Post Mortems

HTGAWM EP on 'Shooting Night' Theories, Annalise/Wes Flirtation, Asher's Secret ('It's Bad')

How to Get Away With Murder fans, fret not: Showrunner Pete Nowalk promises he’ll avoid the sophomore-season pitfalls of another popular mystery series, HBO’s True Detective.

In other words, when it comes to Season 2’s central mysteries — Who shot Annalise Keating? And who killed the ADA prosecuting murder suspects Caleb and Catherine Hapstall? — you won’t be scratching your head asking “Who? How? Whaaa?” when the guilty parties are revealed.

“Honestly, I’d rather not surprise people and do something real, than surprise them and do something fake,” Nowalk says of the HTGAWM writing team’s philosophy. “I’m sure we’re going to make mistakes along the way — but you just have to say ‘Does this feel satisfying to me? Does this feel real to the characters?'”

In fact, Nowalk recalls that when the idea was floated of ending Season 1’s “Who killed Lila?” story arc by revealing the killer was some minor character who was only tangentially related to the action, he promptly nixed it: “I thought, ‘No, that would just annoy me if I was the viewer. I’d be throwing my remote at the TV.'”

TVLine caught up with Nowalk to break down the action from Thursday night’s hour — “It’s Called the Octopus” — and to tease some what’s in store in the coming weeks for Annalise and Wes, Asher and that doomed DA.

TVLINE | I loved the parallel scenes in Thursday’s episode: Annalise and Wes on opposite sides of her door, and then later, Nate and Annalise on opposite sides of his door. In both instances, I felt like it could’ve easily ended in sex. Did you write that parallel construct into the script? Or was that a choice your director made?
We did write that into the script. We stumbled upon the second one honestly. The initial one with Wes and Annalise was always there. Right now, Wes and Annalise are in the same boat, they’re both alone. They’re not two people who can just hang out. It’s an odd relationship. So [putting them on opposite sides of the door] felt very natural. And when we were writing the scene with Nate, we were thinking, “He can’t let her inside after everything she’s done to him!” [Laughs] I’m glad you noticed. Our director John Terlesky — he did an amazing job — it was very fun to watch for the first time.

TVLINE | We’ve talked about this before, but the Wes-Annalise dynamic — it’s maternal, it’s sexual, it’s mentor-mentee — sometimes all at once. Are you headed into something romantic with them?
I don’t want to say one way or the other, because it’s really open to interpretation. Some people might look at that and see two very lonely, vulnerable people who need someone in their lives. And neither of them can reach out to the other. Some people might see sex in that moment. It can be all those things, and the characters are probably feeling different things in different moments. I don’t think any relationship can be pigeonholed into one thing. It’s a mentor-mentee — and it’s messy, especially given everything they’ve been through and the secrets they know about each other. It could go in any direction.

TVLINE | I did not see it coming when you pulled back from Nate’s door — and there was Wes. It’s clear they’re in cahoots in some way, but are we going to see a lot of interaction with them going forward or was this more of a one-off?
I don’t want to give it all away — but Wes is riding shotgun in [Nate’s] cop car in the flash forward. So, clearly their relationship goes beyond one night. It makes sense to me why Wes would go to Nate, of all people, to help find out if Annalise had anything to do with Rebecca going missing or dying. Who would would have more reason to look into Annalise than Nate? Wes hears Eggs911’s theory and then goes to Nate’s apartment. Wes is trying to use Nate to find out something Wes wants to know.

TVLINE | Wes is sometimes hard to get a read on.
A lot of the show, to me, is ‘Don’t underestimate people.” When Wes started law school he was more of a puppy — he has a dark past, a lonely past. That can come back and raise its ugly head in him sometimes, and make him distrustful of people. You can ask that about everyone on the show: Are they doing things for selfish reasons or good ones? It can be both. But Wes really wants to know the truth.

TVLINE | Does he think Rebecca is dead?
When Levi, or Eggs911, tells him, “I think Rebecca’s dead — and here’s why,” that hits home for Wes in a way that feels real. His gut is telling him that’s true.

TVLINE | I know you can’t spill what the heck is going on in the flash-forwards, but as we get flashes of Annalise with the bullet wound, Emily Sinclair at the bottom of the stairs, what should conspiracy-theorist, mystery-obsessed fans be looking for or thinking about?
Oh man! Obviously, I love when people come up with theories — and we are right now writing the episode where we reveal what happened that night. I’ll say this: If someone guesses it, I will hire them to come work in our writer’s room! [Laughs] Because it’s not easy. We like writing ourselves into a corner and figuring it out later. Who knows if we’ll be successful? But that’s half the fun. If you’re into the puzzle and love trying to figure it out — I don’t even know how you’re supposed to watch the flash-forwards. Let them wash over you, and know that you’re going to get an answer soon. You can try to figure it out, but it’s our job to make sure that you can’t.

