Scandal: Dog-Whistle Politics Review

A thrilling Scandal episode offers us two new characters and plethora of snappy one liners. Here’s our review.

This Scandal review contains spoilers.

Scandal: Season 5, Episode 4

As expected, impeachment was the word on everyone’s mind in last night’s episode as well as Olivia’s past love life with older, powerful men. After each commercial break, a woman came on the screen (a fictional documentary-esque program) dissecting Olivia’s life, just one of the invasive media coverages trying to expose the “real” Olivia Pope. Well, Marcus Walker (Cornelius Smith Jr.) angrily disagreed with the media’s spin of Olivia’s life, claiming it was racist, sexist, and just grossly incorrect. They were painting Olivia out to be some sort of monster, not just because she had an affair with the president, but because she was female and black.

Marcus and the rest of the gladiators weren’t the only ones enraged by this portrayal of Olivia, but Fitz nearly loses it when one of the senators tell him that if he was going to have an affair, it should have been with someone more “palatable.” In other words…white. He nearly fired Abby for starting these rumors about Liv in order to save his image, but Olivia talked him out of it while dealing with how cruel and insensitive the public was being to her on the internet and on the news.

This episode may have seemed much focused on Liv and Fitz, however, it was definitely a comment on the portrayal of women in the media and how when a similar act is committed by a man, the outcry is nowhere near the temperament of these “Olivia” haters. Shonda Rhimes took every opportunity here to display this bigotry throughout the entire episode, slamming a mirrored media in the end by using the gladiators to defend Olivia and basically accuse the media of “dog-whistle politics.” Apparently, that is the golden phrase, insinuating racism, sexism and everything else media outlets fear as an accusation. Finally, Olivia has a smile on her face. Sure, her team was defying her orders…but with the best intentions possible.

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Marcus is barely a gladiator for 30 minutes in this episode and already I am seeing a revamped Olivia Pope and Associates. At the start of the episode, he refuses Quinn’s job offer to be a part of their team, claiming they get things done unethically and consider the law to be a “suggestion” rather than specific rules to abide by. However, Marcus may be the turn around that team needs, especially in light of Olivia’s scandal. He is a fierce character and unfailingly passionate and steadfast in his beliefs. If Jake comes back, bringing his ex-wife, Elise, with him to join the gladiators, they may be more unstoppable than ever.

Yes that’s right, Jake had a wife.

While we still didn’t get too cleared up on Rowan’s operation, Lazarus 1, we still gained a little more insight into Jake’s past life. From what it looked like, he and Elise were incredibly in love but since they were living the spy life, their marriage went downhill (apparently, it was on her though.) But, when Jake asks her to come back to the US with him, does that mean they will both be helping out Olivia Pope and Associates?

One can hope.

However, Shonda Rhimes did mention in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that Jake “goes on a journey that might destroy everything.” Could this trip to Paris have been that “journey?” Is bringing Elise back with him a huge mistake?

Meanwhile, the fate of pursuing Fitz’s impeachment is in Mellie’s hands when the female senators claim they won’t do anything until she gives them the go ahead. We aren’t left with a definite answer there, but seeing that the male senators are pushing for the same thing while trying to bribe Fitz, it could actually happen.

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Shonda Rhimes did an excellent job with exploring how corrupt the media is and how desensitized people are to the way the media talks about women, especially women of color. She has constantly had to address comments about having women of color in leading roles for not only Scandal, but How to Get Away with Murder as well. In 2014, she delivered an empowering speech when she was awarded the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award regarding her role as an African American woman breaking through Hollywood’s “glass ceiling.”

This episode wasn’t just about general media coverage, it was a comment on how the media talks about her show, her actors, and her characters as well. Just because this show is fictional and over the top, Shonda Rhimes does not hide away from taking opportunities to make a firm and brash statement on the current issues in our reality.  

Best scenes of the night:

Quinn recruiting Marcus: I had to do a double take when Quinn marched into that bar and approached Marcus sitting alone. For a moment, I thought we were flashing back to that first scene in the pilot episode where Harrison is recruiting Quinn, giving her the gladiator speech. While Marcus gives her a “hell no” at first, it’s not too long after that he changes his mind and decides to be a gladiator in a suit. Even if it was just for the money in the beginning, after the way he took charge tonight, he’s not going anywhere.

Marcus kicking the media’s ass: Marcus goes off book, going against both Quinn, Huck and Olivia’s orders to convince the media Olivia is just hard at work on other cases and is too busy to deal with the press. Marcus knows that this coverage of Olivia is more than just scandal, it is “war.” He confronts the media, calling them out on their foul play towards Olivia and shutting them down.

Hell yeah, Marcus!

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“It’s not about doing the smart thing, it’s about doing the right thing.”

Marcus started this when he battled the media, but Fitz claimed it and did something completely unexpected and something he had never done before…

He took Olivia on a date.

The episode ends with Fitz picking her up in his motorcade, not too long after Cyrus quits as Mellie’s advisor. This may have just been the tipping point on her decision on whether or not to support Fitz’s impeachment…

Next week, I am hoping to see more of Marcus and discover more about this Lazarus 1 ordeal. Jake nearly got Elise killed in the process of trying to figure out exactly what Rowan has planned. B-613 may be dead, but Rowan is up to something whether he admits it or not. 

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4 out of 5