Warning: major spoilers ahead for the Season 4 finale of How to Get Away with Murder. If you haven't caught the episode yet, you may want to check out some of our non-spoilery articles until you get the chance to watch.
Few shows manage to deliver cliffhanger after cliffhanger in primetime the way How to Get Away with Murder has for the past four seasons on ABC. By this point, fans hopefully have learned to expect the unexpected, but these latest season finale cliffhangers may have thrown many for a loop. The episode managed to tie off the loose ends from the major mysteries of the season -- and some that have lingered from seasons past -- and use its cliffhangers to set up big new plots for what's to come in Season 5, if a Season 5 happens.
How to Get Away with Murder creator Pete Nowalk has already come out and revealed that there was something more to the latest batch of cliffhangers beyond simply hooking viewers in for another season of ups and downs. He had this to say about why he went with new cliffhangers largely independent of the major plots of Season 4:
We obviously do a lot of cliffhangers on the show. There are cliffhangers: There's who is Gabriel? There's why does Laurel have scratches on her forearm? And there's what are in those files that Nate found?... I'm tired of some of the old mysteries. I think that was our challenge, just to show some character growth and clean slates and new relationships and people starting fresh. There's going to be things from the past that always come back, but this is a real, new journey -- 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.
The new cliffhangers tie into the ending of the previous stories just enough that Season 5 won't feel like a reboot but without requiring the show to just try and deepen mysteries that have already gotten almost confusingly deep. Pete Nowalk's comments about the Season 4 finale indicate that Season 5 could be quite refreshing, perhaps even to those viewers who loved the mysteries of the first four years.
The cliffhanger with arguably the biggest ties to the plot of Season 5 concerned Laurel and her ongoing family drama. The arc of her father's guilt and control over baby Christopher did come to an end, but the finale never revealed what happened to Laurel's mother. Laurel maintained from the beginning that she had no idea where her mom was and that she had nothing to do with anything that may have happened to her. Although her friends had their doubts given some of her past behavior, she seemed earnest and genuine in her denial. Then, at the end of the episode when she seemed to have gotten as much of a happily-ever-after as is possible on How to Get Away with Murder, Laurel hopped in the shower, and viewers were shown a series of deep scratches on her arms. What did Laurel do to get so severely scratched, and does it have something to do with her mother's absence?
Another cliffhanger concerns Nate, who found a troubling stash of files detailing the lives and dirty little secrets of the group in Denver's office, although there was no file on Nate himself. The odds are pretty good that these files will come back with a vengeance in Season 5 if Season 5 happens, and there was one big mystery introduced via a quick shot of Bonnie's file. A DNA test was included that seemed to suggest that the child Bonnie gave birth to as a teenager is still alive. Bonnie had claimed that the child was dead; the DNA test likely points to either Bonnie lying or somebody lying to Bonnie.
The third major cliffhanger concerned a character who wasn't actually part of the group. At the Middleton U's law school sign-in, Frank spotted a good-looking young man who gave his name as Gabriel Maddox. There didn't seem to be much setting him apart other than a nice smile and more than a little overconfidence in his flirting abilities, but Frank immediately pulled out his phone and called somebody to state that "her kid's here." Is Frank talking about Bonnie's not-so-dead child? Or somebody else's child?
Pete Nowalk went on in his chat with THR to say this about how Season 5 is already shaping up, despite the lack of a renewal order at this point:
Shockingly, the writers and I have already talked about what they are next season. Usually in the beginning we're just like, '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.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for the latest in TV news. How to Get Away with Murder may be done for the 2017-2018 TV season, but there are plenty of Shondaland dramas still set to air new episodes, including new series Station 19 and For The People. For all your viewing options in primetime, take a look at our midseason TV premiere guide. If streaming is more your style, we have a handy Netflix premiere schedule and Amazon Prime rundown to help you out.