JACK FALAHEE, AJA NAOMI KING, KARLA SOUZATVLINE | When you start the season, do you have an exact picture of X killed Y, Y killed Z? Or do you figure out these answers in the writer’s room as the season progresses?
It’s a combination of both. I didn’t even know I wanted to do flash-forwards — and our writers smartly said, “Let’s do them again.” They’re a big part of our show’s fabric.

We started [Season 2] with an image of Annalise bleeding out in that mansion. And we’ve been growing it from there in each episode. You only have to write one scene for the premiere, and I was like, “We can just change it later!” And then finally we shot it, and I said, “We sort of have to figure out what we’re doing!” [Laughs] Even yesterday, [the writers] discovered something we didn’t know about that night. Sometimes you kick yourself for having [previously] shot a certain thing — “Oh well, I guess now we have to make that work” — but that’s the process. We cross our fingers, close our eyes and jump. I wish I was a David Simon or some amazing writer who could say, “I know everything going in!”

TVLINE | I have to ask, were you a fan of Sarah Burns (who plays ill-fated prosecutor Emily Sinclair) when she was on Enlightened?
Exactly! I loved her on that show — and I loved that show so much! We didn’t audition Sarah for this role, because it was [initially] just for the finale last year. I didn’t know how much we’d use her this year or if she’d even been available. I didn’t know how much she could play the antagonist, but she’s really talented. I feel lucky that we randomly cast her.

SARAH BURNSTVLINE | I’m assuming she’s dead at the bottom of the staircase in the flash-forward. Her eyes almost look gouged out — or is that just what happened when her head hit the ground?
I’m not gonna answer that. I like the theories, and who knows, maybe one will give me an idea? But no, it doesn’t look like she’s in very good shape at the bottom of the stairs. You’ll find out more and more as we dig into the story.

TVLINE | Did you ever worry if it was too soon to reveal her death — or debate holding that reveal ’til later in the season?
We debated it a few times. But once I like an idea, I like to just stick with it. Why is it too soon? What does that even mean? I figured, “This will make us really invest in and pay attention to this character.” Otherwise she’s just a random prosecutor.

TVLINE | Annalise’s “Why did they do it?” What can you tease about that line?
Why did she get shot? And why did the Hapstall twins theoretically kill their patents. It works on both levels.

TVLINE | Do you at this very moment know who shot Annalise and who killed Sinclair?
Well, right now, yes we do. It could always change. We have to write a script and it has to be shot. Check back with me once it airs and I’ll tell you! [Laughs]

MATT MCGORRYTVLINE | Let’s touch on Asher’s secret — which Emily is using to manipulate him into being a mole. How bad is Trotter Lake?
It’s bad. [Sighs] It’s really bad. It’s bad.

TVLINE | Is Asher responsible for whatever the bad act is?
It’s complicated. It will provoke a lot of discussion.

TVLINE | Any big guest stars coming up in the next few months?
Famke Janssen will be coming back. Annalise and Eve obviously have a really deep relationship. I’d feel bad if they never saw each other again!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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18 Comments
  1. Angela says:

    Okay, now I’m REALLY feeling scared about Asher’s story with Trotter Lake. Hm. Wow. Very ominous wording there. Will certainly give a whole new dimension to his up to now generally goofy character, that’s for sure.
    I agree with him on it not being “too soon” to show Sinclair in the state she’s in in that flash forward. I think he’s right that it adds to the interest in her character-as irritating and scheming as she is, I’m genuinely wanting to know what happened to her, and what she may or may not have done to tick someone off enough to have her end up that way.
    Yay for Eve coming back, too. And I’m glad he addressed the confusion of the Wes/Annalise dynamic. Whether they do get together or not, there’s definitely some issues they need to sort out with each other.
    And I’ll be really interested to see how far Wes will go to learn about what happened to Rebecca. I definitely got the sense that he was believing Levi’s comment about her being dead, and it won’t surprise me to see him getting more and more intense as he continues to get more information that confirms that fact. Should get very crazy, for sure.
    Good interview! I like that he does understand the viewer perspective of wanting some answers, and logical ones at that. I trust the writers to sort out this mystery, and I look forward to seeing where it’ll go next.

  2. abz says:

    Love the show, but his nonchalant attitude towards writing without a plan makes me nervous. It’s one thing to figure out all of the little details as you go along, but at least have an idea of the major plot points going in. How are you going to write that your lead character is shot and left for dead on the floor in a mansion without an idea of who shot her and a possible reason why.

    • Lisa says:

      Agreed. Thats not something a tv viewer wants to read from a showrunner. Every good show should have a general plan for an endgame for the shows central storylines and characters. At least in my opinion

    • Mimi says:

      He’s lying and he just doesn’t want to give to much info. He is trying to make it as though Annalise and Wes have sexually tension, but I think she’s his bio mom.

