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S&A "Scandal" Talk-Back Session #1 (3 More Episodes Until Season Ends & Sh*t Just Got Real)

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
April 28, 2012 12:29 PM
23 Comments
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Scandal

I considered starting this earlier in the series, but, to be frank, after watching episode 1, as I expressed in my post stating some concerns I had for the show, I wasn't quite sure of how it would evolve and progress over the next several episodes.

And now, after 4 episodes, and watching them all (I just watched episode 4, the latest, yesterday, finally), and feeling far more confident about the series than I was initially, I figured now would be a good time to start a weekly S&A Scandal Talkback Session; I usually like to give new shows 3 episodes before deciding on whether I'll continue watching them or not. And, obviously Scandal has passed my discriminating tests, since I made it to episode 4 :)

We could say it's the *hottest* show on TV right now (both network and cable) with a black character leading it (although it's not like there are many of them anyway, unless you watch TBS often), and it's also, by the way, created by a black woman writer/producer, who also happens to be one of the most powerful showrunners in TV right now.

And, the icing on the cake is that it's actually a good show! 

Throw all those ingredients together, and you have enough food to feed the S&A Scandal Talkback Session, which I'll make a weekly event.

So, let's go! 

WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead... for those who aren't up-to-speed...

I'll start by saying, the series has definitely grown on me, despite early concerns, notably Kerry Washington as this firebrand of a human being, and whether she had the ability to give this character life and be believable. I initially felt that the role needed to go to an actress I'd consider more of a force, given the woman she portrays (and I'm going based strictly on descriptions here; I've never met the real Olivia Pope/Judy Smith). 

I also expected an older actress, given the real-life character's age, her achievements, etc.

But those early concerns are no longer concerns. I believe her now. I watch Kerry speak, move, her mannerisms, all as Olivia Pope, and I'm buying what she's selling, even though I wasn't entire sold after the first episode.

I also wasn't a big fan of the rapid-fire dialogue, but this really is the first Shonda Rhimes show that I can say I'm watching religiously, so I wasn't already fully aware that this was just her style. And I can say that it's grown on me. I'm not rolling my eyes as I was during episode one, when it felt somewhat forced and self-conscious, and I wondered if maybe it was just the delivery by the actors that wasn't working for me, and less Rhimes' writing. But, for whatever reason, I'm just not bothered by it as I initially was. In fact, I'd even say that some of those monologues are just so geniously written and delivered! It seems like you can count on Olivia to give one every episode; but the soliloquy given by Cyrus to the President, in the White House, in the middle of episode 4, was wonderfully hilarious.

It's singular moments like that one, which one remembers, and words that one recites. They become embedded in the public's concsiousness and soon are catch-phrases. Even something as simple and tame as "it's handled," or "gladiator in a suit" - which were at first mocked by some - are now being used more casually, and with purpose.

It's interesting to observe these progressions over time.

I'm glad we no longer have to hear about just how good Olivia Pope is at her job anymore, or that she's the best at what she does - whether from her, or from her employees, or from people she's worked for. There was a lot of that in episodes 1 and 2, and, as I expressed previously, one of my concerns was that it would continue. I wanted more show and less tell, and, without a doubt, Shonda has done just that with these last 2 episodes.

However, like I said, I'm definitely engaged, and I want to see more; I hope it only continues to get better from here-on. I like that it's not as predicatable as I thought it would be after the first 2 episodes, and I'm curious to see where Shonda Rhimes will take these characters and their individual stories; I like the ongoing challenges the firm faces that carry over the episodes, more-so than the individual per-episode cases they tackle, which they continue to handle almost too efficiently for my liking. But that's not enough of a distraction for me. 

The supporting characters are all interesting enough that I'd actually like to see episodes that focus on each of them a bit more - maybe cases that they are somehow caught up in, and we learn a little more about each one than we know currently. But I like how we gets these bits and pieces of information scattered about each episode that reveal bits and pieces of each character.

And speaking of monologues/speeches, I particularly loved the scolding Abby Whelan gave Olivia in episode 4, shaking her out of whatever psychological prison she was in leading up to that moment, which was influencing her decision-making. It both displayed a side of Abby we hadn't quite seen yet, and we learned a bit more about the history between the two of them. Also, in a way, it humanized Olivia, who, much of the time, operates almost machine-like. It was good to see her have this emotional breakdown in that last episode. It's almost like she's been this balloon that kept expanding and expanding, as she worked so hard to keep all that agitation contained inside of her through the first 3 episodes, and then, boom, the bubble burst. It's like she needed that form of catharsis, leading up to Abby's wake-the-fuck-up call to get her back on track.

