In its fifth season, “How To Get Away With Murder” is “going back to basics with Annalise in the classroom” — but showrunner Pete Nowalk promises plenty of new mysteries, including another death and the arrival of a new law student, Gabriel Maddox (Rome Flynn).
“Annalise started as a lawyer who wanted splashy cases and attention and to win the game, and I think she’s been through so much s— she needs to, in her heart, feel like a redeemable person so she’s trying to give back [now],” says Nowalk.
So she throws herself into a teaching a third-year law school class, but also to continue her work on Nate Lahey Sr.’s (Glynn Turman) case. “He won the Supreme Court case but now he gets to re-try his case, so we’re going to watch that happen, too, this season,” Nowalk says.
But as much as Annalise is still trying to march down her road toward redemption, she will “make some mess along the way,” Nowalk notes.
And she is hardly alone in that. At the end of the fourth season, Frank (Charlie Weber) was watching Gabriel intently enough to learn who he really was, but the character will remain “a mystery box” to the others because Frank chooses to keep the information to himself.
“That’s his big, dark secret, and he’s made this mistake again, and he has to have a really good reason why to keep [it],” Nowalk says. “It’s a little bit like ‘What’s Frank hiding?'”
The other characters, and the audience by extension, will get to know Gabriel as “a guy with very strong viewpoints,” says Flynn.
“He’s not unsure of himself, as far as the things that he knows and the things that he believes in,” he says. “He has dreams, he wants to work with Annalise — he obviously admires her and admires everything that she’s accomplished because I think that their endgame is kind of in line.”
While Flynn believes Annalise “sees a little bit of herself in him,” he also admits that grabbing Annalise’s attention is “going to create some kind of turmoil” among the others on whom Annalise has come to rely. “There’s just not enough room,” he says.
Nowalk says the mystery of who Gabriel is will be explained by the mid-season finale, as will the mystery of who the dead body is in the flash-forward at the top of the premiere. The characters are all juggling many more complications that promise to unravel further mysteries.
Laurel (Karla Souza) is a new mom still recovering from her father being arrested and getting into a violent altercation with her mother at the end of the fourth season; Bonnie (Liza Weil) is deciding whether or not to actually pursue a new relationship with the D.A. office colleague Ronald (John Hensley) she matched with on a dating app while the question of if she has a child out there looms; Nate (Billy Brown) is still reeling from the discovery about his father’s case and trying to find a new way to deal with Annalise; Conner (Jack Falahee) and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) are planning a wedding; and Michaela (Aja Naomi King) and Asher (Matt McGorry) are still struggling to navigate their relationship after breaking up.
“Every season I’m like, ‘What do I want to find out about these people?'” says Nowalk. “Yeah, there are a lot of twists and ‘who murdered who’ is fun, but really why would that person [do something] is more interesting.”
Laurel’s family saga will take a backseat to Nate’s storyline, which will intersect with Bonnie’s. “Bonnie probably has the darkest backstory … and we’re going to dig into that. Nate’s really interested in Bonnie’s backstory for some reason,” Nowalk reveals.
Meanwhile Asher will come back into his own this season, says Nowalk. “Asher is growing up and sort of becoming the person he’s meant to be,” he says.
“How To Get Away With Murder” season 5 premieres Sept. 27 on ABC.