  3. Jax&Juice's Girl says:

    Asher being a ”mole” is dangerous on his part if Annalise finds out…………………
    The ending of the flash forward was a surprise I really thought Nate was the one who shot Annalise and Eve @ the siblings’ house. Overall this is going to get even more CRAZY and somewhat complicated!

  4. Tobi says:

    I have a bad feeling that Asher’s secret regarding that girl is going to end up being sexual assault related. I don’t see him being the one who did it, but maybe he was with a group of his rich boy A hole buddies & it was a gang rape type situation where maybe he watched & did nothing.

  5. b says:

    I love this show!! I hope Bonny doesnt die or go to Jail! I love her as Paris and I hope she stays with the series for it’s entire run like she did Gilmore Girls

  6. b says:

    HTGAWM has avoided the dreaded sophmore slump I think the writers, lead by the brilliant Johnathan from Sunnydale California ;)

  7. RAB says:

    I have a feeling Trotter Lake involves a suiside. I think Asher is trying to hard to be happy, to forget. Someone mentioned a sexual assault story line revolving it and that seems easily possible to but Asher has an almost innocence to him and I wouldn’t like him to tern out to have had a direct hand in a terrible crime. Rather self-guilt or tabloid humiliation worthy.

  8. My mind is running wild about what happens next so my I apologize if my comments aren’t really organized by way of sequence however if you watch HTGAWM then you will no doubt follow along with ease and perhaps we can collaborate as a whole and take the challenge above on showing we can and did figure out what they are going to write about before they do.

    First off I love how all the different characters are entangling with others, especially the ones that are just entering the show. When I saw Annalise talking into her recorder I was instantly excited. Mostly because I myself do that whenever I am in a tricky situation, one thing I have and always will remember from my former mentor is “I have better make sure I never allow myself to be caught off guard to a question in which I have no immediate answer. And most importantly if I pause or hesitate in my answer I best make the most of this error by ensuring with every ounce of my reputation I do or hope to achieve, make everyone think it is my intention to do such. Allow my personality to shine, gain their trust, make them think I am there to properly explain and not just blurt out words that can easily be misunderstood” Speak your mind BUT mind your speech is one thing I will never forget.

  9. Considering the ending when Asher’s father asks “did your mother send you”? Leaving Asher (who I am indifferent about, haven’t really formed a fond opinion of thus far) telling him he is in trouble and needs help. Showing the picture immediately allows us to put into context the DA, Annalise, himself and the two women we know are in serious need of medical attention and/or a coroner.

    How about Nate and Wes? It looks as though there is deceit in the works against Annalise, However, not so much as I consider the beginning of the last episode. Nate is frantically calling her while she is desperately trying to grab her phone with her blood soaked hands which assist only in pushing it a little more out of her grasp. However, the ending had him driving with the members of her group and showing the last time they were together was running from her house as they see Annalise on the ground dying.

    Her clients.The incestuous relationship of the dear step siblings is a matter that was addressed and then RE addressed by the step brother, then revealed the old lady of the house released the photograph and knew they had to have done the murders was left hanging. Asking herself “why” they would do it, has to be the hardest thing any of the lawyers among this show can ask, because if anyone were to ask “how Annalise could go to such treacherous lengths to keep with her reputation of never losing a case, as to accuse an innocent wife who’s husband died of a heart attack under his lover who is on trial for his murder, and is in fact guilty of such, takes the situation and in complete irony switches the tables a complete 360…Literally without changing a detail of the truth just reverses the culprit.

  10. Jean says:

    I think before it’s over with everyone of them will have killed someone and gotten away with murder. So far, we have 3 murderers: Frank killed Lila; Wes killed Sam and Bonnie killed Rebecca. Love this show!!!

  11. ify says:

    I still think Annalise is Wes mother. Despite all the touching, when she looks at him all i see is adoration. Why it looks sexual to people is because they don’t know if they’re related. Annalise hooking up with her student is low, even for her. I don’t think she’ll stoop that low.

  12. Ify says:

    i think Rebecca feared thesame thing , thats why she never completely trusted Wes. I mean Annalise took her case even though she hated her guts. She framed her lover and turned against her own huaband. That can’t just be because of some sexual interest in a student(infact that interest would have died the minute she finds out he killed her husband. There’s the resentment she showed towards connor which she never showed to the real killer, Wes.) or her trying to protect the students out of the kindness of her heart(lets face it, she’s not the most humane person. She lets Bonnie get away with killing Rebecca because Bonnie knows about Wes, and because she still needs her) despite him being a cheat and a killer, we know Annalise loved Sam and would never have left him(despite the fight). I have a feeling that if Wes wasn’t inthe middle all the mess, the others would definitely be in jail.

  13. Tralonda says:

    I personally think that Wes is actually Annalise’s son n she gave him up for adoption, and that’s why she won’t let anything happen to him. I think Bonnie killed Sinclair. I also think the Chinese girl n Phillip killed the parents. Also I think Wes may be the one who shot Annalise but I’m not sure.