise left Eve and then took up with Sam. We’re going to see how they’re both coping then, which is kind of fun because we’ve seen them heal 10 years after that. I like that we’re telling the story a little bit out of order.

What’s fascinating in that final scene is that Eve says something to the effect of, “What did we do?” That seems like a shared blame, but given how fresh that wound is, will there be some blaming each other?

I can’t really speak to it that much because the “What did we do?” definitely is a shared blame. I can’t reveal much, because we catch up to the “What did we do?” moment in the back half of the season, but we also go past it. Once you see all the story put together, you’ll see that it’s almost like the wounds within their relationship pale in comparison to what happens. They have to put their personal problems aside because other bigger, much more serious things happen.

Christophe, as a child, seems off. Albeit, his mother has just died before this scene, but what can you tease of how different he is from the Wes that we know today?

We’re going to see him before his mother died, and we’re going to see what their relationship was like. To me, it’s the sadness of what happens when your life gets hijacked by a tragedy. We all start hopefully whole and with all this potential, and then you get to see when something terrible happens how it can really change a person. That’s what we’ll see. The Wes we met in the pilot has been coping with this his whole life and really working hard to put away the tragedies that have happened to him, just like Annalise has been working really hard to put away the tragedies. Can you do that? I think what you said, the past always coming back to haunt you, is why they are so bonded because they both have these really dark pasts.

Did you know from the very beginning that they were going to be connected in this way?

No. I know I should say yes. [Laughs] You write a pilot and you think you know mostly what happens, and then you have to keep coming up with a story. Really the actors play things in such a way that you’re like, “There has to be more!” Or things that you thought made sense at the beginning start to not make sense. You have to twist and turn with your storyline. What makes the job fun for me is maybe my subconscious knew things, but I didn’t create every little twist and turn in my head when I wrote that pilot. I just think I wanted to setup chess pieces that you could move around.

Will Annalise actually be forthcoming with Wes about his past?

I don’t want to say, because that’s a big question for Wes in the first episode, and we’ll get an answer by the end. Clearly, there’s a reason why Annalise hasn’t told him to this point. She only told him when she thought her life was at risk. Annalise is never just going to tell people what they want to know unless there’s a reason. It’s not as simple as her sitting down and telling a new story.

How much will we actually be seeing flashbacks to what happened in the past? And does that serve as your new Murder Night?

Yeah, I guess you could put it that way. We’re going to be telling the story of what happened to Wes’ mother over the back six episodes, so we’ll see flashbacks in each of those episodes. We’re just trying to change the form as much as we can, and it’s really fun to see some of the characters 10 years ago. It’s definitely the story trajectory of our season.

Will we get to meet Wes’ mother?

We’ll meet Wes’ mother, because that’s the murder mystery we’re trying to solve. We will see Wes’ mother, and Christophe and Wes’ mother together. Her name is Rose (Kelsey Scott). We’ll get to know a lot more about her. His mother, all we know is that she was from Haiti. We’ll find out more what type of person she was.

Is it safe to say that Annalise has some sort of connection to Rose?

All I’ll say is she obviously has a connection to Christophe, and part of the fun of the back six is figuring out if that also means Rose. You’ll get your answers to that question in the first episode.

In the present, Annalise has set up this whole elaborate plane to cover up what happened at the Hapstall mansion. Will it actually work?

It’s kind of working when we meet them because it’s two weeks later. Catherine is actually being charged for shooting Annalise and for the murder of Sinclair. Obviously, it’s a very complicated plan and there’s a lot that can go wrong. We can’t just sweep it under the rug in one fell swoop in one episode. So it’s a long-term plan basically. It’s starting to work, and we’ll see how that plays out also in the rest of the season, [and whether they] get away with these murders.

Now that Wes knows that Rebecca is dead, what can you say of that tension of him finding out that Bonnie (Liza Weil) was the one that actually killed her?

Wes is dealing with really two problems: One is he found out that Rebecca’s dead, and then [the other is that] Annalise said his childhood name, which blows his whole life up. Everything he thought he knew about his life is not the same anymore, so he’s dealing with both of those things. Annalise said Rebecca’s dead, and there’s a question of, “Why did she say that, and is that true?” In the first episode, you’ll see where his head is at with the Rebecca of it all and whether the other stuff takes precedence.

In the wake of killing Sam and shooting Annalise, has Wes been irrevocably changed?

I think completely. Like Annalise is traumatized in the first episode, we’ll see that Wes is completely traumatized too. I think the only thing that actually makes him want to move on is to find out answers, but they’re both bonded in their complete, disturbed, psychological state. I don’t think either of them knows whether it’s something they can recover from or even if they want to recover from it.

Let’s get into the Keating Five, starting with Michaela (Aja Naomi King), who was last seen with Caleb (Kendrick Sampson).

We’re going to see the rest of the scene when she walked into the apartment and Caleb’s there waiting for her. We’re going to see how she handles that. What’s hard for Michaela is that she has to play a double agent and keep up the story with Caleb. She’s kind of his person. He’s trusted her more than Annalise and more than the rest of them, so she’s really put in this very tough position where she has to step up and sort of act like Annalise. She’s really good at that, but we’ll see that it also weighs on her very heavily. I don’t know if she likes the person she’s becoming.

How is Asher (Matt McGorry) dealing with killing Sinclair (Sarah Burns), especially since a flash forward showed him going to the police?

