Thursday, November 5, 2015

REVIEW: 'Scandal' - Olivia Embraces the Amount of Power She Currently Wields in 'Even the Devil Deserves a Second Chance'

ABC's Scandal - Episode 5.07 "Even the Devil Deserves a Second Chance"

While Fitz is focused on winning back the American people, he makes a shocking discovery. OPA takes on a new client, but Olivia seems preoccupied keeping her own secrets. Elizabeth North sets her sights on a new agenda.

Scandal made a bold decision in getting Olivia to release her father from prison in exchange for him getting the investigation into Fitz's actions to end. It was a decision Olivia made out of her own self interest. "Even the Devil Deserves a Second Chance" only somewhat explores the consequences of that action. Rowan isn't seen at all in this hour. His presence is most certainly felt as everyone learns that he is no longer behind bars. Everyone is afraid of what Rowan will do now that he is free. And yet, that remains a mystery. The characters are no closer to figuring out where he is and what he's up to by the end of the hour. They all have the right to be concerned based on everything he has done to them. This could be a critical mistake on Olivia's part and she only seems vaguely concerned about the consequences of this action.

Instead Olivia is preoccupied in keeping the truth a secret while exerting her power both with Fitz as well as her latest client. A lot is going on in this episode. And not all of it comes together in a great way. It's very admirable that the show wants to do a spoof of the Bill Cosby situation. A bunch of women come forward claiming that a beloved author raped them. However, it's a story that isn't as gripping as it had the potential to be. This episode is so cluttered that this story gets lost in the mess. That's such a shame too because Scandal is a show that can really tackle this subject in a meaningful and important way. The final image of all the women walking into his lecture to stand tall and share their stories is very powerful. The reveal that the man's wife knew what he was doing was also very strong. And yet, Olivia's mind is scattered. So she can't give this case the importance it needs which lessons the overall effect of the story.

The episode's main focus though is Olivia coming to accept the power she has just given herself. Her decision to free her father has made her just like him. She doesn't care what happens to other people as long as she gets her version of happiness. And now, she's in the Oval Office where Fitz will listen to everything that she has to say about any issue facing the country. When the team is figuring out the strategy to fix his image, it's Olivia's plan that he follows. When it comes to determining policy, she is the one who decides the course to take. It takes her a moment to fully embrace the amount of power she now has. The rest of the world sees it. All it takes is one look for Abby to understand what Olivia has just done. Jake is angry that Elise is dead and blames that on Olivia for looking out for herself and not the people Rowan is about to hurt. Cyrus is no longer the man by Fitz's side. He's being pushed out of the decision making process. It's not until Cyrus calls Olivia the woman in charge of the country that she sees what her life has become. She enjoys being able to leave the White House and go to a "normal" job. But she has immense power right now. It was difficult for her to make much change with her case of the week. By having the President's ear, she can bring change to the country in a meaningful way. And now, she's embracing that for what it really is. That could complicate her relationship with Fitz. But that's a conversation for later this season.

And then, there's the need to find a new way to incorporate Elizabeth North into the narrative. Cyrus got her fired in order to get his job back as Chief of Staff. Liz had formed a relationship with Abby this season - but even that has been frequently contentious. That comes up again in this episode as Liz leverages an appearance on Sally Langston's show in order to get a job in the administration again. It's a precarious situation. Cyrus tries to bully her into falling into line. Liz just wants power again. This is her one attempt to get that back. Cyrus doesn't want her to have anything at all. But this isn't Cyrus' decision to make. He can't force David or Fitz to stop this appearance because there is no legal ground they can stand on. In the end, it's just the show moving around the pieces. Fitz gives Liz a job. It's Chief of Staff for Susan Ross. A hiring he did not clear with her first. That could create tension in more ways than one though.

Over the past two episodes, there has been some kind of spark igniting between David and Susan. They are able to speak candidly about their jobs in a way that is idealist but also incredibly humble. The two of them sharing wine coolers last week was a fantastic scene. That's a great place to build a new relationship for the show. It didn't have to turn into anything romantic. And yet, this hour suggests that in a such a blunt and transparent way. It's almost distracting with how this is the only story the show can think to give these characters at the moment. They largely just serve at the whims of the people who are actually in power in the government. It's further complicated by the fact that David and Liz sleep together. They really haven't had any kind of a dynamic before this episode. He can't follow through with Cyrus' suggestion of detaining her. And then, he gets close to her as he's listing off all the things he hates about her. It's not a very interesting story at all. It happens solely to give those two characters something to do. But it only really makes Susan look sympathetic because she formed a real bond with David. David having sex with Liz compromises his friendship with Susan. Again, it could just be a new love triangle for the show. Or it could just be story filler to keep things from progressing too quickly with the main narrative. But whatever it is, the show didn't really earn it nor does it feel all that important for the development of those characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Even the Devil Deserves a Second Chance" was written by Raamla Mohammed and directed by Oliver Brokelberg.
  • The plan right now is to find Rowan and kill him. Jake is leading the charge because he is personally motivated by Elise's death. And yet, why does he assume that it was Rowan who killed her? It easily could have been the organization that she was working for.
  • Olivia proclaims that her business is out of the spy game. Even if B6-13 is starting up again, none of the gladiators will be lured into working for Rowan on some compromising mission. It should be interesting to see if she can keep that promise though.
  • It was amusing that the news anchors noted that Fitz wasn't celebrating the end of the committee's investigation while behind closed doors he was raising a toast for Congress being a bunch of idiots.
  • Mellie's absence was definitely felt in this hour. She played such a crucial role in getting Rowan released. It shouldn't be hard to figure out that she was the one who signed those papers. She has to deal with those consequences as well. But instead, she's completely missing from this episode.