Scandal s6 ep 13

Thirteen episodes into a sixteen-episode season, and the Big Bads are finally taken on and defeated, a problem to which it really didn’t take that long to work out a solution. Which brings me back to the point I’ve been making for a while: if it’s always just been a matter of killing Peus and Ruland, that really isn’t much of a challenge for the Scandal gang.

And so it proves: Peus ups the ante a little by posting drones (yay!) over nine American cities and exploding a couple of them in the hope of regaining control of “his” President. Ruland, still in custody, is punched by Rosen, supposedly because he’s in such a state of grief and fury about the death of Elizabeth, whom he didn’t actually like much; or, indeed, at all. Ruland gets sprung by Rowan, apparently in terror of his kidnappers, but it is – of course – a set-up; it enables Jake to track and kill Peus, and Rowan stabs Ruland with a dinosaur-tooth fossil. I can’t even.

In fairness, the show has continued to make its points about gender and race. “A woman in power is a nasty woman”, Olivia snarls at Mellie at one point, when observing that there was every possibility that the Oval could have been handed to Cyrus, someone recently in jail under suspicion of assassination, rather than Mellie. The provenance, and point, of the line is clear: no matter how unsuitable for office a man might be, he’s always going to have an unfair advantage over the most ferociously well-qualified woman. And the apparent breaking of Rowan’s resistance by his captors always had racial overtones, given a nasty spin by Peus this week when he confirms that Rowan has been “emancipated”.

It’s possible – given the sort of criminal infrastructure which enabled a nine-city drone attack – that the deaths of Peus and Ruland aren’t going to be enough to wipe out their organisation. (I’d still be keeping a close eye on the Widow Vargas, now installed as the prospective VPOTUS.) And it may well be that unexpected real-life events forced Shonda into a late change of direction, meaning that the season’s major plot arc was a little rushed. It’s still remarkably unsatisfactory. This week’s announcement that season 7 will be the last of Scandal at least gives the writers a chance to let the show go out on something approaching a high.

Scandal s6 ep 12

Ruland is having a sort of team meeting with President-elect Mellie, and the first order of business is to tell her that Jake isn’t going to be her Vice-President; Peus is. Which, once again, makes me think that I’ve maybe skipped an episode. Say what you like about Mike Pence – personally I think he’s an idiot and a bigot providing cover for out-and-out fascists, your mileage may vary, even if it shouldn’t – but he has a long track record as an elected politician; his personal history, beliefs, and politics are all on the public record; and in the event that I want to know anything about him I can find it easily enough. But who is Peus? Is there a world in which a complete unknown can be dropped into the American Vice-Presidency, presumably with a view to moving him into the Oval before long?

Anyway, this proves to be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. As I said last week, there really isn’t any reason why Scandal’s deep bench of violent ends-justify-means psychopaths should have too much to fear from the Peus/Ruland double-act, and – for the first time in what seems like ever – most of the show’s key players are gathered together in one room, in order to put their anti-Peus plan into place. And – bonus – it involves a drone, which is all good as far as I’m concerned: Huck flies it over the White House, leading to a security scare and a lockdown, and Ruland is hustled into a basement room in the White House with no phone coverage, meaning that everyone else can get to work.

This includes Rowan, whose contribution to this episode is problematic. To start with, a little Command goes a long way, and there’s a lot of him this week. Moreover, he’s remarkably ungrateful that Fitz has saved his life, and his inevitable monologues are peevish and sulky, rather than powerful and menacing. And since Fitz is plainly trying to assert his territorial rights to Olivia again, we’re given the less-than-savoury spectacle of two powerful men squabbling over an African-American woman. But there’s a tantalising flash of the old Rowan later on, when he’s alert to a sneak attack from Cyrus, still bitter about Rowan’s part in the death of Vargas.

And, having considered their options and decided to go to war, Fitz and his team order that Ruland be arrested. This seems remarkably straightforward – could it not have been done a few weeks ago? Were we always just waiting for someone to stand up to the Mean Girl? Olivia braces herself for the Peus counterattack. In the meantime, a new VPOTUS-elect has to be identified. Cyrus declines the poisoned chalice, but the Widow Vargas steps up. I hope she’s been thoroughly vetted by OPA. I’d hate to think that she’s involved in the conspiracy as well. Not great, but I was entertained.

Scandal s6 ep 11

This feels like it should be a momentous episode: the destination of the Presidency is decided; an established if medium-ranking character is killed; and the show’s OTP make out. It isn’t, though, for reasons I’ll come to. Starting with the Oval: Cyrus is formally exonerated and released from prison, putting him back in the Presidential race against Mellie, even though he doesn’t really want to be. Olivia tries unsuccessfully to persuade Mellie to stand aside, then starts to work on the rehabilitation of Cyrus’s reputation – referring to him as “our new client” to the rest of OPA, presumably to remind them that clients are something they’re supposed to have – starting by putting Vargas’s relict on TV to testify to Cyrus’s qualities. Meantime Elizabeth North is stiffening Mellie’s resolve.

