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How to Get Away with Murder Boss on Killing [SPOILER]: It Was a "Really Painful Decision"

Creator Peter Nowalk tells us what's next

Joyce Eng

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Thursday's episode of How to Get Away with Murder. Read at your own risk.]

Waitlist is on the dead list.

Wes (Alfred Enoch) was revealed to be the dead person #UnderTheSheet on How to Get Away with Murder's winter finale Thursday. That scene of him alive in the future from two weeks ago? Yeah, as suspected, the immunity deal scene with the cops took place before Annalise's (Viola Davis) house burned down. Wes actually leaves the police station before the new deal -- for him to rat out Annalise in the wake of Rebecca's body being found -- got drafted after listening to a voicemail from Annalise asking him to go to her house.

What happened inside the house and what caused the explosion is TBD. All we know is that at least three people were in there at some point, though not necessarily all at once: Wes, who we never see enter or inside the house but, per the medical examiner, died before the fire; Laurel (Karla Souza); and Nate (Billy Brown), who enters the pitch-black house looking for Annalise after finding the front door ajar. Nate seemed like the probable victim until he shows up at the morgue to check on Wes' half-charred corpse.

How to Get Away with Murder: Here's who died in the house fire

So what went down inside The House Formerly Known As Chez Keating? How did the show decide to go there and kill off Wes? Creator Peter Nowalk answers our burning questions below. (Click here to read our interview with Alfred Enoch.)

I'm sad Wes is dead, but I'm happy I correctly predicted it.
Peter Nowalk:
[Laughs] Ah, good for you! I'm not surprised. You always have a good working theory.

My whole theory was based on the fact that Wes was the answer to the previous two hashtags.
That's hilarious. You know, we did talk about that at one point and wondered, but we were like, "It's a good trilogy."

It is. So is Wes really dead?
Yes, he is really dead. Unless I do a really crazy last-minute twist and I'll let you know. [Laughs] No, he's dead. It was obviously a really painful decision for me. When I started writing the pilot, he was the first character that came to mind and was sort of my eyes and ears into the whole show. And obviously Alfie is a dream come true and I think that's probably why I ultimately made this decision -- it made me scared and I felt a little bit like, it's the third season and I just wanted to do this thing that made me the most scared.

When and how did you decide it would be him? Did you have any pushback from ABC about killing off the de facto male lead?
I had to run it by them and they had some concerns and I had to make sure I had good answers. They've been really supportive about letting me do what I want to do, but it's good because it makes me have to be really sure in my decision because I was not sure until really late in our writing process -- probably when we were writing the seventh episode. I kept trying to just put off the decision and be like, "Oh, we're revealing these people to be alive, but it doesn't really mean anything. Anyone can be under the sheet. We could have someone else die right after." Ultimately, I didn't want to make the decision, but I felt in my gut that I needed to, which was to throw up all the puzzle pieces and have them land in different places. It totally shakes up the whole structure of the show.

And it makes sense too. They're all in this mess because Wes was in love with Rebecca and now this sets everyone on new paths and opens up new stories. Do you think it had to be Wes?
It is now! [Laughs] It didn't have to be technically, but it also did have to be because he's the most central character in most of the characters' lives. If you're going to do something like this, especially string the audience along for so long, you want it to have a big impact.

When did you tell Alfie and how did he react?
I told him pretty much the day after I made the decision. I didn't want to end up changing my mind and putting him through that. But he was the most gracious, lovely person that you could be in that situation. He said the nicest thing, which was, "Oh, I think it's great for the show. I totally get it. It makes sense." Obviously, I can't imagine that he was not disappointed, but he's a consummate professional and he's a friend of mine now. We've been through so much and he's really held the show on his shoulders, and I'm really grateful for that. It's just an awful decision to have to make.

Will we see him in flashbacks? We still don't know what exactly happened in the house and how it exploded. And he died before the house blew up.
Exactly. That's one of the things that right now made it feel OK because he is in the rest of the season because we have to see what happened to him. I think it's going to be really nice for the fans of Wes -- they'll still get to see him. And I never know what's going to happen. If we get another season, I don't know what we're going to do [yet], so anything's possible with the way we play with time on the show.


We were led to believe he ratted Annalise out, but now we learn that he left the police station before signing the new deal after he got Annalise's message. Do you think he didn't have it in him to betray her -- or at least until he heard her out -- or was he never going to snitch?
He and Annalise have grown closer and I think that's why it's not an easy decision for him. Was he trying to warn her? Was he trying to protect her? If anything, this season, they've grown to a place where they're each other's champion.

That's going to be the next six episodes -- where did he go [after leaving the station]? Each episode will reveal a little bit more, so we're not going to keep you waiting the whole time. But there are a few hours we have to fill and we left Wes with a really big dilemma. Is it as simple as, "I go to Annalise and I ask her" or "Do I go and do other things?" It's just the sad irony of like, "You should've stayed there!"

Annalise didn't close the door completely when she left, which means anyone could've gotten into the house. Who, if anyone, was already in there before Nate got there?
That is a good question! The whole timeline of that will be figured out soon enough.

