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Why 'Scandal' made a mistake killing off one of its best characters

Scandal made a bold move last Thursday, bolder than usual for a show that has featured murderous presidents and people chewing through their own wrists to escape prison: It killed off one of its best characters.

James Novak, the reporter married to chief of staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) and played by Emmy winner Dan Bucatinsky, was the one unceremoniously killed by B-613 mastermind Jake (Scott Foley) in the first 10 seconds of the episode "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (amazing title), the consequence of a mighty March 13 cliffhanger.

We all had a feeling this was coming. And now, at least, we sort of know why: Bucatinsky is joining Happy Endings co-creator David Caspe's new NBC comedy Marry Me, which stars Casey Wilson and Ken Marino as an engaged couple. Bucatinsky will play one of Wilson's fathers, along with Tim Meadows.

Clearly, Bucatinsky was ready to move on to things beyond this show— just to be clear, he won an Emmy FOR his role on Scandal — but killing off his character James is not the brightest idea. (Nor, would it seem, a good idea for Bucatinsky — recent comedy pilots on NBC are notorious for not moving beyond a second season.)

To add to this distressful development, half of Thursday's episode was a set of sweet flashbacks to the first time James and Cyrus met. As if grieving for a fictional character wasn't hard enough. The flashbacks showcased the best parts of Bucatinsky's presence of the show, which, in turn, highlighted why this is a horrible idea.

James is Cyrus' best foil. He also happens to be his husband, and Perry and Bucatinsky have amazing chemistry together. (CAN'T EVEN HANDLE that scene of them kissing for the first time. So good.) Losing that partnership is losing one of the best things about Scandal, one of the most fiery, diabolical relationships on the show. They're also one of TV's most compelling gay couples; the actors and the show's writers are not afraid to get messy, to have them fight and kiss and lie to each other. You know, like normal couples. Please tell me on what other show we'd get to see one man utter this to another: "Even though you're a Republican, you have a very hot mouth." Their passion is more refreshing than, say, Modern Family's sanitized same-sex relationship.

So, why let James go?

Nobody is more aware of this show's surplus of characters and plots than I am. It's not a secret that Scandal could stand to lost half of its cast and still remain a compelling show. But there are at least four or five other characters who should have gone before James (Abby, Harrison, Fitz's new vice president, to name a few). And unlike the zillions of other plot twists in most episodes, this isn't one Scandal can (or should) walk away from that easily. For one thing, Cyrus is going to have some serious demons to reckon with. And we're not sure we ever want to look at Cyrus' heartbroken cry face again.

If the promo for this Thursday's episode is any indication, it looks like Scandal is going to deal with James' death by shifting its focus to things we haven't seen in a while, specifically President Grant's family. Oh, you know, those two older children and that baby he and Mellie have that no one ever speaks of.

There are four episodes left in this third season, which means that literally anything could happen. We could have a new president by the April 17 finale, or Cyrus could become fully deranged, or B-613 could be taken over by aliens. Or who knows, maybe Scandal will get a really great idea and kill off Olivia Pope!

Kidding, they would never do that. Um, right?

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Scandal airs 10 p.m. Thursdays on ABC. The season 3 finale is April 17.

Why 'Scandal' made a mistake killing off one of its best characters 03/21/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 23, 2014 5:32pm]

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