FBQ Review-Scandal-Episode 4: Enemy of the State

Like last week, I offer you an honest-to-goodness recap from K. Lee at entertainment.gather.com.

First of all, I want to thank you Miss Things who are struggling through Scandal with the Queen. I’m sorry I haven’t been more active in the Comments section. In addition to musing about this particular episode–which won’t take long–I wanted to give my take on some of the posts.

Mary said…
“One of my biggest peeves is Olivia’s line delivery. Why. Does. Every. Thing. She. Says. Have. To. Be. So. Pointed.? I get that they are trying to get across “strong, take no b.s. woman”. But that’s negated by having her supposedly flawless intuition compromised whenever she has a personal relationship with the client (initially thinking the president had not slept with that girl; believing the mom that her son wasn’t a rapist, despite blatant evidence otherwise). Giving hera rapid-fire speech pattern doesn’t dispel question of her potential inadequacies.”

I don’t have a problem with the dichotomy of a strong person making dysfunctional choices. That often makes for the most compelling conflicts to play out. My problem is that the writers have only cursorily established her as a strong character–choosing to use (as you also pointed out) this staccato speech pattern instead of exploring aspects of her personal life. If a powerful Latin general says “You are my best and my only chance.”, then I damn sure want to know what gives Pope this notoriety. Which is why Olivia’s breakdown in the first part of this week’s episode was rather jarring and confusing. I get that she’s all verklempt because of her relationship with the President, and what she’s found out about his relationship with Amanda. However, since we’ve not seen her handle any personal adversity with much strength, it once again becomes a woman succumbing to the wiles of a man.

Around the same lines countessgratitude said:
“However, the thing that bugs me THE MOST about this Show is Kerry Washington. For as much as I think she is a decent-enough actress, unfortunately, I DO NOT BELIEVE HER in this role. I mean, this woman, from what I understand is supposed to be “hella-powerful,” and “hella-smart.” Yet, I DO NOT GET THIS from Kerry’s portrayal. She’s “ok” in the role, but she is BY NO MEANS “nailing it.”

Although this actress is much less young and pretty, I would have MUCH PREFERED seeing someone like C.C.H. Pounder in this role. “

I think my biggest problem with Washington is that she doesn’t seem to be subtle or nuanced enough as an actor to create Olivia’s layers. She does fine with vulnerable moments, and she is able to tap into the power in moments such as confronting Amanda after hearing her demands. But she doesn’t know how to put them together. She doesn’t give the three-dimensional performances of a C.C.H. Pounder or s. epatha merkerson, or Alfre Woodard.

And yes, unfortunately they are not going to give this kind of role to a mature woman of color. Hell, look how long it took KATHY FRIGGIN’ BATES to get a lead role in a series?! Of the younger set, I think it would have been fun to see Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, or even Zoe Saldana take on the role.

I was actually drawn into this episode. First, it featured a family of color (even if it revolved around a ruthless dictator), and the twists and turns, ups and downs of the plot were enough for any avid roller-coaster aficionado. We got a crap-load of information about our main characters. We learned that Cyrus is gay; Abby is the victim of abuse; Harrison has a police record (of course–he’s a brother); Quinn has no history before 2008 and Stephen had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a trial helping homeless puppies–or something like that. All very interesting information, but other than with Cyrus, still only intellectual in nature–no emotional attachment. Still not much dialogue about anything other than the cases.

I was watching Grey’s Anatomy just before this episode. There was a scene in which Meredith and Cristina had a conversation through a door. Just the two of them. Sitting. Talking. Working things out. As an audience, we learn more about them and where they are emotionally than through any sophisticated plot device. I wish that we could have learned all of these Scandal character histories through dialogue and action as opposed to exposition. Only when and if the writers, producers and directors of the show trust its viewers to stay with them as they slowly and artfully build characters, the show will remain a decent idea which has yet to be realized.

And again, regarding Ms. Washington’s acting abilities:

introspective said…
” Im gonna need her to toss her weave back, relax her shoulders and give us a broad mouth toothy laugh at some point over a cocktail so that I know she’s not a robot…I cant have all this tension on a Thursday night when Im trying to ease into my weekend.”

The point about Kerry’s acting has already been made. But how could I not quote a line like that? 😀

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9 thoughts on “FBQ Review-Scandal-Episode 4: Enemy of the State

  1. Please don’t judge me, but I’ve never seen an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I do know the pop culture references to McDreamy and McSteamy, but that’s about as deep as my lexicon gets when it comes to Shonda Rhimes. However, when reviewers refer to one’s work as “genius,” I expect a Jackson Pollock and not a Marla Olmstead.

    This show seems to be suffering from trying too hard. The flashback sequences were the artistic equivalent of throwing paint on a canvas, leaving the audience waiting to see what would stick. Funny that Olivia mentioned the word “waterboard” because the episode felt very forced.

    Also, why the age disparity between Cyrus and his partner? Every older “out” gay military man I’ve met is usually with a partner around the same age. (Yada, yada … something about secrets.)

    • I’d never judge. Criticize harshly…maybe. lol 😀

      Marla Olmstead: ROTFLMBAO. I’d compare Rhimes to an artist like Martina Shapiro: bold and contemporary with touches of raw humanity woven into her pieces. I think what makes the Rhimes brand is a combination of modern sensibilities and the incorporation of a diverse world-view into her work. Sometimes it can be a little trite for me, but it is always poignant and from the heart–the very things I think are missing from Scandal.