I'm also glad that Olivia didn't do something reckless like get back involved with the president again; instead, given episode 4's progression, I'd say the opposite of that is happening. As I said in a Facebook post yesterday after watching that last episode, shit just got real! 

TOOOO real! Seriously, in the end there, when Amanda Tanner is injected with some fluid that instantly knocks her out, and is carried out/kidnapped by some unknown dude covered in all black, I thought, damn, where is Shonda going with this?

A war is brewing apparently, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next. I just hope it doesn't get too soapy and melodramatic. 

Worth noting however... keep in mind though that there are only 7 episodes this first season. That's right - this is all going to come to an end in 3 weeks! And I'm sure a lot of you are going to be suffering from Scandal withdrawal until the next season, whenever that will be. It's telling that ABC hasn't renewed it for another season yet; the numbers, which aren't mindblowing, but, from all I've read, are steady: roughly 7 million viewers, taking the number 2 spot during that Thursday 10pm hour, behind CBS' The Mentalist, with about 11.9 million. Compare that to Shonda Rhimes' other ABC series, Grey's Anatomy, which comes on the hour before Scandal, with 9.7 million viewers.

I'm definitely curious about the audience make-up and how much cross-over there is; or how many Grey's Anatomy watchers are sticking around for Scandal right afterward.

But, by all accounts, Scandal should be in a good position for a renewal, as long as it remains steady throughout the rest of the season, with 3 episodes left. But ya never know, do ya?

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23 Comments

  • Masha Dowell | May 3, 2012 12:04 AMReply

    I like Scandal. I must say that I am deeply impressed with it, and I believe that Kerry is doing an outstanding job. I must also say that Columbus Short has really impressed me with his acting chops too.

    So, while we are at it, can you all give your GREAT reviews to IMDB? The series currently has a 6.5 rating level, and I'd like to see it get a higher rating...

    Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1837576/

    I know many don't care about IMDB, but I do, and its how I review a lot of projects before I actually watch them.

    Thanks,
    Masha

  • Ali | May 3, 2012 1:45 AM

    I mean, I voted with an 8 for you Masha. :) But only for you because I hardly ever vote or write reviews on there. LOL!

  • Cherish | April 29, 2012 11:19 AMReply

    They crammed so much into these 3 episodes, what has happened could have been stretched out into a season. The entire 1st episode is about trying to convince us how invincible Olivia Pope, how "her gut is always right" mostly thru people repeating it over and over again, but by end of the episode her gut is "proven wrong." and we see her Achilles Heel (affair w/Prez). Um, OK. We're told how much the White House needs her and relies on her, and it would have been nice to see more of this in first few episodes. But by the 3rd ep, the WH has "declared war" on Olivia. Oh, and her team sees the invisible powerhouse Olivia crying/upset. WTH? Already? Jeez. Kerry Washington is great in this role, but I feel like I didn't get to "enjoy" Olivia and her power in DC, everything is rushed. Dialogue don't help. Everyone gives great speeches, but more feels like they're talking AT each other rather TO each other. It was hard to sit thru that last episode, and just wasn't holding my attention. Maybe in back of my head, I keep comparing to great writing on THE GOOD WIFE, which is also a fast paced show, but had better character development and took more time to establish their strengths/weaknesses and storytelling has a better pace. But I'm rooting for SCANDAL, hope its renewed and maybe it could slow down a little next season.

  • Nadine | April 30, 2012 9:09 AM

    @CHERISH - "In my conspiracy-laden mind I imagined ABC execs telling Shonda to tone down Olivia's awesomeness and introduce fallibility into her character earlier than usual so as not make a Black woman look too good. LOL you never know." - CHERISH... LOL.. I DO know, and I don't think you're off. I think that Shonda already knows this dynamic to be the case (execs not necessary) which is why a "Bailey", of GREY'S ANATOMY, could exist. "Bailey" was the best at everything she did, in the beginning, but was the best in a little "mammy package". Non-threatening in a way that mainstream women could accept. She was no competition for them physically, because if she were, they would hate her. Later Loretta Divine was added to the cast, and we know her story line... Shonda added multitudes of White skinny women (which, if a White woman, is all you need to be considered attractive), but never a young attractive Black women to the cast (which was disconcerting). I think SR had a master plan that led to this show and a greater gain. No track record of failed young attractive Black women on GREY'S that the execs could use to illustrate to her why a SCANDAL wouldn't work. Don't "sleep" on the conspiracy-laden mind!

