From the very beginning, series set in the universe known as Shondaland have been known to push the boundaries whenever possible. Whether through making generally unlikable people the main characters, focusing on sordid affairs and dramatic murder plots, or by changing cast members at the drop of hat, these shows have always known how to keep even the most casual of viewers on their toes.
The overall quality of the shows is almost not even the point of them anymore. Sure, certain actors have turned in some genuinely outstanding work, but then again, questionable casting choices plague these rapid turnover laden shows like no other.
The writing varies from one week to the next in terms of whether it makes a modicum of sense, or whether the characters are remotely deserving of sympathy.
Regardless of the characterization, the writing, or the acting, Shondaland has become all about the moments that you can’t wait to tweet about, having been one of the original pioneers of social TV. Yet regardless of whether the discussion-worthy moments happened pre- or post-Twitter’s existence, sometimes, Shondaland just goes way too far.
With that said, here are the 15 Jarring Scenes That Take You Out Of Shondaland Shows.
15. Sally Langston’s “yum, yum, crispy piggy” rant (Scandal)
Never afraid of getting graphic and outlandish, Scandal outdid itself yet again with the season three murder of Daniel Douglas Langston at the hands of his wife, then-Vice President Sally Langston.
Sally, as it turned out, repeatedly stabbed him with a letter opener in her office in a fit of homophobic fervor, as her closeted husband was threatening to ruin everything they had worked so hard to build.
Following his death and the cover up, Sally truly goes off the deep end, raving about sins and people seeing through her lies and learning the truth.
Howeverm one fit of true hysteria stands out among the rest, in which she goes on a long-winded rant about judgment and reckoning.
A rant she concludes with the forever immortalized lines “Yum, yum, crispy piggy! Yum, yum!” — referring to how all of these beasts around her are going to burn.
Of course, this all makes sense, as Sally continues to spiral out of control in her own paranoia and guilt. However, it doesn’t make any of it easier to watch, or easier to accept as something we had to spend time watching.
14. The entire musical episode (Grey’s Anatomy)
We get it: it’s going to be tempting to do a musical episode when you just so happen to have talented actors who also happen to be talented singers — or, at the very least, can slightly carry a tune enough to sing-talk their way through a group number.
Shonda Rhimes has admitted that the idea for a Grey’s Anatomy musical episode was a very early concept that she toyed with, even before the series itself was a sure thing.
However, just because an idea is an original one, that doesn’t mean it will turn out to be a very good one — or a necessary one, at that.
The season seven episode “Song Beneath the Song” follows the attempts of the doctors at Seattle Grace to save the life of Callie Torres, who wanders the halls in an out of body experience and bursts into song.
13. Mellie’s assault (Scandal)
Assault is a topic that’s rarely handled gracefully on television. True, the tide may be turning nowadays, especially in the current culture of #MeToo and #TimesUp, but in the case of Scandal‘s season three episode “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie”, the reveal of a past sexual assault couldn’t have been any less tasteless.
In the episode, a flashback reveals that Mellie is assaulted by her domineering father-in-law, Barry Bostwick’s Big Jerry Grant.
Not only that, it’s implied that Big Jerry very well may have gotten Mellie pregnant with her son, Jerry Jr.
Perhaps the most insulting component of all is the fact that the series tries to use Mellie’s assault as a way of making her power-driven behavior “understandable.” By giving her a tragic backstory, her cunning and guile is somehow excused. For a show that claims to be unabashedly feminist, that’s an awfully toxic way of thinking.
12. Derek and Meredith walk in on Lexie in bed (Grey’s Anatomy)
Sometimes, scenes can take you totally out of the moment just by virtue of being played for cheap laughs. Grey’s, unfortunately, does this quite a lot in its earlier years, particularly with so many people (and so many couples) living together.
One particular instance, however, stands out more than the rest in terms of the awkward cringe factor it has going for it.
In season six, Lexie Grey is casually dating Alex Karev, and decides to surprise him by waiting in his bed for him to return. Except it’s not Alex who walks in to find her there, of course: it’s none other than Derek Shepherd, her brother-in-law.
As if that weren’t bad enough, her own sister, Meredith, follows soon after. Having her brother-in-law find her in a state of undress would’ve been traumatic enough for poor Little Grey, but adding Meredith into the mix makes the entire thing too awkward to bear.
11. Meredith lets herself drown (Grey’s Anatomy)
Subjects such as depression and self harm have been at the heart of Grey’s Anatomy since the very beginning. Ellis Grey attempted to end her own life once, right in front of a very young Meredith who was forced to overcome her own trauma and make the call to save her.
