Scandal s6 ep 15

Maya is arrested – very easily, one might think, for such a megastar of the international criminal community – and immediately starts claiming that she isn’t back to cause any trouble, oh no; she’s there to protect her daughter Olivia. Rowan, in turn, stays out of her interview room until he thinks the time is right; which means that, left on her own, it’s Maya’s turn to monologue, mostly about race and gender, which is fair enough.

OPA investigates what Maya is, and has been, up to, and arrive at two conclusions: the plan is to assassinate Mellie at her inauguration, but Maya didn’t hire the assassin: she is the assassin. Which means that there’s someone lurking behind Maya. Mellie is offered the chance to take the oath of office behind closed doors, but understandably decides that the symbolism of the first female POTUS being publicly inaugurated is non-negotiable. Incidentally, I don’t quite share everyone’s pessimism about the effect that killing Mellie would have on the country in general and the financial markets in particular; after nearly six seasons of Scandal, the lesson to be learned is that nothing dents the Republic for too long, and I suspect we’d be able to rustle up another President soon enough. 

So despite having established Maya’s intentions, she’s released anyway with the intention that she’ll lay a trail back to the person/people who hired her, which strikes me as quite a gamble. And Rowan suggests to Fitz that his last executive order should be to reinstate B-613 and run it himself once out of office, which I could maybe… get on board with in a final season…? Or maybe not. Anyway, this is a curious little episode: not terrible, but had it been called ‘The Place-Holder’ rather than ‘Tick Tock’ I don’t think anyone could have objected.

Scandal s6 ep 14

In the aftermath of l’affaire Peus, Rowan is retiring and plans to leave the country, never to return. Rosen, on the other hand, is emotionally bruised by the way in which Samantha (as we now seem to be calling her) exploited him, so he tries to find out her real identity. Rowan can’t help… until he can. Which is why Rosen turns up at Abby’s apartment, wanting to store a box in her huge fridge-freezer; a box which contains Samantha’s head. Abby is, of course, repelled, but agrees to help. Jake extracts some DNA from the head, which establishes a name and address: “Samantha”’s name, this week, is Gertrude. Abby continues to be appalled (“My point is… it’s a head”) so Rosen stays in her apartment, and then in her bed, although – for now – with pillows down the middle. As I’ve said before, I like Abby and Rosen as a couple, and they should totally do it.

Fitz, meantime, when he isn’t bonking Olivia, is preoccupied with wondering what his legacy will be. (He’s also strangely reluctant to forgive Abby for her coerced involvement in the Peus plot; strange, because he’s forgiven a lot of people much, much worse things than that.) And one of the things he needs to think about is the issuing of presidential pardons, a task which Olivia takes to OPA, then leaves to the rest of OPA, which gets everyone else wondering – along with the viewers – just what the hell is happening with the Gladiators. They “haven’t had a case in forever”, Charlie notes.

But Quinn and Huck investigate the case of Shaun Campbell, an African-American convicted by an all-white jury of the murder (piquantly, by lynching) of “Bobby the Bigot”, a white supremacist who had burned down a church. Shaun says he didn’t do it. Quinn’s enquiries take her to a white trash bar where she and Huck encounter one of Bobby’s friends, who verbally admits responsibility. For the first time ever in Scandal this isn’t recorded by anyone.  But although she’s short of hard evidence, Quinn nonetheless faces Fitz down, and refuses to leave the Oval until he signs the pardon.

This, as it turns out, was all a test by Olivia, to see whether Quinn was up to the task of running OPA, which Olivia is now ready to hand over. It raises a number of questions, the most obvious of which is wondering whether anyone will hire OPA without OP, even though – as Quinn had told her earlier – Olivia stopped Gladiating a long time ago. Who is paying their salaries, and with what? Ah, let’s not worry about it. For next season.

Buoyed by this, Fitz, under the influence of Marcus, decides that on leaving the Oval he’s going to set up a foundation – quite possibly run by Marcus, in fact – which will provide assistance to appellants, particularly those who suffered from biased sentencing or inadequate defence. You could see how – again, it’s for next season – that might link to a reborn OPA.

But we conclude with Jake’s investigation into Gertrude, which reveals that she and Peus were getting instructions from the “Bigger Bad”, and she needs handled by someone who knows her. So Rowan, no more than a few seconds from stepping onto a plane and getting the hell out, is called back in order to go toe-to-toe with someone I don’t think we’ve seen since the end of season 4. What it all adds up to is that ‘Head Games’ is perhaps the most purely enjoyable and, well, Scandal-esque episode so far of a very mixed season: busy, bristling, and not without humour. It can’t be impossible to do something like this every week, can it?

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.