3.28.2014

Black Girls' Night Out: Olivia Pope

Think we all need a drink after
that one, Liv.
Wow.

...Wow.

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.”

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)
Oh, yes...you read that.

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 CardsThey 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?

14 comments:

  1. Forgot to mention the part where Liv is telling Fitz he needs to go fix his family, and she starts saying, "It's not my place....' and hears herself. Priceless, y'all.

    Oh...by the way...Mellie's daughter catches her "on her knees with Uncle Andrew."

    *done*

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  2. After they had the winter break and came back in February I haven't watched the show, and reading these recaps doesn't make me want to continue.

    "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."

    This is my pet peeve when shows do this to plots or characters within the show. Ugh!

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  3. "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."

    *folds hands and whistles*

    She'll be fucking him next episode, tho.

    The fail. It burns. Shonda allowed the public's warped obsession with Olitz to ruin a potentially good show. It's completely lost its way. As far as political thrillers go, House of Cards is primo top-shelf intrigue and smashes Scandal in that regard.

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    Replies
    1. She'll be fucking him next episode, tho.

      The sickest part of it all.

      As far as political thrillers go, House of Cards is primo top-shelf intrigue and smashes Scandal in that regard.

      And don't think that back when House of Cards was released, and Season 2 of Scandal was airing, Rhimes wasn't scratching her head and wondering how she could bring some of that HoC magic on over to her show.

      Delete
    2. You keep talking about HOC. I'm going to have to jump ship and start watching that instead.

      Delete
    3. Princess...girl, HoC is DA MUFFUNKIN BIZNESS! You want to see some real scandal? Check out Frank & Claire Underwood...B613 ain't got ish on those two.

      House of Cards > Scandal

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    4. Exactly,

      I think that is the problem with many shoes like Scandal. Shonda said that she tries to give the audience what they and that is good,but there are also times where she needs to focus on what would be good for both parties. A good series series shouldn't just land with Olitz,it should be with the other characters on that show.

      Last weeks episode was ok,but confusing as well. Nothing wrong with bringing affairs or political stuff on her show,but between B613 and the affairs, it just seem that Shonda is just relying on these things to keep things going on the show. There needs to be more sane drama and less romance on there. Too much of a good thing can b be just as harmful as something bad. In the case with Scandal, the show is slowly becoming far-fetched

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    5. In the case with Scandal, the show is slowly becoming far-fetched

      You mean rapidly. Like overnight rapidly. And mashed-up. I felt I was watching two completely different shows at once and I could "feel" the pressure to fit all this stuff together.

      Rhimes is making the same mistake she made with Grey's Anatomy. Let's just take one character from GA, just one - Cristina Yang - to explain.

      Yang starts the series as a fresh, ambitious young intern, and ends as an attending (Sandra Oh is wisely leaving after the 10th season). In nine seasons, she's had to deal with her boyfriend getting shot, having a miscarriage, being left at the altar, losing a friend to a bus accident, having another friend live after a 5% cancer survival rate, dating a veteran with PTSD who strangles her in his sleep, getting married to the same dude after he undergoes therapy, getting PTSD herself after surviving a mass shooting at the hospital, and then getting PTSD again when her plane crashes and she a few surviving friends/coworkers have to drink their own pee, amputate the wound, and protect the dead from wild animals for, like, a week.

      Um...WTF? Rhimes clearly doesn't know how to maintain solid, steady drama which viewers can take seriously. And despite its longevity, whenever news about GA comes up on the webs, the comments are filled with people wondering how the hell this show is still on the air and why.

      Now Rhimes is copying and pasting some of that bad judgment on Scandal. The fixer idea - sans Olitz, of course - would've been genius. The humorous fun we could've had at the expense of politicians would've been epic. Scandal could've been the comedic counterpart to House of Cards. Rhimes could've even consulted with the likes of Jon Stewart, but noooooooooooo.

      She instead just had to do what's she's done before, but even worse this time around. Scandal won't be around for ten seasons and if it were...*shudders*. Imagine what the "story" would look like by then.

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    6. *amputate some of their wounded

      (I guess with parts from the crashed plane)

      Delete
  4. Wait, you mean the Adnan Salif that had Harrison shaking in his boots and making sneaky deals with Cyrus to keep out of the country...she's useless???

    What the hell, man!

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    Replies
    1. She's Mama Pope's spy. She used her sex to knock out Harrison and steal extremely classified files from Liv's computer. Which begs the question as to why Liv would take files like that home from the White House.

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    2. But now that I mention, the episode did end on a highlight with B613 appearing to be back in form. When Adnan returns to Mama Pope and their Russian associate to show of the spoils of their theft, we find out their entire conversation is being filmed and watched by B613.

      After the covert ops version of a pep talk from Daddy Pope (in addition to capping James Novak), Jake finally appears to be "Command". No more being the last to know shit. No more witty Mr. Nice Guy either.

      Delete
  5. + 10 for the Buffy reference: http://youtu.be/cJDuDMdwGBo

    ReplyDelete

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