Warning: Graphic image of violence in post.
This. Is. Maddening.
I like this show. I think the concept is bold and timely. The writing can be interesting and the performances compelling. At times the directing is sophisticated and forward thinking…
…and at other times…like with this episode…
…It’s just plain stupid.
And not only is the episode stupid, the writers think that we, the viewers, are even stupider than they are.
Note to Scandal Production Staff:
Most of us viewers have watched Television for a while now. Some of us longer than some of you have been alive. When you are doing a flashback sequence, if you script it and costume it right, then you only need to differentiate the time periods once or twice during the episode–NOT ONCE OR TWICE DURING EVERY ACT.
So the episode revolves around Gideon digging into the death of Amanda Tanner. In addition to the present day, we are taken two years back in time to then Governor Grant’s Presidential Election campaign in full swing. See, Production Staff, we know this because of all of the election posters, banners and campaign paraphernalia that you’ve cleverly placed as set dressing. So now, because you’ve done such a stellar job setting the scene, we know that every time we see those banners and anything else involving an election–that it’s in the past. ‘Cause he’s already the President. Not President? Past. President? Present. See how that works? We also know this because you have costumed Olivia in slightly retro looks and god-awful bangs to give her that youthful, “I’m so chic” feel. Same thing here: stupid bangs? Past. Plain old black woman’s expensive weave? Present. And she meets Grant for the first time with one of her rapid fire–in-your-face speeches (patent pending). And she and Grant fall madly in
lust love with each other. And this, dear Scandal Production Staff, is where you make the biggest stupid mistake of the episode–and the season in general.
You take two actors–Goldwyn and Washington–both talented in their own right…but who have absolutely NO friggin’ chemistry when put together, and try to build romantic moments between them. Long moments. PAINFUL moments. And you believe that just because you write it–we will buy it. We don’t. For me to stay riveted to those long looks and fervent stares that Tom Verica–the director–asked of them, there would have to be thought behind each of those moments. There would have to be dynamic subtext that threatened to burst from their eyes; and blatant longing oozing from every pore. There isn’t. There is competent pretending from each of them but no more. Yet every Act finds them alone with nothing but space and the latest soundtrack that the show wants to sell between them. Quick cuts from eyes to hands moving closer has been known to work–but not if you haven’t established that the people in question are hot for each other beforehand. It’s ironic that Pope has a monologue in which she points out the fact that Fitz and Mellie seem to have no passion for each other. Read the script again Ms. Washington and liberally apply to you and Mr. Goldwyn.
And yet, Scandal Production Staff, writer Jenna Bans gives us an incredible insight into First Lady Mellie Grant in another tour de force performance by actor Bellamy Young. Even though you once again heavy-handedly foreshadowed what was to come in the previous scene, Young’s dewy eyes and bravely held back emotion was perfect. And Goldwyn’s look of horror at what was unfolding was a wonderful counterpoint. THAT was good storytelling. We don’t need to have all of the answers at once. Hitchcock often gave us the answer first. Sometimes we had to wait until the end of the movie for the question. And it was always worth it.
Plus, Grant is a real sleaze bag. And ITQHO (In The Queen’s Humble Opinion), Olivia falls right into his trap. From clichéd phrases like “Say my name”, to the way he treats her during their first tryst: ordering her to take off her clothes and keeping his on. It feels more like she’s a High Priced Call Girl than the love of Fitzgerald’s life (by the way, did you REALLY have to bash us over the head with naming the Commander-in-Chief after TWO presidents?).
And, since this is the next to last episode of the
series season, the writers are beginning to tie up loose ends. We learn the origin of Olivia’s partnership with the rest of her staff (I reiterate: Why the two men of color gotta be a bum and a felon?); the nature of the First Couple’s personal relationship; and of course just what lengths Billy Chambers will go to on behalf of Sally Langston’s campaign.
I thought that Chambers’ speech to Gideon (before he plunged those scissors into his jugular) was pretty ironic. Chambers’ incredulity over Gideon’s stupidity regarding the blatant clues he left for him reminded me very much of how I feel you writers of Scandal dealt with your viewers. Instead of relying on our sophistication, you instead hit us over the head with every compelling aspect of the story line. Much was laid out through exposition and repetition–driving points home like a congressional bill in cloture, instead of weaving a tale with nuance and suspense.
And STILL you pull off the last scene between Olivia and President Grant. A simple, bittersweet goodbye. Soft and painful in the early light of a Capitol Hill Morning. Everything written on their faces, yet nothing more to say. The way Olivia curled up on the couch–no longer the powerful woman, but the sad girl realizing the enormity of feelings that will never be fully realized. And the most powerful man in the world experiencing the pain of wanting the one thing he cannot have.
Why the hell couldn’t y’all do this all the way through the episode? The series? Damn.
A Fierce Black Queen