We’ll also, in our first episode, go back to that moment and show what happened there. He is trying to cover up his pain. Asher is very young emotionally and has never dealt with something this heavy, so he’s really leaning on everyone else to tell him how does he do this? How does he cope with being a murderer? Rather than deal with his feelings — because he’s putting them somewhere else, as a lot of us do — he’s burying the feelings in both an investigation for himself and also with some liquor. We’re going to see a much more serious, heavy side of Asher, but I think he still resembles himself. We’ll see who he has to lean on.

At the same time, does that make him a loose cannon?

For sure. The other students — and one in particular, I don’t want to say who — really sees that and really wants to take care of him. The question is, are they doing it out of selfishness or are they doing to because they care for him, also relate to him and feel bad that he’s now going through this for the first time?

How does this change Asher and Bonnie’s relationship? Will she consider telling him about Rebecca because then they can relate?

Bonnie and Asher are so complicated, because before murder night they were over and she couldn’t see him the same anymore once she found out about his thing with Tiffany back in the day. That was very important for us and the writers and the actors to not let that go. So it’s not like everything’s normal with them and they’re going to be back to normal. It’s a lot more complicated than that. That’s why he might have to lean on someone else to get his comfort. I don’t think Bonnie is going to be that forthcoming with wanting to be his girlfriend again.

What is Connor (Jack Falahee) dealing with in the back half?

Connor is obviously still with Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), and he is in every episode. They have a lot to deal with because Connor has a lot of secrets to keep from Oliver at the same time that he wants to get closer with him. We’re going to see a softer side of Connor, someone who is still so angry that he’s been put in this position, but knowing there’s not really an escape for him. He copes in a way that’s opposite of how he would before. He’s a cut-and-run type of person. Now he’s more trying to look out for the group; trying to kind of be a leader.

What about Laurel (Karla Souza)?

Laurel is in quite a complicated state. She was the only one in the room with Wes when he shot Annalise and witnessed the things that put her in the middle of Wes and Annalise. She’s also involved with Frank (Charlie Weber), and she’s basically torn between all these alliances and who does she protect and who does she trust and can she handle it all is the question. There’s some big bomb drops for her that happen throughout the back of the season. Big.

Does that have to do with her family?

You know, I will say this, we’re not going to get too much into what happened with her family. I think we’ll expose little things about why Laurel is who she is, why she’s seemingly so calm and mature in the face of these crazy, chaotic murder situations. But we’re not going to see more of her family just because we really wanted to focus on Wes and Annalise’s backstory. We didn’t have time to also focus on hers.

Annalise does seem to know about Laurel’s past. Will that bond them in a way?

What’s clear to me is Annalise does know about her father, her past, and things that have happened to her. It’s like this unspoken understanding that Annalise knows that as well. I think it basically makes sense why Annalise is choosing Laurel to be her new Bonnie. It makes sense why she picked her in the first place to be part of the Keating Five. It makes sense why Frank targeted her as someone he was interested in and really could perhaps fall in love with. It’s all there, it’s just we, the audience, don’t know exactly what that means. It’s breadcrumbs that we will use the series to reveal more of.

If Laurel is becoming the new Bonnie, what does that mean for Bonnie and Annalise’s relationship?

It is very complicated because Bonnie and Annalise have been through things that are huge, bond them for life and allow them to have these fights where they say, “I hope you die.” It’s whether the newness of the Laurel relationship can ever really transcend what Bonnie and Annalise have together. We’ve only started to understand how they are bonded. In the first episode back, we’re going to see a lot between Bonnie and Annalise and also understand that Bonnie gets Annalise in a way nobody else does.

To talk about the Keating Five as a whole, will the guilt start to weigh on them? How long can you feasibly keep the Keating Five together before somebody says, “This is crazy, you people are crazy, I am dropping out of law school!”?

That’s something we’re playing with. Obviously, with our show, they’re in extreme situations, and there’s a groupthink that happens where you only feel safe around these other people, and you can only relate to these other people. That’s always the question: Is one of them going to crack? And that’s multiple things to me; that’s like, “I’m quitting law school, but I’m quitting life.” It goes deeper and darker than just what their everyday life is going to look like. For the rest of the season, they are so in the midst of this crazy, heightened actual physical danger. Phillip (Jefferson White) is still out there, so they don’t have time to think about what they want their lives to look like and if they want to keep living honestly.

Will we finally get to see more of Frank’s backstory and what favor he owed Sam that he’d need to kill Lila (Megan West) for him?

Yes. That was always a goal and something we knew we had to answer by the end of the season. Why did Sam have Frank kill Lila? We will be answering that in a way that kind of links a lot of our storylines. We’ll see exactly what that favor is and where it comes from by the last episode.

What’s going to surprise us about Frank’s past? We’ve already seen him do some pretty gruesome things.

He wasn’t always this professional criminal. What will be fun is to see him be more boyish and more innocent — he’s sloppier. Charlie Weber does such a good job in showing, in a very subtle way, what a boy Frank used to be.

Can you talk about any of the new characters that are coming in?

We have this new family, the Mahoneys [played by Adam Arkin, Roxanne Hart, and Wilson Bethel]. There’s a murder case that they play a very pivotal part. They will appear over the back six of the series, and they’re an investment banker, rich family who play a big part in Annalise’s life.

Will we find out who killed the Hapstall parents?

Yes, we will. Don’t like to keep our mysteries going too far along, but that’s obviously the first. Right now, the world thinks that Phillip did it and maybe Catherine was involved in some way. So we’ll reveal whether that’s true. If that is true, how does that affect that family? How does that affect Catherine? How does that affect Caleb? Where the hell is Phillip?

How to Get Away with Murder returns Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

Episode Recaps

How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis stars as a law professor where she teaches, wait for it, how to get away with murder.

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