‘Scandal’ Says Goodbye After Seven Seasons of High Octane Drama and Intrigue
Just in time for the release of the Comey memos, ABC’s “Scandal” says goodbye after seven seasons with a series finale that ties up loose ends while delivering new twists. Fans can confidently say this deliciously wicked take on political soap opera ended as it should, in a mix of murder and hope. The timing seems just right for this high octane guilty pleasure to end its run. Perhaps the times have become more scandalous than creator Shonda Rhimes could have possibly imagined when she conceived “Scandal,” but she always knew how to up the ante.
It’s the final showdown following Olivia (Kerry Washington) revealing to the world the existence of the B613 black-ops organization which is truly the power behind the White House. Not just this White House, mind you, but the every administration for the las 30 years. The episode opens with Lonnie (Michael O’Neill) making Olivia vow that if the “Gladiators” (the members of her team who have worked in the clandestine program) can stop B613, then she will help President Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) make gun control a priority. He makes the demand before proceeding to shoot himself (to the writer, surely you jest). The suicide prompts a closed-door hearing during which Olivia and the other Gladiators testify before members of Congress about B613 and its assassination programs, which included the killings of heads of state. The big obstacle is of course Vice President Cyrus (Jeff Perry), who is behind nefarious plots to control President Grant. Cyrus is not above whacking the Attorney General, David Rosen (Joshua Malina) with the help of pawn Jake (Scott Foley). But as the hearings proceed it won’t be so easy to keep the truth hidden.
The finale gives “Scandal” one last go at delivering its entertaining blend of soap and satire. Everything hurdles towards a climax where alliances fall apart and villains get their just desserts. You can sense Rhimes basking in the writing, which goes for over the top zest. At one point Rosen tells a villain, “I’m not your bitch. I am the Attorney General, I am the bitch of the United States of America.” The finale also features the return of Sally Langston (Kate Burton), host of the ultra-conservative show “The Liberty Report,” which is a satirical riff on real life personas like Alex Jones and Sean Hannity. Langston has little connection to the actual plot, but she’s a fun jab at some very real trends.
The rest of the episode brings back old favorites while giving closure to some relationships. Olivia and Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) hook up one last time after she warns him this could be her last night before she goes to prison forever. Ever since Fitz left the office of the presidency, he has remained more of a romantic anchor for Olivia, and in the finale they come to terms with the fact that they are indeed in love. Olivia’s father, Rowan Pope (Joe Morton) is given a fittingly dramatic send-off. He essentially walks into the closed-door session and takes responsibility for the actions of B613. It’s his final, epic sacrifice to save Olivia. There are of course some sudden, murderous twists. The show opens with Lonnie’s suicide but there’s more to come when Cyrus invites Rosen over for a chat and then poisons him . Rhimes keeps the tension building, and for a moment you will wonder if the villains will get away with it. The Gladiators are not made to do any big action scenes, instead their time comes to testify and describe the whole, sordid affair to steel-faced members of Congress.
“Scandal” premiered in 2012 during a less scandalous presidency and with a groundbreaking edge in its style and approach. It placed strong female characters at the forefront of political intrigue, making them serious power players when other shows like “House of Cards” still preferred to focus on male personas. Olivia maneuvered and fought her way up from running a crisis management firm to being President Grant’s confidant and eventually running the B613 program. Over seven seasons she has done everything from ordering the assassination of a foreign leader to killing someone with a chair. “Scandal” has always been fun in the way it combines progressive storytelling with wild action bordering on grindhouse (the memorable scene where a character eats through their wrist to escape imprisonment). The series began with a male president and transitioned to a female commander-in-chief, perhaps in anticipation of a future that ended up getting derailed just like one of its plotlines. The sense of intrigue has never been lost however, and the finale is packed with backdoor meetings, cutthroat negotiations and one last resignation where Olivia stares with rock hard resilience at her adversary. Kerry Washington has always dominated the screen with a piercingly sharp presence, while Bellamy Young as Grant personifies that ideal of a politician driven by actual morals and not pure ambition.
Maybe the time is just right for “Scandal” to close curtains. The show has had a great run for seven seasons and lately has been facing the same dilemma as other political thrillers, namely how to keep up with what we’re getting on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN these days. Even Cyrus would cower in an office next to Steve Bannon. As a final showdown the finale delivered in properly sending off these characters. Olivia sits down next to President Grant and tells her she knows she can be a great president in a sweet goodbye. Of course in this age of revivals you never know. The times may change, but there’s always a new scandal around the corner.
“Scandal” series finale aired April 19 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.