So, this episode was “intense.” I put it in quotes because I personally wasn’t into it, but you can tell the writers wrote the word INTENSE on the whiteboard and underlined and circled it three times. It has all the hallmarks of someone doing their Most Intense Work Ever: dirty fingernails, tears, big hair, a prison, heavy breathing, and some kind of cous cous. It’s probably Kerry Washington’s Emmy episode, because it’s 43 minutes of Olivia being Super Intense, suffering and lecturing through fear and then lecturing through bravado and then crying and then so much running. But Scandal is nothing if not overly enamored of itself, and in its rabid self-fancying, it gave the game away too early for any of this to feel like anything but filler.
Point 1: We don’t know who took Olivia precisely, but we do already know who is behind it, more or less — war-mongering and power-mongering Jon Tenney and Portia de Rossi, although I’m sure there’s another shadowy higher power who will betray them when this all spins out of control – and we also already know Fitz is aware of it. All of that knowledge took most of the scary out of this. We know it’s not random. We know she’s a bargaining chip. We know she’s only been missing for one episode and there are eleven more of the season. We’re not that worried about her. Not yet. While there’s validity to showing what she went through, and making it all about her experience does give you the sense of how isolated she is, it’s hard to go there with her and be scared for her.
Point 2: The episode began with a scene of her running, running, running, down a dirty hallway, toward a red door…
… and again, Scandal is never fonder of itself than when it’s playing with time and space, so this is clearly from the end of the episode. Showing it to us at the top of the hour deboned about 41 minutes of the show, because I was just like, “Okay, we get it, we know she ends up running with a gun, so obviously she overpowers these guys,” and we had to tread water waiting for the show to get there. Between that and the show’s MADDENING recent crutch of twisting the plot and then three seconds later flashing back to lay out EXACTLY what led us there — rather than letting you realize it in an actual suspenseful way – Scandal cuts itself off at the knees. The episode already had a hook. Olivia was taken. It didn’t NEED this extra bell and whistle. We were already worried for her. It could’ve just opened with the ensuing scene, which is the abduction, told from Olivia’s point of view. Instead, it essentially spoiled itself.
Okay, rant over. Honestly, I understand from a storytelling point of view — and editing, and directing — that sometimes you get excited to do an episode that has a different feel to it. And for budget reasons, shooting 90 percent of it in one location is way cheaper (they call those Bottle Episodes, and most series have at least one per season, and this had to be one of them). But I just wish it had shown more confidence in its own story. Most people tuning into Scandal would have stayed even without the promise of an action sequence.
Shall we delve in? Good: