Scandal is the kind of show where there are always so many things going on that it’s hard to really stop and take stock of the impact of any individual mind-blowing twist or shocking betrayal. We’re nearly 70 episodes into this story and sometimes it feels like things that happened three weeks ago barely matter, let alone plot points from Season 1 or 2. That’s why I can watch episodes like “You Can’t Take Command,” or many of the episodes in this much-improved fourth season, and enjoy them quite a bit in the context of an hour-long viewing experience. But the long-term implications of any of this? Meh.
To Scandal‘s credit, the back half of Season 4 has been somewhat streamlined—particularly in comparison to last spring’s messiness—and the core feud between Olivia and Rowan has been unsurprisingly wonderful at the center of it all. This is a show full of fun and/or good performances, but Kerry Washington and Joe Morton are simply the best of the best here, and Shonda Rhimes’ decision to continuously crash them together like two very expressive toys in a sandbox keeps things afloat even in down weeks.
What worked well about this finale’s treatment of the Pope blood feud was the in-text acknowledgement that Rowan Always Wins. We’ve seen this time and time again since the second season, and it’s become a bit of a running joke this season that “You can’t take command,” but Olivia, Jake (Scott Foley), and David (Josh Malina)’s last big hurrah to take down Rowan and B613 crashed and burned before the half-hour mark. All that work yet again for absolutely nothing—well, other than more than a dozen dead members of a grand jury. And then the follow-up plan, the real last-ditch effort, also failed miserably, mostly because Cyrus (Jeff Perry) was nearly as conniving and cunning as Big Papa Pope (more on that in a second).
Finally then, Olivia knew what she had to do. She couldn’t take Command after all. But she could defeat Eli Pope, old dweeb from the Smithsonian. It’s a move that Rowan would surely appreciate were he not trapped behind bars and facing—in the grand scheme of things—measly charges for embezzlement. But after multiple seasons of Rowan outsmarting everyone nearly every time, it was important and satisfying to see Olivia put a W on the board against her father. It also, in theory, clears the board of some of the B613 baggage that has been frankly weighing the show down for far too long. Perhaps that means there isn’t a real place in this world for Jake, as he clearly suggested by his “my mission is complete” speech to Olivia, and I’d hate to see how the show will lose David knowing that he doesn’t have all those stupid boxes of files to lord around and meekly threaten someone with. But wouldn’t it be cool if no one said “B613” on this show for like 10 episodes in a row, just one time?
Olivia wasn’t the only one to win big here, as Mellie (Bellamy Young) predictably triumphed in the Virginia senate race, mostly because she let Rowan blackmail her into giving up the names of all those aforementioned now-dead grand-jury members. Given what we know about this show and the Grant family’s political history, it’s not an election without someone associated with the Grants committing or being implicated in a significant crime just to win said election. And poor Mellie, who spent much of this season pulling herself out of the darkness after her son’s death, finding real footing with a campaign she cared about, only to win and then have her ruthless campaign manager sell her out to the Commander-in-Cluelessness.
Seriously, can we talk about Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) for a second? Because, no. It’s a given that every single person in the Scandal universe is objectively terrible. They are just bad people. But none of them jolt into sanctimony like Fitz, a man who literally murdered hundreds of people pre-presidency, naively allowed his father to paint him as the king-in-waiting, and proceeded to turn the White House into a series of Saturday Night Live cold opens. He’s a joke, Brandon Bill notwithstanding. So for him to immediately go to 10 and boot Mellie from the White House for doing something he almost certainly would have done—particularly were it more directly associated with Olivia—and then proceed to prowl around down for Olivia is just a douche move. You know what, no, that’s a total Fitz move. This was an absolute 10 on the TFM scale.
Right, and of course, the end. Olivia finally triumphed over her father, after a year where she began hiding on an island because the world was terrible, spent some time being kidnapped and sold on the Dark Internet, and then subsequently got naked with yet another one of her dad’s weirdo pseudo-son stalker-murderers, and what does she want most of all? To see Fitz. And Fitz, who just tossed his wife off Mt. Pious and fired his chief of staff because “LOL, morals,” what does he want most of all? Well, Olivia of course. It’s weirdly supposed to be this triumphantly happy moment for two characters who never get such a thing, and while I see that from Olivia’s side, it will never not be gross on Fitz’s side. That’s a moment that the show felt like it needed because those overly romantic tableaus have been few and far between in Season 4, but we’ve been here before, y’all. Sorry. Come for me, OTPers.
And that’s the thing. Even though it was great (and truly necessary) to see Olivia take Rowan down a peg or seven here, for Mellie to win an election and hopefully get away from that petulant man baby she’s legally married to, and very compelling to have Cyrus get the boot and Rosen betray his “friends” just to protect Abby (Darby Stanchfield), nothing truly transformative happened. Again, we’ve been here before. Scandal is one of the most purely enjoyable viewing experiences on television, nearly every week, but for some of this insanity to have a real impact, I’d love for it to stick. The problem is, we know that Cyrus isn’t done. We know that Rowan will be back. We know that Fitz and Olivia will pull away from each other. It’s the nature of the show, and I accept that to a degree, but to draw from our real-life political arena, it also wouldn’t hurt to have some real, lasting change.
— Quinn (Katie Lowes) had a gun on Huck (Guillermo Diaz), who was talked into murdering all those grand jury folks on the off-chance he’ll get to reunite with his family again. I guess that’s something we’re supposed to care about, huh? Sure, show. Keep trying to make me care about that. Remember, Huck was one of the more sympathetic folks here, and he just murdered the equivalent of an entire NBA team, plus the equipment manager, full of people.
— I’ll be curious to see if Scott Foley’s Jake is indeed back in Season 5. He was very good throughout this season, and perpetually undervalued (even if that was kind of the point). If legitimate change is in the cards, that might be the best place to start.
— Joshua Malina is great on this show, but man is Rosen a putz. When, if ever, is that guy going to A) get a real, lasting win of his own and B) be even remotely happy? Get him on a beach in the sun, ya know?
— The show never exactly figured out what to do with Portia de Rossi‘s Elizabeth North other than “scheme,” but I guess that’s the default character position on Scandal. And she’s been upped to regular status in Season 5, so it will be fun to watch her and Jeff Perry’s Cyrus throw down for Fitz’s love (ugh).
What’s your take on the Olivia-Fitz reunion? And do you suspect any of these big moments will stick come Season 5?