Over the summer I did the smart thing and caught up on Scandal and I’m joined by Kerensa Cadenas and Julie Hammerle to discuss all things Scandal; including why it has become such a phenomenon, the rise of Kerry Washington and what we hope to see in season 3 when it returns this week.
Emma: The best place to start is when we watched the show and why we started watching as I know that myself and Julie have marathoned this summer and I don’t know exactly when Kerensa watched, though I know it’s a lot longer than us.
Scandal has been all over my Twitter feed and magazine covers this year and the amount of coverage has increased significantly from January to now. I’ve been meaning to watch the show for a while, mostly thanks to the really good word of mouth and because I’ve enjoyed previous Kerry Washington performances. I liked the sound of the soapy story combined with the political aspect and strong female lead, plus I’ve recently watched The West Wing for the first time so had a Washington D.C. hole in my viewing.
I’m not well versed in the shows of Shonda Rhimes as I’ve only seen one episode of Grey’s Anatomy, but she always comes across as an interesting writer whenever I’ve seen interviews with her.
How about you both?
Julie: Hello, ladies,
As far as Shonda Rhimes shows go, I’ve seen every episode of Grey’s Anatomy (except for the last two, which have been clogging up my DVR since May). I watched an episode or two of Private Practice and I think I saw one episode of Off The Map. When Scandal started, I mentally bookmarked the show as something I’d like to watch and then promptly forgot about that. It happens. So, I let the rest of the world decide that Scandal was worth our collective time before binge watching the first two seasons this summer.
The show appealed to me because 1) I love a good nighttime soap, 2) Kerry Washington is all kinds of awesome, 3) Shonda knows how to do drama, and 4) I love shows about the inner-workings of Washington.
What’s your story, Kerensa?
Kerensa: I’ve never been much of a Shonda Rhimes fan. Both my mom and my sister were (and maybe still are) super into Grey’s Anatomy, so as a snobby teen (who am I kidding I was like 21) I refused to get into it even after season one was purchased for me for Christmas. I’m not super into medical dramas, so I never got into Private Practice either.
Honestly, I’m not really sure how I started watching it. I had heard so much on Twitter about the show, my editor was surprised that I hadn’t watched, I think Kerry Washington is a flawless human being so I just went for it one night aided by wine. I was instantly hooked because like Julie said I also love a good nighttime soap, was automatically invested in all the characters and the DRAMA and suddenly discovered presidential fantasies I didn’t realize I had. It helped that once I started watching I badgered my BFF to watch and he got just as hooked.
We now run all our life decisions on whether or not Olivia would do the same.
Emma: This show has definitely benefited from the online conversation and all three of us started watching partly because of Twitter.
Have either of you read the Kerry Washington’s recent Vanity Fair interview? There’s a bit on the amount of tweets the show generates when an episode airs (it’s around 200,000) but it’s the part about Washington getting the entire cast to join Twitter and to live tweet an episode that intrigues me. One of her close friends is a social media consultant so she’s been pretty savvy on this front. Now I don’t think this method would work for all shows but something like Scandal that has that soapy DRAMA quality is perfect for this kind of interaction.
Now seems like a great place to talk about Kerry Washington and we all agree that she is several levels of awesome – plus we totally need some “What Would Olivia Pope Do?” merch.
Most of the films I’d seen her in prior to this were very much supporting roles such as Ray, Last King of Scotland and Django Unchained (and her story was the least satisfying in this film, especially if you factor in other great Tarantino female characters) so I’m so glad that she’s got such a terrific lead part in Scandal. TV really does seem to offer more satisfying roles for a range of women. Washington gets to play a range of emotions from week to week and while I don’t like that Fitz makes her weak she is often the strongest person in the room as she’s gathered a group of broken (but awesome) misfits to work with her.
The whole Olivia/Fitz business is probably a big draw for some of the audience; it’s the stuff that happens at the offices of Pope & Associates that I get the most enjoyment out of. They have been smart in drip feeding information about each of the gladiators throughout the first and second season; how Olivia saved all of them but really they saved her (awww). Except Desmond who has gone to live on an island or something (his name was Stephen right?). Watching how each of these characters challenges or refuse to challenge Olivia’s motivations has been fun and it changes weekly as to who my favorite out of them is (at the moment I’d probably pick Harrison as I love his suits, I’m so shallow).
