SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Live. Live. Live,” the winter finale of the fourth season of “How to Get Away With Murder.”
The season 4 winter finale of “How to Get Away With Murder” inched its audience closer to learning what happened to Laurel’s (Karla Souza) baby after Annalise (Viola Davis) found her passed out in her hotel elevator, in the middle of a bloody delivery. But true to form, the show also introduced a whole new set of complications, especially around the accidental shooting of Caplan & Gold colleague Simon (Behzad Dabu) and Asher’s (Matt McGorry) subsequent arrest.
“We didn’t know [when we broke this story] that we’d only be airing eight episodes before the winter break,” executive producer Pete Nowalk tells Variety. “So normally we would catch up to Laurel screaming, “Where’s the baby!?” and we actually tried to write a version of this episode that had all of that in it, but we realized we couldn’t fit all of that in one hour because we also knew someone was going to get shot, who wasn’t one of our characters, at the party. So you’ll see the rest of those flash forwards in the premiere.”
In the wake of the powerful episode, executive producer Pete Nowalk talks with Variety about the fate of Laurel’s baby, Annalise learning who really killed Wes, and Asher’s arrest.
Was the version of that scene on the page always lingering with Laurel to capture those emotions?
No, it was not. Usually we inter-cut things a lot more, and that was definitely written that way, just in the typical style. It was really her performance. She just did it. She was never breaking, and I just wanted to stay in it. It felt refreshing and really hard to watch and painful, but that’s what I found different about that moment. And the episode until that point had been so crazy, rewinding and bouncing around in time, that it just felt appropriate. So we restructured it to stay in the moment longer.
What led your writers’ room to determining Annalise would have to deliver Laurel’s baby after Laurel passed out, stuck on an elevator?
Once we knew that we liked her waking up and saying, “Where’s the baby?” we kind of started [there]; we kind of knew what was going to happen. It was refreshing for me. I think I’m just tired of not knowing what happens because it’s usually torture for me, in my brain, to get to this episode in the season and not know and freak out and lose sleep. So it was nice, and we designed that elevator for that reason.
Annalise has been working toward redemption this season. Where do you feel her actions in this episode fall into that work?
Annalise, all season long, has been very consistent in wanting to get rid of the drama. All she did was show up at home, and someone’s in her elevator. She had nothing to do with this. I’m very proud of her for not drinking and sticking to her class-action. She wants to be a hero — for herself as well as these other people. And now it’s like, “What’s going to get f–ked up now?” She’s dragged into this mess, and she’s going to have to really figure out if she wants to be and what’s going to suffer. She’s been through enough suffering!
As much as she’s been staying away from drama, now that she knows who really killed Wes, is there a part of her that wants to get back involved to right the wrong?
Yes, that’s definitely true, and that’s going to be a big dilemma for her. Do you forgive and forget? She’s lived her whole life doing the opposite. She’s been a fighter because otherwise you end up at the bottom. So she’s going to have to really take a hard look at what sort of life she wants now.
How much of her response to and the way she dealt with Laurel and that baby was because of the connection to Wes?
She’s grieved her own lost child and Sam, but I almost feel like that moment with Laurel in the elevator is as raw and naked as we’ve ever seen Annalise. Yeah, she thinks that baby is a little Wes, and she’s lost her own baby, and there she is. She got it to cry. It’s really a heroic moment for her.
Is that a glimmer of hope then?
It seemed surprising that Simon could be in the hospital after the severity of the shooting. How is the fact that he could potentially survive going to haunt characters like Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora)?
The question for them is [that] they did not want him to die — they didn’t want any of this to happen — but do they want him to die now? What’s better now: for him to live or for him to die? That’s the moral quandary that lies ahead.
Were you trying to make a commentary on gun control or responsibility?
I am a big advocate of gun control and laws and regulations, just personally. But basically, office accidents — those freaking wheely chairs, I’ve almost tripped over — that’s what I was interested in. Yes, we try to teach the audience things and we try to learn things as writers, but I don’t think we’re sitting on any high horse to say, “Watch the show and learn how to be a better person.”
Was there ever a temptation of drawing out what happened to Simon in more of the murder mystery fashion of previous seasons?
At a certain point in the season if we really didn’t want to give answers, I know I would get frustrated with the show. And I’ve always liked giving the answer and moving on, especially because we still don’t know what happened in the hospital. We wanted to give you some answers.
Michaela really took control in the situation. Is that indicative of who she is now, or will emotions catch up to her?
The first season — the first murder — Michaela was a mess and as hysterical as I think any of us would be. And I think she’s learned from that and now she’s, frankly, a little more Annalise. That’s the evolution of her. She’s still human and upset at the end of the episode, seeing Asher get arrested, but she’s a boss.
Speaking of that arrest, was that part of a bigger plan?
That is the question for all of the characters. We don’t know what Asher said to that detective. Is he being smart? Is he being stupid? There wasn’t enough time for them to find fingerprints on the gun, so it clearly had to be something he said. The question is, can he dig his way out of this and help them dig their way out of this?
Will Connor (Jack Falahee) come to regret telling Annalise who killed Wes?
I think it was a good decision because she’s ultimately the one who can save them all.
That’s a bold statement. Just how lost are they all without Annalise at this point in their lives and careers?
They’ve learned a lot, but they’re definitely not her yet. She has this rare survivor quality that they’re all going to have to lean on again.