What with the holidays, the hustle and bustle of the new year, and the Olympics, it doesn't totally feel like it's been two and a half months since we've seen a new episode of Scandal. But you guys, it's been two and a half months. That's such a long time, especially for a show that really thrives once the stories start to hum and twists start to pile on top of other twists. I actually intended to kick off this review with a quick refresher of everything that happened in the last half of 2013, but the good news is that Scandal's spring premiere, "Ride, Sally, Ride" tried to do quite a bit of that refreshing in its own right. Of course, that was also sort of the bad news, because the episode, while it contained some intriguing moments, mostly hustled to remind us of dangling plot threads while setting up future stories that are sure to break our minds and our spirits by the end of this third season.
Reminding the audience of what happened before a long break upon return from that break is never easy. It's always going to come off a little turgid and forced, and that's especially true for a show like this one, where there's simply so much to (re-)explain. However, the one benefit Scandal does have is that many members of its cast—primarily Joe Morton, Jeff Perry, and Bellamy Young—know how to just absolutely destroy their scenes with their special kind of acting. And so, while I didn't really need an extended scene between Morton's Rowan and Kerry Washington's Olivia describing the first 10 episodes of the season, covering everything from his role at B613 and Olivia's treacherous mother to his newfound crusade to destroy President Fitz for being ousted from said role at B613. But did I enjoy it, particularly when Morton seemingly tried to push Washington off that park bench by sheer force of vocal will? Yeah bro, I did. I know that I can't stop praising Morton's work, but he's reached this point where every scene he chews through only makes him stronger, giving him the power to hit the next monologue even harder. If Season 3 ends with Rowan sucking all of D.C., and perhaps the Eastern Seaboard, into a black hole, I wouldn't really be surprised. Morton is so on-point.
By default, Perry and Young couldn't quite compete this week, but they did a similarly nice job of summarizing everything that happened with Vice President Sally Langston and her husband (short version: The spirit of God came into her so she could kill her husband, Cyrus and the first lady helped cover it up). Sally's murderous actions were very silly in and of themselves, and the fact that she's now decided to run for president as a third party candidate, even after Cyrus and Mellie protected her, is the kind of juicy ridiculousness that only Scandal can pull off. Cyrus and Mellie's exasperated expressions as they realized they couldn't use the biggest piece of dirt they have on Langston were something special.
Nevertheless, where "Ride, Sally Ride" went a little off-base with the repetition was in its reintroduction of stories that Scandal has done before, and recently. Between you and me, I'm a little tired of James' back-and-forth crisis of confidence regarding his husband. I absolutely understand that everyone on this show is fundamentally awful and self-interested, but James' inability to decide whether he truly hates his husband or actually just wants to keep the marriage going is frustrating. It continued this week as David called him out on this behavior, only to get sucked right back into James' current decision to take Cyrus down by any means necessary. Really, why should we believe that James will see it through this time? And why should David go along with it anyway?
Similarly, the sudden MEDIA EXPLOSION over whether or not Olivia is indeed Fitz's mistress (or, I guess as far as the public is concerned, one of many) was... weird. It made more sense by the end of the episode, after Olivia took Mellie's advice and brought Jake on as her fake-but-kinda-not-fake-boyfriend for publicity's sake, but reintroducing that arc only to shove it away again simply served to remind me of how quickly Scandal wanted to move away from that story to begin with. Combined with some of the uncomfortable scenes between Olivia and Fitz in the Oval Office, I realized—or perhaps remembered—during this episode that I just will never care about these two as an immortal one true pairing. They are HORRIBLE for one another. And whether that's intentional or not, I think Scandal gets a real sense of satisfaction out of these hushed, deep breathing moments in the corner of the Oval, even if they're creepy as F. To keep those scenes going, those who are interested in the couple need to 1.) See a looming threat, however temporary, and 2.) Need the relationship to stay private. So Scandal will probably continue to make little moves like this to keep the relationship pretty stable while suggesting that it's evolving.
But speaking of evolving, the best part of this episode was the introduction of Jon Tenney's Andrew, the Governor of California, Fitz's former lieutenant governor, and now his new VP candidate. Last I saw Tenney, he was slumming it on TNT's King & Maxwell, but he brought some new energy to Scandal with his debut, even before it was revealed that his character has long-simmering feelings for Mellie. I can't wait until Fitz gets mega-jealous over Mellie's possible infidelity! That will be totally fair. And finally, Harrison has his own side story! How I Met Your Mother and Homeland's Nazanin Boniadi made her entrance as the mysterious woman (whose name I simply cannot spell and won't try) from Harrison's past. In true Scandal fashion, he considered shooting her dead, only to strip her naked and have sex with her on his desk. Priorities.
Although it was pretty repetitive, "Ride, Sally, Ride" was, above all else, a necessary episode. Everyone should be on the same page as to what in the heck is going on after this one, and the new wrinkles it added are compelling enough to begin Scandal's revving-up process. My hope is that some of the newer characters and fresh storylines will take precedence over the more familiar stuff that tends to drag the show down (even if a lot of viewers like those parts the most).
– Leo's big plan for Sally's campaign? To work with the very, very angry Rowan, who vowed to Olivia that Fitz won't make it through the term. Probably not good for Fitz.
– If Olivia did quit as the just-hired campaign manager, that would have been what, the 15th PR nightmare for this administration in a short time? How in the blue hell does Fitz get re-elected?
– Not much about Olivia's mom in this episode, other than Jake promising to find her. You'd have to think that story will play a bigger role in the coming episodes, and that the show will try to further complicate the Pope family dynamics. There's more to the story.
What'd you think of Scandal's first episode back? And how about these new characters?
AIRED ON 11/20/2014
Season 4 : Episode 9