What do you guys think of Olivia’s team?
Julie: I didn’t read the Vanity Fair article, but I did see this quote (on Tom and Lorenzo’s site):
“One of the most profound things for me about the show is the number of white women of all ages who come up to me and say, ‘I want to be Olivia Pope.’ [...] The fact that white women can see this woman of color as an aspirational character is revolutionary, I think, in the medium of television. I don’t think white women would feel that way about Olivia if her identity as a woman, period, wasn’t first in their mind.”
To me, that sums up one of the best things about a Shonda Rhimes show. Her shows are so effortlessly diverse to the point where it’s not even the point. Olivia Pope isn’t an Everywoman (because none of us can look that great in white Prada trousers), but she is, above all, a strong woman to whom we all can relate and aspire to emulate. And, please, order me a few WWOPD bracelets.
I’m going to skip the Fitz stuff for now, because I know we’ll have a lot to discuss about that later. So, instead, I’ll talk about the team.
Desmond/Stephen: As much as I love Desmond, Stephen was kind of his smarmy older brother. I don’t really miss him all that much, and I kind of like the rest of the team (save Huck) being so in the dark about Olivia’s past. It’s like we’re all taking this journey of discovery with them.
Quinn: Whatever, Quinn. She’s, like, the typical Shonda Rhimes newbie girl. She reminds me a lot of Sarah Drew on Grey’s Anatomy — a little precious, a lot naive. They tried to edge her up with the whole murder charge thing, but she was totally innocent, so that didn’t do much to make her interesting in my book. I guess they’re trying to make her the new Huck now, with her learning about computers and spy stuff, but even that feels a little forced to me. I want them to take Quinn to some honestly dark places.
Abby: Abby is also a little precious. They let Desmond have his whores and Harrison have his time in prison and Huck have his whole killing obsession, but the girls are A) wrongfully accused murderesses and B) victims of spousal abuse. Let the ladies be bad, Shonda!
Harrison: I love Harrison, mostly because I know very little about Harrison beyond the fact that he looks fabulous in a suit.
Huck: I’m a little love/hatey on Huck. I think it’s a cool character idea to have a trained killer/ex-spy in Olivia’s ranks, but I am much less sold on the actor who plays Huck. Also, Shonda devoted an entire episode to Huck sitting in a corner mumbling “742″ or something while the rest of the cast took turns spilling their guts to him (this is a Shonda show staple), and that’s automatically annoying.
David: I love Josh Malina, partly because he sounds like he’s always reading Sorkin dialogue. I like that they’ve brought David into the group and I hope they let him do more next season than sit in the conference room eating burgers.
Kerensa, what say you about Pope & Associates?
Julie: I take back my David stuff. I forgot that he ended the season working for the DA again. So he’ll probably be more of an antagonist next season, which also makes me happy. Basically I’m very pro-David Rosen and I’m still shipping him and Olivia. Dolivia Posen forever!
Kerensa: I really like the team overall. I do agree with both of you that Harrison completely and utterly rocks a suit. But I really want to know more about him! He feels like such a mystery to me. He will always follow Olivia no matter what and not question her motives, even if he should (i.e. breaking up David/Abby). But I feel like for the most part we know so much about everyone else and as Julie mentioned, especially in the case of Huck, which might not be a great thing.
I actually really like Abby a lot. I think she’s an interesting character and there’s a lot of potential for her. And I totally ship her and David. Although, Emma–I’m gonna need more explanation about this David/Olivia shipping!
I do agree with Julie that Huck isn’t always my thing–but I totally sobbed at the end of that episode when we get his fully backstory. However, I do really like the weird mentor relationship between him and Quinn. I think they both recognize a lot each other in themselves. But like Julie also mentioned, Quinn is super naive and kinda precious so I wonder how dark she’ll actually get in the next season.
I love David so much! I really want him to be part of the team which now probably won’t happen considering his new position.