Most core characters have dealt with feelings of anxiety, trauma, and depression at one point or another, self-medicating in the ways they know best.
However, in season three, Meredith comes the closest she ever has to following in her mother’s footsteps. As she struggles to remain afloat following the massive ferry boat accident, Meredith suddenly decides, just for a moment, to stop fighting and give in to the water.
Allowing herself to drown, Meredith — the series lead – is wiped away from the narrative in a truly shocking way.
Faced with the very real potential of her sudden death, viewers are left to wonder what will happen next… only to realize that the show’s title bears her name, and that this is just a way of toying with their emotions for the present in the name of exploring her character’s pain further in the future.
10. Olivia violently beats Andrew (Scandal)
One of the biggest issues with Scandal‘s later years — and trust us, there are a lot of them — is the mystery of what exactly is going on in Olivia Pope’s head.
Following her kidnapping at the hands of Vice President Andrew Nichols’ henchmen, Olivia ostensibly has some form of PTSD, yet the show rarely dares to venture into the territory of unpacking that trauma and working towards healing.
Instead, it remains hidden behind almost every despicable deed Olivia does on her own, festering behind the pretense of acting in the name of all that is good in the world. Yet, becoming increasingly clear, Olivia isn’t interested in the greater good — she’s interested in what’s good for herself.
So when, in a sudden episode of PTSD, Olivia beats her kidnapper Andrew Nichols with a metal chair, it’s not just confusing and abrupt — it’s downright sickening, and one push too many for a series unafraid of taking any and all risks.
9. The Keating Four dispose of Sam’s body (HTGAWM)
Given that the title and premise of How To Get Away With Murder suggests you’ll be witnessing people do some pretty terrible things and learning how to get away with it all, you’d think viewers would be more prepared for just how graphic and disturbing things can get.
Yet, for a primetime series on network television, HTGAWM has never been afraid of packing a serious punch when it comes to the graphic details.
Take, for example, the time when the Keating Four (usually Keating Five, but Asher remained oblivious at this point) found themselves forced to dispose of the body of Sam Keating, the husband of their law professor/mentor/manipulator Annalise Keating.
How did they decide to dispose of his body, you may ask? By cutting it up into pieces and burning it in the woods, of course, as any sane law students would apparently do. The entire sequence still makes our stomachs turn.
8. Lexie fractures Mark’s sensitive area (Grey’s Anatomy)
As we previously mentioned, Grey’s is pretty good at producing the awkward laugh based on a cheap punchline scenario. One of the clearest examples of this is the time when, while sneaking some alone time together in an on-call room, Lexie Grey somehow fractured Mark Sloan’s reproductive organ.
An entire episode’s plot for the two of them revolved around Mark’s injury, his treatment, Lexie’s and Mark’s respective humiliation, and the ways in which the news spread and only compounded their mutual embarrassment.
To be sure, the entire ordeal led to some wonderfully sweet moments for the tragically fated soulmates, including Lexie climbing into his hospital bed and holding his head to comfort him.
7. Rowan and Quinn sing and dance to Britney Spears (Scandal)
Grey’s Anatomy isn’t the only series that has had its fair share of cringeworthy musical scenes, as it turns out. Thankfully, we’ve thus far been spared the mess that would be Scandal: The Musical or How To Get Away With Murder: The Musical.
However, in a recent season seven episode of Scandal, a scene took place that struck so discordant a note, it’s hard to comprehend that it happened at all.
Quinn, having just been taken captive by Rowan and having given birth to hers and Charlie’s child while presumed dead, now finds herself on likely amicable terms with Olivia’s monstrous father.
As her baby begins to fuss about, she begins to sing to it to soothe it, and Rowan joins in on the routine.
As baby daddy Charlie watches incredulously in the background, a conduit for the viewer’s experience, Rowan and Quinn dance and sing along to “Hit Me Baby, One More Time” by Britney Spears. Because, apparently, that was a valuable use of our time, and theirs.
6. Cristina and Lexie sing “Like A Virgin” (Grey’s Anatomy)
Grey’s has a long history with important musical moments, boasting an impressive soundtrack that has effectively catapulted dozens of artists into the greater cultural consciousness. However, for all the Snow Patrol and The Fray songs they have given airtime to, they’ve also had their fair share of uncomfortable scenes involving music.
