My son’s name is Brandon
Scandal Season 4 Episode 14 recap
I would venture that this is the only show currently on TV that could have done a story like this (with the possible exception of Orange Is The New Black, and that would be a stretch). And so it’s not much of a stretch to posit that if this is the only show that can do an episode like this, that they have a responsibility to do an episode like this. Is that true? Is that what we expect from entertainment? That it discusses our world with us? It’s what I expect.
So one of the things that is praiseworthy about this episode is that it is Michael Brown’s story, virtually note for note. They didn’t soften any blows by changing anything so it was a composite of other police shooting stories. Of other black boys’ stories. That’s not because they’re not worthy of debate but because as soon as you start talking about them as a unit, it’s not about specifics. This episode was about the specifics. Exactly what happened, and why, and then we can get on with the grieving. The reason that Ferguson happened, the show is saying – that is, the weeks of protest – was because there was never an adequate examination or explanation of what happened and why.
That’s the fantasy wish fulfillment of this show. Not that a teenage boy carrying something might not be stopped or shot – but that there would be due process in getting a clear picture of what happened so that the grieving could begin in earnest. That’s what counts as ‘hopeful’ in a scenario like this.
I think I was most shocked that the Motown sequence was back. And that, after my initial shock, it didn’t matter. Because the first third of this episode is trying to ‘get back to basics’. The language used here is very, very on point. Brandon Parker’s name is used over and over again, the officer who shoots Brandon Parker uses words like “charged”. Language that was used in the Michael Brown shooting. And they say the things that people have probably thought, that nobody wants to say aloud. Olivia is a black woman and using it to her advantage, but she’s not in the same stratosphere as the people in this neighbourhood. She flies on private jets weekly. She is separate.
The thing, though, is that Olivia is not as interesting in this situation as Mr. Parker, who makes the biggest choices. So she makes herself one of them. She gets behind the barricade. She’s just one more person in the crowd who is angry. And the rest of the episode takes her there even further. The officer calls her ‘you people’ – and she knows what he means and it means what he means. She starts off on the opposite side of community organizer Marcus but they’re both not going through what Clarence does.
I don’t think this episode should have had a B plot.
It’s also not at all interesting to watch Fitz say ‘Gosh I wish I could talk about this’. I know it’s reality. I know it’s impossible for the President not to ignite issues if he responds - but I don’t care to see him talk about a Vice President. I don’t. It’s too trite. Even when the Vice-President hopeful reminds me that Fitz and Mellie have lost a child – the only real-life thing about them – I was not more interested in the scenario.
And I don’t think it was a ‘brilliant’ hour of television. It wasn’t. There were flaws and impossibilities and conveniences. But the brilliance of it and the bitch of it is there are people who will never talk about Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin who will happily talk about Olivia Pope, and that’s a place to start.
Nobody’s claiming it’s even a fraction of the whole conversation. It isn’t. But it reaches places that all the news reports and thinkpieces don’t have a prayer of doing.