Shondaland shows have always been known for their soapiness, their addictive and guilty pleasure nature. But when Scandal first premiered mid season in 2012, it totally changed the Shondaland game, introducing viewers to a world so far removed from the reality of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, it's almost unthinkable to imagine that these represent the same creative world.
At the heart of Scandal - and the inspiration for its very title, at that - was a simple premise: a political fixer, unable to fix her own problems, falls in love with the married President of the United States. Scandal was a twisty, turny ride of a series - one that was unfortunately bad more often than it was good. But it was always the story of Olivia Pope, the best of the best in the fierce world of political animals, and the many damaged people who revolved around her.
And as is always true of Shondaland, the series' damaged characters were always drawn to each other, in romantic pairings ranging from ill-advised to addictive, semi-normal to beyond disturbing. We take a look at the best and worst of them.
10 Best: James and Cyrus
Once upon a time, Cyrus Beane and James Novak were a happily married couple. Though Cyrus struggled with his sexuality for a long time, as a deeply conservative and incredibly public figure, he would eventually come around to being open and comfortable enough with his identity as a gay man to marry the love of his life, intrepid reporter James Novak. The duo would even go on to adopt an adorable young baby girl, Ella Novak Beane.
But, in the world of Scandal, these picture-perfect families are always complicated, and never given a real chance. James's role as an investigative journalist always stood in direct conflict with Cyrus's role as Chief of Staff to President Fitzgerald Grant - especially when James began to uncover secrets that would compromise Cyrus's entire career. Cyrus would indirectly in turn be responsible for James's savage murder at the hands of assassin Jake Ballard. But once upon a time, before they entered the public sphere, these two almost stood a chance.
9 Worst: Fitz and Mellie
Nothing says true, lasting love like a politically arranged marriage of convenience between two people who can't stand each other and actually take pleasure from hurting one another whenever they can. Fitz and Mellie were presented as the perfect President and First Lady in the beginning of the series, but as scandals were unveiled and layers peeled back through flashbacks, it became clearer just how incredibly toxic these two were.
Whether it involved Mellie faking a miscarriage in order to garner sympathy votes, or inducing labor to force Fitz to stay with her; or Fitz cheating on Mellie for years and years, with someone she had once trusted, it was clear that these two were never meant to be together. It's just a shame that the series took so long to realize it, too.
8 Best: Abby and Stephen
Darby Stanchfield's Abby Whelan is arguably one of the most interesting characters in the entire series. A survivor of an abusive marriage, Abby is a cutthroat lawyer, with a big heart and an even bigger wit. When she was first introduced in season 1, it was clear that she was in love with one of her coworkers - Henry Ian Cusick's Stephen Finch. Stephen, at the time, was in a relationship, but not entirely committed to it.
The two exchanged the occasional flirtation, words of fond taunting, and a little too much personal space invasion for them to have been considered just coworkers. But before anything could happen between them, Stephen was written out of the series at the start of season 2, following Cusick's departure. These two could have been something really special, but now, we'll never know.
7 Worst: Olivia and Edison
In the world of Scandal, one of the worst things you can be is... well, boring. Normal is overrated, in a world filled with characters who will do whatever it takes to survive and rise among the ranks of the cutthroat political scene. When Olivia Pope reunited with her past lover, Edison Davis, it was clear that she was struggling to accept the reality of the life she had now made for herself.
Edison represented a past when Olivia's life was safer - when she didn't know that her world was just as ugly as it truly is. But, with that said, Edison was incredibly, deeply boring. Olivia said it herself when she told him that, when it came to a relationship, she wanted "painful, difficult, devastating, life-changing, extraordinary love." Olivia wanted the kind of soapy romance that Shondaland has perfected. And that was something she would never get with Edison.
6 Best: Mellie and Marcus
It took all the way until the fifth and sixth seasons for former First Lady and eventual President Mellie Grant to finally find happiness with someone who loved her. But by the time she did, she couldn't have chosen a better man to be with. Marcus Walker was a late addition to the series, but he would ultimately prove to be one of the very best. A strong addition to Olivia's team at Olivia Pope & Associates, Marcus would come to be involved on Mellie's presidential campaign - and take an immediate disliking to the future female President.