      As far as the age disparity with Cyrus and his partner: for some reason–even though I believe the age difference is much less–I thought of Barney Frank and James Ready. I have to say that revelation was a pleasant surprise. It was nice to have a gay character whose plot so far has nothing to do with their sexuality.

      • Totally agree with your last line here…wish we’d see more of this in TV/movie writing.

  2. Yes, Queen! I was SO BUSY trying to put in dibs for the role, myself (lol), that I did not even CONSIDER some of the younger, already established, actresses that you mention. Kimberly Elise would KILL this role! Tandie Newton would give it a run for its money, too. The jury is still out with me on Zoe Saldana, but if you think she can pull it off, then what the heck, I’d be willing to give her a shot. Hell, her portrayal could not POSSIBLY be any worse than the one we’re currently experiencing! Again, sorry Kerry W. Love ya, guh. Now go somewhere and just “be pretty.” You do that WELL! Unless, of course, she takes the time to read your Blog, Queen, and takes up that advice of “INTROSPECTIVE” (the FINAL quote of your Review, which we COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND why you HAD to feature) and: “throw back her weave (and shoulders), and give us a broad-mouthed, toothy grin,” so that we’ll know there’s somebody “inside the Tower” where the lights appear to be burning so brightly. I don’t know that Ms. Washington understands the concept (or perhaps she lacks the ability???? not sure) to deliver the different layers in her portrayal, to which we are referring. Hell, Vanessa Williams could WEAR THIS OUT! She would KILL IT. Perhaps they are seeking for still, a younger Lead than Ms. Williams, but in terms of beauty and the ability to deliver the content, Ms. Williams would do the job, quite nicely. (And, I believe she’s probably closer in age to the real-life character, than is Ms. Washington). Oh well, so much for our musings…. I will be COMPLETELY SURPRISED if this Show is renewed for another Season. So far, it’s gotten off to a “dis-jointed” start, to say the least. This is usually not a good sign. If the Show lasts it will be because of Shonda Rhimes’ stellar reputation as a television Writer, and the Network’s faith in her ability to eventually “pull it togeter” with this Show.

    • Honestly, Vanessa Williams was my first thought. Like Saldana–I don’t see her as a powerhouse actor, but I think they both have created tough, yet vulnerable characters. Saldana in particular kicks ass in some her films . Williams would have audience recognition, and be so much more plausible as a Washington powerhouse. And I would have SO much more easily bought her with Tony’s President Grant. Right now his character seems to be drawn to weak-willed, vulnerable women. It would have been nice to get the sense that he was drawn to Pope because of her power and strength.

      The reason I didn’t put Williams in the same category as the other older actors has to do more with perceived standards of beauty in the entertainment industry. While Woodard also joined the residents of Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives for a quick moment, she never got to be glamorous. These other actors, for the most part seem to embrace their exquisite natural beauty (which is not to say that Ms. Williams doesn’t — but her skin tone and features are closer to the Eurocentric standard) . Now that we have a country which elected a black President, maybe we can begin to tackle perceptions of American Beauty.

      As far as Washington is concerned: give me three acting sessions with her. She’s definitely got the chops. I see why she got the gig, but she needs to work on the integration of beats and more sophisticated subtext in her work.

  3. “However, since we’ve not seen her handle any personal adversity with much strength, it once again becomes a woman succumbing to the wiles of a man.”

    Exactly. I’m growing more and more ho-humish with Olivia Pope’s William Shatnerese speeches want to really know why the buck stops with her. So far, the strongest woman has been Mrs. President. It takes brass ovaries to calm down a spouse thisclose to full conniption by letting them see the other woman/man. I’d have left his simple ass adrift.

    That said, because the frenetic pace has slowed long enough (but why is the brother always the ex-con?) for more backstories, the show is getting better.

    And, by the by my fiece one…C.C.H Pounder, s. epatha merkerson, Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates all in one post? I drool, I drool! *unladylike panting be here*

    • ” So far, the strongest woman has been Mrs. President.”

      Sooooo true! When she stood in the Oval Office, looked him in the eyes and said that she felt he needed to see Olivia, I almost cramped my fingers snapping so hard. I’d also put the DC Madame we met in the second episode as another strong woman on the show.

      The show is definitely growing on me. But mostly for the story. I think they put the cart before the horse, and are taking a big risk in telling such an interesting through-story without developing the main characters fully. I think people are more likely to keep watching a story if they have bonded with characters, more than with a great story line.

      Drool away Diva. I think those sisters (and that includes Bates) are pretty damn hot myself!

  4. I would LOVE to see any of the three “mature” women you posted above in this role. I think they’d not only nail it, but their age would lend credence to Pope’s reputation. At the very least, the rep would be more understandable/believable.

    I have varying opinions on the supporting cast. Not quite sure what the new girl’s role is, besides running around panicky or sitting around looking befuddled. They (hopefully?) hinted at there being more to her this episode, so we’ll see. I think Stephen and Harrison are good in their roles; Abby is horrible and her facial “reactions” are painful to watch. Huck? Well I could watch Guillermo Diaz stare at dirt and still find him fascinating…so thumbs up on anything he does on the show. 😉

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