Last night’s Scandal episode stepped away from its action packed and steamy storylines and stripped it back to a very real and controversial conversation so present in our minds. Echoing the recent events in Ferguson resulting from the shooting of Michael Brown, this episode centers on a black father, Clarence Parker, horrified, saddened, and outraged by the murder of his son by a white police officer. Olivia Pope is called in to diffuse the situation, trying to keep this father civil as he guards the body of his son, Brandon, with a shotgun until he gets answers about what really happened there.
At first, Olivia thinks the protestors are only escalating the situation and that neighborhood activist, Marcus Walker, is only using the situation as a platform for his movement for civil rights. However, Olivia is soon swayed to the side of the protestors and instead of trying to calm down the situation, starts to get to the bottom of it herself.
Going into this episode I thought we would mostly be getting Olivia and Clarence’s perspectives. However, the episode dove into multiple perspectives: the police force, the father, the cop who shot and killed Brandon, the protestors, Marcus Walker, witnesses, a mother, a spectator, etc. The episode grapples each point of view with an expressiveness that gave justice to each perspective and still managed to drive home an important message.
The gladiators worked furiously trying to figure out if Brandon Parker actually was about to pull out a knife and charge at a police officer. The video footage they managed to track down definitely showed him reaching for something, but it was unclear what it was. When Marcus, Olivia, and Clarence all discover a knife under Brandon’s body, they think this may be their answer. But, Clarence points his gun at the crowd, claiming his son never carried a knife and planted himself back in his lawn chair over his son’s slain body.
The gladiators continued to dig deeper and find another witness involved in the shooting to fill in the blanks. It was that man’s knife that was planted under Brandon’s body, planted by the cop. Brandon wasn’t pulling out a knife from his pocket, he was pulling out a receipt to prove he wasn’t involved in the theft the police officer accused him of.
The moment when Olivia tracks down the guilty cop, Jeffrey Newton, actor Michael Welch gives a chilling performance of ignorance and prejudice as he unleashes on Olivia and his entire department about the injustice he feels in being disrespected by the black population. Though frightening, Welch gave a stellar performance in this moment and completely encapsulated this idea of a naïve, uninformed police officer.
An incredibly emotional episode altogether, but it was the moments where Olivia is talking to Brandon’s father, Clarence that had me swallowing my tears. When he tells Olivia that at the end of the night, they both knew he would end up either in handcuffs or dead was a critical theme that Rhimes captured throughout the episode. How about when he tells Olivia he put a University of Maryland sticker in his son’s car, just so if he got pulled over, cops wouldn’t think he was a “thug” even though his son wouldn’t be attending college
Just to keep him safe, he did this.
After Olivia shares with Clarence that his son’s name is cleared and the cop who killed him is in jail, Clarence clasps his son’s shoulder one last time before standing with his arms outreached, ready to be cuffed. This was one of my favorite moments in the episode, especially when Olivia tells him that he would not be getting arrested.
An episode echoing the cries of justice is so frequent in the media whether it is on the news or in the papers or the internet. Shonda Rhimes could not have picked a better moment for this episode. Kerry Washington shined in this episode, taking on Olivia’s character in a new light, admitting that this was something she could not fix. However, in the end, she and the gladiators managed to seek and find justice for Brandon Parker, something not so easily done in our reality.
Emmy nominations go to…
Courtney B. Vance
How many times can someone make me cry within one hour? Vance portrayed an outraged and grieving father superbly. His short monologues were gut wrenching and possibly portrayed some of the most meaningful lines I have ever heard on television, in such a beautiful and unflinchingly exposing way. This man deserves an Emmy simply for his ability to completely capture the essence of a character in the look of his eyes.
Michael Welch surprised all in his undeniable capability at such a raw performance. At the start of the episode, I was nearly convinced this man was just a scared cop, horrified and saddened by what he did to this poor child. But the moment he realized he was caught, his true colors were exposed and Welch pulled out all the stops to portray a man so warped by his falsified ideas of black people that he is so stubbornly convinced in his beliefs. It was terrifying to watch but Welch played the character perfectly.
Scenes for the win:
When Olivia goes to David Rosen to come down to the crime scene, she breaks down telling David she can’t fix this one, a very un-Olivia Pope thing to say. She admits to how horrifying and terrifying it was when she was captured and not knowing whether or not she was going to die. But when she compares her feeling like that for only a week to feeling like that every moment of your life, David starts to understand. A truth not easily said nor understood.
Also, back to when Clarence thinks he is about to get cuffed and taken to jail, Olivia escorts him to the White House where he meets the President of the United States. I thought for a moment that this could turn out cheesy or a bit of a cop out saying that all is better because now the president is aware of his situation and he got to meet him. But, I soon realized this moment was more than that. It was that though one man is white and one man is black, though they do not live in the same place or come from the same place, they have both lost a child and no matter what, in that, they can relate. And no matter what, in that, their sadness is founded and true.
I’m intrigued to find out how Olivia continues to cope with what happened to her in next week’s episode. But, after this episode…Rhimes will have to keep mirroring these controversial topics from our reality into her world of Scandal.