Last night's mildly explosive Scandal mid-season finale steals a page from the Joker's playbook and sees Olivia Pope properly scolded by her father for trying to shoot him in the face over the dinner table. Which, fair enough.
Shonda Rhimes has been very vocal about her dislike of the term "guilty pleasure," which is admittedly a rather condescending label—one people use to pat themselves on the back for being able to find entertainment in something that isn't worthy of attention. As a man whose DVR looks like a 14-year-old girl's, I very much agree with her. So instead of guilty pleasure, I'll settle for "a ridiculous fucking show." Scandal is a ridiculous fucking show, you guys.
Without any central conspiracy or electoral race to drive the plot this year, most of this season has been a balancing act between genuine character growth and the signature ridiculousness we have learned to expect from the show. And if the focus of the season so far has been 'Family', Olivia shooting a blank bullet into her father's face was the turkey hurled across the Thanksgiving dinner table. Washington and Morton's chemistry is one of the best things about Scandal and even with a full dance-card of presidents and war heroes, her relationship with her father has been the most interesting one this season.
However much she may loathe her father, Olivia has always lived under the safety blanket of being his little girl and generally immune from his wrath. His possessive love for her has withstood everything from weaponized meningitis to two of her boyfriends trying to kill him. No more; with this episode Olivia has officially been cast out into the cold. (Where she lasted roughly two hours before getting kidnapped by a third party.)
We also catch up with Mama Pope who, as it turns out, was exactly where we left her. To tell you the truth, I was never too impressed with Mama Pope. Sure, we first met her gnawing out her own wrists but what has she done for me lately? To me, she remains the lesser Pope parent.
Meanwhile, Cyrus' sex scandal has finally hit the fan. This year has been oddly kind to Cyrus who, lest we forget, was willing to let a church filled with innocent people explode to win the elections last year. With his manwhoring activities exposed, Cyrus is left no choice but to walk down the aisle with his roguish prostitute/business school student, costing him $1,000,000 per successful year of marriage in the process. Pretty Woman was name-checked in this episode but considering the as-of-now unaddressed assault from last episode, I'm really hoping for a War of the Roses situation come January.
Speaking of romance, Quinn and Charlie appear to have rekindled their sex-violence-magic relationship, which is fine by me. There are few couples on television that can seamlessly go from breaking each other's joints to banging to discussing Granny Fran's health.
On the other hand, Rhimes' penchant for having characters dance out their inner turmoil (a cornerstone of Grey's Meredith & Christina friendship) looks a bit odd on Olivia Pope, who is far more at home calling the White House Chief of Staff a "bitchbaby" for not wanting to enter a sham marriage. Watching her dance it out to Stevie Wonder's greatest hit is sort of like having Tony Soprano engaging in Manolo Blahniks retail therapy. It's not that Olivia's choice to focus on herself as opposed to quivering about her two boys isn't a welcomed one. It's just, well, kind of nonsensical. Olivia admits that she wants both Fitz and Jake, "Vermont" and "standing in the sun," but in choosing herself and letting whichever dance partner is available fill her dance card, no real choice has been made.
Look, in my days, romantic leads picked between their two suitors; that's just how I was raised. Derek chose Meredith over Addison, Blair chose Chuck over Dan, and Joey chose Pacey over Dawson, leaving the latter to cry like the original #bitchbaby he was. Frankly, it's just polite.
In any case, Scandal 2015 is set to began with high stakes with the next Big Bad revealed as being the Vice President himself, and Olivia Pope kidnapped in an attempt to force POTUS' hand. With Papa Pope no longer giving a fuck and Mama Pope sitting in a cell waiting for a monologue partner, it looks like the second half of season 4 is taking a shift for the maternal.