I recently started watching the award-winning TV show "Scandal" starring Kerry Washington and Portia de Rossi, among other stars. I was hesitant to watch it, as I didn’t know much about the plot before pressing play. I’m a big fan of crime shows — "Criminal Minds", "Law and Order", "Blue Bloods" — and thought "Scandal" was more of a soap-opera than my usual series.
I was right to think that it’s more dramatic and there’s quite a bit of backstory, but I had no idea how much I’d come to love the show. To put it in perspective, I’m in the middle of season four and I started just a few weeks ago. Maybe this is indicative of how skilled I am at procrastinating and watching too much Netflix or maybe it’s indicative of how addictive and spectacular this show really is.
To summarize the plot, it centers around Kerry Washington’s character, Olivia Pope, and her crisis management firm of Olivia Pope and Associates. The associates, a group of very different people all connected through their illegal or secretive activities, have all been “saved” by Pope at some point and have worked for the firm. Some of the players include an ex-CIA killer, a former money-laundering man connected to terrorism, and a former friend abused by her husband.
This eclectic group forms a tight family that relies on each other as a group of “gladiators in suits," as the money-launderer likes to say. They put everything on the line for their fearless leader, Olivia Pope, and they help clients get justice and keep the world spinning. The scandalous nature of the show is ever-present, however, as Olivia continues her years-long affair with the President of the United States. There’s also her father, the commander of a secret CIA sector that murders enemies of the Republic, and her mother who is a known terrorist. Basically, the complexities are deep and intense in this show, and there are constant revelations and connections being made across episodes, across characters, and across different seasons.
I think this show is incredibly entertaining and addictive, as any good TV series should aspire to be. The creator, world-renown Shonda Rhimes, creator of other hit series including "Grey’s Anatomy", actively tries to confuse and force viewers to think. This show isn’t your run-of-the-mill entertainment, but rather an intense and fast-paced detective novel played out onscreen in which the audience is directly involved. We are forced to form opinions, have biases, root for one guy over the other, and ultimately still love Olivia Pope even after all that goes on in the show.
One of the main questions in this show is if you are Team Jake or Team Fitz. Jake Ballard is the Navy man who becomes intertwined with the secret, murderous CIA organization that is responsible for the deaths of some of Olivia’s friends. Fitzgerald Grant III, on the other hand, is the President of the United States with whom Olivia is having an affair and who has his own secrets and slightly murderous activity in the past.
If you don’t watch the show, these two guys sound like pretty terrible options and you might say Olivia should look elsewhere altogether. This struggle between the two is central to the show, however, and fans are completely split on who Olivia should choose. I am not caught up on the most recent episodes, but I’ve watched enough to form my own opinions.
I’m Team Fitz all the way. As much as he is morally crucified in the show for a good reason, I think he cares about Olivia more than Jake does and I think he’s far less shady than Jake. Sure, Jake wants to protect Olivia and ultimately he’s a good guy, but he’s responsible for killing Olivia’s nicest friends such as James Novak, the amiable husband of White House Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene.
I think that’s the point of the show really, that as much as Fitz and Liv shouldn’t be together, they ultimately will end up in their giant house in Vermont a few years down the road. At least I hope that’s how the show ends, anyway. There’s too much history and too much at stake for them to remain apart forever.
This series often gets judged for just being a show about the scandalous activities between Olivia and the President, but there’s a lot more to it. There’s an incredible amount of learning done on the audience’s part about the United States government and how much goes on in that big white house in Washington. There’s also a lot of themes that hit home for viewers, such as the death of loved ones and children, different relationships between children and parents, sacrifice, war, women’s rights, and foreign policy. If I haven’t sold you on this show yet, then at least watch an episode for the thrill factor that it gives. If you watch it, you’ll have some great one-liners to employ in your everyday conversations, and you’ll feel pretty empowered when Harrison, the money-launderer, asks, “are we gladiators or… are we b*tches?”. Be a gladiator.