May 19, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Scandal”


SCANDAL is full of characters who take one step over the line of ethics and morality, sometimes for what they’ve convinced themselves are the best possible reasons, only to find themselves in a morass they can’t escape.  The same has come to be true of the series itself, which took its fatal step when series creator Shonda Rhimes decided to invent the off-books black ops government agency B613.  That provided a jolt to the storytelling by raising the stakes to include assassination, torture and plain old murder, but it’s essentially wiped out Scandal as a narrative about characters or even about Washington in any meaningful way.

Tonight’s Season 6 finale, which we now know to be the penultimate season of the series, capped an arc that inevitably featured Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and now-ex-President Fitz Grant (Tony Goldwyn) getting back together and then splitting up again (because Scandal), but it was overwhelmingly about political murder and plots against the nation.  Tonight suggested that the series is going all-out Breaking Bad, with Olivia becoming “the most powerful woman in the world” as not only Chief of Staff to new presdient Mellie (Bellamy Young), but also as murderous, nihilistic head of the reconstituted B613 itself.  Why, then, was it so… dull?

The opening hour (written by Co-Executive Producer Zahir McGhee and Story Editor Michelle Lirtzman) was surprisingly static, as one by one the characters trooped in to visit prisoner Maya Pope (Khandi Alexander), Olivia’s mother and a ruthless assassin in her own right, to make her confess who had hired her to hire the people who’d coerced Olivia’s father Rowan (Joe Morton) to assassinate President-elect Frankie Vargas (Ricardo Chavira) on Election Night, and then attempted, through North Korean riches, many killings, and terrorist drones, to take control of the government through the current President’s Chief of Staff Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield).  Maya, of course, was always one step ahead of everyone, so mostly the hour consisted of people monologuing to each other.  The second hour (written by Executive Producer Mark Wilding and Co-Executive Producer Matt Byrne, and directed by Goldwyn) had all the big reveals, but the news that the Big Bad was Frankie Vargas’s widow and newly-sworn-in Vice President Luna (Tessie Santiago) was ridiculous even by Scandal standards, as was her motive–to somehow further Frankie’s ideals–and the twist that the Even Bigger Bad was good old Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) somehow managed to be both ludicrous and predictable.

At this point, it’s impossible to be shocked by anything done by the people in Scandal‘s universe, so the fact that Olivia had Luna killed and Cyrus appointed as the new Vice President only elicited a shrug,  One assumes that there will be a final course correction in Season 7, and that Rhimes won’t leave Olivia as Scandal‘s Heisenberg in the end, putting her back in her gladiator white hat, but it’s difficult to care.  The series seems to have lost sight of its ideals just as much as its characters have, and their romances are as cynical as their murder plots.

Scandal is getting out at the right time in terms of its ratings, which are still successful, but no longer at the smash hit level.  Dramatically, it’s probably outstayed its chance of leaving at a peak, especially now that real life is delivering better plot twists than the show can match.  The series is sustained now mostly by the fun of watching its gifted cast deliver the writing staff’s hear-me-roar pronouncements.  But when the lions are starting to make a meal of the gladiators, it’s time for an exit plan.

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."