[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Thursday's episode of How to Get Away with Murder. Read at your own risk.]
And the first to crack is... Annalise.
How to Get Away with Murder didn't keep too many secrets on the down low for long on Thursday's midseason premiere. While Annalise (Viola Davis) relayed a slightly tweaked story about her whereabouts on Murder Night to the police, we see what went down between her and Wes (Alfred Enoch) in the house: She gave him step-by-step orders to burn and dispose of Sam's (Tom Verica) body. "What you did tonight needed to be done," she says. "He killed that girl [Lila] and for that he needed to die. Trust me. I got you into this, and it's my job to get you out of it. Now go and do what you've been told."
The morning after, in between getting interrogated by police, the Keating 5 get to work on Rebecca's (Katie Findlay) defense to prove in court hat Sam was Lila's baby daddy and would have motive to kill her — not to mention strengthen Annalise's story that Sam ran away. The paternity test comes back positive, which Annalise reads with a sigh of relief in front of Frank (Charlie Weber). "What the hell, Annalise? No one is this relieved when they find out their husband knocked up a dead girl," Frank says, forcing Annalise to tell him the truth on the condition that "Bonnie [Liza Weil] can never know." In light of the positive DNA test, the judge rules for a forensic expert to examine Sam's laptop, which has been in police lockup, to see if his backed-up phone data would show his whereabouts the night of Lila's death. Voila! Sam was at Lila's sorority house around her estimated time of death, so charges against Rebecca are dropped.
With Sam the prime suspect in Lila's murder, Connor (Jack Falahee) and McKayla (Aja Naomi King), growing increasingly scared, try to convince Laurel (Karla Souza) to come clean to the police since they didn't actually kill Sam. Laurel, however, after getting cornered by Frank, tells Wes, who tells Annalise, and they confront Connor and McKayla outside the police station. "It doesn't matter how I know. I just know. I can give you a million reasons why this plan won't go your way or you can just trust me," Annalise says. "I don't blame you. If I did, I would've turned you in the night that it happened. Let me help you. Because if you do, I promise, you will get away with this."
But not if Marcia Gay Harden's character, Hannah, has any say. In the final seconds, Hannah tells the police she's Sam's sister. "Whatever his wife told you, my brother is no murderer," she says.
What havoc will Hannah wreak? Did Annalise make a mistake telling Connor, McKayla, Laurel and Frank? And what about Bonnie and Asher (Matt McGorry)? Executive producer Pete Nowalk answers our burning questions.
Why did you decide to let the other three and Frank in so soon? I think some shows would've dragged that out.
Peter Nowalk: That's an interesting question. I've not thought about that. I think it felt real for her that they would need to know that in order to not crack. I think Annalise is really smart and very together and knows how to handle things. I think for me to believe that any of the students wouldn't go to the police and wouldn't just crack, they needed to know that they were being taken care of by probably the most powerful person they've ever met. They were close to confessing.
Is there strength in numbers or will this just increase their paranoia?
Nowalk: I think they will always be paranoid, especially Connor and McKayla. How can you not be? From Annalise's end, I think she might think it's better if they're all in the know so they can be on the same page. I think that's a big reason why she told them too, and Frank can help her.
Would Annalise have told them so soon if Connor and McKayla weren't going to confess? Nowalk: I feel like she would eventually let them know. It's all messy. They're all flying by the seat of their pants, even Annalise. They're just kind of reacting to the moment and there's gonna be a lot of that. There are a lot of moments where they have to make decisions in an instant and hold on tight and hope it works. I think that's where all the tension and thrill come out the rest of the season. It is asking, "How do you get away with murder?"
There's always been this weird maternal vibe from Annalise. She's touchy-feely with Wes and now she says she's helping them because she got them into it. It's like, "These silly kids made a mess killing my husband. Mommy has to come in and clean it up."
Nowalk: Exactly. I think Annalise is really complicated. I think she genuinely believes her husband is a murderer. He murdered a girl and then lied to her about it. I think she feels responsible for these students, especially Wes, for getting them all into this. Deep down, she has heart and cares for people. There's that side of it. There's also the side of self-protection as she said. If they get away with it, she gets away with it. She's done a lot of illegal things that can get her caught. She's the wife. She's who they're gonna suspect if they find out Sam is dead. I think there's two things going on, or maybe three or four or five, which is always the case with Annalise. [Laughs] She's playing many sides at once.
Nate, Rebecca, Bonnie and Asher are still on the outside, but they're suspicious to varying degrees. Will any of them make headway in figuring out what happened or be clued in? Nowalk: Yes. I think everyone has to be suspicious. If you know Annalise at all, you know that maybe what's happening on the surface isn't actually the truth. Nate is obviously the most suspicious of all and he's a cop. He's still got contacts inside [the force]. But I think all the characters are smart in their own ways to jump in on little things. I think it will be fun to watch who becomes suspicious with whom.
What kind of roadblock will Hannah be?
Nowalk: A big one! Sam and Annalise have been together for 20 years. Hannah knows Annalise extremely well and can poke at Annalise in a way most people in Annalise's world can't. Hannah's very smart. She's also a psychiatrist, so she can see beneath the surface. Annalise has a very formidable surface and wears many masks, but I think Hannah is one person who has her number and can see through Annalise in many ways. She also doesn't believe the story that Annalise is telling that Sam is missing.
What kind of dirt does she have on Annalise?
Nowalk: She knows a lot of things about Annalise. We'll learn much more about Annalise and Sam's relationship and how they met, and what has gone on between her and Hannah. Hannah is very determined [to clear Sam's name]. She's very much a threat to Annalise and the students.
What is Bonnie and Annalise's relationship going to be like? She definitely has to re-prove herself to Annalise.
Nowalk: Yes, that's exactly what it is. They had a very emotional moment. She fired [Bonnie] and she called her back after she fired her when she needed her. I think we're gonna deal with how their relationship is messier from that moment and also how they need each other. Bonnie has a lot of ground to cover with Annalise. Like you said, she has re-prove herself to her. We will watch her do that. She also has to deal with her relationship with Asher and how they're gonna work together after that drunken night. Asher and Bonnie have a lot of conversations about that, and there's definitely going to be fallout from it.
Annalise kept Sam's wedding ring. And you have McKayla's missing engagement ring, the missing scales from the Immunity Idol, Rebecca's frantic 911 calls - which of these loose ends will come back to haunt them?
Nowalk: Yeah, and another thing Connor mentioned was the campus cop. There are a ton of loose ends, and they all know that. I think what's fun is we're used to seeing [on TV] people knowing how to get away with murder. They don't, well, except for Annalise. [Laughs] That's what's gonna freak them out. Just like in real life, some of them will come back to haunt you. Others will not. I think what's been really fun for us in the writers' room is to keep track of those and to divvy answers up throughout the rest of the season. I really get a lot of satisfaction out of tying things up with a bow and not leaving loose ends. Some will be answered and some will keep on playing. For instance, some of those that you mentioned, we will get the answers of by the end of the season. You will know exactly what happened.
When will we find out Lila's murderer?
Nowalk: Well, Sam was on the roof. That's what Annalise proved in Episode 10, so what was he doing on that roof? And does that mean he killed her? That's a question for the rest of the season and we will definitely answer all of that and find out exactly what happened that night and how Lila ended up dead. We will see all that play out.
How to Get Away with Murder airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.
You'll never guess what's on Viola Davis' Watchlist: