May 18, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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The crazier SCANDAL has gotten, the better it’s been.  Although the Shonda Rhimes soap only had a 7-episode run this Spring, it’s managed to find its footing quickly.  The first few episodes were forgettably glib, scandal-of-the-week hours that were far-fetched and overly jocular (the worst was the one about the Supreme Court nominee who hadn’t really frequented a prostitute because he was married to her).  For the last few episodes, though, the series clicked when it jumped with both feet into a single story, a presidential sex scandal that kept getting deeper.

Tonight’s season finale, written by Rhimes and directed by Roxann Dawson, picked up with last week’s shocking revelations:  that the Vice President’s chief of staff Billy Chambers (Matt Lescher) had decided to destroy the President (Tony Goldwyn) by sending intern Amanda Tanner (Liza Weil) into his arms–after Billy himself had impregnated her.  Amanda was found dead, and then Billy covered it up by impulsively murdering reporter Gideon Hines (Brendan Wallace), who happened to be the boyfriend of Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes), who happened to work for the show’s heroine, Washington fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington).

It turned out that Quinn, too had something to hide, so her first call was to Olivia, who ordered her team of Stephen (Henry Ian Cusack), Harrison (Columbus Short), Abby (Darcy Stachfield) and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) to cover up all traces of Quinn’s presence.  After that, the episode moved like a rocket, as Olivia moved to solve the President’s sex tape problem while protecting Quinn, which required the help of icy First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), the President’s chief of staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry), an old colleague and sometimes foe, and Assistant Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina).

The political, the personal and the romantic all crashed together very satisfyingly, and it turned out the plot still had several more surprises in hand, including who’d actually murdered Amanda.  Plus Rhimes decided to hold Quinn’s secret, whatever it is, as a big cliffhanger for Fall.

Scandal still needs some tooling.  Kerry Washington, Jeff Perry and Katie Lowes have made the most out of the meaty parts this storyline has given them, but the downside of the show’s heaving itself into the Amanda Tanner plot was that the other members of Olivia’s team, with the exception of former CIA wetwork specialist Huck, are still undeveloped.  It’s also not clear how much farther the show will be able to push the relationship between Olivia and the White House, on both a business and personal basis.   But Rhimes is a skilled showruner who’s successfully pushed Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice through several jiggerings each, and there’s no reason to think Scandal won’t continue to improve, now that it knows what kind of show it should be.

The buzz is that although Scandal will return in the Fall, it may only have a 13-episode run next season, and that seems like a good idea, allowing the series to concentrate on a single big storyline without needing filler episodes to complete a full order.  For now the show, which seems to have hit its stride, deserved this week’s reelection.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."