Did 'Scandal' cross a line Thursday night?
Did Scandal cross a line Thursday night? It’s pretty tough to support one of the big revelations of the show’s 15-year flashback: Mellie was raped by her father-in-law, Fitz’s horrible, horrible father. It was one of the most awful things I’ve seen in a show that’s had lots of awful moments. It’s also Scandal’s first big misstep of the season.
Here’s the thing. I assumed in the flashback that we were going to see the beginnings of how Mellie became the cut-throat, determined first lady she is today, willing to give up her life (or, at that point in time, being a partner at a law firm) for Fitz. That was a very appealing setup. Though Mellie has always been more well-drawn than scorned wives on other shows, she definitely could use more depth, and Scandal does that pretty well with its flashbacks. So the most troubling thing about the rape (besides that it was really gross to watch) is the implication that Mellie uses it as some sort of bargaining tool with Fitz’s father, coercing him into giving his son the encouragement he never would have on his own, and drawing her toughness and motivation from the incident.
First of all, I don’t buy for one second that Mellie wouldn’t tell Fitz what his father did to her. And second, couldn’t the writers come up with some other ammunition for blackmail? Couldn’t Mellie have witnessed Fitz’s father verbally abusing him, or caught him in some other comprising situation? This sequence of events is too icky, especially as a motivation for everything Mellie has become. It feels like a cheat that all of Mellie’s strength comes from being preyed on so viciously. Maybe it’s meant to provoke sympathy for her, which it does, sort of, but it also made me respect her a bit less. She’s willing to sit down to breakfast with her rapist just so her husband can get along with his father and become governor of California?
And we must talk about the pregnancy. Mellie gets pregnant in the flashback (though, hilariously, we haven’t heard about the two older presidential children since, what, season 1?), and there’s no question on the show’s behalf that the father of the child MIGHT BE FITZ’S DAD. Whaaat? Is this real? We desperately hope this is just a silly ploy to keep people watching the show and not a real plot point. It’s too much like Days of Our Lives, even for this show.
In true Scandal fashion, a million other things happened on the show last night. Some of the less stomach-churning moments from “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie”:
- Brilliant to do 15-year flashback to a time when Mellie and Fitz were actually in love. Breaking the show’s tradition of saddling everyone with more hair in the flashbacks, Mellie has a shorter haircut and a no-makeup look and is absolutely divine. Very Jackie O. (Bellamy Young was terrific throughout the episode.) Also, young Cyrus has a beard and hair and a wife, and it’s wonderful.
- Lots of nominees for best quotes this episode, but we have to go with two from Olivia Pope:
“I’m surrounded by murderers. … I’m standing in a graveyard made by people I love!”
“I love you,” -Fitz
“So what?” -Olivia
- That black coat with white lapels that Olivia was wearing at the beginning of the episode! Best article of clothing ever to appear on Scandal. Totally fierce.
- The president finally finds out that Rowan is Olivia’s dad, is predictably shocked.
- Charlie seduces Quinn then tricks her into killing a security guard who is heavily involved in the plane crash that killed Olivia’s mom. Somehow, that means she now belongs to B613 and her soul is forever doomed. Kids, this is why you don’t fall for the guy at the gun range teaching you how to shoot people in the heart. (At least this storyline isn’t about them falling in love, which it seemed like it was going to be, which would have been dreadfully boring.) Will Huck actually pay attention to Quinn now that he might need to save her from eternal damnation?
- Oh, and also, OLIVIA’S MOTHER IS ALIVE. Just in case this episode wasn’t thrilling enough, good ol’ Papa Pope goes to visit Mama Pope in some mysterious cell she’s holed up in. You know, the lady whose plane crash death we’ve been invested in this whole season. This could be a great development, just don’t make the reasoning behind her faked death too convoluted.
- I have to point out that vice president Sally’s apparently gay husband (the one who Mellie and Cyrus are trying to catch cheating on the VP) is played by Jack Coleman, who also played a secretly gay man married to a woman on The Office.
- Is Fitz a good guy? I never really know how I’m supposed to feel about him. Especially this week, in an hour when we saw him stand up for Mellie, I wonder: Are we supposed to root for him to do anything? Get Olivia back? Win the presidency? Be a good man? Are we supposed to forgive him for every bad thing he does because his dad is such a steaming pile of trash? Tony Goldwyn makes him compelling, but I’m not sure I can answer any of those questions. (It also doesn’t help that the two people surrounding him, Cyrus or Mellie, are much more fascinating people.)
What did you think of Thursday's episode?