If we assume Annalise did not set everyone up and blew up her own house, since she called everyone there, does she feel guilty about Wes' death? It's parallel to Frank's (Charlie Weber) involvement in her son's death: They both did something that set the stages for the deaths. And she already felt guilty about his mom's death.
I think Annalise constantly feels guilty and yes, specifically when it comes to Wes ... ever since she met him and kind of ruined his life by getting involved with his mom. There's that guilt. When Nate walks in and talks to her, I think he's a little suspicious of whether she did it. Does she have something to do with it?

How to Get Away with Murder
Nicole Wilder, ABC

I did feel like she and Wes were plotting something when he was demanding immunity in the flash-forward in seventh episode and this was a scheme gone awry.
Yeah, just exactly what she's guilty for, we'll find out.

Should we be suspicious of Nate? He conveniently popped up everywhere this episode.
Yeah, I think everyone's fair game. There's a lot of people to be accounted for and that's sort of the fun of the back half of the season for me -- scratch off suspects as we go.

I could also see Sylvia Mahoney retaliating since they framed Charles.
Very astute point. I agree. Wes just testified against her son. These are really powerful people. It was also stupid of them to do that. [Laughs] So we'll be answering that as well.

How is his death going to affect everyone, especially Annalise? She essentially lost another son. She was prepared to lose Frank and she lost Wes instead.
Everyone has a very different reaction based on what their relationship with him was. Obviously Laurel was very close to him and, if not in love with him, was falling in love with him. That's been the really refreshing thing for me, just to discover what these people's reactions are and what's surprising about them. I think grief is always a shocking emotion because people aren't what you expect them to be. I think what's also interesting to me is how their relationships with each other will change. It was like Wes and Laurel vs. Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Connor (Jack Falahee), and I think all that will have to change now.

Is Wes the father of Laurel's baby?
We'll get the answer to that in the first episode back. No answer yet, but that will be answered.

I liked the undercurrent of Annalise's alcoholism this season. She fell off the wagon again and maybe things would've gone a little differently had she not passed out at Bonnie's.
Yeah, she did fall off the wagon. Her guilt is a little bit about that as well. If she just hadn't found that bottle of vodka, this wouldn't have happened. She has to deal with the alcoholism, which is going to be a lifelong struggle, but she also has to deal with her arrest. Does she stay in jail? Does she go out on bail? It's not going to be easy for her. I'll prepare you for that. It'll be fun to watch.

It'll be fun to watch Viola act the hell out of it.
Exactly. We left her dealing with the biggest rock-bottom problem of her life, so it's all going to come to a head in the back half of the season.
How to Get Away with Murder: The house fire victim speaks!

What's next for Connor and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), especially now that Oliver suspects he might have been involved in Sam's death? I thought their fight last week was very realistic, but is grief going to bring them back together? And is there anything you're adjusting in light of the election and the hateful LGBTQ rhetoric?
That stuff is still so new, but I'm sure it's seeping into my subconscious. I think, if anything, the election made me realize what a fantasyland the show is, in terms of progressiveness that I like to believe in. But the most immediate obstacle in their relationship is, will Oliver put together the pieces about Sam? Is Oliver going to go along with this sh-- or is he going to say, "Screw you people. I'm done"? Obviously Wes being dead has more weight on this decision for Oliver. He doesn't want to become Wes either. I think the relationship stuff will come out in the wash will more of the murder mystery.

Where does Frank stand now with Annalise and Bonnie (Liza Weil)? He was a trigger pull away from blowing his brains out. Bonnie did ask him to take the fall for Annalise, so could he have played a part in the explosion? He's willing to do anything for her.
Right. There's the question of, what was his involvement in any of this? I think that's the big question and from there, Annalise will decide how she feels about him. Annalise and him are not on good terms. I think Bonnie and him are always going to be close. They talked on the phone, they clearly have each other's backs, but they're also really suspicious and shady. [Laughs] I think for Annalise it's, is she going to need him now? We've never seen her be less powerful than in this moment.

Will we see more of Trishelle (Brett Butler)?
We're picking up almost right where we left off, like a few hours later, so I can't say because it's sort of a story point.

The kiss between Annalise and Bonnie was sweet and awkward. Obviously Annalise was drunk, but how does Bonnie interpret that kiss? This is a woman for whom she literally crawled on her knees.
I invite all interpretations for it, but I think they have such history and so many hidden layers to their relationship. We don't know if that's the first time that's happened. Was that like a friendly kiss? Was that an abuse thing?

It's very incestuous.
Yeah, it's very messy and it's only more messy now that she's in jail.

What else can we expect in the back six episodes?
We will see Wes in flashbacks, we are going to see more of Meggy, we will see more of President Hargrove, we will see Annalise's parents and we are going to solve this mystery of who killed him.

Have you planned the finale yet?
No, I wish we were there!

How to Get Away with Murder returns Thursday, Jan. 19 at 10/9c on ABC.