Thursday, November 20, 2014

REVIEW: 'Scandal' - Olivia Aims a Gun at Her Father While Elizabeth & Andrew Enact Their Plan in 'Where the Sun Don't Shine'

ABC's Scandal - Episode 4.09 "Where the Sun Don't Shine"

Command is always too steps ahead and everyone in Olivia's life is in danger. Cyrus is forced to face the consequences of his behavior. Huck and Quinn finally figure out just what Elizabeth North has been planning, but they might be too late to stop it.

We've reached the midseason finale of Scandal's fourth season and right now I've come to believe the show is capable of producing phenomenal moments but the show as a whole isn't as strong as it once was. The fourth season has been a major step up from the third. Everything about the plot seems to be relevant and they are interconnecting in interesting ways. However, I was never engaged with the possibility of war with West Angola until Elizabeth and Andrew put their plan in motion. I was never engaged with Elizabeth and Andrew's plotting until it became Olivia's kidnapping. I was never engaged with Cyrus sleeping with a prostitute and the fallout of such until Olivia yelled at him to become the man he once was again. Those are all plotting issues. But all of them are capable of intriguing me. That's why I'm still engaged with this show.

And then, there is the stuff that has been genuinely great week in and week out. It does seem like the show may be embracing Joe Morton's Rowan Pope a bit too much this season. And yet, it completely works all of the time because of the conviction he gives every minutes-long monologue. It's dynamic and he has tumultuous relationships with many of the regular characters. He has become a god of sorts within this universe. He is the one who controls what happens in this world. He is always several steps ahead of everyone else. Olivia, Jake and Fitz plotted his capture which resulted in him taking out several armed officers. Now, Rowan is in full shutdown and self-preservation mode. He's eliminating every B613 asset that could be a liability. It leads to another weird and awkward hookup between Charlie and Quinn. And yet, it's vastly more interesting once Rowan is in Olivia's apartment opening a bottle of wine and looking at his collection of records. His daughter despises him enough that she would be willing to shoot and kill him. The true twist would have been the gun actually going off. That would have surprised me. And yet, it's not bad that the show is keeping Rowan alive. Joe Morton is an asset the show should continue using as long as he is still relevant. They have not passed that threshold yet.

I was concerned, however, when Olivia's mom returned at the top of the hour. She had been thrown into the B613 hole after the bombing last season. That character never made a whole lot of sense and was a strong byproduct of the third season ultimately not having the time to truly develop strong character beats. She returns and is not a one-note and mysterious villain. She's not a completely changed person after her time in lockup either - like Huck was. She is rational but also very manipulative. Olivia is glad to have her in lockup as well. She has two parents that she no longer wants roaming and controlling what happens in the world. But that also makes Olivia exactly like her parents. She is trying to control everything under the guise of doing it for patriotic duty. She raises Cyrus up to be the man she knows he is capable of being because of her desire to help a friend. It also helps having friends in high offices of the government. She has an influence over all of these people. She has returned from standing in the sun with Jake and established a life within this political world again.

It's only after Olivia's talk with her mother that she is able to realize just how much power she wields over everyone. It's a strong symbolic gesture of the trading of power when Jake hands Olivia a gun to kill Rowan. It's an even more powerful moment when she realizes how similar she is to her parents. But Olivia also has the chance to be different. She doesn't have to be obsessed with tracking her father to the ends of the world in order to get justice. She doesn't have to visit her mother every day in prison just to rehash all of their issues. She is able to put the team of Fitz, Cyrus and Abby back together at the White House and realizes that she doesn't need to ruin their moment together. Olivia is choosing herself. To be a proud and strong woman by herself. She doesn't need to be thrown into the reactionary role because of the actions of Rowan, Maya, Fitz or anyone else. She is going to do her job to the satisfaction of her clients and come home, drink some woman and dance in her apartment. She wants to be with both Jake and Fitz but she wants to be proud of who she is more.

All of this strong character work for Olivia is powerful stuff and then it is quickly ripped away in the episode's concluding moments. The politics of this world will keep revolving. Olivia standing up to be better and to be herself stands out. She becomes a part of Elizabeth and Andrew's power manipulation of Fitz. Those two characters are power hungry. They only see Olivia as the person who'll get Fitz to do what they want. That undercuts everything that Olivia is trying to do but in such a rewarding and confounding way. Olivia is allowed a few moments of happiness before this dangerous world comes knocking on her door again. Olivia's dance party was her standing in the sun much more than when she was on the island with Jake. Now she's choosing to be better while being a part of this world instead of choosing to run away and ignoring it. But now, she is missing and that will be very disruptive to the rest of the characters who just got used to her being back in their lives.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Where the Sun Don't Shine" was written by Mark Wilding and directed by Tony Goldwyn.
  • Huck's story with his family has also been strong this season. His former wife is right to want distance from this man. He is dangerous and could put the family at risk at any moment in time. And yet, his yearning for their understanding is an incredibly nuanced story.
  • Will Michael now engaged to Cyrus make him an important part of this story? I'm hard pressed to figure out how he'll remain relevant.
  • Not a lot of Mellie in the final episode of 2014. That's a little sad. However, her one scene is phenomenal in which she gets to verbally screw Elizabeth.
  • Charlie and Quinn have a Mr. and Mrs. Smith vibe going on. I just wish it was more interesting to watch. Perhaps if one of them actually killed the other.