Scandal Season 3 Episode 22 recap

Look, it had to be big. It had to be hardcore because that’s what we’ve come to expect from Scandal, and because all the people watching who would probably never call themselves thrill-seekers are now smacking their veins, desperate for the next hit of weird twisted family/president/B6-13 shiz to come their way.

I am quite sure that at this point, ABC just very respectfully lays out 22 distinct piles of money and smiles at Shonda Rhimes when she comes by. But the expectation would be – should be – that there would be a roller coaster ride …and so there was.   Thursday night was the first time I remember seeing a showrunner who was tweeting along reminding the fans “there are still four acts to go!” 

So yes. Twists, turns, murders. The dirty boardroom sex…eh. I’m less scandalized by it, no pun intended. But the political intrigue stuff as they all figure out who their common enemy is, even if the show has come a long, long way from what it used to be, is still fully energetic.

Here’s my truth. I miss old Scandal. I know that’s not supposed to be the thing to say.   But I liked when it was about this senator or that one some of the time, and not so intensely about a fake presidency. It made it seem easier to take, somehow.

But then again, they have committed so fully to where we are now, and provided a really intense, operatic portrait of a possible president and his deeply conflicted wife and the most ridiculous Vice President we’ve seen in some years. They committed so much to B6-13 that it has become the focus of where we are and who we touch in with, more than the presidency (in terms of policy, anyway), more than the hoi polloi of D.C. I miss a show that had more external arms, but then we wouldn’t get phrases like “yum yum, crispy piggy”.

So here are the questions that face us now, staring down season 4 after a long, luxurious summer:

Can Mellie get her groove back?

No, seriously. This is a woman who used to have bite and snark and smile through her teeth as she wrote up lists of acceptable people to date. She’s gone through a lot this past year, and Bellamy Young has made the hardships Mellie has gone through incredibly compelling. But nonetheless, this is a woman who was designed to be a thorn in Fitz’s side and an impediment to his happiness. The fact that he’s unbearable notwithstanding, doesn’t he need the constant problem that is Mellie?

She’s lost her oldest son – one she wasn’t sure was really Fitz’s, but whom she loved anyway. He was murdered, and something tells me Mellie will be out for blood when she finds out. I know that half the fun of Mellie is seeing what colour bolero she wears with her dresses, but how about if we get her out in the field next year? How about Mellie palling around with Charlie at the gun range? This I would like to see.  How about Mellie turning some of that rage somewhere productive, instead of into the Bailey’s? There’s an unusual powerful woman character, which is awesome, so let’s turn her up to 11.

How do you solve a problem like Fitz?

We all bought in. Olivia plus Fitz. We understood the whole star-crossed lovers scenario, and wanted to believe that they could go somewhere and make jam, or whatever that’s a euphemism for.

But then we fell out of love with Fitz – in fact, I’d wager that it happened at almost exactly the same time for everyone – somewhere around the first third of this season; he stopped being the man you wanted Olivia to have and started sounding like someone’s abusive boyfriend. He’s grumpy. He barks. He has no interest in anyone but himself and his terrible, awful problems.

And the issue is that I can’t like Olivia if she wants to be with him.

So what do you do? A lot of the media outlets were having fun playing prediction games before the finale, and more than a few thought it would be brave and effective to kill Fitz altogether. That it would effectively get rid of someone who had become a story problem and press the reset button on Olivia. Give her something to learn and something to grow from. But they didn’t. They killed Jerry Junior instead, and, I mean, good for them. Nobody’s sacred, including children, which is ideal for a show – but it leaves Fitz as the big grumpy pouty annoying problem in the room. What are they going to do? Because every time Olivia sleeps with him again, I’m going to be disappointed. I can’t afford to be disappointed, you know?

Olivia Pope has no Associates

I mean, she has some. But Harrison is going to be killed, we hope, both for story reasons and because Columbus Short is facing some serious legal issues. So that leaves Huck and Quinn and Abby. Abby is going to be fine, of course, though she’d better hope she gets some actually juicy storylines next year; she barely got into bed with David Rosen this year, let alone with anyone interesting.

Then, of course, there’s Huck and Quinn. And I mean, the Huck storyline is compelling enough – I liked the way it unspooled last year and I still remember Huck saying “I think they were real” and Olivia’s tearful nod. They were dealing with real emotions. So I want to know what’s going to happen with his discovering that his family is still around and well and functioning without him. I am interested in that story.

But I am so uninterested in Quinn as accessory to this story. First of all, she’s just a collection of outfits and sassy-mouthed words. There’s no actual personality there, and that’s saying a lot since we saw her so much this year. There was so much time for her to win us over, and well…I dunno. I didn’t feel it. Did you? Do I have to watch her ingratiate herself yet again this year, even when she’s betrayed the group and betrayed B6-13 (and remember them telling us how you never get out) and kind of sashaying around with no real roots anywhere? Do I have to care?

So does Pope & Associates get some new associates? Does David Rosen move in to sort through all those boxes? Or is the rent eventually going to become due? When that happens, do we change the name of the door?

Olivia needs something. Anything.

Okay, look. I’m not trying to be unfair. When you start a show and say “hey, look how powerful this woman is”, you’re going to have to see her start to slip from that powerful post. You want to see that vulnerability in one direction or another, or else you have a Mary Sue, who’s so untouchable and perfect that nobody relates to her.   And you want to relate to Olivia. You want to believe that her mistakes are your mistakes, that if even a beautiful, intelligent woman like that can have errors in judgment about who’s a good guy or not, that she would look at you with sympathy and not scorn if you wound up in an awkward situation.

But the longer she stays with Fitz, or on the string of her father, or paralyzed in that open-mouthed cry by the actions of her mother, ironically, the less we can identify with her. Because that is exactly what we would do, and that’s not what we want to see. We need a hero. Olivia Pope has been that hero. She needs to be that again.

Happily, there’s a built-in mechanism for this. I strongly suspect the first few episodes of Season 4 will have no Olivia in them. It’s one of those things that works well for story but is actually probably going to be what we call “maternity leave”.   By the time we find her and drag her back to DC, we assume she’ll have a renewed reason to be there and a whole new path. “I am the scandal” was a damn good line, but we need her to get back to a place where she knows that just about anything can be handled.