We start season 6 on Election Night, which deserves a trigger warning in itself: the real-life version is still too painful to contemplate with any sort of equanimity. Mellie looks as if she’s going to win, until she doesn’t; the Frankie Vargas/Cyrus Beene ticket edges it. Vice-President Beene! Understandably, Mellie and Olivia are amazed and horrified at the idea of the psychopathic Beene being a heartbeat away from the Oval. But, almost immediately, things get even worse: Vargas – generally acknowledged to be A Good Man, making him unique in the Scandal universe – is shot and badly wounded.
Well, I say “badly wounded”, but he’s actually dead, although this is news which the White House can’t allow to get out until the current President has decided what to do. (Abby ruthlessly confiscating the grieving widow’s phone, so that she can’t even tell her children, is a grotesque but well-observed touch.) The reason is that, with no President-elect, the country needs certainty rather than chaos; the decision about the next POTUS will be – trigger warning number 2 – thrown to the Electoral College, and everyone seems convinced that the electors will vote for whoever Fitz decides to anoint. (I’m really not convinced that this would be the case IRL, but let’s not quibble.) Which means that Fitz has to choose quickly, and choose between his ex-wife and his ex-Chief of Staff. (I continue to find the post-divorce friendship between Fitz and Mellie immensely appealing.) Olivia is pushing for Mellie, in part because she’s convinced that Cyrus was behind the assassination of Vargas, even though no-one can find any evidence that the shooter was anything other than a “lone wolf”.
With Marcus, the White House Press Secretary, keeping everyone at bay – I’m reasonably sure, incidentally, that he wasn’t Press Secretary at the end of the last season, but who knows? And while we’re at it, has Jake remarried, or has his wife just been recast? – Fitz comes down on Cyrus’s side, imploring him as he does so to be a better person. Heh. Like that’s going to happen. No information supporting Cyrus’s involvement in Vargas’s murder comes to light, and as Cyrus is evidently in shock Olivia is persuaded that Cyrus had nothing to do with it. And then, just as I was thinking that President Beene might allow OPA to get back to handling cases, a couple of things happen which turn the episode on its head. So maybe not quite yet.
Thus far, though, this is a version of Scandal I can happily get on board with: Jake hardly features; Rowan confines himself to a quick Olivia pep-talk; and the Shonda-written script gleams with zinging one-liners. Promising.