Thursday, May 12, 2016

REVIEW: 'Scandal' - Olivia Fully Becomes Command by Getting Jake Away from Her Father in 'That's My Girl'

ABC's Scandal - Episode 5.21 "That's My Girl"

As each presidential candidate gets ready to announce their running mate, Olivia finds herself in a potentially dire situation. Cyrus is presented with damaging information that could alter the presidential race entirely.

Season 5 of Scandal has been a particularly memorable year for Olivia Pope. Her arc this season has been fantastic and very transformative. She has evolved so much as a character this season. It has all been very purposeful as well. She has taken a very dark and horrifying turn to being the anti-hero of her own story. That transition has been very polarizing at times. It's not surprising at all if some of the audience were turned off because of it. And yet, it is still a very compelling story arc for her. She has seen the power, corruption and darkness of this world. And now, she is taking that for herself. She is becoming the woman who D.C. revolves around. She's the one who decides what gets done in this town. It's an arc that has pushed her to the brink of sanity. Kerry Washington has really nailed all of it. And now, "That's My Girl" solidifies the person that Olivia has become.

This season started with Olivia and Fitz once again trying to make their love story work. It was a formulaic and played out dynamic that got a boost of energy by being exposed to the public. That forced them to be people of action and not just words. Olivia could have control of the Oval Office. She no longer just had to be Fitz's mistress. Their affair didn't need to be an exciting thing because of its scandalous nature. They could live in the open. This attempt at a real relationship only further proved what Olivia really wants in this world. She loves and craves power. She enjoyed being able to tell Fitz what to do as the President of the United States. She stood in the Oval Office and her word would become law throughout the entire world. That's what she enjoyed from this dynamic. That's what ended the two of them as a couple for good. She couldn't have both that power and this meaningful relationship. That simply could not be.

The second half of the season has featured Olivia during her best to regain that power she had in the Oval Office with Fitz. But now, she's doing it by herself. She's the one working to get to the top. She's not just sleeping her way to it. She's walking through all of the danger and brutality of the road to control in this harsh world. For years, she has viewed her father as this monster whose actions are very manipulative and destructive. She has never wanted a relationship with him knowing that he is Command and what all of that entails. But now, Olivia is the one ascending to that throne. She had a taste of power and wants more of it. She's not afraid to hurt or betray anyone who stands in her world. This show has become one with monstrous characters. Everyone has done something horrifying and disastrous in the past. And yet, that brutality went to another level this season with Olivia herself choosing to kill Andrew with a chair. That was a natural progression of her character arc this season. It was devastating and surprising but richly earned as well.

And now, Olivia finds herself on the precipice of power once more. She stands at the Republican National Convention with her candidate, Mellie Grant, being victorious in the primaries. The White House is once again in her grasp. She has changed as a person over this campaign. But it's a change she welcomes and accepts as a part of her life. She is the one controlling her own destiny. And yet, several problems still get in the way of power being hers once more. All of these issues build up to reveal Olivia in the final state of her grand transformation this season. She has essentially become her father. She is Command now. She's willing to risk lives and kill just in order to direct the country in the direction that she deems best. She's not afraid to manipulate any situation to her advantage and force her will upon others. This is her world and everyone else is just living in it. It's a powerful and monstrous final statement for Olivia this season. It shows that she is no longer the gladiator wearing the white hat that she was once. But the transformation has been an earned character beat as well. It makes one sit back and be proud of all the work the writers have put into her character this season.

Olivia's ascension to Command comes at the expense of Jake. Once again, he found himself trapped in the allure of Olivia Pope. She gave him fantasies about a happy life together. They could live a normal existence without having to worry about death or politics. They could be great together. Jake desperately wants to get out of Rowan's control. To do so, he puts all of his faith into Olivia. He has seen firsthand the woman she has become this season. And yet, he still trusts her with his life. He knows that she is the only way out of this life. Olivia makes that happen too. She has figured out her father's plans and devises a scheme to turn them against him. She offers Jake the Vice President slot on Mellie's campaign. It's everything that Rowan wanted for Jake just without the connection he wanted to exploit. Olivia stands before Jake with the promise of a better life. She holds his life in her hands. It was so frustrating when she backed down during his wedding to Vanessa. She wasn't strong enough to stand against her father then. But now, she is. She has been victorious in battle and is embracing her inner monster. She's willing to risk Jake's life just to destroy everything her father has been working towards this season.

All of this works too. Rowan cannot kill Jake. He lets him go free to be Mellie's Vice President. It's a situation that surprises both Olivia and Jake. They have finally gotten what they wanted. And yet, that fantasy is quickly broken. Jake wants a nice, normal life in the suburbs without worrying about DC politics. Meanwhile, Olivia still craves power. She needs to be at the helm of this campaign. She needs Jake to play his part in order to give her exactly what she wants. So, Jake ultimately isn't very free at all. He has just escaped one Command for another. It's something he comes to realize pretty quickly as well. Olivia has become her father. That doesn't have the same stigma it once had. He has molded her into his image. And now, she has taken that and surpassed his manipulations. She is the one in control of the story. She has Mellie and Jake under her influence. She has the ability to control the fate of the entire world yet again.

The only thing standing in Olivia's way for this power right now is Cyrus. He has frequently proven himself to be a truly monstrous individual as well. He can be just as manipulative as Rowan. That makes him a very formidable opponent for Olivia in the general election. Like her, he chooses the pursuit for power over love. Olivia betrays Jake in order to find personal happiness. Cyrus does the same with Tom. This relationship has meant so much to Cyrus during its short existence because he's allowed to be open about the monster he really is. He's a man comfortable with murder but not able to raise a child. And yet, that's not what will ultimately give him the power he has always wanted. When he was with Fitz, Cyrus believed being the Chief of Staff was the most powerful position he could ever have as an openly gay man in the Republican party. But now, he has made the shift. Olivia gave him an opening and he took it. Cyrus is going to run as Frankie's Vice President. That's a tantalizing tease for next season. Two powerful titans going head to head for the power of the entire world. Both have changed in their pursuit of it. Now, let's just see how nastier and more monstrous they'll become to get and hold onto it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "That's My Girl" was written by Shonda Rhimes & Mark Wilding and directed by Tom Verica.
  • Fitz learned that Olivia had an abortion because Abby just so happened to leave that file hanging around in her office. That was weird. Plus, Fitz didn't even have his typical immature reaction to it. Instead, he just told Olivia that he valued her "choice" when she came to him to talk about Jake as a potential VP.
  • Cyrus gets David's hopes up about possibly being a running mate for Frankie. It's largely just an excuse to give him and Liz something to do in this finale. Otherwise, they aren't completely necessary at all.
  • The finale also wastes a little bit of time in the beginning with presenting a couple of different options for Mellie's Vice President. It's largely just another story to give Quinn and Huck something to do - only for it to be completely meaningless.
  • Mellie and Marcus had a close, almost intimate moment in last week's episode. And here, they continue to enjoy each other's company but it doesn't lead to anything especially noteworthy.
  • However, Mellie had another epic moment when she confronted Fitz about the speech he was planning on giving at the convention. He has been very accommodating to her demands for the event. But Mellie also needs to make it known that she has worked hard for this office and she deserves. She won't whine about it like Fitz did. That was such a compelling speech. How does Bellamy Young not have an Emmy nomination yet?
  • That's it for Season 5. It's currently unclear when ABC will be airing Season 6 next season. The episode order has already been reduced due to Kerry Washington's pregnancy. But there's also talk about a potential debut at midseason and running completely through with no repeats. That could be fun but it would also make for a long hiatus - during which the real-life political world will only get crazier.