This finale of Scandal puts most of the characters in positions I don’t particularly care about. This is a way better episode than last week’s awful, awful “YOLO,” but it’s still suspiciously murky—it doesn’t neatly tie off the loose ends that this season unraveled.
Scandal's strategy, for the last two-and-a-half seasons, has been to respond to any sense of resolution by raising the stakes. It’s so far resulted in a careening, wild show that burns through story as if it's tissue paper. It’s fantastic—until the fire runs out of fuel. There are only so high stakes can go—especially when you’re already teetering in the heady heights of international terror conspiracies, the White House, election fraud, and major decisions about national security. Tonight in “A Door Marked Exit,” it felt like the story reached an endpoint and tried to raise the stakes, but there was nowhere for the stakes to go.
I mean, I appreciate the effort. Scandal tried to show us high stakes by having Rowan repeatedly tell Fitz that this security issue was above his pay grade—and then by pulling a bait-and-switch with Olivia’s mom’s plane, sending her back to DC in the last few breathless seconds to presumably wreak havoc come February. Jake’s the Rowan of B613 now? Which means Rowan will have something else to do, which can only be a good thing.
But it doesn't land the way it could. The stories are too stale, right out of the box. I stopped caring about Jake during the second season; I don’t mind him, but moving Scott Foley to a central role doesn’t bode well for my interest in the show. Sally now isn’t running (probably), so that source of tension has fizzled out. Olivia and Jake part ways, sort of, and Olivia and Fitz have reconciled, sort of—even Cyrus and James found a way through their differences through their mutual avarice and lust for power.
Okay, fine: another reset. But what a sad, mostly pathetic one. I can see why Operation Remington might have been a secret at first, but... what did we learn that justified torture, kidnapping, and hours of controversy? Why didn’t Rowan just freaking tell Olivia that her mom was a crook? Like, you know, sometime in the past few months? Wouldn’t communicating the awful truth be a more effective way of keeping Maya Lewis/Marie Wallace somewhere on your radar?
The other problem with the show as it stands right now—halfway through its third season—is that it’s carrying around way, way too much character dead-weight. I would honestly be happy if Quinn, Huck, Charlie, Fitz, and even Olivia were taken out of the action for a few weeks. Show me a Harrison with agency, or Abby and Rosen’s private life, or Rowan and Maya’s complicated marriage. Don’t show me another scene of Huck torturing someone, and Quinn being bland and boring, and Charlie being a creepy murderer-boyfriend. I just don’t much care about any of them anymore. None of their characters are going anywhere interesting (honestly, I just like Harrison and Abby, or else I would have scrapped them both, too). Mellie, Cyrus, and James could hold down a White House plot; Harrison, Abby, and Rosen could handle an Olivia Pope & Associates plot. Let Fitz and Olivia disappear to their house in Vermont for a boinkfest or something. No one will miss them, and maybe they’ll both come back remembering how to have a small amount of fun every now and again. (I don’t mind the idea of Olivia and Fitz together, but damn, their romance is so serious. There is nothing joyful about this love.)
In my dream world for Scandal, Olivia and Fitz elope in Vegas while he’s still the president and then have to grapple with his resignation. The writers should have put the wheels for that in motion in season two, but instead, they got distracted by Olivia’s parents; it’s a bad instinct. The way they’re written, those two are only good together, and all we want to see is them having sex anyway. Let us see a fuming Mellie and a frantic Cyrus and a livid, abandoned Harrison and Abby. And spare me wounded Quinn and creepy Huck. This season so far has been way too caught up in peripherals and has lost sight of what makes it good.
- Maya’s coat. Oh my.
- Cyrus thinks he’s the devil.
- Kate Burton and Bellamy Young are great as usual.
- My boss Todd VanDerWerff reviewed the season as a whole yesterday, and it’s a good read from a completely different perspective.
- Scandal, and my weekly reviews of it, return February 27.