FBQ Review-Scandal-Episode 6: The Trail

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.

Gideon gets the point.

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.

Absolutely. Maddening.

A Fierce Black Queen


10 thoughts on “FBQ Review-Scandal-Episode 6: The Trail

  1. I’ve got to say that you are really the first person that I have come across that thinks Olivia and Fitz don’t have chemistry. There might be others who think like you, but the overwhelming consensus is that no matter the issues with the show and with the main relationship, in Olivia and Fitz (and Kerry Washington/Tony Goldwyn) Shonda Rhimes struck gold. This comes from the viewers, commentators, critics, reviewers etc, everyone of them seem to buy what Shonda is selling with regards to Fitz and Olivia. You are entitiled to your opinion but I found your allusion to a greater portion of the audience not buying Olivia and Fitzgerald to be out of sync with the evidence so far.

    The show is not perfect and has flaws but I think over the past 6 episodes its positives has far outweighed any negatives.

    • Well, it won’t be the first time I was in the minority! 😉

      There’s a difference to me between two actors actually heating up the screen (Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in Body Heat), and a director using certain shots to communicate that they are supposed to be hot for each other. As I mentioned in the post–the only scene that, for me, showed any true sense of a multi-layered relationship, was the last one. And THAT one really wasn’t about a hot, steamy spark between them–it was about how to say goodbye…which is a very different beat to play as an actor.

      I personally think that many television viewers are “led” to certain conclusions instead of formulating them on their own. So because a moment is edited as shots of each character’s eyes cutting back and forth before they kiss, viewers (and even some critics) automatically assume “chemistry.” Many of their scenes in this episode were shot with very few cuts–just turn the camera on them and let the actors do the work. It’s an actor’s dream…or nightmare if you don’t know what you’re doing. For me, they didn’t.

      It is best summed up for me in this Ikea Commercial.

      • (lol) Scotty, that goodness I was lead back to this Thread by way of Mary’s latest response. When I read your response above before, I TOTALLY brushed over the Ikea Commercial reference. That commercial is HYSTERICAL. And yes, we get the point: the drama is TOTALLY created by the Director, who BRILLIANTLY shoots in a way to build “sympathy” towards the lamp. You actually “feel sorry” for the darn thing! That is, until the actor at the end brings you back to “reality.” And thus you point is re-emphasized: “most people” (possibly those to whom Sannei refers, who “like” Olivia and Grant’s relationship) are asleep. They are not even AWARE of the fact that they are being “manipulated to assume” Olivia and Grant are in love, instead of the actors’ acting actually “convincing” the viewer of this fact. Oddly enough, while perusing the internet yesterday, I happened upon an interview of a few of the Show’s Cast members, including Washington and Goldwyn. It is apparent that Goldwyn is enamered with Washington, and even admits so, during the interview. Unfortunately however, I observe MORE CHEMESTRY between the two actors in this interview then they portray as their respective characters. Tis-Tis. Too bad for us. I still think Goldwyn looks TOO OLD for Washington: he looks like he could be her FATHER — at least to me. I have seen Washington play opposite several white, male Leads, and the castings always felt “right on,” and were hot, hot, HOT. Did you catch her and James McAvoy in “Last King of Scottland”? There are SEVERAL examples of hot “white/male” pairings with the lovely Ms. Washington. For me, this ain’t one of them. HE seems into HER (sexually), but I do not think Ms. Washington is “feeling him,” and her acting is not strong enough to convince me otherwise. Or, on the YouTube comments for the interview I mentioned (see link below), a few commentors referenced a possible brewing romance between the two actors? If this is the case, could it be that Washington is trying to hide her “true feelings,” and is thus “blocked” in her character portrayal????? The theories, I suppose, could be ENDLESS.

        Like you said, Scotty, this is totally “maddening,” because this storyline (and Show) COULD be REALLY hot. However, as it stands now, we are forced to settle for mediocre acting from our Lead character, if we choose to continue tuning in to this Show.

