Thursday, October 15, 2015

REVIEW: 'Scandal' - Fitz Has to Choose Between the Smart Decision and the Right One in 'Dog-Whistle Politics'

ABC's Scandal - Episode 5.04 "Dog-Whistle Politics"

Eager to get answers, Jake unexpectedly crosses paths with someone he thought he'd never see again. Huck and Quinn recruit a familiar face to help smooth over the media storm surrounding Olivia. Fitz quickly finds out the true cost of mercy when he discovers not everyone fully supports his actions.

Many characters were faced to choose between the smart decision and the right decision in "Dog-Whistle Politics." The scandal surrounding Olivia and Fitz's relationship is dominating the conversation in the world right now. Olivia is learning never to read the online comment section while Fitz is still furious that his staff is doing this to her. They don't have control over their lives right now. It's all a part of stepping out into the spotlight with their relationship. They are dealing with those consequences. The reaction is overwhelming to them. They literally can't get anything else done. All of Fitz's meetings are dominated with the threat of him being impeached as President while Olivia never leaves her apartment. She spirals because she can't stop watching the news or going online. Both thought they could handle the aftermath. This episode does break them. They make another decision at the end of the episode that could hint at a better future for both of them. And yet, it also creates a more precarious future for both of them in the political world.

Fitz faces the Republican Party leadership who have several demands they want in order for him not to get impeached. That is a serious threat to the President right now. It won't take long for people to expose that Fitz and Olivia's relationship happened. The White House did call into question the validity of Olivia's assertion of being the President's mistress. It's all the media wants to talk about. The only way for Fitz to protect his legacy as President is to repel all the good things he has actually accomplished in office. Fitz is faced with overturning both the equal pay and Brandon bills. Those are literally the only good things he has actually done while President of the United States. The rest of the time he is either caught in a sex scandal or going to war - because of the women he is in love with.

The smart move for Fitz is to give into the party's demands. Do everything that is asked of him and be able to finish his term as President. That path is certain. It may be difficult for him to do. But it will keep his position as leader of free world intact. And yet, Fitz doesn't believe that that is the right decision for the American public. He has been criticized this season for acting like a human being and not the President of the United States. That has been very true over the entire series. He was able to get these two bills passed because of the support from Olivia. He couldn't have done any of it without her by his side. Those bills make the country a better and safer place. Overturning them now would bring chaos and unrest back to the county. He can't afford to do that. He needs to protect the country from all threats it faces. If that means he can no longer be President, he is fine with that because he will be proud of these two laws. In making that decision, he is the President. He is not Fitz, the man in love with Olivia Pope. He is doing the right thing for the country.

However, Fitz then goes ahead and does the right thing for himself as well. The cameras are constantly watching him and Olivia. He descends from the White House and goes to Olivia's apartment to show her off for the entire world to see. He's no longer afraid of the world seeing their relationship for what it really is. He's willing to stand by it no matter what the consequences are. That could be a very foolish decision because it creates some very powerful enemies that will enjoy putting him through the impeachment process. Letting the laws stay as is would have been enough to get that process going. He then goes ahead and confirms to the world that Olivia is much more than the conniving women she is made out to be on the news. But that means it could also destroy the country in the process. The whole world will be watching as this impeachment begins. Will Olivia's love and the opportunities created from the two laws be enough to keep him on this path? It's uncertain because this show sure does love its twists.

The Fitz story in this episode is the most interesting use of the character so far this season. Of course, it still feels repetitive. Once again, the show reverses its direction just in order to explore some new avenue of the legality of this current situation. But it still largely works at the moment. It also continues to create strong dramatic moments for Mellie and Cyrus. Mellie is fine impeaching her husband if it means she can have a much stronger chance of running for President. And yet, she doesn't want to hurt him. In a very simple scene (where the show remembers that the two of them have a toddler son), Fitz and Mellie recognize that good part of their relationship. Mellie doesn't want to hurt Fitz if she doesn't have too. And yet, his betrayal is enough to add fuel to the fire. Mellie only goes on the offensive because Fitz steps out with Olivia by his side. It's the move that Cyrus suggested in the first place but she wasn't ready to embrace until that moment with Fitz.

The show's other two plots of the episode are very weak and drag the whole hour down with them. It's fun watching Marcus, Quinn and Huck on the air turning the conversation around on Olivia's behalf. And yet, it doesn't make any sense at all. It's understandable why Marcus and Quinn do it. They have the composure to make sure their message comes across in the best way possible. Huck is just in that sequence to add levity. He's out of his element and it drastically takes one out of the episode. Who in their right mind would think putting Huck on TV would be a good idea? That's just not the best way to utilize his skill set. Additionally, Marcus is only brought back as a member of the team because Quinn and Huck needed a leader to follow since Olivia was too busy laying around her apartment to do anything. Marcus exists solely as a plot function in this episode. The messaging of these scenes is very on point. The nature of the media's coverage of this story is horrifying. The media personalities needed to be called out for their insensitive phrasing. But all of it happens to keep these characters busy. Fitz's decision in the end will change the conversation anyway. Plus, they must not have had much of an impact if Olivia is still spiraling in the aftermath. So, it just doesn't seem like a good use of time.

Meanwhile, Jake teams up with Charlie to travel to Paris for some very cryptic spy mission to determine how Rowan plans on building B-613 up again. Jake isn't a character who can reliably carry his own subplot at the moment. This conspiracy has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the hour. Yes, Olivia's father is mentioned extensively throughout the media's coverage of Olivia's scandal. They paint the picture of the apple not falling far from the tree. But that doesn't explain most of Jake's story in this episode. This plot sets out to surprise the audience with the fact that Jake has a wife who he believed died but who is actually happily alive in Paris. He completely forgets about everything else regarding this mission because he runs into her again. This mystery makes no sense right now. It's distractingly bad. I was waiting for the reveal that his former wife was the bad guy he was searching for. But no such reveal came. It still could. But this story has no meaning or purpose at the moment. It fails to connect on almost every level - which only makes it stand out more in an episode that largely has itself together.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Dog-Whistle Politics" was written by Mark Fish and directed by Zetna Fuentes.
  • Fitz needs to stop trying to fire people every single time they actually do something. It has become way too redundant. It's starting to become really frustrating because it can also mean he hasn't evolved as a character in any meaningful way. That dooms his relationship with Olivia immediately. It's entirely because he's a garbage person and a child.
  • The Republican leader who hated that Fitz had an affair with a black woman is probably much closer to real life than anyone wants to believe. It's still so horrifying to hear such an opinion.
  • The use of the news story as a framing device that would open each act got old very quickly. It did highlight to the audience just how the media within the show is responding to the situation. But it was very unnecessary and didn't add any tension. In fact, it took tension away because it stated things as bluntly as possible.
  • Quinn's big speech to Marcus about being a gladiator was a strong callback to the pilot. And yet, it only makes it more glaring that Marcus is simply going to fulfill the role on the show that Harrison poorly did.
  • Additionally, Marcus' reasons for joining the firm are completely ridiculous. He wants to help Olivia out because the words of the press hit a cord with him too. He has legitimate reasons why not coming to work for her is the smart move. And yet, he doesn't listen to such reasoning because the show needs him not to.