The incredibly annoying Peus and Ruland double-act, though is looming over everything. Rowan – Rowan! – is so terrified of them that he’s already shot the President-elect, and keeps warning Olivia that if Cyrus becomes POTUS she’ll be killed, as will Rowan. It all comes to a head when Mellie goes into her office to find Elizabeth there with Peus and Ruland; she orders them all out, but instead Ruland repeatedly smashes Elizabeth over the head with a golf club, killing her. They’ve fixed the electoral college, they tell her, so it’s going to be President Mellie – and, when the college meets, it is – but she’ll be working for the two of them. (Jake gallantly does the cleaning up, and confirms that he’ll be her Veep, protecting her from the worst.)

Meantime Fitz decides it’s time to stand up to his FBI director gf – who calls him “boy” at one point, and who is presumably part of Team Peus in some way – by ordering the Feds to ignore a warrant for Olivia’s arrest and and lift Rowan instead, to Olivia’s fury. It turns out, though, that Fitz has done that in order to keep Rowan safe; he’s been taken somewhere he can be protected, and that the fight back against can now #Peland start. Olivia is so pleased and relieved that she and Fitz hit it. I realise that not everyone is in favour of Olitz, but I very much am: the two of them have a chemistry that simply can’t be faked, and I’ll say no more than that. Soundtracking the scene with ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ is inspired as well.

What I don’t quite get about this episode, though, is this: everyone, including Rowan, is panicking; behaving as if Peus and Ruland represent some sort of uniquely appalling threat. Let’s bear in mind who’s lined up against them: established psychopaths Jake (who made a man urinate in fear a few episodes ago, just by telling him what was going to happen to him), Huck, Quinn, and Charlie; Papa Pope himself, Command, the B-613 despot, a man who’s ordered more wet jobs than his daughter has had glasses of red wine; even Olivia herself, who last season beat a former Vice-President to death with a chair. So why are they all pretending that an old guy with a slightly menacing manner and a chick with a golf club would provide anything more than a gentle warm-up exercise before breakfast? Perhaps we’ll find out. For now, though, I find it impossible to take this storyline – and, by extension, this show – in any way seriously.

 

Scandal s6 ep 10

It’s the 100th episode of Scandal, so the writers have come up with something a little different. Olivia, Fitz, and Jake are debating what to do about “Marjorie” and “Paes”, whoever they might be and whatever they might want – kill them, maybe, or do nothing on the basis that they all seem to have the shared goal of putting Mellie in the Oval? – but Olivia lets her mind wander. Back to a time before the first episode, and all the way to Defiance, the pivotal decision to fix the Presidential election in Fitz’s favour. What if, instead, they had let the election play out?

Which sets the scene for Olivia’s alternative reality, in which Fitz loses, and he and Mellie divorce; Abby is in a settled relationship with David Rosen – always, by a long, long, long, long, long way the best of her partners; Quinn, amusingly, is a white-trash reality TV contestant, with whom Huck, in an unconvincing Irish, is in love from a distance; and Cyrus is so far into the closet that he ditches James (welcome back, Dan Bucatinsky) and marries Mellie.

Olivia herself has detectably more “urban” hair, and works as a lobbyist with Marcus. She and Fitz – hosting a TV talk show – get married and, although their relationship goes off the rails at one point, they find a way back to each other, kind of confirming that in any universe they are the show’s OTC and will, I suspect, in due course be the endgame.

As I’ve said before I’m capable of being a reasonably cheap date when it comes to TV shows: this was actually pretty good fun, and I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, though, it put me in mind of another road not taken: the point after the landmark season 2 and before season 3 where, for some reason, the writers and producers decided that making a sensationally, ridiculously entertaining TV show just wasn’t quite enough for them, and decided instead to go in another direction. Is there one single viewer who thinks that the Scandal of seasons 4, 5, and 6 is better?

Scandal s6 ep 9

So… will Huck live? Well yes, of course he will, because Meg, who as we’ve seen is capable of taking someone out with a single bullet, has inexplicably decided instead to give Huck the privilege of an elaborate James Bond-esque death, shooting him but not quite killing him, then stuffing him into the boot of a car and pushing it into a water-filled quarry.

All of which gives Huck the chance to escape. But, my God, the show really makes a meal of it, which gives the viewer time to wonder whether he’d be able to smash his way out of a car, swim to safety, and rescue the body of Jennifer, all while bleeding out from potentially fatal bullet wounds. But he lives, even though he might have “deficits” as a result of the attack. And since Huck already has numerous “deficits”, that isn’t promising either.

If this episode has any merit, I suppose it might come from character development: Olivia slapping Abby for her part in the conspiracy, then forgiving her; Fitz and Olivia hugging it out; Quinn visibly preferring Huck to Charlie. That apart, though, there have for sure been worse episodes of Scandal, but I don’t know if there have been any quite as pointless as this one.

