This Scandal review contains spoilers.
Scandal Season 7 Episode 1
Mellie Grant, at the end of season six on Scandal, has been sworn in as President of The United States. Olivia Pope and Jake Ballard took care of the pesky former Vice President Luna Vargas who planned her husband’s assassination in hopes of one day sitting in the big chair in the Oval Office. Her master plan didn’t unfold as she might have expected. Cyrus Beene, a man never to be trusted, is Vice President, in Luna’s absence.
Tonight’s season premiere felt like an ode to Hillary Clinton had she won. Hillary is no Mellie, and there’d be no place for such a powerful Olivia Pope in Hillary’s cabinet. Obvious comparisons abound, yet viewers must remember the apples and oranges are an escapist television show versus the unsavory reality of American politics.
The show is a vehicle for its star Kerri Washington, and thus she must be front and center more times than not. Following eight years of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, the positive images and portrayals of an African American protagonist and a supporting cast of women is a welcome balm for viewers.
The episode, “Watch Me,” laid the foundation for what might happen over the course of the final season – Olivia Pope having to always prove who she is and what’s she’s capable of doing. It was fitting that “Fight the Power” was part of the soundtrack in the opening scene. She has finally come into her own as a mixture of Rowan and Myra. Detractors and obstacles have been and will be warned to steer clear of her.
Blackmailing senators and CEOs to achieve her goals is second nature for Ms. Pope. She enjoys testing those closest to her and pushing boundaries. How will a woman president on a mission to right previous wrongs fit into Olivia’s local and worldview as a master manipulator? Will more people come to see the world as hers to run? Cyrus will oftentimes conflict because he thinks it’s business as usual even after she reasserts her position and power.
Rowan schooled his daughter on the potential dangers of trying to have it all without personal and professional casualties. Given their separate and connected histories, I expect there will be hiccups and near-catastrophes throughout the season.
Olivia relinquished control of her former agency to Quinn, and the rebranded Quinn Perkins and Associates had their first client. Abby has returned to the agency where she’s a better fit away from The White House where the taste of power almost destroyed her.
How will Olivia manage her dual roles as head of reconstituted B613 and boss lady to the newly-elected woman president? Rowan has warned her that there will have to be compromises and sacrifices along the way. Will she buckle under the pressure of wearing a crown versus a wide-brimmed white hat?
Olivia thrives on playing both sides against the middle and pitting people against each other. Where else but on television and or in the movies could an African American woman sleep with a sitting white president, while climbing the ranks among the moneyed and powered Washington elite, and then come to run The White House with the ex-wife of the man she slept with?
People and politics are unpredictable. In hindsight, this episode was predictable. Viewers knew, hoped and expected that Olivia would waltz in and save the day. We were able to tune out the messy, real world for an hour, and we were better for it.