As with almost any relationship that starts off with mutual dislike on television, Marcus and Mellie would soon fall for one another and begin a relationship that took many twists and turns before finally reaching a point where they could be together. If the flash-forward at the end of the series finale is anything to go by, Marcus very well may be the First Gentleman to President Mellie Grant. And they lived happily ever after - by Scandal standards, at least.
5 Worst: Huck and Quinn
Sometimes, a show can have a relationship that is absolutely wonderful, and meaningful, and a pleasure to watch - and then overplay their hand, and totally ruin it as a result. Take, for example, the bond developed in early seasons between Huck and Quinn Perkins. Dubbed Huckleberry Quinn by social media fans, the pair became as thick as thieves as former assassin Huck took the lost bird Quinn under his wing.
And then, all of a sudden, the show decided their relationship needed to become romantic. But rather than go about it in any conventional way, their so-called romance would come to involve abduction, torture, body horror, licking each other's faces, and more things that are best left unexplored. We don't know why the show went this way, but what we do know is that it seriously ruined two of the show's once most enjoyable characters as a result.
4 Best: Charlie and Quinn
While Huck and Quinn may just be one of the worst choices the show ever made in the romance department, Scandal really rebounded when it decided to pair Quinn with high ranking B613 killer, Charlie. By that point, Quinn had already established herself as something of an expert in the B613 arena, a fearsome killer in her own right. And yet, as soon as Charlie and Quinn set foot around each other, the hardboiled nature of their characters just melted away.
Hard as it may be to believe, Quinn and Charlie's relationship is about as close to normal as Scandal ever allows its main couples to get - whether it's Charlie affectionately calling her the Robin to his Batman, or Quinn's eventual pregnancy, or their sweet, spur of the moment marriage in the series finale.
3 Worst: Andrew and Mellie
When Jon Tenney's Andrew Nichols was introduced in the back half of season three as someone with whom Mellie shared a secret, unconsummated history, it seemed like the show was finally setting up for a future in which Mellie could find some happiness, and the toxic marriage between Fitz and Mellie would come to an end at last. Andrew and Mellie began a passionate affair when reunited in the present, and though it quickly became common knowledge among those closest to them, that didn't deter their feelings for each other in the slightest.
What did put a little bit of a damper on the whole relationship, however, was the fact that Andrew turned out to be a total, power hungry, kidnapping orchestrating sociopath. Determined to force Fitz's hand and provoke a war, Andrew was responsible for the violent kidnapping and torture of Olivia Pope. That his relationship with Mellie was never revisited again after that point was certainly for the best.
2 Best: Fitz and Olivia
Could any other couple have possibly ranked as the best of the best on this show? For better or worse, Scandal was a series that chronicled not only the life of political fixer Olivia Pope, but also her ongoing, everlasting, intense affair and romance with President Fitzgerald Grant. While timing may never have been their strong suit, from the moment Fitz and Olivia first met, it was clear that there would never, ever really be anyone else for either of them.
It took them a long time, and a lot of pain, before they finally got to a point where they could be together openly. And even then, countless mistakes and lies would interfere, causing them to break up and spend time apart. But when the series finale ended, it was with these two characters greeting each other with their signature "Hi," signaling a brand new start for the both of them - and the potential of a life together, unburdened by all they had done during the series' run. If any two characters deserved as much, it would most definitely be them.
1 Worst: Jake and Olivia
In the world of Scandal, there are some pretty screwed up stories that the series tries to pass off as being representative of love. But arguably the most screwed up of them all is whatever sick love story the show thought it was telling between Olivia Pope and eventual spy agency B613 head Jake Ballard. Jake was originally introduced in the series to spy on Olivia, to ensure her safety, only to wind up preying upon that secret advantage, monitoring her every move and seducing her.
What followed was seasons upon seasons of violent interactions - on one instance, he knocked her out and sent her to the hospital; and in another case, he nearly choked her out with his bare hands. Making matters even ickier is Jake's closeness to Olivia's own father, Rowan - a known sociopath who referred to Jake as the son he never had. We're really not sure what sort of message Scandal intended to send with this dynamic, especially by dragging its romantic potential all the way out until the series finale.