No spoilers here, because I’m writing this before the Scandal series-ender had aired in my time zone, and thus I haven’t even seen it. But for me it can’t come too soon. I am a sucker for official endings, and so I hung with Scandal, assuming the car would stop sooner than it did given that it had long since run out of gas. Last night, finally, that happened.
Vulture has done a lot of Scandal pieces this week, which makes sense because of what it meant to the TV landscape. It firmly established Shonda Rhimes, and it gave a meaty lead role to a woman of color around whom all things were built and who frequently brought the players around her to their knees — yet also never shied away from having her make brutal and challenging choices. As frustrating as that could make Scandal for a viewer — as the show itself wryly noted this season, pretty much everyone on it is either a murderer, an accomplice, or just someone who’s been fine with keeping bloody secrets for self-preservation — I think it’s important not to protect your characters so fiercely that you’re afraid to have them mess up.
But I could not have disagreed with Matt Zoller Seitz more when he called it “a rare revolutionary TV drama that never became full of itself.” Scandal was incredibly full of itself. Just listen to how often it drops “standing in the sun” and “white hat,” or the slangy term “The Oval” to refer to the presidency, or even just the word “Gladiator.” They deeply fancied their own racy love scenes, even though their sexual dynamics often felt irresponsible — Olivia got shoved up against walls, and told who and what she wanted more times than I can count, and almost always acquiesced to whatever Big Strong Man was doing the telling. And from the second the writers fell in love with Joe Morton’s Eli Pope, or Rowan, or Command, or whatever the hell we’re meant to call him, the show fully chugged its own Kool-Aid. He got speech after speech that went on too long, and played Drama Class too hard. Soon, every single character was mimicking his particular pacing and delivery of those monologues, giving showy and smug speeches of their own that left scenery dangling from all their teeth. Fitz was smug, and also The Worst. Jake Ballard was SO VERY smug, and also The Worst. Olivia was catastrophically smug and hard to watch near the end, and thus, has a compelling case for being The Worst. Cyrus, Quinn, Eli/Rowan… basically the only person who wasn’t smug at the end was Huck, but even worse, he became self-righteous about Olivia’s turn to the dark side, which is rich considering he RIPPED OUT QUINN’S TEETH ONCE. During my brief tenure covering the show here on GFY, I railed about it a lot, and I’ve kept it up on Twitter. Personally, I knew Olivia was dead to me when she bludgeoned Jon Tenney with a chair and then trumpeted it later as an intimidation tactic, but the writers’ room — in a long and dishy roundtable — unanimously called it their favorite murder, which goes to show how much I’d diverged from their perspective (or perhaps how much they’d lost theirs).
So. It overstayed its welcome, but at the same time, Scandal will still be missed. We had a complicated relationship, and an often infuriating one, but it was a relationship. And those are hard to replace.
Did you dig the finale? If not, how would YOU have Handled It?