Television at its finest, ladies and gents.
Scandal doesn’t need high-concept episodes; the show astounds on a weekly basis with its special brand of octane thrills and breakneck pace. But, it’s easy to forget that the goddess behind the show, Shonda Rhimes, is a pro when it comes to crafting truly explosive hours of television (see Grey’s Anatomy’s various disaster hours including planes and mass shootings). So how does Mrs. Smith Goes To Washington fare when infused with Shonda’s wonderfully-psychotic touch? Let’s just say it’s a Scandal episode unlike any other.
This episode would have been a major flop if Mary wasn’t well-cast, but Cynthia Stevenson more than lives up to her prime guest-starring role. She’s remarkably sympathetic in her plight to uncover the truth regarding her son, and yet she’s also totally believable as a crazed nut-job hellbent on finding somebody to listen to her. And here’s where the writers introduce a fantastic twist: Mary trusts Olivia’s “gut” unconditionally, and appoints her as her negotiator with the authorities. It’s a brilliant way to introduce tension into the proceedings, since there’s no actual fear for Liv’s safety (she is our lead after all). It’s a different spin on the hostage negotiation trope, and it works beautifully.
Now most shows would be satisfied with tackling the bomb plot for 45 minutes, but this is Scandal and we get a range of other developments. First there’s Huck who chases Olivia’s dad and finds himself back in his crosshairs, dutifully eliminating a Remington lead with one swift order. This culminates in a poignant scene with Olivia as realizes that he still has no agency or freedom. Suffice to say, I’m a much bigger fan of Huck this year than I ever was before. The only gladiator who I feel still serves no purpose is Harrison, but I’m sure Shonda will rectify that soon enough.
While Mellie doesn’t get too much screen-time this week, her drunken episode might be one of my most favorite things ever produced on this show. It’s worth commending the writers for crafting such a monologue so perfect (found in its entirety below) that it left me in utter awe. Bellamy Young deserves an Emmy for this performance alone, and if she’s not nominated come July, I’m going to one very pissed off viewer.
And finally, could there have been a more perfect scene to bookend the episode with than that haunting sequence with Olivia and Jake? Two battered and broken people seated side by side as the phone rings incessantly and Olivia comes to the realization that her father still “owns” her. It’s dark, foreboding, and just plain masterful. Oh Shonda you are truly something special.
– Very amusing moment with Mellie and Fitz childishly screaming at each other to “shut up.”
– The hostage negotiation really allowed Olivia to step up as a character and further showcase how resourceful she is. I particularly loved her convincing Mary to release the rest of the hostages.
– There’s a gem of a moment with Mary discussing how she built the bomb jacket and ordered the glue gun. And the recipe you ask? Well that was off the internet.
– One of my favorite moments of the show ever: Liv pushing Mary and taking her place in the laser crosshairs. It’s such an insane move, and it fits perfectly with our anti-heroine who’s always sort of had a death wish (or maybe she’s just an “adrenaline junkie” as David so perfectly puts it). Goosebumps people!
– Further proof that Fitz is a child: his refusal to help Jake after he calls him at Liv’s request.
– Harrison got to deal with a fake FBI agent this week, so that’s something at least.
– David really shined in his scene with Cyrus. Is it wrong that I’m getting kinda sick of the latter? He needs something fresh to do.
– The Chris Lawrence speech by Fitz was a thing of beauty. Tony Goldwyn totally knocked it out of the park, and it was just heartbreaking to watch Olivia keep the truth from Mary as the poor woman broke down in her arms.
– Downright thrilling moment with Mary pushing Olivia out of the room and setting off the detonator.
– I thought those post-explosion black and white shots were an excellent stylistic choice.
Olivia: Huck is taking a personal day.
Abby: We get personal days? What do we get vacation now too?
Harrison: They’re doing something Liv.
Olivia: Are they bringing in the file?
Harrison: Unless the file looks like a sniper rifle… no.
Abby: Baby-huck is choking.
Quinn: It’s the FBI not the DMV, give me some time.
Abby: She doesn’t have time, she’s in a room with a crazy lady and a bomb. Did you try sending a virus worm to the firewall IP thingy?
Quinn: Do you even know what you’re saying?
Olivia: (to David) This is what’s happening in America right, in our nation’s capital under your watchful eye. If that feels right for you, if that feels like justice for you, then go enjoy a power-lunch at The Palm.
Fitz: Olivia Pope being blown to bits? That’s your dream isn’t it?
Mellie: Oh, no. That’s my nightmare. If your whore had died today brave and strong, protecting a congressman inside the Capitol with a nation watching – honey, the nails, the wood, the cross you would build and hammer her on, the worship you would feel for the rest of your days down on your knees praying to Saint Olivia Pope. That would be… I’d lose. Our little war, I’d lose. I am spectacular, but I can’t compete with religious fervor, so no, I was not hoping that she’d be blown up today. I am not miserable that she survived. I am celebrating, because Olivia Pope still walks this Earth. She’s still alive, and as long as she’s still alive, well, she’s your flaw. Your Achilles heel… which makes her my weapon. She’s the strings that if need be, I will pull to make my puppet husband dance. So cheers baby. Drink up. I live to fight another day.
A tense and tremendously gripping masterpiece from one of the most consistently-badass shows on television.