May 15, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Scandal”


Watching Shonda Rhimes’ SCANDAL has more than once been likened to an addiction, and as with a drug, the danger is that users will build up a tolerance over time, requiring more and more to achieve the same high.  In the case of Scandal, that high is from endless, crazy, jaw-dropping, WTF plot twists.  The trouble is, once you’ve had just about everyone in the White House commit a murder or two, how much crazier can you get?  Over the past 2 seasons, Scandal has leaned on the secret government agency it created called B613, a dictatorial police force that will kill anyone that gets in its way–and, conveniently enough, is run by Rowan (Joe Morton), father of our heroine Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington).  Time and again, Olivia and her cohorts Jake (Scott Foley), Huck (Guillermo Diaz), Quinn (Katie Lowes) and US Attorney General David Rosen (Joshua Malina) have gone after B613 one way or another, but every time, Rowan is always one ruthless step ahead–until the surprise of Rowan having the jump on them has become no surprise at all.  Combine that with underuse of White Hosue Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) and First Lady Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young), and more preachiness than the series is usually prone to, and after a compelling early-season arc that had Olivia kidnapped, much of Season 4 has felt like it was treading water.

Even so, Scandal is a show built for season finales, and tonight’s entry (written by Rhimes and Executive Producer Mark Wilding, and directed by Tom Verica) was mostly quite tasty.  Despite an extremely high body count, it was also surprisingly mellow by the end.  Sure, Rowan blackmailed Mellie into telling him the names of the grand jurors who were investigating B613 so that he could have them slaughtered (by Huck, no less, also a victim of blackmail).  And sure, when Olivia and company then went to the CIA, Rowan not only had Cyrus blackmail David into having Olivia and Jake arrested, but murdered all the remaining agents who could identify him as B613’s Control.  But in the end, the gang was able to frame Rowan for mere embezzlement, and the last we saw of him was behind bars.  (It wasn’t exactly clear why he couldn’t use all the same powers he’d used before to get out of this trap as well, but Scandal has never been a show that lived or died by logic.)

The script was speedy in the best Scandal way, and it gave fine, furious monologues to Perry, Morton and Young, who have consistently been series MVPs.  Even if the banal way Rowan was caught didn’t quite pass the smell test, it was a clever twist.  The only qualm one could have was where the finale ended up.  Both Cyrus and newly-elected Virginia Senator Mellie were banished by President Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) from the White House when he’d discovered what they’d done, and Olivia, having finally admitted to herself (after Jake point-blank told her) that she was still in love with Fitz, showed up on the White House balcony, and the two of them started making out as “Here Comes the Sun” played on the soundtrack.  If the two of them are going to be happily cohabitating, and Cyrus, Mellie and Rowan are all in exile or jail, Season 5 may be starting with things at a rather low dramatic ebb.

Still, experience suggests that if there’s one thing Shonda Rhimes can manufacture from thin air, it’s high (and low) drama, so doubtless there will be trouble in paradise and plenty of scheming by the evildoers to be freed from their captivity.  Things had better get into gear fast, though:  by the tail end of this season, Scandal‘s ratings were down around 30% from last season, so while it’s still a hit, the general air of repetition may have taken its toll with viewers.  Rhimes and her team need to figure out a new angle for their story, because after a while, addicts who can’t achieve the high they need from one drug may move on to the next trendy narcotic.

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."