Perhaps the most uncomfortable of them all was the time when Cristina Yang and Lexie Grey took part in an impromptu duet of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”. We’re not begrudging them their choice of a classic song to jam along to, but the timing of their odd performance is more than a little bit of a head scratcher.
During their performance, Yang is performing a surgical procedure on a cadaver, while Grey nervously observes from behind her. When Lexie starts to sing along with Cristina, for one fleeting moment, the show becomes aware of just how awkward it’s being, only to lose sight of that self-awareness a few seconds later.
5. Wes’s death (HTGAWM)
It’s always going to be a risk when a series kills off a significant, beloved character. Grey’s has done its fair share of that, killing off the likes of George, Lexie, Mark, and Derek without any hesitation, no matter the fan devastation and protests that resulted from it.
Scandal has done it, too, killing off supporting characters such as James and Harrison in its earlier seasons.
However, when How To Get Away With Murder decided it was going to make its third season murder mystery its biggest yet, they made perhaps one of the most unforgivable mistakes of all: killing off their ostensible lead character.
You could make the case that this is Annalise’s world and they’re all just living in it, but Wes was the heart of the series.
4. Rowan screams about wanting his dinosaur bones back (Scandal)
Joe Morton’s portrayal of Rowan, also known as Eli Pope, has long been a source of division for Scandal fans and critics alike. Lauded with awards and prestige praise, there’s no denying that Morton is a wonderful actor, when given the right role that merits his talent.
Unfortunately, the role of Rowan is one that is not at all deserving of it.
A character who was once mysterious and frightening has been reduced time and again to a caricature of villainy and comical melodramatics. Known for his preachy speechifying that takes up chunks of screentime, Rowan was originally a credible threat, dastardly and dangerous and ruthless.
Now, with Olivia allegedly serving the purpose of the higher power in this universe’s final season, he’s been reduced to a raving old man who screams in bloodcurdling pitch about wanting his dinosaur bones back. We wish we were making this up.
3. “On a dead girl’s phone” (HTGAWM)
Following in the footsteps of Grey’s and Scandal before it, How To Get Away With Murder has never shied away from crafting moments that were destined to go viral within milliseconds of airing.
If fans hadn’t picked up on that phenomenon from the very first episode of the series, then the end of the fourth episode of the series would have surely done that for them.
After Annalise takes off her makeup and hair and prepares for bed at the end of a long day, she levels her husband, Sam, with one damning, instantly iconic question, asking him why a revealing image of himself was “on a dead girl’s phone.”
It’s the question that would launch a thousand questions within the series, thousands of tweets on Twitter, and millions of cringes worldwide.
2. Everyone overhears Denny and Izzie’s ghost intimacy (Grey’s Anatomy)
Ghost is far and away considered one of the most romantic — yet tragic — romantic dramas of all time. Chronicling the tragic romance between a living woman and her murdered significant other, the film created countless iconic moments in the entertainment canon, ranging from the delivery of the line “Molly, you in danger, girl” to the epic pottery scene set to “Unchained Melody.”
When Grey’s Anatomy tried to do something along the lines of a realm-spanning romance, however, it was a little less Ghost, and a lot more “hypothetical direct to video knockoff of Ghost.”
Denny and Izzie may have had their moments during the show’s second season, when he was still alive and their romance was over before it could really begin.
However, when Grey’s decided, for some reason, to revive their romance through Izzie’s hallucinations of him, everything suddenly became unbearably awkward.
Worst of all is, unarguably, the time in which all of her fellow housemates hear her somehow getting intimate with Denny’s ghost, leaving them all to wonder what on earth is going on since — as far as they know — she’s alone in her room.
1. Huck licks Quinn’s face while torturing her (Scandal)
Out of all of the Shondaland series, Scandal has perhaps pushed the boundaries of what viewers can actually bring themselves to watch in terms of cringe and gore more than any other Shondaland series.
Including water torture, assassination attempts, and brutal sequences on an almost biweekly basis, the wannabe spy drama is definitely not your average, run of the mill political thriller.
One of the most egregious violations of storytelling conduct came in an earlier season of the series, when Huck, forcing Quinn to provide him with information, decided to impulsively lick her face, as though he needed to taste her fear to make sure it was real.
This would be disturbing enough it were from a villain, but Huck is, allegedly, one of the series’ heroes.
Making matters worse, Quinn goes on to become romantically entangled with him, and even gets in a face lick of her own along the way. Just… why?
Can you think of any other jarring scenes that have taken you out of Shondaland series? Sound off in the comments!
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