At one point, ABC’s Scandal was appointment television. The series, which follows the twisty life and many loves of Kerry Washington’s badass, impeccably dressed political fixer Olivia Pope, practically patented the idea of must-tweet-TV. When shocking plot twists occurred in the early seasons (Billy Chambers is the mole! Huck shot Fitz!), they didn’t detract from the episodes’ main plots; if anything, they built upon them.
In more recent years, however, Scandal has become a series based on nothing but tweet-worthy moments. Characterization has taken hit after hit for at least three seasons now, and narrative integrity has been cast aside in favor of producing the most shocking moments that will earn the show one of its many hashtags as part of ABC’s TGIT block.
It’s with this emphasis on plot twists that Scandal started to lose control of itself. Of course, the premise of the series was never very realistic to begin with, so why should it be expected to follow real world logic? Maybe that’s asking too much of a show that was never more than a primetime soap opera to begin with, but there’s no denying that lots of things in the series simply don’t add up. Just take a look at this list of 15 Things About Scandal That Make No Sense to see what we’re talking about.
15. A Scandalous Alias
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And sure, sometimes that may be true. But when it comes to an imitation that refuses to acknowledge the fact that it’s trying to be an imitation, there’s nothing sincere or flattering about any part of it.
When Scandal began airing in 2012, it was a political procedural drama imbued with just the right amount of soapiness: our strong female character protagonist was hopelessly in love with a very married president. This continued to be the main conceit of the series, with procedural and overarching plot elements mixed in along the way, until halfway through season 2. And then suddenly, everything changed. The political intrigue was replaced with spying, torture, backstabbing, and mysterious organizations who had control not only within the capitol, but over Olivia’s life as well.
14. Psycho: Scandal edition?
Scandal is really no stranger to gruesome deaths. Whether it was that time Olivia beat someone to death with a chair (oops?) or basically any time Huck and Charlie have killed someone, there’s been a fair amount of bloodshed on this show, more than most non-medical network shows can get away with.
But perhaps one of the most egregious examples of this can be found in season 3’s “A Door Marked Exit,” which finds sitting vice president Sally Langston stabbing her closeted husband Daniel Douglas Langston in the back repeatedly until he dies from the excessive wounds. Sally is left shaken and blood-spattered as she places a call to Cyrus Beene to inform him that she has “committed a sin.” Given the lengths the series takes to cover up the VP’s heinous murder, it would make sense for this plot point to come into play later on, with the information perhaps falling into the wrong hands.
13. Jake Ballard, world’s worst boyfriend
There’s no denying that Olivia Pope has always had questionable taste in men. There’s President Fitzgerald Grant, a previously married father of three with whom she has had an on and off affair for nearly a decade by now. Then there was Edison Davis, her former fiance who was occasionally controlling and, frankly, quite boring.
But no offender is worse than Jake Ballard, a man hired by the president to keep tabs on Olivia, who then proceeds to seduce her all while watching her via the surveillance system he has set up in her home. Making matters worse, when Olivia finds out the truth of his stalkerish ways, the two engage in a struggle that leaves Olivia with a head injury and a hospital stay.
And yet somehow, that wasn’t the deal breaker, with the two still remaining on and off to this day. Oh, and did we mention the fact that Jake is one of the highest operatives within the spy organization B613, and that his kill count is astronomical and includes some of her closest friends? Olivia, you in danger, girl.
12. The illusion of a functioning body politic
There’s not an episode of Scandal that goes by where there isn’t a crisis, where someone hasn’t been murdered, where a relationship isn’t falling apart… You get the picture.
Scandal asks a lot of its viewers in terms of suspending their disbelief, and since it’s basically a soap opera, we’re pretty much willing to go along for the ride as long as we’ve got some popcorn. But given the amount of backstabbing, murdering, lying, and cheating that goes on in Scandal‘s universe, there might just be a line we’re not willing to cross when it comes to what they expect us to believe.
How on Earth are we supposed to think this particular group of politicians gets anything done?