  • Cherish | April 29, 2012 1:36 PM

    Nadine, I get what you're saying with their debut in the mid-season and have fewer episodes, hence the fast pace of the storylines. I have to start watching BBC shows. Funny you bring up how SCANDAL didn't allow us to dote on Olivia for very long, compared to women on Grey's ANATOMY. In my conspiracy-laden mind I imagined ABC execs telling Shonda to tone down Olivia's awesomeness and introduce fallibility into her character earlier than usual so as not make a Black woman look too good. LOL you never know.

  • Nadine | April 29, 2012 11:48 AM

    "I feel like I didn't get to "enjoy" Olivia and her power in DC, everything is rushed. " - Cherish... I get that too... I think the problem there is that the White House staff/life seems more interesting than her office crew at the moment (sorry SR). ...could've probably been its own show with SCANDAL as the spin-off.

  • Nadine | April 29, 2012 11:43 AM

    "They crammed so much into these 3 episodes, what has happened could have been stretched out into a season. " - CHERISH... See now... I like how quickly it is moving Reminds me of the BBC shows and the fact that they have so few episodes per series compared to the U.S. season. They get story lines moving. Scandal also has fewer episodes to work with given their mid-season debut, I get it... I just hope people can be forgiving of the first 2 episodes which doesn't seem to be the case. Olivia is so perfect... yadda, yadda, yadda... I think I see what SR is doing. Olivia could only be doted on for so long without losing the mainstream audience *wink wink*. Now hatred, betrayal and fallibility has been introduced into the story line which makes me have to ask, how else to do this (while being sociologically responsible) without having established her value in positive terms earlier. Shonda's history of "perfection and women", as far as I have noted, hadn't really bothered people here in the U.S. to this extent. When Grey's Anatomy debuted and we constantly heard about the absolute perfection of Meredith Grey's mother ALL THE TIME... which then translated into Meredith Grey's SUPER skills which also SOMEHOW translated into Meredith Grey's HALF-SISTER (with a different mother, no less) and HER PERFECTION. BS. I'm just noting, you know, a lot of people from different backgrounds having this disconnect with OLIVIA's character and her perfection as if it is something new to Shonda Rhimes and her portrayal of women. I think there is a sensitivity to this portrayal combined with this character that needs further exploration, especially given this is the only character, as far as I know, whose skills and carriage are somewhat based in reality.

  • Cherish | April 29, 2012 11:21 AM

    "Oh, and her team sees the invisible powerhouse Olivia crying/upset" -should say INVINCIBLE.

  • Geneva Girl | April 29, 2012 7:51 AMReply

    The rapid-fire dialogue still irks me. Whenever someone speaks to me that fast I dismiss them because they are usually trying to pull one over on me. It also irks me that Kerry Washington's face doesn't seem to move.

    Also, if Olivia is so smart why'd she get involved with a married man? It's not like she met him in a club and didn't know. It makes me question her judgement. It's captivating enough to keep hubby and me watching, but we'll then talk about what irks us.

  • BONDGIRL | April 30, 2012 3:29 PM

    You think her face moves too much? Funny, I agreed with others in thinking she makes way too many expressions:) With regard to her POTUS issues, Nadine posted a link in one of the earlier posts where Shonda explains creating Olivia's personality as being a wreck in her love life juxtaposed with the pristine professional life. Actually it makes perfect sense to me...I know quite a few black women who are a slayer in the courtroom and boardroom, but are a hot mess in the bedroom-so to speak. It adds a neccessary vulnerability/Achilles heel. Ignore any typos.

  • deep.honey | April 28, 2012 9:08 PMReply

    I saw the first two eps. Kerry does an outstanding job, but I feel like the characters should have big white bubbles over their heads with their ridiculous lines on them. It's like a comic book version of DC with "crisis managers" instead of P.I.s, also borrowing rapid-fire repartee' from the '40s and noir touches. Those two eps felt formulaic and lacked a real punch, and the cheese factor REALLY got on my nerves, but I might check out at least part of ep 3 On Demand.

  • Nicole | April 28, 2012 7:28 PMReply

    The show is growing on me.

    And I'll tell you who really concerns me...the FLOTUS. Olivia and the Prez better watch her. That 'Stepford Wives' act she puts on...I think she knows everything. EVERYTHING.

  • Taz | April 28, 2012 8:30 PM

    Totally agree with you....began thinking that episode 2-3.

