Twisty ‘Scandal’ finds success with complex, compelling characters
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 08:10
“Scandal” is one of the hottest shows this season, and with heart-stopping plot twists and gritty, compelling characters; it’s no wonder why the series’ avid fans are hooked.
The show follows the life of Olivia Pope (Emmy Award nominated actress Kerry Washington) who heads a crisis management firm in Washington, D.C. The fast-talking, politically savvy and sometimes fearsome heroine is a “fixer” — her talents rely on her ability to trust her gut during decision-making time. Olivia and her team of highly intelligent lawyers and an ex-CIA operative help their clients fix anything from kidnappings to murder allegations. Although Olivia and her team know the rules, they are often embroiled in their own personal scandals as well.
Although Olivia manages her firm brilliantly — she is the best of the best — her strict moral sensibilities get bent more often than she would like to admit. She may be the protagonist, but Olivia has serious flaws — both in terms of her personality and her decision-making abilities. Yet, despite being somewhat of an anti-heroine, Olivia spends time thinking and reflecting on her choices and trying to become a better person. This complexity speaks volumes for the quality of the show.
The highlight of the series is the ongoing and passionate affair between Olivia and Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn), the President of the United States. A married man and the leader of the free world, President Grant confesses to be in love with a woman who is not his wife — creating a layer of intricacy not often seen in television shows. Grant possesses the same moral ambiguity that plagues so many of the other characters in the show, but his depth and intelligence make him worthy of his position as president. The series neither condemns nor embraces adultery, but rather confronts the idea of remaining in a marriage even after love has dissipated. “Scandal” makes the viewer reconsider the traditional notions of good and bad in the light of new circumstances.
Bellamy Young plays Mellie Grant, the jilted wife of the president. Her role is fantastic and multi-faceted. Mellie initially seems sweet and caring, but in reality has a politically ambitious dark side to her personality. She uses her role as first lady to further her own political means and engages in blackmail, forgery and election rigging to get what she wants. She is alternately aided or hindered by the president’s Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry).
Of all the morally questionable characters on this show, Cyrus Beene may be the most devious. While he possesses a sharp political mind, he does not know where to draw the line on his own ambition — he even resorts to murder at one point in the series. One of the best aspects of his character is his (admittedly) rocky relationship with his husband, James (Dan Bucatinsky), who works as a journalist in the White House. Their partnership showcases Cyrus’s softer side — he truly loves his husband, and they always manage to mend any rupture in their relationship, despite fights concerning the most confidential of government secrets.
“Scandal” episodes generally consist of a different client’s problem every week, plus a larger plot in the background with two or three smaller storylines. Because of all these moving parts, the show never slows down — though “Scandal” is at its most affecting when it humanizes and explores why its characters make bad decisions. Much of the scandal in the show reflects not only the characters’ personal struggles, but also those of today’s society. This show is a powerhouse, churning out episodes with twists and turns that eerily predict the political climate. Any drama that is able to comment on the current political and social atmosphere while remaining a gripping thriller is a show definitely worth watching. “Scandal” delivers a one-two punch: combining fascinating and complex characters with a suspenseful plot.