After persistent pushing from my peers, I finally watched the first two seasons of Scandal. The show centers around Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), whose sole job is to fix Scandals, most of which revolve around the White House, or any politicians associated with it.
Before even completing the pilot, the casting was already worth noting. Powerful protagonists are always welcome, and as an African American female, Kerry Washington falls outside network television’s conventional mold. To top it off, the President’s Chief of Staff is a homosexual in a Republican administration, another breakthrough choice on Rimes’ part.
The show is part crime drama, part love story. With each episode, there’s a new mystery, and though the episodes are somewhat self-contained, they are brilliantly tied together in subtle ways that create an addictive experience. Unlike many mystery shows, Scandal centers around each character’s personal life in addition to propelling the broad-sweeping plot-lines. We become invested in the inside lives of Olivia’s “gladiators,” and we like them, even when they double cross their friends.
Despite my aforementioned praise, there’s a few issues. First, although I’ve been a Kerry Washington fan since Spike Lee’s ‘She Hate Me,’ this role needs to be reigned in. Her character lacks light & shade, using nearly every moment to monologue in a harsh tone, even when such monologues relate to her love life and not her occupation. Washington could stand to take notes from Bellamy Young, whose Emmy-worthy performance as the First Lady is extremely multi-dimensional. Young waivers effortlessly between villainous and vulnerable, making it nearly impossible to decide if I like her — which is a monumental feat.
As for the President (played by Tony Goldwyn), he needs more flaws. He’s constantly proclaiming his love for Pope, declaring his unwavering desire to leave his wife for her. Though it’s unequivocally impossible for the President to publicly leave his wife for his mistress prior to his second term, Pope’s mishandling of their romance has reached a cartoonish stereotype of nearly all women, who adamantly declare their desire for something only to reject it upon receipt. And since the President’s wife knows of his affair, the conflict that’s kept him away from his mistress is far too depleted to justify Pope’s rejection. In short, she’s being a girl about it, and as a “Gladiator” — that seems odd. If I were lending my unwanted advice, I’d give Olivia a substantial love life (that doesn’t include the President), and I’d resurrect the President’s relationship with the First Lady, since it’s clear there’s some semblance of existing love, and that would create a justified conflict in the show’s romantic relationships.
I recently tweeted this criticism to Shonda Rimes, who understandably told me that “I’m welcome to stop watching it.” The problem with her suggestion is — I can’t stop watching it. It’s one of the only scripted shows on television with a substantial, complicated plot, and it’s addictive. So if you haven’t discovered it yet — I’d advise you to do so quickly.