Scandal: The Complete First Season (2012)
Principal cast: Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope), Columbus Short (Harrison Wright), Darby Stanchfield (Abby Whelan), Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins), Guillermo Diaz (Huck), Joshua Malina (David Rosen), Jeff Perry (Cyrus Rutherford Beene), Bellamy Young (Mellie Grant), Henry Ian Cusick (Stephen Finch), and Tony Goldwyn (President Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III)
Created by: Shonda Rhimes
If some of the main and bit players of this TV series Scandal look familiar, that's because this series is created by Shonda Rhimes, and she can be fond of using the same pool of people in her shows. This time around, the scalpel and the stethoscope have been switched out for briefcases and the occasional gun. Scandal is... well, it's supposed to be a political drama, I guess, but it's actually more of a campy hybrid of sorts, The White House with some secret agent and super lawyer action laced with a several loads of camp.
Olivia Pope is a "fixer". She runs a team that can get everything done. If anyone in Washington has a problem, one that usually threatens the stability of President Fitzgerald Grant III's gig or that of his political allies, she and her team are on it. In the seven episodes of the first season, Olivia deals with murder, rape, missing wives, and even a plane crash. They do damage control and, often, make sure that the right things are done.
The "right things" aren't usually the moral things, however, as for Olivia and Cyrus Beene, the President's aide, sometimes ugly things have to be done for the greater good for the country - and they wholeheartedly believe that Fitz is this greater good. Of course, the fact that Cyrus and Olivia are key in getting Fitz and his wife Mellie into the White House and Olivia is the President's mistress may have clouded their judgment a bit.
And throughout the whole season, there is one main story arc: Amanda Tanner claims to have slept with and been jilted by Fitz - the affair happened after Olivia decided to end things between her and Fitz - and she wants to go public. There is more than meets the eye here, though. Another minor arc revolves around Quinn Perkins, the newest member of the team.
Oh yes, the team. Olivia's team remains mostly one-dimensional ciphers, mostly because there are only seven episodes here. Quinn, as mentioned, is the new girl - she's the viewer's placeholder. There's Harrison Wright, the loyal lawyer who owes Olivia a debt for getting him out of jail. Huck is the socially awkward tech guy who also knows more about guns and killing people than he lets on. Abby Whelan is the sarcastic and caustic Democrat who is often dismayed to find herself helping right-wing types (Fitz is a Republican), heh. Stephen Finch is a lawyer who suffered a burn-out before ending up with Olivia. On the whole, they are predictable and even stereotypical sidekick characters, but they can be very entertaining to watch.
The plots of each episode are actually absurd, which is actually a good thing as it makes it so much easier to not take the anti-religion and anti-right sentiments that often seep into the episodes seriously. And before you ask, yes, while Fitz is a Republican, he is the moderate kind, and the show often portrays the other more religious right-wing politicians as caricatures. This is actually a way for the show to give a way out to the main characters. Oh, so Olivia, Fitz, or Cary blackmail or coerce someone into doing something against his or her will - but that person deserves to be treated that way because of that person's homophobia, religious bigotry, rapist tendencies, and more!
This method of justification is also used to make Olivia and Fitz's "romance" palatable. Mellie is a lying, hateful, ambitious bitch. Of course, Olivia also lies and cheats and manipulates people, but she's often portrayed as the good woman because she's doing all these things for Fitz, her designated true love. Mellie wants power, and she wants to be seen as a politician in her own right instead of the President's wife, and because of this, she is the evil one. Lots of unfortunate implications there, and it's a shame that a show produced by a woman would carry such implications. On the bright side, Mellie is easily one of the most interesting characters due to her cold shrewdness and ruthless intelligence.
Still, I have to admit that Fitz and Olivia are just amazing together - their chemistry is explosive, and there is a scene in episode six, The Trail, that just smoulder despite the fact that these two are just standing close together. Now, I wish the show has shown me why so many people seem to be convinced that Fitz is an amazing President, as all I can see is an indecisive, whiny, lying, and obsessed twat who treats his wife badly and chases after the ex-mistress like a lovesick lunatic. He seems more like an unraveled wet sock that writes sad poetry online instead of someone who makes important decisions for the whole country. But still, he and Olivia are just so crazy for each other that I can't help finding their song and dance fascinating.
Back to the plots, they often go so over the top that they actually become very entertaining once I just say to hell with reality or authenticity and just go with the flow. The cast have good chemistry with each other, with Ms Washington and Mr Goldman explosively so, and there is some really good rapid-fire one-liners and humor here. It's also hilarious how Olivia likes to say that her gut feelings are never wrong when she's constantly proven to be wrong one episode after another.
All things considered, the first season of Scandal is a pretty good kind of guilty pleasure, mixing soap opera with romance and ridiculous intrigue with an often casual disregard for reality or even logic, in a way that actually works like a charm. It certainly has me hooked by the last episode of the season to find out more about Olivia, her team, her friends, and her enemies as they go around turning the White House into a playground for characters that are straight out of novel by Jackie Collins.
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