Scandal 3×12 ‘We Do Not Touch the First Ladies’: Swipe to unlock

Source: ABC

Does Scandal have a handle on why its characters are interesting? We’re now in day 15 of the True Detective backlash, and one of the thing that has emerged is that “but the characters are complex!” is a defense that is surprisingly effective. And that’s good, because it’s used a LOT. Grantland used it to defend Detective from charges of misogyny (so apparent a misogynistic child could see it), which is kind of like the glass house insurance people getting into the rock throwing game, but bringing it back to Scandal, I’m not convinced that the “complexity” of the characters isn’t just a front for their essential yawning emptiness.

Take Harrison. We are now supposed to believe that he, what, was a terrorist? Aligned with terrorists? Our previous handle on the character had been the man who played by the hidden rules, following Olivia out of pure gratitude. Somehow our mercenary insider trader is, what, the good soldier? He keeps talking about gladiators, so, well, that makes about as much sense as ever. A similar thing is happening to Abby and Quinn, who are morphing into the badass girlfriend sidekick for David Rosen (and the Girl of the emerging four man band) and the backstory for an annoying character from a 90s hacker movie that’s grasping at ways to make her seem accomplished, respectively.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

The fine changes to Mellie make a bit more sense, especially since we’re seeing emotions that are supposed to be emerging as we watch them rather than characteristics that were always supposed to be there (again: HEY REMEMBER WHEN QUINN HAD A LAW DEGREE KINDA?!?). The VP is still as bland as bland can be, but Mellie is the star of this story and I don’t think I ever laughed harder or thought Mellie is more awesome than when she looks around at Jackie O, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pat Nixon, and…I wanna say Shelly Coolidge and decides to get hot and heavy with Blandy McWhiterson.

Hollis is back, and playing both sides, because apparently we haven’t gotten enough of Jethro Clampett’s folksy forced metaphors. He’s tryna play both sides, because he’s Hollis and apparently has infinite money, because there’s only room for one Koch brother in this here fictional universe, friend. Honestly he seems like a relic from the earlier version of the show that Scandal is rapidly trying to shift away from, but we’ll see. The other member of that category is Huck who, lost for anything to do, is just being really creepy and getting Olivia coffee, because Scandal wants to challenge The Big Bang Theory for character most explicitly on the spectrum. I honestly don’t know whether the autistic community should be angrier at Jim Parsons or Guillermo Diaz.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

One surprisingly fun subplot is Ballard’s continuing adventures in being over his head at B613. We’ve always seen him knowing more than he should, but for most of this episode he’s frustrated, alone in his cramped, dark office waiting for information to get to him. The show really committed to B613 being so far outside of the government’s control that it’s inner workings are almost impossibly opaque, even to its commander, and in doing so it’s providing another possible set to mess around in. This episode almost had me feeling bad for Jake Ballard, to my utter shock.

So much of the contortions this episode went through seem almost unbearably light. When a show has this many twists and turns, the ostensibly shocking plot threads become vanishingly thin when we start with the assumption that something introduced in the first act will be unrecognizably different in the third. Scandal is still suffering the pains of going to full serialization, and the fact that it uses the beats of throwaway, scandal of the week plots with people and things that are very, very important in its world is still a very jarring way to present what should be shocking turns of events.

Maybe Scandal just needs time. Or maybe it needs to go back to solving problems it did in earlier seasons, when Olivia kept her hands clean because we all knew it didn’t matter.

Source: ABC

Source: ABC

Stray Thoughts:

  • They are not shooting around Kerry Washington’s pregnancy very well.
  • The great thing about this cold open is how much Olivia is realizing what she’s saying is a lie as she says it. Even her being normal is about him.
  • Oh a Mellie flashback episode. This will go well.
  • I love James trying to be smooth.
  • I could watch Fitz and Bland VP trying to be loose and broey for hours. SPIN THIS SHOW OFF INTO A TERRIBLE SNL SKETCH, ABC.
  • Seriously I can’t even with the Ballard must protect the republic crap.
  • Awww yeah, time for some good old fashioned fixing.
  • “The only things that will bring me back to Tulsa are Christmas and my father’s funeral.” Hey I’ve said similar things about DC!
  • Does B613 not have any hackers? Is Quinn actually the best hacker they could get?
  • James needs to go back to last episode and get some of his balls back. What’s changed?
  • So is Abby just gonna switch sides ever or…?
  • Love Quinn doing dumb spy stuff. So unbelievable. Like we didn’t need this scene but her and Olivia has been the best thing Quinn’s done since season 1.
  • Wow, Ballard. Scott Foley’s neck is still alarmingly red, but that rant against Olivia was great.
  • Oh cut it out with these goddamn Windows phones.
  • Seriously though: Quinn’s plots are increasingly seeming like that part in the movie where someone lists a bunch of things a hacker has done that will make sure laymen think they’re some kind of badass connected super-hacker.
  • Kinda over it with this “Huck knows he’s a monster” thing but at least Diaz is selling the hell out of it.
  • It’s pronounced “rarefied air” VP dude, there’s a word for it.
  • “Right. We do not touch the first ladies.” Scandal certainly does have a knack for turning text into…text.
  • Oh hey, Khandi Alexander. And bland Secret Service dude is B613. Shockers.
John M.

works for a legal newspaper in Baltimore and lives within three blocks of Tilghman Middle, the alley where Omar and Brother Mouzone have their showdown, and Pearson’s Florists. He enjoys putting his liberal arts degree to good use by watching a lot of TV and reading a lot of internet. He occasionally blogs (about Dawson’s Creek) on tumblr.

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