'Scandal' season finale is a terrific, shocking end to season 3
A less ambitious show would have saved the bomb for the end of its season finale.
Scandal has so much on its mind, so much confidence in its storytelling ability, so much plot to burn through - its explosion came before the opening credits Thursday night.
Of course, there was another explosion at the end of Scandal’s season three finale, a classic “WHAAAAT?” moment that was all the more gasp-inducing for the fact that it followed an otherwise slow-burn episode.
Typically, Scandal is so busy jumping to the next plot point and pulling rugs out from under its audience that it rarely allows itself a moment to breathe. To be honest, we were getting sick of it. Nothing meant anything anymore.
Not Thursday. The whole hour was steeped in a sentimentality that made all the big, horrifying twists - Fitz’s son dies, Huck finds his family, Papa Pope betrays Olivia - even more chilling. Plus, there were a handful a truly terrific scenes that were allowed to play out with an eerie calm: Olivia and Cyrus in the hospital, Mellie and Fitz embracing after he found out what Big Jerry had done, Olivia and Papa Pope sharing a moment.
Turns out, all that was just luring us in to a false sense of complacency, before the final moments' shocking reveal: Papa Pope is responsible for killing President Grant’s son ("He took away my child so I took away his"!) and giving him the presidency, putting Mama Pope in a hole, and getting Olivia on a plane that will take her far, far away to Jam Land. The rest of the episode did such a tremendous job drilling into its characters emotions and giving them moments to feel - especially the core group of Fitz, Olivia, Cyrus and Mellie - that this harsh truth was like a slap in the face. I’m not sure I’ve been more surprised or affected by anything that’s happened this season.
This episode also felt very vintage Scandal, especially that zippy end montage. It had almost a caper feel, in a great way: Harrison figuring everything out, Olivia departing on that plane to certain doom, Huck knocking on that door. And it reset many of the big plots that have defined Scandal from the get-go: Fitz is guaranteed another term in the White House and will surely start drinking again without Olivia by his side; the Popes are back to being the World’s Worst Parents; Cyrus is again excited about the prospect of a Chief of Staff reign.
This was a really strong way to end a sometimes uneven season, and here's hoping season 4 picks up right where this one left off.
- Best quote ever from Olivia: "I'M THE SCANDAL. And the best way to get rid of the scandal is to shut it down."
- Would totally love for every other scene on this show to include a shot of Huck/Quinn getting interrupted during their sexual shenanigans. Highly entertaining.
- So, turns out, Harrison knew a bunch of stuff about Mama Pope this whole time and just chose not to disclose it to anyone. Also, he’s apparently the only one smart enough to figure out what Papa Pope’s been up to. Too bad he’s as good as dead now!
- SO ON BOARD for Huck getting a major storyline in season 4, especially if it involves his long-forgotten family. When Guillermo Diaz gets more to play than just Flash Crazy Eyes and Grunt, he’s actually really great.
- On that note, really glad Scandal seemed to remember it has some great characters on its hands. It doesn't need to saddle them with plot twist after plot twist to make them interesting (well, with the exception of Harrison).