In Scandal’s soapiest season, it’s not shocking that the show delivers its soapiest finale to date. While previous seasons ended with political intrigue or a looming threat, “Tick, Tock” and “Transfer of Power” just try to wrap up a lot of loose ends. As Scandal enters its last season, the show seems fixated on character growth and development. When you consider everything that happened this season––an assassination, the search for the killer, Cyrus’ arrest, the emergence of a new big bad organization––this two-hour finale feels quiet.
Even though it doesn’t make much sense, Luna Vargas ends up being the season’s evil mastermind. It’s necessary to lay it all out, because it’s a true leap of faith for the show to expect viewers to accept this twist. So, Luna Vargas hired Paeus and Samantha to kill Vargas because Cyrus convinced her she’d be more powerful in the Oval. Cyrus convinced her of this because, in the end, he knew Liv would discover Luna, remove her and make Cyrus the Vice President. Meanwhile, Luna apparently knew that by killing Vargas and framing Cyrus, Mellie would become president and, somehow, Luna would be made Vice President. Sure.
None of it makes any sense. If Luna’s goal was to become VP, why did she try to replace Jake with Paeus? And if Paeus and Samantha worked for Luna, why did Samantha mention a mass infrastructure and boss who could kill her anywhere? Where did Luna get the money to fund this giant operation and implant trackers? Why did Luna have Samantha kill Liz North? How did Luna know about Papa Pope? Why did Luna arrange mass terrorist attacks through Paeus if she was already Vice President? It seems as though Scandal bit off more than it could chew with this new shadow government and, unlike B613, found a way to get rid of it quickly.
On the one hand, it’s smart. By pinning it on Luna, Scandal doesn’t have to worry about introducing a new villain as the show enters its last episodes. On the other hand, it doesn’t make any fucking sense. But, that’s ok. Scandal hasn’t been a show that was ever worried about making sense. “Tick, Tock” and “Transfer of Power” present a case for the themes that will matter to Scandal in the end––its characters and rambling monologues that comb the cultural zeitgeist for relevance.
That means we get Mama Pope delivering a soliloquy on the failings of “black girl magic” and white girl appropriation...even though she’s far from a typical black woman and is an actual terrorist we have no reason to trust. It means Mellie bravely defending her right to a public inauguration because it was the thing she always dreamed of...even though she seemingly cared about Fitz and their marriage at some point and only decided to run for president at Olivia’s request. In the end, Scandal decided to focus on the conflicts between its main players and has pivoted their personalities as necessary to make it happen. The set up for the show’s final season seems clear––Olivia vs. the Gladiators.
It turns out, Olivia’s entire quest for power has been entirely self-serving. She didn’t get Mellie into the White House because she believed in Mellie, she just wanted control. Olivia has gone full on evil and the proof is in her “I killed a Vice President” humblebrag competition with Jake as she convinces Luna to take her own life. Hell, she almost strangles her mother to death. Olivia is now in charge of the White House and the new B613, which seems like the opposite of the checks and balances B613 is supposed to provide. She figures out Cyrus’ scheme and happily brings him on board. Olivia has become the swamp and she’s keeping the same people we’ve seen abuse power in her corner.
Honestly, that’s the best twist this finale provides. Scandal is finally embracing Olivia’s status as an evil person. The show becomes a lot more interesting if we imagine it as Olivia’s seven season long descent into the heart of darkness. As Mama Pope tells her, she’s made up of the two most conniving and evil people on earth, there’s nothing she can’t do. Meanwhile, at OPA, Quinn, Abby, Huck and Charlie have congealed into a far more interesting and inspiring little family. They’re all driven to do what’s right given their past mistakes and it’ll be interesting to see if they help Liv’s new B613 or butt heads with it.
In the end, this finale feels successful because it presents a tangible ending for Scandal’s last season. This season spun its wheels and focused on outlandish moments that seemed to build to nothing. Without the announcement of the final season, I imagine this episode would’ve played out differently and we would’ve seen a more logical resolve to Paeus and Samantha. Instead, the show was forced to focus itself and that’s the right call. If it’s possible for Scandal to go out with any grace at this point, I’d imagine it looks like this––with the show’s main characters finally confronting the evil that lurks inside themselves.
Finale grade: C+
Season grade: D
- What the hell ever happened to Jake’s wife? Remember what boozy, drunk fun she was? Remember how we all loved hearing Jake’s cutting “the bar is over there” line as we relived Election Night over and over? I know she went to rehab, but it seems odd they never even mentioned her again after having an entire episode dedicated to her marriage I hope she has a bottle of wine, wherever she is.
- Mama Pope’s “no one wants a black woman to help us, they just leave us for swagger-jacking basic white girls” monologue was so eye-roll inducing. No, Mama Pope, you are not the postergirl for #blackgirlmagic, you are a terrorist. If someone left you for a basic white girl, it’s because they didn’t want to be with a fucking terrorist.
- Liv finishes her mother’s job by killing Luna. Remember when Olivia wanted to spare people death? Now that she has power, it’s an easy solution for her to use.
- Again, give me that “Quinn and Crew fight racist crimes with a baby” spin-off any day now. I wish Quinn and the gang had been more involved in the events of the finale. They’re mostly separated from the main action, but seeing them embrace around Quinn was the episode’s best moment.
- I think we were supposed to feel sad when Fitz took off in Air Force One and left the White House. Hm.
- This episode gave Olitz fans a lot. But their relationship doesn’t really make sense anymore. The “alternate universe” episode made it clear that Olivia wouldn’t be happy with Fitz if he was underachieving, so I don’t think him staying in D.C. was the right answer. But, apparently, she’s not happy being with him if he has more power than her, so he can’t lead B613. Olitz doesn’t work together, which made their final kiss kind of annoying to me. Really, Olivia? The man is leaving office and you think his legacy is helped by his final photos at the White House being with his mistress/ex-girlfriend?
- Fine, B613 is back. This season really showed us the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. I’ll gladly take Olivia’s B613 over Paeus and Samantha.
- I would pay at least $500 for Shonda Rhimes to sit in front of me and explain how Luna arranging Vargas’ death and hiring Samantha and Paeus makes any sense.
- We made it, guys. Thank you for joining the weekly discussion posts and occasional reviews! No matter what Scandal does, the show is always a ton of fun to talk about.