"I would watch it very closely, which seems obvious. I know our show moves fast and sometimes things can get twisted around, and I would say we raised the bar on that one," he tells TVGuide.com. "Stay ahead of the story. I would watch it knowing we're trying to trick you. Try to figure it out as we go. I've seen it a bunch of times just in editing and it's quite a strange puzzle. It feels really fresh and new."
The episode will finally reveal #WhoShotAnnalise, who made prosecutor Sinclair (Sarah Burns) become pavement meat and set up a new mystery of sorts for the remaining six episodes of the season when it returns Feb. 11. What else can you expect? Nowalk gives us the scoop.
1. So, who shot Annalise (Viola Davis)? We can't spoil that, silly, but Nowalk does share that he did not know who the shooter would be when he first conceived of the story line. "We kind of decided at the last minute. We kept adding to it. Some of that is because it's very right now and it's so much more interesting than what we could've come up with then. We had the target in sight, but we added a lot more to it," he says. The person it wound up being, though, did not surprise him. "I think I was more surprised about the why, not the who. I think most people will be too. You'll definitely see the why."
The shooter, of course, is not necessarily the same one who kills Sinclair. "I can't say one way or the other, but I will say that there are a lot of twists and turns in the way the episode unfolds," Nowalk says. "It's a very specifically designed roller coaster. We try to pace out things so that the shocks and the events are distributed over time and not all at once. I really think all six acts are equally exciting and equally high stakes. It feels different from how we did it last year. It feels like a completely original structure for us."
2. Seriously, pay attention 'til the very end: Last year's winter finale revealed that Annalise was in the room when Wes (Alfred Enoch) came back for Sam's body. This year's will tease a "story line people are really dying to know more about," according to Nowalk. "Or at least I am. I don't think anyone will predict what [the cliff-hanger] is. It really is about character."
Might that have anything to do with that vague "It's him" exchange Annalise and Eve (Famke Janssen) had about Wes a few weeks ago? "That's a story line that we'll delve into more eventually," Nowalk says. "They're such an important relationship on the show and I want to give people more answers to that."
3. Are Catherine (Amy Okuda) and Philip (Jefferson White) a Bonnie and Clyde situation? We now know the two are in cahoots — and possibly killed the Hapstalls — but is there more to their relationship? "The Bonnie and Clyde thing is totally the question our characters are asking," Nowalk says. "Obviously now they know one of Catherine's paintings was in Philip's place. That's one of the things they're investigating and that will perhaps lead to some of the terrible murder that happens."
Even though Catherine and Philip look the most guilty right now, that doesn't mean Caleb (Kendrick Sampson) is totally in the clear. After all, if he found that revolver in the vent in Catherine's painting room a week ago, why did he wait so long to say something? "That's a really good question," Nowalk says. "Early on in the episode, you'll get answers to that."
4. Bonnie's back: If you missed Bonnie (Liza Weil) last week (or missed her brief scene cowering in the shower altogether), you're in luck. She's back with a new, uncharacteristically take-charge 'tude, which we've gotten a peek at in the flash-forwards. "It is quite a difference from what we've seen recently of her crying and yelling at Annalise, but it will become very clear why she's acting in such an authoritative mode and why she's bossing those kids around in that moment," Nowalk says. "There's definitely motivation for that. She's got some tricks up her sleeve. The big questions are when is she going to show up in the finale and why."
With the anger and resentment Bonnie feels toward Annalise for telling Asher (Matt McGorry) about the sexual abuse she endured as a child, not to mention killing Rebecca (Katie Findlay), she seems like an obvious candidate for the shooter. But perhaps her anger will manifest in a different way. "Bonnie hangs on those traumas and anger more, but she's trying to move past that," Nowalk says. "I think you'll get a lot more of an answer to the state of [her relationship with Annalise] in the episode. There might be even higher stakes that put that in a new perspective for Bonnie. I get both of their points of view. Annalise feels like she's done so much for Bonnie, some of those things that she's only hinted at, so Bonnie should understand why that was a practical solution to a problem. At the same time, she didn't tell Bonnie she was doing it, so Bonnie's hurt by it. It's like, 'Out of everyone who was going to share that secret, you, who have been abused, should know better. Why choose to hurt me that way?'"
5. Asher's statement: The furthest we've seen Asher on Murder Night was when he ditched Bonnie in their getaway car to go to the police station to make a statement. So will we see him make that statement? "I won't comment specifically on that, but one thing that's different from last year... is there's still going to be questions about the flash-forwards," Nowalk says. "Last year, we tied them all up and you saw everything. I felt like it would be boring if we told the story in exactly the same way, so certain things are going to be up in the air when we come back."
6. Remember Rebecca and Levi? It's been a while since anyone's mentioned anything about them, but Nowalk hasn't forgotten about them. "I think part of what I always want to do with the show is secrets go away for a while and they bubble back up at certain times or maybe they go away forever. That's why bodies get buried. They can never be found or stumbled upon. I never want to make the show that we forget about what happened. It's fair to say that Rebecca is still a big question mark for a lot of the characters."
7. You might have to start worrying about Oliver again: We all breathed a collective sigh of relief to when Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) was revealed to be safe and sound last week. But that doesn't mean he will be on Murder Night. "There's a question of where Oliver is Murder Night. We haven't seen him yet," Nowalk ominously teases. "I'm glad people were so nervous for him because that means they love him as much as I do."
How to Get Away with Murder airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC. Watch a sneak peek below.