Today I watched the entire first season of Scandal - yes all in one sitting - and it was fabulous! It felt like one long movie which helped keep up the energy. While this was great, it has me a tiny bit worried for season 2 when the plot will be stretched out over a full order of episodes. But the writers know what they’re doing, I’m sure.
When the pilot started I was a bit worried about the firecracker wordy dialog but as we dived deeper into the emotional needs of the characters, that quickly subsided into something smart and concise. Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope owns the show with her steely control. Kerry has this amazing ability to just push everything Olivia is feeling through her eyes. It’s easy to believe why she’s such a political force. Not to the say the supporting characters are just idle ducks! That’s hardly the case. Olivia’s team has a necessary balance to it. Huck’s dramatic violence is a perfect counterpoint to Abby’s knowing smiles and bubbly enthusiasm. And Harrison’s confident professionalism really highlight’s Quinn’s uncertainty and inexperience. As for Finch, he easily matches Olivia’s step although he’s smart enough to know not to take the lead. Sure the political drama is great and the first season’s running arc had me weeping but I think it’s this core team that drives the episodes. It’s easy to see how Scandal will be able to go on season after season.
I have to admit it also had it’s shock moments. The key event involving Gideon? I jumped. I mean I actually jumped. My behind lifted from the sofa! I don’t want to spoil anyone who might pick this one up because it really is a wow moment. The show also left an emotional impact on me. Both Darby Stanchfield as Abby and Liza Weil as the doomed Amanda Tanner deliver heart wrenching dialogs.
Which would not have been possible on just any program. No, Scandal is more than just a political drama. In fact it’s probably got some of the most complex female characters on Network TV right now. These woman have real motivations, real ambitions, and while the course of their lives are deeply determined by men, the writers have handled it in such a knowing way that I almost want to cheer. At one point Olivia talks a dictator into rethinking a decision by explaining how betrayed women can become heroes. What she might not realize is that she’s also talking about herself. About all of the women on the show. They’re more than just smart ladies- the represent the real female power players of the moment. Women who allow men to think the world belongs to them while carefully proving that’s not the case.
This extends beyond our heroes as well. Scene stealer Bellamy Young seems to be becoming something of an antagonist in her role as the opportunistic First Lady. She might just understand how to play the politics game better than anyone. And in season two she might have some company with Kate Burton’s vice president Sally Langston looking to stir up trouble.
Sure there are parts of Scandal that come directly from the political drama play book. But Shonda Rhimes has managed to also cultivate a very unique voice in the genre. She’s looked beyond the archetypes and developed a group of characters it’s okay to care about. She’s also manage to develop some fine roles for working actresses. Ten years ago the idea of such a complex female lead in a political drama like this would have been unheard of. Certainly you could not sell a show simply on that! Whatever would we be thinking?! But having such a short first season has allowed us to explore Olivia Pope in just that way. On the one hand I want to shake my head after all it’s about time, right?! But on the other hand Kerry Washington and Olivia Pope were worth the wait.