|Think we all need a drink after|
that one, Liv.
These are not good "wows", mind you. Remember last week when I said this show was (finally) trying consciously to mesh its conflicting premises? That continued this week and uh, yeah...it failed miserably.
Usually, I try to do a recap of the show, but I don't want to this time. One, because I suck at writing recaps and two, because I want to focus on themes and production this time around.
A "fixer" show is bright and colorful; everyone has fabulous outfits, they walk around during the day to an indie pop soundtrack ranging from happy to sad to wannabe-sexy to angsty.
A political thriller, however, is dark, 'cause you know...that's, like, the point. The characters wear dark clothes, meet in shadowed rooms or at night, and for music there only two options: moody or ominous.
Last night, we saw these two production differences vacillate back and forth, and though Tony Goldwyn did an admittedly damn good job directing, it doesn't change the fact these two worlds can't and won't mesh. At one point, the storyline was in an all-out war with itself. It's gotten so that I've begun keeping score and right now, the thriller/B613 theme is Scandal's weakest link.
The "fixer" theme really stole the show this time around, and to no one's surprise, it had a ton of help from Mama Pope:
For the past three seasons, Olivia Pope has both presided over this circus of pain as well as participated in it. (She’s like the president of The Hair Club For Men that way.) But leave it to Maya Lewis to assess Olivia’s role in a more provocative way. During their first conversation during the back half of the third season, Maya says, “You think you’re family. But you’re nothing but the help.” It’s an incredibly charged statement, one that serves as something of a bookend to Rowan Pope’s first blistering monologue back in “It’s Handled.” There, he re-stated his central mantra to Olivia while she grew up: “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.”Oh, yes...you read that.
Put those two statements together, and Olivia’s drive and outsider status come clearly into focus. On one hand, she’s driven to work much harder for much longer than anyone else around her. Cyrus notes this, observing that she can “play through the pain.” But she also works for the ultimate betterment of others rather than herself, according to Maya. It’s not even clear if Maya actually believes what she says or if she’s just playing mind tricks on her daughter. You can debate either one, but you can’t debate the potency of the words and the effect they have on Olivia almost immediately. You can already hear Maya’s words in Olivia’s mouth when she speaks to an emotionally broken Cyrus a little later in the episode, and you can see it in her actions as she goes into “work” mode in order to salvage the Grant family interview. (Source)
Now, ladies, we knew this. I've repeatedly complained about the way Liv keeps cleaning up after people and in this episode she had to the gall to tearfully ask Cyrus, "Tell me we're not the help. Tell me I'm not some housemaid with a mop." To which an also tearful Cyrus replies, "I would be lying."
In other words, Liv's true place, her actual role, her real job description was posted at EverybodyKnowsIt.com, and everybody knew it...except for Liv.
And after Liv's mom drops this bomb, the whole episode plays from that perspective. When Liv tells Mellie canceling an interview is a no-go, Mellie drunkenly demands, "Then what are we paying you for????" and Liv gives a "look." When Fitz finds out his wife is screwing the VP, and he and Mellie finally start having an argument they've apparently needed to have for almost two decades, and Liv tries to interrupt, Fitz roars at her, "I'm talking to my wife!!!!" and Liv gives a "look."
And when the whole Grant family finally sits down for the live TV interview, Liv is dancing around them, making them look picture perfect, even handing Mellie her baby. Off screen we hear, "Thank you, Olivia" and the look on Liv's face is priceless.
Now...remember what I said about this show being at war with itself?
In 2012-2013, the "fixer" premise tried to encourage us to love Pope & Associates and be impressed with what they do for a living. Now...premise shift. Suddenly, cleaning up after irresponsible, over-privileged rich people isn't so cool anymore and we should pretend like it was never the crux of the show to begin with.
In 2013, when B613 was first introduced and Shonda Rhimes considered giving them their own show (which she should've just done), B613 was this shadowy, distant organization that was mysterious and deadly, and we never questioned it. But now...premise shift. They're the increasingly incompetent, friendly neighborhood gun-toting spies who are the last to know stuff, have difficulty keeping their agents loyal, not to mention can't get the White House to STFU and fall in line. Like, is anyone else getting tired of Command - be it Jake or Papa Pope - having to give the Prez the same I'm-not-your-bitch speech over and over and over again?
And this is what happens when people who should be writing about fashionably dressed fixers on ABC try to scribble about covert organizations on a weekly basis. They reveal themselves to be clueless amateurs who are waaaaaay out of their league.
A B613 plotline would've best been left to the writers on House of Cards. They know how to be hardcore.
Did I mention the utter uselessness of the underwhelming Adnan Salif and the sheer out-of-placeness of the Russian terrorist?