I did read the Kerry Washington Vanity Fair article–which I went and bought the day it went on the newsstand. And the quote that Julie shared was what really stood out to me as well. I hate to say that it’s shocking to see a show that is so effortlessly diverse but while watching Scandal and recently Orange is the New Black sometimes it really catches me to be like “Wow, there are women on this show!” “Wow, there is racial diversity!” Because apparently everything I’m watching is so (this will be my one swear word I’ll allow myself) fucking white. I think there’s a lot of power in that quote and in those social media numbers because I think it really shows the necessity and demand for more diversity on television.
Emma: Oh it’s Julie that’s all about the Olivia/David pairing; I’m totally shipping Abby and David. I’m hoping for more of them in S3 and I expect we will. I read that we’re going to find out more about her backstory beyond the domestic violence, which I’m definitely looking forward to as I really like her so far (but not when she’s being overly judgemental). When Harrison made it seem like David had a history with hitting woman that was pretty brutal and as you mentioned Kerensa shows that he will do pretty much whatever for Olivia.
Count me in for the sobbing over Huck’s Jason Bourne like backstory, especially as Astrid from Fringe is his wife. The pairing with Quinn is great and the glee that she showed when drilling Dadshaw from The Carrie Diaries leg was pretty dark. Hopefully they’ll explore this more.
David’s great as both an antagonist and as part of the team. He has the same desire to do the right thing and while he’s less morally grey than say Olivia, he’s also willing to bend the rules now. Previously I’d say that he was more rigid so it will be interesting to see how this will influence his decisions in season 3. As you said Julie he is so great with all dialogue.
I’m sad that Brenda Song is languishing on the hellscape that is Dads and will no longer be on this show. #FreeBrendaSong
Diversity on mainstream TV is a joke and one thing that highlighted this recently is the way some people reacted to the news that Coach was coming back to New Girl as they assumed this meant that Winston would have to leave. So ridiculous. Hopefully we’re at a turning point and I hope these numbers and conversation shows this.
One thing I’d like to talk about is how the show balances ‘case of the week’ with the longer arcs. How do you guys think it handled both of these things in S2?
Julie: Astrid from Fringe! I did not put that together. She’s such a cutie.
I think I’m shipping David and Olivia so hard (not that hard) because he’s totally the anti-Fitz, and he’s the only one in her life who will not put up with her shit, especially not anymore. Hot stuff. And totally unexpected. Do the unexpected, Shonda. Of course, this is also the woman who put Meredith and McDreamy together in the pilot of Grey’s, and here they are married with babies 100 years later.
Speaking about diversity, I was reading some Scandal comments yesterday (I know, but they were on the AV Club and therefore relatively coherent). Someone mentioned that they knew immediately that Olivia’s dad was Olivia’s dad because he was an African-American gentleman of a certain age. And then everyone else jumped on that and said they had no idea he was Olivia’s dad because this show is chock full of people of color. On any other show, by any other creator, Mr. Pope probably would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb, but not on Scandal or any other Shonda Rhimes show. Someone even commented that perhaps Shonda Rhimes career up to this point has been one big long con leading up to the second season finale of Scandal, packing her shows full of people of all races and ethnicities just to throw us off the scent of her big reveal. Crafty stuff that, Shonda.
As far as the case-of-the-week stuff balances against the longer arcs, I think the show does a good job of both. Even when there is a quick case to be solved, there’s other stuff going on in the background to keep all of us long-gamers happy. The difficult thing network shows like Scandal have to deal with is the epically long season and long shooting season. I imagine it’s hard to sustain a longer arc like the whole Defiance thing when you’ve got 22 episodes to fill. Sometimes the show feels like it’s making shit up as it goes along. I *hope* Shonda has a very good idea where the whole thing with Olivia and her dad is going, and how it fits into Olivia’s backstory. I think we could have a sort of Sydney Bristow-gone-rogue situation, which would be awesome. Or the dad story could be dropped like a hot potato by November sweeps.
Kerensa: #FreeBrendaSong –seriously she was so good on this.
Julie, that’s such a great point about David and Olivia. I never really thought about it but that makes so much sense. And UGH FITZ. I know we are gonna get to that…
The format works for me really well actually. I’ve never been super big into the procedural structure–but for the most part I’m usually pretty interested in the case of the week stuff with some exceptions. And I think they do have a pretty good balance between the long game and the case of the week. It’s always great when the two really intertwine somehow. Speaking of narrative elements, how does the use of flashbacks work for both of you?
