Now that How to Get Away with Murder's fourth season has come to a close, we begin the long hiatus until the show returns with new episodes in the fall. The only catch? It hasn't technically been renewed yet!
In recent years, How to Get Away with Murder has enjoyed early renewals in February and March, but this year it looks like ABC might drag out the decision until May, when it will announce the rest of its fall lineup. That's not necessarily alarming — who in their right mind would pass on Viola Davis? — but it definitely brings the future of the show into question.
For answers on what comes next, we went to showrunner Pete Nowalk to talk about the potential fifth season and whether he was prepared for the Season 4 finale to possibly double as a series finale.
This finale tied off a lot of loose ends. Why did you choose to do that?
Nowalk: It was hopeful at the end. You know, we obviously do a lot of cliffhangers and stuff on the show. There are cliffhangers, though. There's "Who is Gabriel?" There's "Why does Laurel have scratches on her forearm?" And there's "What are in those files?"
Does tying up all the loose ends with those characters mean that there could be cast changes on the way?
Nowalk: I hope not. I mean, I love my cast and I love these characters. I really believe that there's a lot more to discover, and those files are a symbol of that. What did Denver (Benito Martinez) dig up on them that maybe these characters don't even know about themselves, you know? And to me, this always goes back to the question of why did Annalise pick them. Was there a reason why she picked them in the beginning? Why has she stayed so loyal to them? So all of that is still to be investigated.
Did it feel a little like wiping the slate clean for next season?
Nowalk: Yeah. I don't know if you guys feel the same way, but I, as the writer, I'm tired of some of the old mysteries. So I think that was our challenge, just to show some character growth and clean slates and new relationships and people starting fresh. You know, there's going to be things from the past that always come back. But this is a real, new journey. Like, to the point where I feel like if you dropped off the show a little bit, you could maybe come back and get sucked back in if we do a good job.
Do you have a plan in place for the end of the show that you're working towards?
Nowalk: I have an idea for the last season, for sure. Obviously it's hard because you don't know when that last season's going to be. I've been pretty honest about this since the beginning, but it's like when you write a pilot, I didn't know who killed Sam. So am I the type of writer who knows how the show's going to end? No. And I think that's life. And these characters, like, people change really quickly. Trump became President and I feel like the whole world changed in a night. So that's kind of how I'm writing. I never thought Annalise would argue at the Supreme Court. I didn't think she'd give a sh-- about that. Now I'm really proud of her for that. I think there's a trajectory that I'm keeping in mind. I'm not wanting to get there too soon.
With that in mind, would you be okay if the Season 4 finale did act as a series finale?
Nowalk: No. Not at all. I don't want to end on a mystery. I'd want there to be answers. And I guess we'd have to make a movie or something. I would do it on my iPhone if I had to. Yeah.
You said before that in every season, you try to make the flash forwards feel different. Can you hint as to how you'd approach it for next season?
Nowalk: Well, shockingly, the writers and I have already talked about what they are next season, which usually in the beginning, we're just like, "I don't know," and we come up with it as we go. But I think next season, my feeling is they're going to be twisty, but they're also going to be more fun. I don't want to give away too much because I also could change my mind. But I think they're going to be more fun and a different tone, and it's something we've set up.
Could we see Marcus (Cornelius Smith Jr.) from Scandal make a permanent move to How to Get Away with Murder?
Nowalk: I'm not counting anything out. Obviously no decisions have been made, and Cornelius is a very in-demand actor, so it also could depend on him. But I think that story isn't over.
How to Get Away with Murder's first three seasons are available to stream on Netflix now.