At about 10:30 last night, TV critic Ryan McGee tweeted, “How are we only 30 minutes in? Feels like we’ve watched a two-hour ep.” Which is exactly what it felt like—the season finale of Scandal managed somehow to resolve the major plots that have been simmering all season and to introduce some completely new ones. As a consequence, a lot of it was rushed, some so much so that it was hard to fully absorb the impact—but there were still some nice character beats as well as plenty of OMG moments and the usual spate of fabulous coats. Let’s break it down.
Leo! He has become one of the best parts of the show, thanks to his constant supply of snarky one-liners and evil genius for public relations. Him ripping the sleeve of VP Sally’s suit to make it look like she was roughed up by the church bomb might have been my favorite part of the episode. I also enjoyed his blithe disregard of Cyrus’s advice to protect his soul. But what were they supposed to be drinking, exactly? Lemonade?
Brutal honesty. Papa Pope calls out Olivia for visiting him in the hospital because something’s wrong with her, not him; El Prez and Olivia return to their Vermont fantasy when they think he’s going to lose the presidency, and neither can even muster up the energy to pretend it’s really going to happen; and Abby points out that Olivia’s strategy is to “run to Daddy” even though she’s told the gladiators time and again to go over a cliff for her. The show feeds so much on secrets and lies and emotional manipulations, it’s nice to hear some straight talk once in a while.
Abby in general. She campaigns for El Prez on TV, takes down murderous governors, cleans up messes at HQ (both literal and figurative), and has the only functional relationship on the show. Plus her hair always looks fantastic.
Papa Pope. This season Scandal turned into a show not about a Washington fixer and her team of misfit manipulators but about two very scary, powerful people machinating their adult daughter’s life and pulling everyone around her into their swirling vortex of chaos. It’s amazing. Papa and Mama Pope must be plotting together—they’ve both left each other alive for a reason—but the way he got exactly what he wanted by giving everyone the illusion that they were besting him was really satisfying.
Gerry Jr. Damn, Reston supporters don’t stand a chance in the Grant family! But seriously, I was not expecting him to get killed off (at least he didn’t die a virgin?), and Bellamy Young was, as usual, great at playing Mellie’s various stages of grief and anger. You know if you read these recaps that I am not El Prez’s biggest fan, but seeing him fall to his knees on the presidential seal, tortured by visions of all the pain and suffering that has paid for his presidency, it was hard not to feel for him.
Jake’s delivery to David Rosen. Following up his line about not expecting to find a box of evidence to use against B613 to delivering actual boxes of evidence to David’s office was a bit on the nose—but David really, really needs some professional success at this point, so I’ll allow it. Also both of them referring to Cyrus as “Voldemort” was pure gold.
The scene of Quinn and Huck doin’ it like they do on the Discovery Channel next to a pool of their employer’s father’s blood is unfortunately forever seared into my brain, and I’m sorry for reminding you of it now. But possibly even worse is when Quinn drops the L-bomb along with the address of Huck’s long-lost family. Since when does violent hate sex equate to love?
Huck showing up at his wife’s door. I love Jasika Nicole, who plays Huck’s wife, and I am fully in support of any plot that keeps Huck and Quinn’s parts apart—but this is Scandal and family reunions mean tears and bloodshed (mostly bloodshed), so I’m inclined to agree with Huck when he says, “Me leaving them behind was one of the best things that ever happened to them.”
“You can’t leave her now.” “Not yet.” Olivia, of course, spills the beans about Mellie’s rape to El Prez, who decides to stay with her out of sympathy? There is so much bitterness in their marriage, and he refuses to give up his dream of Olivia, no matter how fractured their relationship gets. It would be so much better for everyone if he just gave FLOTUS the gift of a divorce. Making her stay—and making her phone his mistress whenever he’s feeling blue—is not exactly the picture of a healthy marriage.
Jake Ballard. He was interesting for a couple of episodes when he turned into a ruthless killing machine. Now he’s back to mooning over Olivia and not shaving and begging her to save him. You were Command, man! Have a little self-respect.
Harrison’s fate. His attempt to hide the truth lasts about five minutes, and when Papa Pope kills Adnan Salif—as it turns out, just to get Harrison to spill where Maya’s been hiding—he becomes a loose end to tie up. In his final scene he’s standing in B613 with Tom the Secret Service/B613 heavyweight’s gun pointed at his face. This isn’t the first time that’s been used as a cliffhanger in this season (RIP, James), but Columbus Short’s recent personal and legal problems might mean this is the last we see of ol’ Harrison.
Olivia’s exit. “I’m the scandal, and I’m handling it.” Despite her motto to never quit, she throws in the towel, takes her father’s proffered exit strategy, and hops on a plane with Jake to some unknown destination, leaving the Dream Team in the hands of fate and B613. Scandal hasn’t officially been renewed for a fourth season (it will probably be announced in May), but it almost certainly will be, and the status quo at Pope & Associates will no doubt be restored in no time.
Maya Pope’s plan. Of course she’s still alive, and of course she ends up in B613’s torture hole. Why Papa Pope is keeping her alive isn’t yet clear, though I assume they’re plotting together somehow.
“Daddy took care of it. I gave him four more years, but there’s a price”/“He took my child, so I took his.” That is some seriously cold logic from Papa Pope, and it’s not even really that logical: He still has a relationship with Olivia, despite his murderous tendencies and attempts to break up her relationship with El Prez. I thought maybe his real objective was to drive a wedge between them, à la Charlie giving the Envelope of Doom to Quinn, but El Prez asking, “Where’s Olivia?” at the end made that plan seem pretty ineffective.
“It’s not your fault”/“I have to go check on my family.” The jumpy cuts in the scene where El Prez tells Olivia what her mother did were totally disorienting, though kind of a cool effect. It was also more evidence of El Prez’s inability to choose between women. He wants to have his cake and his mistress too, and it makes Mama Pope’s statement that he’ll leave Olivia once he’s done with her seem pretty reasonable.
“I want to sit on my couch and drink a beer and watch the Redskins lose to the Cowboys.” Jake Ballard, the voice of all Washington football fans.
“When did we stop being people?” “Were we ever people?” The quiet, un-rushed scene between Olivia and Cyrus was one of my favorites. When the characters stop rushing from one crisis to the next to reflect a bit on their lives and how screwed up they are is when some of the best moments happen.
“You have to at least wait for Harrison to get back!” Oh, Abby. She might be the only one who remembers Harrison is still around.
What did you think of the finale of Scandal? Let us know in the comments.