Scandal, Season 1 | A Breakdown

When Shonda Rhimes launched Scandal, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t get sucked in. Not because the premise of the show didn’t seem promising, it did. Not because I wasn’t impressed by the casting, I was. It was because of my love-hate relationship with Shonda Rhimes (one which mostly airs on the side of hate).

But of course, in light of Kerry Washington’s recent SAG and Golden Globe nominations, and the mountain of praise the show has received since its pilot, my curiosity got the best of me. Now here I am, one season deep and completely hooked.

|| PLOT ||

I have always been a fan of the “case of the week”, procedural type structure of television shows. Suits was at its best in its first two seasons with that style; CSI, Without a Trace, and Cold Case were some of my biggest guilty pleasures for years. Even Supernatural, one of my all time favourite shows, favoured a “monster-of-the-week” structure that I enjoyed most. I appreciate the need for an over-arching story, one with breadth, but there is something monumentally entertaining about seeing a different crisis week after week. Can it get stale? Of course. But Scandal is handling it masterfully.

The overarching plot points that they do have – Olivia’s affair with the president, James and Cyrus’ relationship, the mystery of Quinn Perkins – are all compelling and believable enough to continue through the weeks. The true strength in these plots, however, is that they’re not in the forefront in every episode. They are the inner workings, the context for the story each week. That is what keeps me coming back for more and more episodes.

|| CHARACTERS ||

Characters are always what makes me fall in love with a program the fastest. Interesting, compelling, flawed characters. Add in a strong female lead and I’m sold. Scandal has all of these components.

First, Olivia Pope. She is the kind of role model that young girls should have (minus maybe the ‘having an affair with the President’ part). She is competent, she is good at her job, she is in command and doesn’t cower to threats or intimidation or condescension. She is the one that people (especially men in power) go to to fix their problems. It is an incredible thing to watch.

Her team, the people who would follow her over a cliff, they are quirky and interesting and they all have sorted pasts. They are a merry band of misfits that Olivia has taken in to make them whole, to fix them. Steven, Harrison, Abby, Huck, and finally, and possibly most important to the mythology of the story, Quinn. They all have their own baggage, but they come together to follow a common leader. They put their trust and faith into Olivia, and consistently reinforce their dedication and commitment to her.

The White House is, of course, chock full of corrupt staff members with questionable morals, poisonous ambition and more lies than can be kept straight. Cyrus, the sometimes-moral Chief of Staff; Mellie, the ambitious, driven First Lady; Billy Chambers, the boy-next-door government employee turned smarmy adversary; and of course, Fitz, the moral compass of the administration, the Golden Boy, the President of the United States.

It’s quite an assortment of characters, some more fleshed out and complex than others, but since the first season only had seven episodes, I look forward to more character development in episodes to come.

|| RELATIONSHIPS ||

I knew going into the series that Olivia was having an affair with the President, and I was sure that that relationship wouldn’t be one that I would enjoy due to, y’know, the nature of their relationship. In that it was an affair. And even though I don’t condone cheating in the least, I found myself rooting for Olivia and Fitz. It is a testament to the acting, and to the writing that I found myself rooting for their relationship. Not because I hate Mellie, which so many fans online seem to, I don’t particularly like her, but I don’t hate her. She is ambitious and dogged and goes about things in the wrong way but she does love Fitz and wants her to succeed. I root for Fitz and Olivia because of the way Tony Goldwyn flawlessly plays the scenes with the two of them. You can see every ounce of love for her on his face. Goldwyn and Kerry Washington have crazy amounts of chemistry that flies of the screen and makes you cheer them on.

|| FLAWS ||

There aren’t many flaws in this show, and I haven’t found anything glaring, but there are a few things that have been nagging at me.

1. If Fitz and Mellie have two children, why haven’t we seen them at all?

2. How is everyone just totally okay that Mellie basically trapped Fitz into having another child with her? Couldn’t she have just said it was her on the recording and left it at that? Why did there need to be a baby?

3. What exactly made Olivia take in all of the misfits to “fix” them. Did she and Abby know each other before? How did she hear about Harrison or find Huck? What is Steven’s baggage – other than being a philanderer?

|| WHY YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING IT ||  

Strong female characters, gay characters whose homosexuality doesn’t define them, intriguing drama, cohesive plots and two leads with chemistry coming out of their ears.

Do yourself a favour and get in on the conversation!

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