Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Scandal” (Sorta.)

Dear Frank,

scandal-embed1I still haven’t watched True Detective yet. I know! I don’t have any really good excuses. It’s all available, right there on HBO Go, and I know that it is quality zeitgeist television that will Change My Life or at least Be Intellectually Stimulating.

But instead, while I work and write and keep up with the internet, I’m rewatching Season 2 of Scandal. This is in part because Scandal does not require one’s full attention. But also because ugh, Frank, Scandal is just SO GOOD.

And I say this as someone who has not typically enjoyed the television stylings of one Shonda Rhimes! I mean, mad props to her — I have the utmost respect for how she’s created three television shows and developed many more and worked with young, up-and-coming talent and the whole time remained completely true to her own voice.

But I got really mad at the Grey’s Anatomy pilot when Meredith Grey had an one night stand and OMG that one night stand was her new boss! So I never really watched Grey’s Anatomy, or Private Practice, and was totally ready to write Shonda Rhimes off forever.

And then Scandal happened! Scandal, you beautiful silly complicated slutty minx of a series.

Scandal inspires huge amounts of conversation, online and off — it’s seriously a thing — but we should probably start with the basics. The show is about a very smart, fast-talking lady named Olivia Pope, who used to work for the fictional President but is now a political fixer, which is maybe actually a real job? I don’t know. It’s Scandal. Its relationship with reality is tenuous.

With the help of a motley crew of flawed pros, Olivia does everything from cover up sexcapades to rescue kidnapped babies for her clients, while also trying to stay ahead of whatever conspiracy or secret organization is planning something behind the scenes. Because there is ALWAYS a conspiracy or secret organization planning something behind the scenes. Because Scandal.

Everyone is so pretty! Also, look at that race and gender diversity! And at least one member of the cast is openly gay! This is the new normal.

Everyone is so pretty! Also, look at that race and gender diversity! And at least one member of the cast is openly gay! This is the new normal.

Frank, I am NOT COMPLAINING. Because here are the ways in which Scandal is tailor-made to pleasure my lizard brain:

1) Washington D.C.! Politics! I don’t know exactly what happened to me growing up, but somehow an early fascination with the Watergate scandal and the shadowy figures and government conspiracies of The X-Files combined to make political intrigue into one of my sweet spots. Love me a conspiracy. Love me some political drama.

1A) There’s campaign trail drama, too! Love campaign trail drama. (That’s The West Wing‘s legacy, I’m pretty sure.)

2) Sexytimes! That one’s easy. People on Scandal have a lot of sexy sex, and sometimes not-so-sexy sex, and a lot of the time it’s sexy sex with people who they shouldn’t be having sex with. (Which of course makes it even sexier.) No matter what, it’s weird and complicated and full of drama and usually involves something getting shoved off a desk. No one deliberately takes off her panties like a female character on Scandal. They all have a very special knack for it.

3) The cast is already pretty great — Kerry Washington of course crushes it, and Helen from the first season of Mad Men is delightful, and Tony Goldwin is very charming, and there are a bunch of fresh faces who have really grown into their roles over the last three years.

But then ALSO, Joshua Malina, who has been one of my TV boyfriends since Sports Night, is on this show. THANK YOU, SCANDAL. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

4) Once you accept and ease into the show’s unique approach to dialogue, which boils down to a lot of very fast, very dramatic speeches, it becomes pure aural pleasure. It’s almost like theater to some extent. It sounds like nothing else.

5) Olivia Pope lives on popcorn and red wine, and yet is always flawlessly dressed in the most fucking fabulous white coats. It makes NO SENSE, but it is AWESOME.



6) The characters are actually really well-developed for what amounts to a nighttime soap — even the most cartoonish of villains has at least one extra layer of complexity. It’s pretty cool.

7) There’s a fake fast food restaurant called Gettysburger. How can you not love that?

8) Again — conspiracies! Mysteries! Drama! Sexytimes! Frank, I don’t know what else there is to say.

Because over the course of the last three seasons, a great deal of ridiculous stuff has happened — elections stolen, bombs exploded, characters gunned down in the streets, characters tortured, characters becoming torturers. And that’s only the stuff I can think of off the top of my head!

When this is NOT the weirdest thing that one series regular has done to another series regular, you know you are dealing with something special.

When this is NOT the weirdest thing that one series regular has done to another series regular, you know you are dealing with something special.

The third season finale, which aired last week, threw many of its characters out into the wind, and I’m pretty excited to see how Season 4 brings them back together. I’m sure it’ll be messy and complicated and dramatic and glorious.

People have complained that over this last season, the show maybe lost its already tenuous grip on plausibility. But even so, it’s honestly one of the most fun shows to watch live right now, and Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix, and there are so many secrets and lies — it’s impossible to be spoiled for all of them.

It’s not necessarily high art. But it’s a fantastic roller coaster. And that’s an achievement to celebrate.


About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on April 22, 2014, in No Spoilers, Spoiler Alert!, TV and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I watched a couple of season 1 episodes, but I could not get into it at all. Mostly because of the Olivia/Fitz romance which was supposed to be so great, but I was just not feeling it. Maybe I’m too jaded to find that sort of forbidden romance epic instead of unhealthy? I don’t think so, because I ‘ship’ a lot of really inappropriate and downright weird and stupid couples. Fitz and Olivia, though their chemistry is amazing: nope.
    Also, speechifying was already rampant on Grey’s Anatomy and I like that show. On Scandal, for some reason, the big dramatic speeches just irk me. Seriously, what is wrong with me?

    • You are FAR from alone on the Fitz/Olivia thing. The fact that both of them have done some truly terrible things is a big factor in that.

      And maybe the speechifying is something that you can get burned out on? I definitely see that being a possibility down the line.

      Thanks for commenting!

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