  • Orville | April 28, 2012 5:54 PMReply

    I am really praying that ABC GIVES Scandal a chance to comeback next season in the fall 2012. I love Kerry Washington and I love her impossible love relationship with President Grant. The chemistry Kerry and Tony have is just incredible. I also was shocked at Amanda Tanner getting kidnapped at the end of episode four. I am a bit concerned about the ratings 7 million is OKAY but I wish the ratings were a bit higher. I really want Scandal to comeback it is so nice to see Kerry Washington finally get her breakthrough and due in Hollywood.

  • Critical Acclaim | April 28, 2012 5:32 PMReply

    Good show that'd be made even better by laying off the "we-worship-Aaron-Sorkin-and-want-to-be-like-West-Wing" fast but not fresh dialogue. Erbody can't pull it off and these actors are erbody. Other than that and the "watch-us-shoot-through-glass-and-other-objects-so-we-can-feel-edgy" cinematography --- I like it.

  • ShebaBaby | April 29, 2012 12:49 AM

    Thought I was the only one irked by the camera shots through a mason jar cinematography. lol I really hope they leave it out of future episodes. It really adds nothing.

  • Ray | April 28, 2012 3:12 PMReply

    I still watch the show but that rapid-fire dialogue does still irk me, it's in every episode. And I got tired of the Gladiator talk, and constant reminders of how good Olivia was at her job.

    LOL, now you guys will think I'm a ridiculous with this, but Olivia's walk is a bit TOO much for me at times. I know that's supposed to be her "swag-power-confidence" speaking, but come on now, it's a bit much if you ask me.

    BUT, like I said, I'm still watching so it must not bother me too much, so more power to the continued success of the show.

  • Nadine | April 28, 2012 2:26 PMReply

    SCANDAL: ENEMY OF THE STATE (episode 4) http://abc.go.com/watch/scandal/SH55126555/VD55195158/enemy-of-the-state

  • Nadine | April 28, 2012 1:23 PMReply

    The show is getting good... love it. I think that Shonda had to build Olivia up to inform as well as to not make Olivia's later mistakes and poor judgements look like a sign of incompetence (cause Shonda knows what's up...and how that would be perceived in the U.S. of A - see Omarosa). Cryus' monologue was my favorite thus far with a close second being the Abby Whelan scolding you mentioned. Really good.

  • Nadine | April 28, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    Yay! Just when I was weening myself off the boards. One thing about Kerry Washington, your envisioning a more mature casting, and Judy Smith (see http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-april-19-2012/judy-smith) who has been doing "crisis management" for 20 years (see Monica Lewinsky). Kerry is like my crew...same schools, similar neighborhoods, grew up in the arts in NYC, etc... Kerry is not a 21 year old though she may look/sound it... she is a 35 year old woman. What happens, though, given whose images we typically see on television we think, despite our knowledge of ourselves that one has to look a certain way if one is "this age" or has certain responsibilities (if of color). Kerry, again, is like most of the woman I grew up with who are still be mistaken for teenagers when they're not in suits (see Nicole Beharie types). Kerry's casting is true to life. Kerry just turned 35. If Kerry left college and was recruited by say a McKinsie & Co. or a Booze Allen Hamilton, she, at 35, could have been in the "business" for 12 -15 years already.... It's pretty common and typical if not investment banking, law/politics or medicine, then its management consulting (see Don Cheadle's - House of Lies). This is a part of why I love Kerry's casting... it's TRUE TO LIFE (finally) and honestly, it's a young person's business. Once people reach their 40s, if they haven't moved to where they would have liked to have moved in the company, they start their own businesses (if they hadn't already done so in their 30's a la Olivia Pope).

  • ADe | April 28, 2012 12:51 PMReply

    Adjusted my listening speed to accommodate the rapid fire line delivery.
    Never had a problem with the age factor, young folk are running things. Hell. the real POTUS is in his 40's.
    Kerri's wearing her gladiator garb creatively well. Growing to love it more each episode.

  • Kristen | April 28, 2012 12:41 PMReply

    Glad you came around on the show. I think its well written and whatever's not believable is just good entertainment. I think we forget sometimes it's ok to just be entertained. We don't always have to produce real life

  • Truly Caribbean Woman | April 28, 2012 12:41 PMReply

    I had the same concerns about the first two episodes but Kerry's character got me enough that I wanted to see it get better and it certainly has. The monologues are well placed and Cyrus' was just enjoyable to watch. I'm not sure that it will be Amanda turning up dead as that would be too easy but I'd prefer it to be her than one of Olivia's team. Only three episodes left and no sign of renewal? Really hope she gets it..there is enough places this can go to give the show a few good years on network TV.

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