Let it never be said that How to Get Away with Murder doesn’t know how to go out with a bang. In the final season premiere episode, the notoriously murderous drama actually might have managed to kill off the one character we thought would be safe forever!
While the Keating Four dealt with the looming dread of the FBI’s investigation and the murder of Emmett Crawford (Timothy Hutton) — not to mention Laurel (Karla Souza) and Christopher’s disappearance — Annalise (Viola Davis) decided to hit pause on her crazy life and book herself into rehab. After falling off the wagon hard last season, it felt like the perfect place for her to escape to, and for a minute it felt like the perfect way to avoid that ominous casket we saw in the Season 6 trailer. After all, it was only a therapy visualization exercise that made Annalise imagine her own funeral, right?
Eh, things might not be that simple.
TV Guide spoke with showrunner Pete Nowalk about whether that final funeral scene was real or imagined, where in the world is Laurel Castillo, and how he plans to wrap up all these mysteries in the remaining 14 episodes of Season 6.
So to clear it up completely is the final scene with Annalise’s funeral a real flash-forward or is it still her imagination?
Pete Nowalk: I don’t want to answer too much because obviously we started with something that was in her imagination, so I don’t really want to speak to that scene too much in general. But I also don’t like to fake the audience out. I’ll say that.
Why did you guys decide to put her through that rehab journey in this premiere to really let her face some of those demons?
Nowalk: I think it was knowing it’s the last season and seeing the Annalise has relapsed a few times and kind of keeps making the same mistake, which to me is what I do in my life. But I think it was, we just wanted to give her some space away from the other characters. And that’s really what the journey is of the show for her. Does she choose herself or is that, is choosing herself, the thing that hurts her all the time? Does she need these other people? We just felt like the therapy and the rehab would really allow her to think about these bigger questions and set them up for the season. Because she’s going to be constantly forced to make that decision. Does she save herself or does she help others?
As great as it was to watch her be honest and confide in her roommate, should we be worried that she confided some pretty major secrets in a stranger?
Nowalk: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think that was a very “f— it” moment for Annalise, who never really said that to anyone before, but never to a stranger. But I get why she needed to.
How long will we have to wait to start getting answers about what happened to Laurel?
Nowalk: Frank (Charlie Weber) still holds a torch for Laurel, whether that’s healthy or not, as do the other characters. So we’ll be getting answers about her whereabouts along the way, and hopefully, we’ll eventually get the final answer of where she is.
I thought it was interesting to see who believes she’s run off and who believes something terrible has happened to her. Why do you think certain people fell on either side of that fence?
Nowalk: I think that speaks to who the characters are. If they’re a romantic, in a way, or if they’re just like, “Everyone’s terrible and will turn on you.” And I think Laurel has obviously done some sketchy things in the past. I think now that she has a child, they all probably understand why she would need to run away sooner. And then there’s other people who say she would never do that. I think Frank and Michaela (Aja Naomi King), maybe Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), believe in Laurel’s innocence more.
Speaking of poor Frank, it was sort of a blow for him to realize that Laurel didn’t ask him to be Christopher’s guardian. How much does that affect what he did or didn’t believe to be true about their relationship?
Nowalk: I think Frank has gotten burned by Laurel many times, and so this might be one of the final nails in the coffin for him. I don’t think he can give her up that easy. Love doesn’t work that way, feelings don’t work that way. But I do think there’s a lot of evidence for him that she doesn’t feel necessarily the same way that he’s felt this whole time.
He did find that key, so is that going to be a little beacon of hope for him to believe that there’s something more going on here if he can just figure it out?
Nowalk: Yeah. I think the key, he’s going to– We’ll find out in the next week what that is and where it leads. Whether that’s to a good place for him or a bad place for him, that’s what you’ll find out next week.
Shifting focus to Emmett’s death, poor guy, are we still looking at the governor for that? There were some suggestions that Tegan (Amirah Vann) might be involved somehow.
Nowalk: Yeah, I think that’s the right question to be asking. I think Annalise and Tegan have been saying that was the governor with Xavier’s (Gerardo Celasco) help, who did that. But I think Nate is going to be the one that’s really on that suspicious track of Tegan, and trying to solve that murder. And until we show you it and actually give you the answer, anyone’s up for grabs.
Gabriel (Rome Flynn) and Michaela also took a big step forward with their relationship. How much of a future do we see for these two?
Nowalk: The bond between them is they both have had crappy parents and definitely they’re bonded over the fact they, neither knew their father. And in fact, Gabriel has made Michaela or influenced her to go down the search for her father, which we’re going to be diving into a lot this season. And we’ll be getting answers very quickly about who her father is. So I think they’re bonded on a deep level about that. At the same time, you know, Michaela pushed his father over the stairs, so how close can she really get with him, and is this a doomed relationship? And then the bigger question for me is, why does Michaela do this to herself? She’s so capable in so many ways, and then she puts herself in sort of bad positions in her romantic life.
Gabriel’s mother has finally arrived but is she here to raise some hell?
Nowalk: We’re going to find out a lot about why she’s here. I do want to remind everyone that last season she was called by an FBI agent. That’s how she was alerted to where Gabriel has been all this time and that he’s been lying to her. So yeah, she’s here to raise hell. Marsha Stephanie Blake who plays her is amazing at raising hell. She surprises me, and I think she’s going to surprise the audience. She’s, right now, a very big threat.
I love that Connor (Jack Falahee) now feels like he’s the only one without answers about why Annalise hired him. Are we going to find out definitively that there was a reason why she chose each of the Keating 5?
Nowalk: Yes, I think that’s one of the things that we want to answer for sure. Connor’s not going to let it go, and he’s going to dig, dig, dig to get some answers, and then maybe have to get some more answers like Michaela. But I don’t want to end the show not understanding that.
Given that it is the final season, can we expect some nice callbacks to be sprinkled in here and there?
Nowalk: I think so. I want the whole show to come full circle. Obviously they’ve done a lot in the six seasons, but I do want to wrap it up in a way that it kind of all comes to a head in real life. So many of these things are unsolved or they’ve lied about it or blamed it on other people, and what we do want is for it all to come to a head. And yeah, I would love to see some characters from the first season and second season as they’re finally maybe having to face the music.
How much have you already figured out about where you want these characters to end up and who gets a happy or unhappy ending?
Nowalk: I think over the hiatus I knew how I wanted to end the show for some people and that’s why I pushed at least to get the answer one way or another so I could tell this story. Because I’m really actually excited about it. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever known what I want for the ending, which is hard because I have a lot more to write before we get there. There’s some people, some characters that are still figuring it out. I think, like the characters, I don’t know what they’re going to do in certain situations until they get there. I’m open to changing my mind about the ones who I have decided will get sad endings or happy endings, but I don’t think it’s always going to be fair. I want it to be surprising and not just because nothing in our world really is.
How to Get Away with Murder airs Thursdays 10/9c on ABC.