11. Fitz vs. Verna
When Fitz was the subject of an assassination attempt in early season 2, it was one of the series’ most electrifying moments to date, coming totally out of nowhere and leading to an exhilarating mystery. Except when the truth really came out—that the assassination was orchestrated by Supreme Court Justice Verna Thornton—a battle began that really served no clear purpose.
As Fitz meets with Verna, she reveals all to him, including the truth of his presidency being fixed by the woman he loves. In order to prevent the secret from getting out, Fitz smothers the already ailing senior citizen to death in the hospital. And when Olivia finds out the truth behind Verna’s death, it cements Fitz in her mind as tainted…at least until the next time they’re caught making out.
10. Madam President?
Speaking of morally grey presidents…
Mellie Grant’s transformation is more than a bit of a head-scratcher. In seasons 1 and 2, she’s a vindictive First Lady willing to do whatever it takes to win the public over, whether it means lying about a miscarriage or staging a tell-all interview about her husband’s cheating. Desirous of power, by season 3, she is hated openly by the people, who resent her for not being a traditional First Lady and who actually have less sympathy for her as a result of Fitz’s cheating.
Yet beneath all this aggressive behavior, we learn that Mellie is intelligent and qualified, a successful lawyer who gave it all up for her husband’s political ambition. And then, she decides to pursue her own, rapidly escalating from First Lady, to Senator, to First Female President…all without doing much of anything to renovate her public image.
9. Who would actually go “over a cliff” for Olivia Pope?
One of the earliest and most-defining scenes of Scandal involves Abby Whelan passionately informing Olivia that she would “gladly follow [her] over a cliff.” This level of devotion exemplifies the relationship between glorified mother figure Olivia and her ducklings, or Gladiators In Suits, as they’re known.
But we can’t help but wonder why any of the people who have worked for her would feel any amount of devotion at all.
Olivia shows signs of being a typical abuser with a savior complex. She swoops in to help people who need saving (Abby from a physically abusive marriage; Quinn from a wrongful murder and terrorist charge; Huck from homelessness and PTSD; and so on) and then demands endless dehumanizing things from them. Sometimes, she even makes their lives worse than they were when she saved them. It’s no surprise, then, that the relationships between Gladiators have become greatly strained over the years.
8. The Mama Pope of it all
Olivia Pope is such an enigmatic figure that it really was inevitable that her parents would be introduced. Yet it cannot be denied that her parents are, by far, two of the show’s worst characters, and a terrible waste of talented actors.
In particular, her mother, Maya Lewis, is someone the series never knows what to do with. A looming terrorist threat, Maya is relentless, having no regard for anyone but herself and once chewing her own wrists raw as part of an elaborate scheme to break out of prison. Yet in other times, she is shown to have a true weakness in the form of her daughter, often making mistakes that result in her capture simply because she wanted to see or speak with Olivia one more time.
Khandi Alexander’s performance is every bit as mercurial as the character warrants, yet it’s Scandal‘s failure to establish Maya as a credible threat or useful asset that makes her role all the more difficult to pin down.
7. No going back for Novak
Remember when we mentioned how high Jake’s kill count is? And the fact that it included some of Olivia’s nearest and dearest?
Meet the prime example of that: Dan Bucatinsky’s James Novak, an earnest journalist turned White House Press Secretary. Married to ruthless political animal Cyrus Beene, James was the closest thing the series has ever had to a moral compass. One of the characters to have come the closest to unearthing the real story about the rigging of Defiance in the Grant election, James was always in pursuit of the truth. Yet in the world of Scandal, knowing the truth can get you killed.
6. David and Abby
Sometimes, characters seem like they’re paired together purely because of the math. Lead A is paired with Lead B, Character C is paired with Character D, and so on until there are no more recognizable faces left to pair off. It’s particularly noticeable when these characters would have had no reason to interact otherwise. And it’s especially glaring when the chemistry just…isn’t there.
