Scandal: The State of the Union

Guys, look I'm doing my job! Aren't you proud?
“A broken heart is a broken heart. To take a measure is cruelty.”

After last season’s disastrous turn, I declared it would take a miracle for me to like Scandal again. Miracle, thy name is Bellamy Young.

Don’t be mistaken, Mellie Grant was the star of the episode. She is still grieving deeply for her baby boy and that grief has taken the form of doing what she wants and not caring what anyone thinks of her, which, to the press, looks like certifiable insanity. Thanks to that assumption, Mellie has to show up at the State of the Union if Fitz’s push for gun control has any hope of succeeding and it falls to Abby to get her up and dressed and looking “fine” at least for an hour.

As much as I enjoyed the scene between Abby and Mellie (who I don’t believe have interacted before), I couldn’t help but wish that the episode had featured a bit more social commentary about the utterly ridiculous role of the First Lady. Her presence was required at the SotU, obviously. If she wasn’t there, all the media would talk about was her absence and not the subject matter of Fitz’s speech. That’s all true in real life as in the Scandalverse, which has a real talent for accurately portraying the dirty relationship between punditry and government and has a true understanding of the news cycle and its position in US politics. But I wish the absurdity of the situation had been commented on more clearly.

Separating yourself from all you know about politics, think about the fact that Mellie, a woman with no official position and no direct power, had to put on makeup, do her hair, and show up looking reasonably together in order to provide for the passage of a major piece of legislation. That is straight up ridiculous. True, but ridiculous. Scandal’s Mellie always brings me back to Michelle Obama. Both are extremely intelligent, impeccably educated, highly capable women whose “job” is to wear pretty dresses, smile next to their husbands, and make guest appearances on Sesame Street. It drives me to distraction in the real world and it’s only worse on Scandal, which could (and, in my opinion, should) be pointing out the absurdity of the system. End rant.

Mellie and Fitz have never really done it for me as a couple, for obvious, Olivia Pope-y reasons. But their relationship, newly transformed by their son’s death, took center stage this week and the result is weirdly charming. Fitz has really gotten it together on every level. Not only is he acting like a president (We saw him working. Actually working. It’s a miracle.), he is taking care of his wife, at least as far as he is able to. He accompanied her to Jerry’s grave, waiting in the car while she took her time at the gravesite and rushed to her side after she broke down after the State of the Union. His only interaction with Olivia Pope was to ask her advice on his speech. And that’s not a euphemism. He might still be a little fuzzy on Abby’s name, but he has finally turned into an adult. Things are looking up for fictional America.

Abby is still mad at Olivia and I still can’t blame her. She put all her faith (too much of it, really) in her best friend only to be abandoned when she truly needed her. Yet Abby managed to keep herself together and get a fabulous job she does very well. It’s no wonder she has a problem with Liv nitpicking her performance behind her back. When Scandal began, I honestly couldn’t imagine ever talking about this like Abby but at this point, she’s one of my two favorite characters.

I’m still happily ignoring Huck and Quinn. Although I will say Huck singing the army song was adorable. Guillermo Díaz does a great job with the character, but I do legitimately hate Huck now. Particularly after the line “I pulled your teeth out because you couldn’t mind your own business.” Gross. Go away.

The newly diminished OPA’s clients of the week played second fiddle to the drama at the White House. Their story really could have been used more effectively in a different episode. And I have to wonder at the casting of Mary McCormack. She is a really great actress and using her like this was a waste. Not to mention I usually have a problem when shows hire able-bodied actors to play disabled characters. And I understand that the school shooting her character was a victim of related to the fact that Fitz is now pushing for gun control in his second term. But the fake Sandy Hook tragedy felt a little disrespectful to me. I’m usually not too sensitive to things like that but Sandy Hook was different. Sadly, there are a myriad of real life mass shooting events they could’ve referenced for her character’s history; did they have to go with the one that ended with the deaths of 20 first graders?

