This Scandal review contains spoilers.
Scandal Season 7 Episode 14
Tonight’s episode had a ripped from the headlines feel made popular by a police procedural on another network with its focus on sexual harassment and the Me Too Movement. It touched on mental health, its consequences, and the relative ease of purchasing a gun in America. The open secret isn’t confined to Hollywood, it happens in various professions across the globe. The majority of its victims are women, however, men are subjected to workplace harassment. It also ensnares family, friends, and colleagues of those targeted.
Last week’s main hijacking story was relegated to a secondary position this week. It’s usual for most shows and movies to have two or three concurrent storylines. Not all are able to keep the scales balanced which would make for a captivating production.
Olivia seems an unlikely champion for workplace harassment because she obviously benefitted from her private and later public relationship with Fitz. She might have behaved differently if given a chance, yet she still maintained she would’ve made the same choice in what some viewers believe was a consensual adulterous affair.
I wish the writers would’ve dedicated more airtime to mental health, suicide ideation, and possible suicide prevention. If that were the case, it would’ve removed or reduced the secondary hijacking storyline. What would Scandal be without innuendo and titillation? The show built its reputation on glitz, glamour, and sex, and not on championing human rights, social causes, underdogs, and mental health. Such topics were the mainstay of American Crime previously on ABC.
I applaud the writers for stating the intern’s cause of death, alluding to conflicts of interest for the first female president, and the backlash she would encounter for introducing national legislation for workplace harassment. Scandal wouldn’t be true to itself if a woman isn’t in a winning or close to a winning position by episode’s end. The show is ever mindful of its core women’s audience. Rowan, Cyrus, and Maya are the recurring villains. Two men, one black, one white and gay, and a black woman. I won’t get on a soapbox to discuss diversity, representation, and checkboxes.
As for the star of the show, Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope is an avenging angel for what’s wrong in Washington, D.C. Her hidden, overlooked, and obvious imperfections are meant to endear her to more viewers than not, knowing full well their lives will never equal or rival her fictionalized one. It gives them hope to strive for something bigger than themselves. It gave the intern hope that ultimately cost her because she was unwilling to play a similar game that’s second nature to Olivia.
This comes across as a mixed message to me for a show that sought to uplift and empower women, other underrepresented, and oftentimes invisible faces and lives on primetime television. Perhaps I’m grasping at straws. Olivia as a role model for young black and Latina women is good superficially, visually, but not all are willing to go the extra mile to achieve their goals due to cultural, moral, or spiritual reasons.
It’s impossible to separate race and gender on this show. The black intern, conflicted somehow, opted to commit suicide rather than move on and reinvent herself after having appeared on the infamous list, another nod to a real-life incident in New York media circles. The white intern played the game, was rewarded, and remained alive. At the end of the hour, the black intern was a tragic victim, maybe meant to tear at my heartstrings. The white woman lived to see another day.
I didn’t write the episode, but if I had, I’d have excluded the white intern, and given more space to develop the black intern. I’d have kept her alive and set her on the path of becoming a next-generation avenging angel. In my eyes, that would be the most logical way to pay forward the mentorship she created in her mind, evidenced on her bedroom corkboard. The writers missed a great opportunity without having to be preachy or self-righteous.