This couldn’t be truer for Scandal‘s Abby Whelan and David Rosen, who hooked up secretly at the start of season 2. Olivia simply cannot have her friend fraternizing with a rival. And so, she sabotages the relationship in a truly disgusting way: Abby has a tragic backstory of unimaginable domestic abuse, so Olivia preys upon that fact and fabricates a story about one of David’s exes alleging that he abused her.
5. A not-so-secret Scandal
It was the dramatic reveal that ended the series’ pilot episode: Fitz and Olivia are in love, and were once romantically involved. It floored Cyrus Beene, Fitz’s Chief of Staff, who acted as an audience stand-in as he barged in on their particularly heated moment in the Oval Office. Yet as flashbacks reveal over subsequent episodes and seasons, Fitz and Olivia were nowhere near as careful as they should have been.
Whether it was staring longingly at one another in wide open hallways, or engaging in more suggestive behavior in various parts of the White House, the star-crossed lovers’ affair should, by all accounts, have been the worst kept secret in Washington.
Yet every time it’s revealed to another character, it presents a big, world-changing reveal. But honestly, their chemistry and connection were so strong that anyone should have seen it coming a mile away…while blindfolded.
4. Olivia and the case of the magically disappearing PTSD
It’s hard to believe that Olivia’s battle with PTSD happened in the same show that featured an entire, poignant episode devoted to Huck’s battle with PTSD.
Yet other than fleeting flashbacks to Olivia’s abduction, during which she was placed on auction for the highest international bidder, Scandal has missed the mark in its depiction of Olivia’s descent into darkness. In one season 5 episode, we have the closest the series has come to fully realizing the severity of her emotions. After being taunted by the man responsible for her kidnapping, Olivia has a psychotic break and bludgeons him to death with a chair, screaming about revenge and how it belongs to her.
But beyond this crucial sign of her fall from the Olivia she once was, the series has never addressed her anxiety, her fear, her sense of loss and betrayal, or her clear missed diagnosis in any other way. And for a show that keeps as up with the times as Scandal does, it’s a damn shame.
3. Huck and Quinn
Yes, chemistry is subjective, and sure, your mileage may vary on whether this particular pairing has any sizzle. But there’s absolutely no denying the fact that the decision to elevate this once enjoyable mentor-student dynamic from “lost souls who found each other” to “twisted S&M partners who torture each other” is…puzzling, at best, and just plain nasty, at worst.
The erstwhile pairing, affectionately referred to as Huckleberry Quinn within the fandom, has had some of the series’ most unsettling scenes to date. Their sexual scenes are frequently violent or public, true, but no moment can be more stomach-churning than the time Huck tortured a naked, duct-tape bound, openly weeping Quinn with dental tools and licked her face, as if he needed to taste her fear.
2. Does anyone wear “the white hat”?
From the beginning of the series, Olivia Pope and David Rosen have gone back and forth about which of them is fighting for the right cause—or, as they deem it, who is wearing the white hat. Season 2 was even book-ended by episodes titled “White Hat’s Off” and “White Hat’s Back On,” which featured Olivia dramatically wearing an ornate white hat.
But at this point in the game, can anyone really claim to wear it? All of Scandal‘s main characters have been compromised and sullied by the ins and outs of the political world. Most of them have killed people. Most of them have committed unspeakable crimes in the name of the greater good. And most of them are but shells of who they used to be—who we used to root for.
Admit it: you knew this would be at the top of the list.
As soon as the mysterious and all powerful organization known as B613 entered the picture in season 2, Scandal stopped being Scandal. We somehow know far too much about this group, and yet, we know nothing at all. Prominent characters such as the previously discussed Jake Ballard and Joe Morton’s Eli Pope/Rowan became major players in the series, chewing away at the screentime dedicated to what the series has always done best.
And yet no matter how close the series comes to getting rid of B613, and its “Command” (whether it be Rowan, Jake, or even Olivia herself now…), it never seems to accept one simple fact: B613 has never worked.
So Scandal, please, in your final season, stop trying to make B613 happen.
What other plots on Scandal have left you scratching your head? Let us know in the comments.
Scandal‘s seventh and final season premieres October 5th on ABC.
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