Photo: ABC/Eric McCandless.
I love Scandal. I truly do. I adore the show's pilot, which opened with a fast-talking Harrison (RIP) convincing Quinn (Katie Lowes) to work for the legendary Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington). I love the music that plays during the end credits of every episode, and I've even grown to appreciate the weird camera noises. I love the show's expert use of Motown music, the OPA montages, and Papa Pope's Shakespearean soliloquies.
All that to say: I want Scandal to succeed, and I'm concerned about the direction the sixth season is taking. While we've seen incredible character development for once-minor players like Cyrus (Jeff Perry), the current season feels disjointed from the Scandal of yore. Like How To Get Away with Murder, Scandal is falling into the trap of the twist — and it's a real problem.
I realize that to be sustainable in the long-term, shows need to adapt to a certain amount of change. Annalise Keating's students can't stay in law school forever, and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) can't be president forever, either. I'm on board with Scandal's election season and its aftermath, but can we stop with the "who killed Frankie" suspense already?
Because the thing is, who killed the president-elect really doesn't matter at this point. Millions of Americans' dreams of seeing the first Latino president have been shattered in the Scandal-verse. Whether Frankie Vargas died at the hands of Tom, Jake, Charlie, or whoever else is inconsequential. And by dragging out the "mystery," we're being robbed of the chance to actually see Mellie (Bellamy Young) or Cyrus (Jeff Perry) in the Oval Office. The thrill of suspense can only take you so far; wanting to know the details of Frankie's murder just aren't enough to make a captivating Scandal season.
Scandal has always had overarching plots; they add life to any procedural. As the gladiators tackled single-issue cases, we also saw various government players deal with the Defiance scandal. We saw Olivia captured and rescued. We saw Abby (Darby Stanchfield) and David (Joshua Malina) develop a swoon-worthy relationship, only to have it torn apart by lies and mistrust. We saw Quinn take up a disturbing interest in torture, complete with some seriously gruesome imagery.
And all of that's fine (not that the torture's fine, but it worked for the show's progression). But through it all, the OPA gladiators were still helping clients — they were still the "good guys," at least in some capacity. But these days, we hardly see cases being handled at the OPA offices. Olivia is busy enough helping Mellie. And the remaining gladiators, Quinn and Huck (Guillermo Diaz) are devoting their time to investigating Frankie's death, along with pseudo-gladiator Charlie (George Newbern).
Of course, this is an issue with more than just the sixth season. When Harrison and Stephen were no longer in the picture, and Abby went on to work for the White House, OPA was in no hurry to replace them. It was obvious Marcus would eventually become a gladiator, and it was thrilling to see him finally get to join OPA in season five. How great was it when he told the others, "That's how I gladiate?" And the budding romance between him and Mellie was so sweet — she deserves happiness! But now that he's the White House press secretary, and we hardly see him at all, other than in flashbacks to Mellie's campaign.
It's depressing to see the OPA offices empty, and not to have our favorite gladiators helping clients anymore. Scandal works best when someone (anyone!) is wearing the white hat, or at least pretending to. Otherwise, we don't need a fictional show to show us what corruption in politics looks like.
Photo: ABC/Eric McCandless.