Season three of ABC’s “Scandal” featured some of the best episodes and performances of any drama on network television, but at the same time I can’t help but feel that it lost itself, or at the very least its main character, in the process.
From the very start of “Scandal” lead character Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has been written as the “white hat” or good guy of the series, despite being surrounded, as we’ve come to see over the first three seasons, by some of the most horrible people you could ever meet. Literally everybody in this show is (or can be) a stone cold killer: Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), Jake Ballard (Scott Foley), Huck (Guillermo Diaz), Quinn (Katie Lowes), Eli Pope (Joe Morton), Maya Lewis Pope (Khandi Alexander), Sally Langston (Kate Burton) and more. There’s more killers as main or recurring characters on this show than perhaps every other network drama combined and despite being the “good guy” Olivia Pope remains friends or even lovers with a good many of them.
After this season I’ve frankly had enough of Olivia Pope’s high horse riding, given her relationships with these horrible people and especially after her verbal undressing of Vice President candidate Andrew Nichols (Jon Tenney) for his affair with First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), while she’s been hooking up with the President for years.
It could work out well and good if show-runner Shonda Rhimes and her writing staff are in the process of tearing Olivia Pope down to dramatically restore her “white hat” once again, but I’m not sure I buy that. I don’t think I can buy it because she’s always going to have a thing for the President, she’s always going to give into lust even if the man she’s running away with killed a close friend (Jake’s murder of James Novak), and she’s always going to feel loyal to Cyrus despite him quite likely being the most menacing person in the whole United States of America.
Anyway, that’s my little issue with “Scandal” and Olivia Pope; let’s focus on the season three finale.
I knew there would be some shockers and probably even character deaths in the “Scandal” finale and both proved to be true, but still somewhat didn’t seem to live up to the hype.
At the end of the penultimate episode we see that Maya Pope is going to blow up the church were the President, Vice President and many others are supposed to be for a politician’s funeral and that Cyrus knows about it, but is going to keep the President from arriving and let the blast occur. Luckily for the funeral-goers Jake shows up to let the President know and the church is mostly evacuated before the blast. This however is apparently going to cost Fitz the election, because Sally Langston gets to play hero tending to those injured from the blast just days before Americans go to the polls.
The biggest shock of the episode comes when President Grant is giving a speech and his son, Jerry, drops dead behind him of a strain of meningitis that had previously gone missing the week before. We are led to believe he is murdered by Maya Pope and the President enlists former B16 command Eli to deal with the problem.
Following the death of his son President Grant goes on to win re-election as America feels sorry for him, as predicted by Olivia in one of the episode’s finest scenes with her and Cyrus sitting in a hospital hallway. The “he’s going to win” moment is the moment when Olivia realizes that she’s not exactly doing what she set out or envisioned to do.
Come the end of the episode we realize that it wasn’t Mama Pope that killed the President’s son, but in fact Papa Pope, who vowed to get revenge on the President, but promised Olivia he wouldn’t harm him physically. We find this out after Olivia has taken her father up on his previous offer to send her on a plane to anywhere she wanted and leave her dangerous life behind … of course she’s running away with her murderer lover Jake though. Also, during the end of the episode Huck is seen at the door of his wife and kid, who have long thought he was dead, which should be an interesting storyline for season four, especially given the passion between Huck and Quinn. “Scandal” may have also unknowingly and brilliantly given them an out when it comes to Columbus Short’s Harrison who is last seen at the end of a gun with Eli seemingly intent on killing him. The actor has recently undergone a scandal of his own in real life in a potential murder-suicide threat to his wife. If the show wants to rid itself of this problem he’s now the easiest character to kill off in all of television after that finale.
This show has gotten so wild and possibly too shocking for its own good that sometimes it just doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t think the season finale was bad, maybe a little underwhelming, but not bad. It’s just that as Variety so greatly put it in a recent review: “Absurdities piled up so fast there was hardly time to absorb them.” This is something that ABC dramas often seem guilty of – they are too soap operatic in their construction to really be believable, when a dose of reality would do them a lot of good.
Either way “Scandal” remains addictive to watch, because where it sometimes lacks in believability and plot it more than makes up for in acting and its incredibly written monologues these actors – particularly Jeff Perry and Joe Morton – are able to recite.
It would do season four of “Scandal” a lot of good to try to reel in some of these more outrageous storylines and go back to a show that sees its characters trying to do some good in a world filled with a lot of bad (Joshua Malina’s David Rosen is keeping up the good fight). It’s to be seen if the show takes this advice or if it wants to continue down a path of absurdity.