Another highlight of the episode for me was David Rosen. Poor David. The pictures the Popeheads cooked up to break him and Abby up have somehow (really though, how?) resurfaced and David is left trying to defend himself from beating a woman who didn’t actually exist. Obviously, his actions would be despicable if he was trying to get around the fact that he had actually hit his girlfriend, but, as the entire incident was fabricated by Olivia “White Hat” Pope, I can’t blame him for using whatever means he had at his disposal to undo the damage she’d wrought upon his career. It’s nice to see him standing up for himself. Like Jake.

I still have mixed feelings about Jake (RIP James) but I really like how he handles his relationship with Olivia. She treats him rather abominably, basically using him for sex and the occasional emotional comfort session. Jake, to his credit, realizes this and has set up boundaries for this relationship. He won’t pretend to be her boyfriend and he’s not going to live with her. He’s available for booty calls but he will not be summoned. Whether those resolutions can stand up to the power of an attractive woman wearing an overcoat and nothing else is yet to be seen. Speaking of that scene, I thought it bore repeating that Kerry Washington JUST HAD A BABY.

We also got more set up for the rest of the season. It looks like investigating the deaths of Harrison Wright and Adnan Salif will be a thing this year. To echo the sentiments of my last review, let it go already. And Portia di Rossi’s character (whose name I cannot remember and so instead refer to as ‘Evil Lindsay Bluth’) is apparently out to bring Cyrus Beene down. Can’t say I’m too broken up about that prospect. Cyrus is one of those characters you love to hate and Jeff Perry has a lot of fun with his evil monologues, but Cyrus Beene is not a good person and does not deserve good things.

Bits and Pieces:

Evil Lindsay Bluth’s hair is awful.

Andrew, the current Vice President showed up for about thirty seconds (presumably to remind us that he still exists) while there’s no word on ex-Vice President Sally Langston. I miss her. She was so deliciously evil. Not missing her sleazy campaign manager, though.

Bellamy Young’s deserved at least an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Mellie for the past few years. Hopefully this year she’ll be too amazing to overlook.


Cyrus: “Elizabeth! To what do I...[she closes the door]...why are you here?”

David: “Olivia Pope for all her talk of white hats and doing good, she just gets whatever she wants and sometimes you’re just collateral damage.”
He’s so right.

Senator Watson: “This is blackmail.”
David: “I like to think of it as winning.”

Cyrus: “I’m concerned that Fitzgerald Grant’s second term as president of these United States is about to be derailed because his wife won’t stop eating fried chicken long enough to put on a cocktail dress.”

Cyrus: “I am never concerned that Olivia Pope will fail.”

Olivia: “Unless you’re only staying together for the fame in which case you deserve each other and I wish you both a long and miserable life.”
I feel this way about so many celebrities.

three out of four platters of fried chicken

sunbunny, who objects to the fictional sexism of the fictional press against fictional characters in a fictional world


Billie Doux said...

Agreed that Bellamy Young rocks. Mellie as a character could be so stereotypical and dislikeable, too, and she's not.

It's funny, but that balcony discussion happened to me -- I was talking with a neighbor about dealing with grief, and she told me hers was greater than mine because she was mourning her child. I'm not denying that losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to someone, but it just felt like I was being told my grief was unimportant.

Agree about the Sandy Hook plot. It just felt a bit disrespectful. And of course, I also agree with you about Huck and Quinn. Is their storyline popular? If it is, I absolutely do not understand why.

ChrisB said...

Grief is an interesting thing. To the outsider, it can appear self-indulgent and lazy. Yet, when you are the one grieving, simple things like getting into the shower can just be too hard. All you want to do is sit on the ground, eat chips, and mourn.

Eventually, however, life reminds us that we can't spend forever in our pajamas. That we must put on the red dress and the pearls and go out and smile. By the way, the smile was probably the hardest thing Mellie put on all night.

This episode captured all of that beautifully. And, Mellie's breakdown at the end was affecting. This is a woman who is truly struggling. Beautifully portrayed.