        Oh, here is the link to the interview I found: http://youtu.be/3nrSaR7_8a4

    • Count me in for a yes on the ZERO chemistry vote. Zero.

      I don’t know, after this episode, if I can stomach another. It was just…so. bad.

      Think I’m gonna have to bite the bullet on this show and get my Guillermo fix elsewhere.

    • Double-triple-quadruple the sentiment, for me, that Olivia and Fitz have NO CHEMESTRY. Further, after last night’s Season Finale (of which I am sure Scotty will render his Review), it is APPARENT that First Lady Mellie Grant (played by Bellamy Young) is RUNNING THE SHOW. Forget about Olivia Pope. The First Lady, (followed in a close second by the Vice President Sally Langston- FIERCELY played by Kate Burton) are COMPLETELY IN CHARGE, based on these actresses portrayals of their characters. BRAVA, Ladies!

    • Maybe his “STRAIGHT-DAR” is off. Cause these two straight actors have so much chemestry most people are under the impression that they are quite initmately familiar off set…Branjolina certa Mr. and Mrs. Smith style…and Tony’s wife, whoever she is will be assuming the role of Jen. I randomly found your page. I ADORE this show, but I have to agree with some of the dumb moments, like the one minute stare down…REALLY??? If he would have moved in on her a bit more and it be a bit more physical or risque than a stare down. Also the speeches…I wish those damn 10 minute monologes that suck the air out of the room and the actors would just STOP. She needst to learn how to edit it down. DON’T BE SOOOO WORDY. Can’t they take a friggen breath. They make me out of breath!

      • “…but I have to agree with some of the dumb moments, like the one minute stare down…REALLY??? If he would have moved in on her a bit more and it be a bit more physical or risque than a stare down.”

        That’s just my point Jonas: for me, actors with real chemistry would have been able to fill the minute with all of the things you wrote. For people with NO chemistry it becomes a staring contest.

        As for my straight-dar:It is true that it’s been a while since I’ve dabbled in heterosexuality. But remember: I am queer, and I have spent many a rainy weekend with Tracy and Hepburn; Bogart and Bacall; Burton and Taylor; Garfield and Turner…and yes, even Ledger and Gyllenhall to name a few . Now those couples had chemistry

        And any time two straight male actors have more of a spark between them than a straight male and female–there’s a problem.

  2. For me, it’s like watching someone’s lips moving as they count out the measure while dancing. “Onetwothree, onetwothree.” Sure, they’re waltzing but there’s no “them” in the movements.

    I like Kerry and am damn proud that she’s on prime time. Still, I have to wonder if she really is Olivia Pope. Tony Goldwyn is a seasoned actor. I’ve seen him make a chair emote how good it is to be sit on by him. But the only chemistry I see is, well, not much. Not much at all.

    I hear, happily, that “Scandal” has been renewed for another season. My fingers are crossed that the doe eyes and trembling lips are replaced with “better.”

    …and Mrs. President is a Mack Daddi. She knows his safe word. 😉

  3. I had to add my two cents before 2nite’s episode.

    Well Queen, contary to Sannei ‘s Comment above, I am in TOTAL agreement with you (and the other Commentor) regarding the lack of chemistry between Goldwyn and Washington (Grant and Olivia). There IS no chemistry between them: just some bad acting. And yet, as you pointed out, the final “good-bye” Scene, with them simply embracing each other on Olivia’s apartment coach was one of THE BEST SCENES I’ve scene them portray SO FAR. It was really touching and beautiful, and FOR THE FIRST TIME in this Show, I SAW Olivia Pope. When she escorted him to the door (a polite way of saying: get the hell out — go home to your damn wife) after their sentimental embrace, I nearly yelp with glee! FINALLY, this chick is exhibiting the chutzpah we’d expect from a woman of her “supposed” caliber.