Emma: Just got in from work and I’m doing my best Olivia impression by having a glass of red wine (I’m not wearing white loungewear as that would be a disaster).
I like the procedural structure for shows that I dip in and out of or have on in the background but I need longer arcs to stay invested and this is where I see some similarities between Scandal and The Good Wife (plus all the sex and political aspects of course) and I think the flashbacks add to the way it tells the story in the long run. The flashbacks have been used to establish the Olivia/Fitz affair, to show the various schemes and manipulations of characters like Mellie (who I love and have a lot more to talk about later) and to show how Olivia started relationships with the team.
All of these things are important to the big picture that Scandal is projecting and as one aspect is resolved another mystery is exposed. This is where Olivia’s father comes in (a reveal I didn’t spot coming, thanks in part to what Julie says about the diversity of Scandal, I also vote for a Sydney Bristow-esque story) and I suspect that we will be getting multiple flashbacks where he is concerned.
Huck has been served well by his main flashback episode as he was the one character I found it hard to connect to (though maybe this was intended), though I find his hair and beard to be a bit cartoony when he is homeless, like I get it’s meant to be a disguise but it’s over the top. I think we can all agree that Harrison needs more backstory and the same could be said for Abbey too. With Quinn her past was the mystery at the start of S2 but we pretty much know everything about who she was, it’s who she is going to become that has the most potential.
One of the things that has made this such an easy show to catch up on is the breakneck speed of the plotting. The case of the week helps to slow things down when it needs it but they have done an excellent job of balancing all aspects of the story. There were multiple points where I actually yelled at the screen and most episodes end in such a way that you just want to stick the next one on. The writers are doing something very right.
How do you guys feel about the flashbacks?
Kerensa: I’ve never watched The Good Wife. Is this a horrible thing?
I like the use of flashback in the show. It’s a narrative device I like as long as it’s used well. And considering the amount of flashbacks we get on the show it could be executed poorly. But it’s not! I think that using the flashbacks in telling us about how Olivia/Fitz get together is really the most effective because #realtalk I don’t think I could handle seeing that all unfold in real time. And you know I love a good melodramatic romance–but I just couldn’t.
I think it also works well for learning the backstories of Olivia’s associates for similar reasons. These people are Gladiators now. We aren’t really supposed to see them as they were in the past–but knowing those details are important is obviously important in understanding how they come at both the work they do with Olivia and the brief glimpses we get into their personal lives (this relates much more to Abbey than anyone else).
I agree with Emma that the pacing of the show makes it excellent for watching and keeping invested in the story as well. Shonda is promising that stays true for season 3.
Julie, how do the flashbacks work for you?
Julie: I’ve never seen The Good Wife either; so if you’re horrible for it, Kerensa, then you have company.
I have been enjoying the flashbacks and, for the most part, I think they’ve been used well. The second season lulled us into a false sense of how all this works. Olivia’s flashbacks are about her (barf) affair with Fitz. The gladiators’ flashbacks are about how they came to be gladiators. Now, with the introduction of CIA Daddy, it looks as if we’re going to get a lot more Olivia backstory beyond boning Fitz, and I’m very much looking forward to that. I hope these flashbacks will reveal all kinds of craziness.
The pacing of the show is breakneck, but in a really digestible way. We have the cases of the week to ground us in a simple story (same is true for Grey’s, really), but then we also have all this character/backstory happening to keep me tuning in week after week. It reminds me a lot of early Alias in that way (though this show needs more wigs). I’m seriously hoping it becomes even more Alias-like with CIA Daddy in the mix. That excites me. Also, Scott Foley. We can’t forget about him.
Emma: I definitely vote for more wigs and the whole B316 has an SD6 Alias ring to it (plus all of the Bourne movies).
