I objectively admire Shonda Rhimes while not being a huge fan of her work. I watch two of her shows, Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder (for Viola Davis), but am not into them because they are soap operas filled with narcissistic characters that do horrible and unrealistic things in ridiculous scenarios without the benefit of a sci-fi or horror premise, which is usually my wheelhouse unless I’m watching some Law & Order franchise. Her shows are plagued with monologues that are only enjoyable because of the actor delivering it, but they are absurd. I was tricked into believing that Scandal was going to be a series based on Judy Smith, a real life DC fixer, but I’m a completist so I’m still here. Marketing works. Season 6 finally rewarded me for my robotic devotion. All ABC shows want to be Alias, i.e. spy shows, and Season 6 was a thrilling ride with credibly threatening opponents about an insane election year after a real life apocalyptic election year. Warning: spoilers to follow!
First, Scandal Season 6 managed to do what Netflix’s Arrested Development Season 4 failed to do: tell the majority of its stories from an individual character’s point of view instead of the lead’s and repeatedly revisit different points of time without becoming so confusing that it is virtually impossible to follow. It was a solid and plausible story when it finally coalesced in episode 9, but you may still need a chart. A lot of characters finally had to confront the old adage of “be careful what you wish for because you may get it.” Abby finally had to confront her mediocrity, and that she is the friend of last resort with no actual friends. Cyrus is possibly permanently cured of wondering what it is like to be in the spotlight. Mellie realizes that being POTUS is slightly less humiliating than FLOTUS behind the scenes as she became the personification of the nuclear football. Jake prefers blood sport to handshakes (completely unrelated side note: George Herbert Walker Bush was a former POTUS, VP and former CIA director). Papa Pope gets a chance at his first true love and to handle old bones all day—archeology—then discovers that he can’t have nice things and be free.
Second, Olivia is finally a villain who just wears white and seems like a good guy. She finally got her true love: power, not Fitz (thank God). She finally knows what she wants and has embraced the teachings of her former mentor, Cyrus, and her father, Command, by literally taking command. She actually takes her mother’s advice to get what she wants. I was honestly sick and tired of Olivia rationalizing that all her bad acts were to do good things, especially when she has not successfully fixed anything in ages (let’s not forget that she lost the election). She is not a good fixer, but she is good at serving herself. She somehow got it all. Jake has always hated playing second fiddle to Fitz and set up some solid boundaries, but now Olivia has them both. She gets to kill and wield power with Jake. She literally nakedly manipulates Fitz into doing what she wants and be her good beard as he fights for justice. Mellie may be POTUS, but Olivia has the real power and is Command without being (officially) thrown into a ditch like her soul brothers, Jake and Huck.
On some level, everyone knows that she is not old Olivia and definitely not someone whom they can trust. She was a wretched friend to Cyrus and Huck. Quinn recognizes that she has not been engaged in her firm for awhile. She torpedoed Mellie’s love life. You could not get this Olivia without her harrowing ordeal in Season 4, which culminated in her beating someone to death with a chair, and without the threat of a fairytale relationship with Fitz in Season 5 and in Season 6 Episode 10. She took Fitz’s job (all of them-POTUS, influencing next POTUS and Command), successfully outmaneuvered Peus and killed the bad guy behind everything while looking great in a ball gown. She is great at being powerful and awful. Her parents are now pawns in her world after she threatened and almost killed them this entire season. In contrast, Cyrus always embraced being awful, but could not handle the actual torture or messiness of killing or the spotlight. He is not about that life.
Third, Scandal is officially more optimistic than the real world. Both the Republican and Democratic ticket, Mellie Grant and Frankie Vargas, were reasonable candidates. A woman got to be POTUS and VP. The bad guys or at least worst guys (they are micro-aggressors and enjoyed messing with Papa Pope for the wrong reasons) were all dispatched with blatant shout outs to Se7en except with less restraint than David Fincher showed. The 45 of Scandal is nowhere to be found. Mellie was always what I wanted Hillary to be: free of Bill and his self-centered vortex of doom and drama. Even Fitz (finally) improved this season with a great speech on not wanting headband women, choosing social justice over naked power and actually had some good ideas and advice.
That is not to say that Scandal does not need some work. Who else was disappointed that the three people who relish torture and murder were placed in the heart of a racist, conspiratorial bar and all they did was have a John Woo standoff and knock someone’s head into a bar? Really? They have all done worse to each other. Work on your wish fulfillment. Why are we restraining ourselves NOW!?! Do we really think that the same people who would be offended by any escalation of violence against racists are watching Scandal? I hate the awkward, stand alone, token social justice episodes. What is the point of pulling a Bewitched/Fresh Prince of Bel Air if you are only going to use the magnificent Jessalyn Gilsig in one and a fraction episode! I’m tired of Huck getting involved with women who will try to kill him (shot, thrown off a cliff by Tinker Bell, almost drowned, threat of hypothermia). Side note: Guillermo Diaz was the DJ in Party Girl. I love Khandi Alexander, but Maya seemed less mother/terrifying assassin and more annoying/unhinged, especially in comparison to other evil mother spy types like Shepard on Blindspot and Irina on Alias. I don’t care how overwhelmed with passion you are, you don’t leave your purse outside your apartment in DC or any major city. Alternate universe Quinn should have been mousier. It took a hard left to make her into the psychotic expectant mom that she is today. Cyrus may be a monster, but he should have SOME parental rights-get a lawyer. I’m actually going to miss evil micro-aggression head in a box lady. She did not have one good quality and did not care so I found her interesting, but we needed a sequel to Get Out so I’ll allow it. Where is VP Ross? I loved her. I need Rosen to use his resources instead of Abby’s fridge. Are you kidding me? Also FBI director telling off Fitz is great, but he is your boss so he outranks you (ask Comey—he would have told you to run). Also drones dropping bombs in Dallas may be a bit on the nose.
I loved the denouement of Scandal because Rhimes finally gave us the power hungry woman that people have a primal fear of and made her the hero of the show. Olivia figured out how to seem like the woman who gets the rose from THE Bachelor, a former POTUS, and fights for the good guy, but is actually just out for herself and can finally admit it instead of pretend that she wants power to do good. She is the only fully realized character in Scandal who has reconciled her past with her present, feels no ambivalence about her negative qualities, but most terrifyingly, decided to keep everyone that she claims to care about around her only to camouflage her predatory pose. She is perfectly willing to dispatch them, even her parents, if they fall out of line. She did not have to be a mother or a wife to get this power. Her power is unchecked. She is the only unconflicted, effective, happy and purely amoral character in the entire show. She is where Frank Underwood was at the end of season two (I am woefully behind on House of Cards). What does this white hat wearing, anti-heroine mean for the final season of Scandal? I’m excited to find out.
Sarah G. Vincent is an infovore who is originally from NYC and has lived in Massachusetts since 1993. She received an A.B., cum laude, in History and Film Studies from Harvard University in 1997 and received a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2000, where she was also an editor and arts reporter at the Crimson/FM and worked at the Harvard Film Archives. After graduating from Harvard Law School, she published “The Cultural Context of the Shopping Mall: Tension Between The Patron’s Right of Access and the Owner’s Right to Exclude.” She is in a committed, exclusive spiritual relationship with the Triune God and for more information, directs readers to look at the Apostle’s Creed.