    Washington actually had a “couple” of good moments in this episode: moments where I actually SAW “Olivia Pope.” There was a moment (during one of the two year flash-back sequences) when Grant is giving a Press Conference. He is being “challenged” by a Media person about his relationship with his wife. He stares out into the crowd and says something to the effect of: “I can honestly say that I am madly in love with an absolutely magnificent woman,” or something to that effect. Of course the people in the room assume he is referring to his wife, but we, the audience know he is talking about Olivia.

    In that moment, Washington (as Olivia), standing at the back of the room listens to Grant’s statement. The actress (Washington) pauses, and thinks for a moment — registering the information. Then, Olivia Pope responds, affirmatively, with a smile and applause — giving the “media” the impression she is in agreement with Grant’s statement. Yet, the audience “is aware” that Olivia KNOWS Grant is referring to her.

    It was a brief moment: a milli-second of a moment that focused on a close-up of the Lead character. And … it was brilliantly played. Washington NAILED that moment. And FOR THE FIRST TIME, I believe I caught a glimpse of Olivia Pope. She had a couple of moments like that in this episode, and I was happy for her. Hell, I was happy for US, because perhaps FINALLY we will begin witnessing some authentically-portrayed performances from this woman.

    As far as the rest of the episode, I am in TOTAL agreement with you Queen. Overall, the relationship between Olivia and Grant is ridiculously BORING. The sex is not even hot, and THAT is saying a lot. For one thing, Goldwyn appears to look TOO OLD for Washington. She is physically VERY SMALL. He is SO MUCH taller than her, so she always has to look “up” to him, which calls for awkward camera angles. The pairing is a “mix-match,” in my opinion. Lack of chemestry aside, they do not even “look” good together. He looks like an middle-aged man trying to get his groove on with a hot, young chick. And as you say, Queen, everything about their interactions — from the tired dialogue (say my name???? Who are you —- Beyonce’? ); to the long, awkward stares [on WHAT FOUNDATION is this love relationship based? At least with Derek and Meredith of “Grey’s” there was a “history” from which the audience could draw, and conclude legitimate reasons for their love. But with THIS???? Hell, it MIGHT TRULY be a “lust” affair (as you jokingly erred to write, Queen), however, it is not even HOT ENOUGH to be classified as LUST! (lol) As you mention, “Body Heat” is an example of lust. THIS is not. THIS is a joke] ; to the even MORE TIRED sex scenes, which again, remind me of a middle-aged man trying to “relive” some of his lost glory — while SHE — well, I have NO IDEA why SHE is attracted to him. Does Washington even know? I am inclined to think not, because if SHE knew, then WE would know. It’s called “good acting.” It’s when the actor actually KNOWS his character’s motivations, and acts from THAT PLACE of the motivation. The audience ‘GETS IT’ when a scene is played this way. It helps the viewer make sense of the story. When a scene is played with “doe eyes” (lol, Queen), then THAT is what the audience “gets.” Doe Eyes. I am SICK of Doe Eyes. Can SOMEBODY get a REAL actor in here, please? You people are KILLING ME!

    ….FINALLY, however, I also came into agreement with the Queen’s assessment from an earlier Thread about this Show. It is miraculous that the Writers have been able to create INTERESTING story lines, with VERY interesting characters —- AROUND the Lead character. After last week’s episode, I actually felt inspired and motivated to watch tonight’s Season Finale. Previously, I had “vowed” to “watch no more,” after last week’s episode, UNLESS I felt convinced otherwise. Well, I felt convinced after watching it, but SADLY not because of the storyline involving the main character!

    Also, regarding the comment by Sannei, he/she is correct about ONE THING: for the most part, a lot of people seem to REALLY like “Scandal.” I suppose, as Sannei suggests, overall, the public is BUYING Shondra Rhimes story, in spite of our dislikes.

    Do I like this Show? No, not really. Not yet. But, being that it comes on right after one of my long-time favorites “Grey’s Anatomy,” yes, I will most assuredly stay tuned in for tonight’s Finale — but again, NOT because of the Lead actor or storyline! (lol)

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