“Scandal” is a show that at times paints itself into an extremely difficult position. While many other serialized stories at times live and die on the presence of a character or on the natural build of the story, this show thrives on the shock value. Sometimes that works, but at other times it puts more pressure on the writers to come up with something that stuns viewers more than anything that they’ve seen before.
We still enjoy watching the show, especially since the likes of Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn, and Bellamy Young are all fantastic in their own right and some of the stories are extremely gripping. Yet, there were also times during the first half of season 5 where it became clear to us that we were starting to lose some of the edge, and this is something we will get into more in our latest entry in the Midseason Report Card series.
What worked – The story of Cyrus getting his job back over Elizabeth North was gripping and thoroughly entertaining. Meanwhile, what little we have seen of Marcus helped us to see what sort of fun we could have with him as a Gladiator. In theory, we loved that the writers were finally developing the audacity to go there finally with Olivia and Fitz, and showing precisely what the two as a couple would look like and how it would impact Mellie. Her speaking for Planned Parenthood was an excellent albeit controversial scene to some out there, but it was a tremendous evolution to the character that she would become even more heroic following her split from the President.
What didn’t – The idea that the show giveth, and then taketh away. Mere episodes after Olivia – Fitz became a thing, we have her moving out of the White House and recovering from a brutal screaming match with him. We understand it in some ways, but it felt almost cheap to deprive us of those stories right away, and to do so with some punchy shockers just because it was a fall finale.
With this, let’s turn to the abortion story. It wasn’t so much that we disliked the idea of it, because this could’ve been a powerful story if it was given more time. It just felt very rushed and, once again, included for the sake of creating a big “OMG” moment for the winter finale. We’d rather have more context and more of the journey to get us to that point, that way it’d be even more powerful and create for more situations where we can feel empathy for all involved. Sometimes, the show doesn’t allow for that.
Overall – There were some standout stories, we still love Abby as Press Secretary, and there’s still something fun about the Gladiators getting together; yet, we cannot escape the feeling that “Scandal” is at times spinning its wheels. Grade: B-.