‘Scandal’ Is Never Out of Options

KERRY WASHINGTON, COLUMBUS SHORT (BACKGROUND)

This was the first episode of Scandal that I ever watched live, so for those of you who have been with it for the past two years, I’m sorry for being late to the party. I finally watched the show on Netflix at the beginning of the summer after some serious urging from friends, and I’m proud/embarrassed to say that I devoured the first two seasons in four very emotional days.

Seriously, there should be some sort of emotional health warning before chewing through the ups and downs of Olivia and Fitz’s relationship in four days. It really shouldn’t be done. It’s too much.

Mellie summed it up last night in the epic bunker scene–you want to tell the world that you started an affair with Olivia Pope that went on for a year before it ended? And then started again? And then ended again. And then started again.

Here we are, back at the start again. Or is it the end again? You never really can tell with Olivia and Fitz. Fitz tells Mellie that he leaked Olivia’s name to the press to free her from Mellie’s control, but we all know what a load of crap that is. He did it because he wants to be with Olivia no matter what, even if that means destroying her name and her business and her ability to live a normal life. It would be one thing if they decided to leak the affair together, but Fitz’s latest move is just further confirmation of the patterned dysfunction of his relationship with Olivia. It’s way past the point of being even remotely healthy.

Remarkably, this is one of Scandal’s greatest strengths. Everyone claims they’re wearing the white hat, they’re doing the right thing, but are they? The whole show is a gray area. Who do you root for? What do you root for? Sometimes it is really impossible to figure it out, and that is the best television. The show’s second season was so phenomenal because we found out about Defiance and the total unethical lengths that our heroes would go to for “the greater good.” The same holds true for Verna’s death. It’s wrong, but do we care? Do we want what’s right or what’s wrong on this show? How do you even tell?

Last night, Harrison asked the rest of Olivia Pope’s associates, “Are we gladiators or are we bitches?” Gladiators, of course. But what has a gladiator become? It used to mean doing the right thing no matter what. But now it seems to be whatever protects Olivia, right or wrong.

I love the twist of Janine being framed as the president’s mistress. Scandal has a long history of shoving the blame off on young, innocent women. Janine’s story is a little bit of a retelling of Quinn’s–once Lindsay Dwyer’s–whose life got ruined because of something Olivia and her “greater good” crowd did. Olivia felt compelled to don her white hat and save Quinn, just like she will do starting now for Janine. The fact that Olivia is representing the woman taking the blame for herself will cause Scandal to continue to pose this question–to what length will Olivia go to keep the truth about herself from the public? Will it come at the expense of another young woman, now a client?

Only time will tell. Phenomenal premiere though, yes?

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