It's finally time to get some answers out of How to Get Away with Murder!
Season 5 of ABC's most murderous series returns from its midseason hiatus this week, and it's gearing up to explain all the cliffhangers we were left with in the winter finale. In case you forgot, Annalise (Viola Davis) was blindsided by the revelation that Gabriel Maddox (Rome Flynn) wasn't just an upstart student but Sam Keating's (Tom Verica) son from his previous marriage — you know, the one Annalise broke up? On top of that, we also found out who was bleeding out in the snow at Connor (Jack Falahee) and Oliver's (Conrad Ricamora) wedding. Poor Ron Miller (John Hensley), Bonnie's (Liza Weil) boyfriend, met his untimely end after Nate (Billy Brown) nearly beat him to death for allegedly aiding in the murder of his father.
TV Guide spoke to showrunner Pete Nowalk about where those storylines are headed and why we shouldn't take any of these characters or their apparent "revelations" at face value in the back half of Season 5.
We left off on a pretty huge cliffhanger that revealed that Gabriel is Sam's son. Where do we pick up when the show returns?
Pete Nowalk: We're picking up the same night as the wedding. We're not skipping over any time because there are too many juicy cliffhangers to pick right up with. Annalise is still with Gabriel in the apartment, and we're going to do an awesome storyline between the two of them where we get a lot of answers and, within that, we're going to be flashing back and seeing Sam again and understanding when he knew — and if he knew — about Gabriel and how that happened. ... It's a very emotional episode, especially these flashbacks with Sam and Annalise as we discover did Sam know about Gabriel, what was his relationship with him, what was his relationship with Vivian. All of that will come out. ... We're giving the audience a lot of answers.
Is one of those answers going to be how much Gabriel knows about Sam and what happened to him in Season 1?
Nowalk: Yes. We're going to get a lot more from Gabriel. He's been sort of this mystery box for us all season, so we're going to actually hear from his mouth why he's there, what he wants. Of course, the question is, is that to be trusted? If I heard my father had been killed and the circumstances were very suspicious, I would want to find out the truth, and I would do and say whatever I needed to get it. ... One thing that's really a big deal when we come back is, we're going to find out who Frank (Charlie Weber) was talking to on the phone throughout the season. Who also knew about Gabriel? We're going to find that out in this first episode back, and of course, there's going to be a big fallout from that.
What can you tease about how the Keating 4 will react to the news that he's Sam's son?
Nowalk: They are going to be panicked. Obviously they always probably knew it would happen, but they were trying to just get married and have a baby and fall in love. They were just in complete denial that the Sam murder was buried forever. Gabriel being there obviously triggers all of that.
Do you feel like this brings us back to Season 1 in a way? Revisiting their original murder and bringing those stakes back?
Nowalk: Definitely. As the show's in its fifth season, and I'm getting closer and closer to the end — I don't know when that is — everything has to come back full circle. All of these murders really started with Sam and Lila, and we're just going to be showing how when that first domino fell, yes we've been watching all the other dominos fall, but it's all going to go back to that first one. Everyone still has never been able to escape that original sin.
Gabriel so far has seemed like a really good, moral guy. Is that his true face or are we going to see a new side of him?
Nowalk: I think much of him really believes in what he said, like wanting to defend the unfairly incarcerated, wanting to do good for the world; in many ways, he's the most pure character on our show right now because he just wants to know the truth and he wants justice. Within that, he's complicated. His motives are complicated. We're going to start to wonder about who his mother is and what his relationship is with his mother. And of course, we're going to eventually really, really, really want to meet her. Right now, he's still a threat for our characters even though they feel the way you do; they like him or they have liked him until now.
Speaking of Gabriel's mother, how much can you tell us about her and his relationship with her?
Nowalk: He's mentioned that she's a little bit of a mess. He's mentioned certain addiction problems that she's had in his college essay. Again though, everything that's said on the show — is it true? Is it not? I don't want to say too much because we're going to find out more about her in bits and pieces even starting in the first episode back.
Poor Michaela (Aja Naomi King) has had such bad luck with men. Is her flirtation with Gabriel genuine on his side or is it just about to implode?
Nowalk: You're asking exactly what she's asking. I think she hates herself for even making out and liking another guy who turns out to be a snake. So that always feels like her predicament, which she has to look into. Their relationship isn't over. It's really way more complicated now. It's very angsty, and so we're going to see a lot more of them. They're actually going to come together, I don't think necessarily in a nice way, but they're going to come together around a common bond that they both have through the rest of the season.
Shifting gears to Ron's murder, how quickly will that storyline take the spotlight and how worried should we be for Nate and Bonnie?
Nowalk: It's going to be front and center. The investigation into Ron's murder is going to be front and center for the rest of the season. That involves two things. Obviously, he's a D.A. in a huge city office, so the FBI is going to be involved. So getting away with this is not going to be easy. The thing that's different about this one is that Nate is front and center and he has experience. This is what he does. He's an ex-cop. He's an investigator. We're going to see how Nate, specifically, gets away with murder. Then the other part of that is the question of whether Miller was actually guilty or not. Obviously right now Bonnie and Nate think that and he looks very guilty, but as the season goes there might be some questions about his guilt.
What kind of emotional ramification will Bonnie be dealing with after helping to kill this guy that she was sort of falling in love with?
Nowalk: It's going to be horrible for Bonnie... It's going to be really rough. Poor Liza Weil, it's not like she had an easy beginning of the season performing all this stuff, and the back half doesn't get any easier. Obviously, there's only so much one person can handle, so we're going to see her struggling.
He seemed pretty adamant that he had nothing to do with the murder of Nate's father.
Nowalk: Right. Which is what you would say if you were innocent but also you'd say if you were guilty.
How will Connor and Oliver react to the fact that someone got murdered at their wedding?
Nowalk: It's not good. They really had the perfect wedding to me. I don't like weddings and I was like, "I would like that one for myself." Now it's ruined, which is kind of what happens to everything in their life. I think that causes some real angst for the two of them and also worry because Miller was killed at their wedding. Does that mean they're going to be involved? Is their wedding going to be investigated? Are their parents going to find out about this? Besides it ruining a good memory, it also creates a lot of havoc for them.
Annalise has also fallen off the wagon again, but is she going to be able to turn that around and get sober when there's so much craziness going on?
Nowalk: She's constantly trying to get sober but now would probably not be the easiest time for her to do that. That involves what? Focusing on yourself, making sure your life is balanced and healthy? And she's constantly just dealt one mess after the other. She's going to continue to struggle with that, and that's what, as writers, we're really interested in. People get sober and they relapse and this is a life-long struggle for her. That's what interesting to us about it.
How to Get Away with Murder returns Thursday, Jan. 17 at 10/9c on ABC.
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