Scandal s6 ep 8

The writers have clearly decided that the best way, this time, to work around Kerry Washington’s pregnancy is to give each of the main characters an episode of their own to carry, rather than just proceeding as normal but situating Olivia behind huge handbags and houseplants. It’s a fair enough idea, I suppose, and this week – which, I think, will be the last of the Scandal-goes-Rashomon episodes – we finally get to find out the genesis of the conspiracy to assassinate Vargas and install another President. And all roads lead to Abby.

Fitz is working on his retirement plan: after decades of service, one way or another, he wants to take a step back, establish his Presidential library in Vermont, generally chill a bit. Not unreasonable, you’d think, but Abby wants him to carry on working himself – and everyone around him, it seems – into an early grave. So when she’s approached by the season’s Big Bads, “Marjorie Rulance” and “Mr Payas”, who offer her the chance to stop running around after the “big old man-baby” and seize some power for herself, she’s receptive after some initial reluctance.

But why President Abby, and what do Ruland and Payas actually want? Well, the latter remains unclear, but it looks as if Abby as POTUS was never really on the cards; she was presumably thought to be ripe for manipulation. And once she’s taken the money she can be blackmailed by that alone, as it can be traced to a bank which funds North Korean terrorism, and persuaded into performing a series of ever more appalling deeds.

I really didn’t like this episode at all, mind you, although even as I’m typing the words it feels arbitrary: the last two episodes were pretty dumb, but I thought they were entertaining. This time, though, I just don’t buy for a second that Abby – one of the smartest people in any room she walks into – would be so stupid as to believe that $300 million from people she’s never heard of to fund her utterly improbable Presidential campaign would come without strings. Or, for that matter, so dementedly ambitious and amoral that, having never stood for any public office in her life, she would suddenly be so consumed with a craving for power that reaching into a corpse to retrieve a bullet, in order to swap it out, would seem like the best thing to do in all the circumstances. (Incidentally, writers, do what you like with the bullets; but the trajectory/distance thing remains unaddressed, as does the fact that the shooting of Vargas would have been one of the most filmed, witnessed, and analysed incidents in human history. We’re not talking shaky Zapruder footage here.) On the bright side, any episode in which Leo gets smacked around has at least that to redeem it. I also liked the reveal of who David Rosen is dating. But little else.

Scandal s6 ep 7

Huck is indulging in his usual form of romantic foreplay – vigorously tutoring Meg, Jennifer’s bestie, in self-defence – when he’s interrupted by Charlie and Quinn, panicking because Olivia’s missing. When Huck finds her, which takes seconds, she demands that he kill her father as a response to Rowan’s assassination of the President-elect. Finally, I thought; someone’s going to get rid of Command. But Rowan knows when he’s being followed by a sociopath with a gun, and manages to persuade Huck not to pull the trigger by telling him about the mysterious group from last week threatening Olivia’s life – even pointing out the orange-coated blonde woman who is in charge – and concluding that someone in Olivia’s inner circle is a mole. “There is”, bellows Rowan, “a traitor among us”.

Huck believes Rowan, but no-one believes Huck, so he sets to work finding the mole. But who? First of all he suspects Charlie and Quinn, which would make some sort of sense; as I’ve noted before, Charlie seems to have become part of OPA without much scrutiny at all. Then, though, Meg – finding the appropriate post-coital topic of conversation for someone like Huck – asks if she can meet Olivia, because of the latter’s well-known sympathy for those who need help, in the hope of finding Jennifer’s killer. Babe, Huck doesn’t reply, Olivia got out of that game around the start of the third season. But he’s so startled by Meg’s insistence on talking to Olivia that he begins to wonder if she might be playing him, a belief which is understandably reinforced when he follows her and sees her with the blonde woman putting the fear of God into Rowan.

And so, having visited his old friend Becky in prison, and confirmed with her that he’s gullible as hell, he decides that he is indeed being played by Meg, and threatens her with a syringe-full of some appalling liquid known to the sort of person who’s been part of B-613. But she tearfully insists that she loves him, and that she hasn’t been betraying him, so Huck is convinced and spares her the needle. Olivia then makes him apologise to Meg.

So poor Huck – at the end of an episode during which people keep telling him he’s wrong, wrong, wrong – takes Meg to see Jennifer, who of course isn’t dead, as Meg thought, but is alive and in hiding. Whereupon, almost inevitably, REDACTED shoots REDACTED, then REDACTED, while – and this was more of a surprise to me – it’s revealed that REDACTED is the mole, and has been in league with the blonde woman all along.

That blizzard of REDACTEDs should have alerted anyone trying to avoid spoilers. So, to unpack: Huck won’t be dead, because Meg could have killed him if she wanted. As for Abby: if her involvement means anything in respect of consistent plot development – which I know is moot – she was part of a plot to deliver the Oval to Mellie and, by extension, to Olivia. Which… maybe isn’t so far-fetched. Anyway, rather like last week, I thought this was thoroughly entertaining, and even though the twists at the end were cynically designed to elicit gasps from the audience, they worked for me.