Spoilers if you haven't seen the Season 3 finale of Scandal!
The third season of Scandal wrapped up tonight with an episode that offered one figurative punch to the stomach after another. Seriously, could things get any worse? Ok, maybe they could. After all, some people did get what they wanted, but it all came at a price.
Through the course of this series' three-season run, I've allowed myself to get caught up in the juicy drama, sitting on the edge of my seat wondering how each arc would play out, gasping through every big twist, and spending time between episodes obsessing. I love this show. And yet, the former Grey's Anatomy fan in me has always eyed this series warily, recognizing that there is a chance this must-watch drama might eventually veer off course. That, in its efforts to continuously raise the stakes, the story would start to flounder. I'm not saying that's happened yet, nor do the issues I had with Grey's apply to Scandal. But I can tell you exactly where Grey's started to lose me, and if Scandal loses me in Season 4 -- no official renewal yet, but fingers crossed -- I wonder if I'll trace the beginning of the end back to "The Price of Free and Fair Election." Or maybe this will be the season that takes the series to the next level. It's really hard to say. What's undeniable was that tonight's finale was big.
Big's not even a big enough word. Tonight's finale was non-stop madness in all the (mostly) right ways, but it does cause me to question the direction of this series. That's nothing new, actually, as Scandal veered away from the scandal-of-the-week format a while back, and it doesn't seem to have any intention of returning to that approach on a regular basis. With so much emphasis on the drama at the White House and with Olivia and Fitz, not to mention Olivia's parents, there hasn't been much time for client scandals. And given how suspenseful the series has been this season, that's not a massive complaint, though I do miss the creative problem solving. My biggest concern -- particularly after this season -- is that Scandal's going to rely too heavily on tragedy and making horrible things happen to its lead characters in an effort to create drama.
Let's look at tonight's finale specifically and consider exactly what happened...
Cyrus came to his senses and warned people about the church bomb. Sally used the explosion as an opportunity to be a hero, securing herself the election in the process. The President found out his father raped Mellie, but their son is actually his child. Jerry jr. had a seizure during Fitz's speech and died soon after of some rare strain of a virus. Fitz was told it was Maya's doing. Fitz petitioned Rowan to kill Maya. Rowan claimed to do that but really hid Maya in the prison box and reclaimed his job as head of B-613. He revealed this to Harrison, who managed to talk his way out of being killed by Adnan (who ended up killed later). Last we saw Harrison, he was learning all of this and possibly about to be shot. And the president's Secret Service agent (Tom) was a major accomplice in Rowan's scheme, including infecting Jerry.
Olivia and Fitz were kind of in an off place before Jerry died, because Fitz found out about his father and Mellie and had decided to stay with Mellie. But after Olivia found out it was her mother that was responsible for Jerry's death, she pretty much checked out. She decided to take her father up on his offer to let her start over somewhere. And Jake went with her. Of course, Olivia has no idea this was her father's plan all along.
Fitz won the election after the tragedy swung the votes in his favor. It was more or less a done deal by the end of the episode, and all he wanted to do was sit on the floor of the oval office and talk to Olivia, but when Mellie tried to reach her, Olivia ignored the call.
Huck ended things with Quinn after she presented him with information about his missing family. That was Charlie's doing, as he gave the information to Quinn, knowing it would end Huck's relationship with her. The last we saw of Huck, he was standing at the doorstep of his former girlfriend looking terrified or sad or remorseful. Maybe all of the above.
So you see what I'm saying? Scandal's been beyond gripping this season, delivering one twist after another. But Season 3 has left pretty much everyone miserable and separated. O.P.A. is pretty much disbanded. Olivia and Fitz are done, again. Fitz and Mellie's son is dead. Cyrus' husband is dead. And if we're making a list of horrible things that happened this season, we can add Olivia learning her mother was a terrorist and us learning that Mellie was raped by her father-in-law.
If anyone was victorious tonight, it was Rowan, who got everything he wanted, including his job, the President's trust and Maya locked in a box, presumed to be dead.
Scandal's not the kind of show that's ever promised us everything would work out for the best. And we've seen a lot of tragedy this season. But I like that the series takes time for the characters to take a good hard look at themselves once in a while. That moment when Cyrus referred to himself and Olivia as monsters -- he for almost letting that church blow up and she for recognizing that Jerry's death would win Fitz the election -- was sad and dark, but real and necessary. Just because they serve the President doesn't excuse their occasionally questionable morals and ethics, particularly on a personal level. That scene was a very personal moment. Maybe one of the best we've seen of Olivia and Cyrus together. And it's that moment that gives me hope that this series won't drift off course, or rely too heavily on tragedy to further its story.
Hopefully, Season 4 will exist and provide a light to the end of this tunnel. I want to see Olivia rise up from all of this. Maybe some time away will give her some perspective. Or maybe something will happen to force her back. We'll have to wait and see -- and hope ABC gives the series the renewal it deserves!
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