December 13, 2013

THE SKED Fall Finale Review: “Scandal”


The concept of a “finale” as an event calling for special plot revelations and narrative shockers is almost irrelevant to SCANDAL, where every episode brings massive twists.  This is a show, after all, set in a world where the sitting President and Vice President of the United States have now recently committed murder–and not long-range drone killings, but rather smothering a Supreme Court justice in her hospital bed and repeatedly stabbing an unfaithful closeted gay husband.  If Sally Langston (Kate Burton) ever really does run for President against Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), someone had better make sure there are no sharp objects at their debate.

If anything, the fall finale, written by Executive Story Editor Zahir McGhee and directed by Tom Verica, was relatively subdued by Scandal standards.  Until the final act, most of the action came from picking up the pieces of last week’s craziness, namely that aforementioned Vice-Presidential murder, James (Dan Bucatinsky) realizing that husband (and White House Chief of Staff) Cyrus (Jeff Perry) had pimped him out to the now-dead husband of the VP to blackmail her out of the race, Olivia (Kerry Washington) realizing that her long-imprisoned mother Maya (Khandi Alexander) actually was a villainess, and that her father Rowan (Joe Morton), while still basically evil, had a reason for keeping her in his private jail for 22 years, and Quinn (Katie Lowes) being tortured by Huck (Guillermo Diaz) until she agreed to pretend to work with assassin Charlie (George Newbern) while actually planning to stab Rowan with a hypodermic full of poison.  Now that was a busy hour.

This week there was a lot of talking about what had happened last week, which gave the cast a chance to do something they do wonderfully:  fulminate in lengthy, intense, furious soliloquies.  This episode featured doozies from Cyrus, David Rosen (Joshua Malina) and Huck (who told Quinn that only Olivia was keeping him from ripping off her flesh, and then took away her Gladiator credentials).  The best, though, came out of the storyline that had Fitz holding Rowan in a cell while Maya was supposedly on her way to Hong Kong and freedom.  The two-deadly-foes-in-a-cell-together conceit practically begged for big-time rhetoric, and the script supplied it, with Fitz trying to get a rise out of Rowan by describing his sex with Olivia, and Rowan ripping into Fitz and his privileged life, including many surely-not-unintentional uses by the African-American character of the demeaning term “boy.”

The episode ended with some odd turns which may or may not make sense when the series comes back on February 27 (for a truncated back half, just 8 episodes, due to Kerry Washington’s real-life pregnancy).  Apparently 22 years ago, Maya tricked Rowan into arresting her and having Fitz (then merely a Navy pilot) shoot down a passenger jet by lying that she’d planted a bomb on the flight–but why he would have believed that, since she was supposed to be a passenger herself, and why she wanted the plane down in the first place, are still unclear.  Then, back in the present-day, Fitz fired Rowan as head of the super-duper-secret black ops B613 agency, replacing him with relatively nice guy Jake (Scott Foley)–albeit Fitz’s rival for Olivia’s affections–giving rise to the question:  If it was that easy, why the hell didn’t he fire Rowan a season ago?  And Maya made a swift way back from Manchuria, where she’d apparently killed the entire crew of her jet and downed her plane… in order to stalk Olivia?  That’s what a softly menacing “I’ll see you real soon” usually means in thrillers, no?

No matter.  We don’t look to Scandal for air-tight logic–or really, for much logic at all.  Nonstop crazy thrills, performed with absolute passion and sincerity by a spectacular cast, are the show’s stock in trade, and Shonda Rhimes seems never to run out of them.  ABC’s biggest hit this side of Modern Family will never–thankfully–know the meaning of the word “enough.”


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."