Now to The Good Wife comparisons which I will try to keep to a minimum (I’m pretty sure you guys would love it and it’s definitely one of my favourites) but I was talking to a friend who has also marathoned Scandal this summer and we got on to the subject of Fitz and how he’s kind of the worst. This isn’t just from a romantic perspective, but also as his role as President and while I get that he’s not meant to be a President Bartlet I also don’t think they’ve shown us enough of what makes him a great politician. A politician so good that a group of smart level headed individuals would break the law and rig the election for him. This is where The Good Wife comes in as Peter Florrick has done terrible things in his personal life (sleep with prostitutes) but they’ve also shown that he has charisma and political nuance that not only wins over his wife and the voters, but also the audience. I want them to do this with Fitz so I can actually invest in the central relationship, but at this point they’ve shown that both Mellie and Cyrus have more political savvy.
As you both mention the flashbacks give further insight into Olivia and Fitz, I’m glad we get to see why it’s so intense between them but it also highlights one of my main issues with this pairing and that’s the power Fitz has over Olivia both mentally and physically. There are also moments where Fitz is aggressive in his pursuit of Olivia (like when he is drunk in the elevator) and even though I doubt it will go to a dark place it feels like it could. I know there are lots of very passionate Fitz/Olivia shippers and I can see that they have great chemistry. I also get that it’s meant to be a tragic love story as they can’t be together, but it just isn’t something I can connect to.
Now Scott Foley as Jake is someone I can get on board with – I’ve not seen the appeal before this show but now I totally get it and I’m really looking forward to the Ben vs. Noel debate now that we’ve started Felicity for This Was TV.
I’ve opened the can of worms that is Fitz; what don’t you both like about him and is there something the writers could do that would make you change your mind?
Kerensa: I, too, am super excited for Olivia backstory flashbacks next season. Like has she always been able to wear white without spilling? How does she only eat popcorn and is able to live?
Emma, I totally agree with you, in that nothing has shown us that Fitz is a great politician. I guess maybe he’s cares about people or something? And has the right (seriously, I almost just wrote WHITE there instead of right) WASP background for the job. But there’s been nothing that makes me believe that he is any sort of political mastermind. Unless being great at oral sex is a new qualification? Literally everyone on this show has more political savvy than Fitz–Mellie, Olivia and Cyrus are basically running his career. My personal OTP is that Mellie and Olivia get together and take over the country.
I also have to bring this up for a friend who just recently watched as well. In a heated GChat over Scandal, she mentioned that it’s completely inconceivable that Fitz is a Republican. That’s what she thinks is the biggest scandal of the show. He along with his administration has never really done anything republican at all. Do you guys have thoughts on that?
Emma, I do agree with you about the power Fitz has over Olivia certainly. But I actually think she may have more power over him. I mean when he can’t see/talk/have sex with Olivia–he gets all mopey and whiny and drinks whiskey and kinda forgets that he’s running a country. He acts like a love-struck 16 year old. It’s exhausting. But while, yeah, Fitz puts Olivia into a tailspin at times for sure at least she like can keep working and stuff. And she sort of tries meeting other people–like that boring Senator and SCOTT FOLEY. I never got the Scott Foley thing before either but I’m so on board now.
Emma: I really like that they went with a Republican administration as it’s the unlikely route when it comes to Hollywood and the presidents they depict (even when they don’t say which party they are it often feels like they are a Democrat). When it comes to Fitz being a Republican this doesn’t seem all that obvious, his VP is clearly representing the hardline conservatives whereas Fitz is dancing in the middle. Would a Republican president really have a gay Chief of Staff? This doesn’t seem all that likely and I tend to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the political plots points because this isn’t The West Wing (and as I mentioned earlier, Fitz is certainly no Jed Bartlet). What they did with Fitz’s opponent was smart in a way as they made him into a coward and a killer; he’s no saint either so Fitz on this occasion is the stronger candidate. Though I’ve just remembered that Fitz is also a killer, so eh they’re both terrible presidential candidates.
So we’ve touched upon both season 1 and 2, the team, Fitz, Olivia and some of the other supporting characters so I want to look ahead and ask what you both hope to see in season 3 – who do you want to see more/less of? What story needs more expanding? Do you long to see Olivia in bright colors or would that ruin the theme they have? Also Julie even though I think I know the answer what are your Fitz thoughts?
Julie: Yeah, I don’t see much Republican in Fitz and his administration. His Chief of Staff is gay and Fitz is cheating on his wife with a WOMAN for goodness’s sake. It’s almost as if Shonda and company thought they had to make Fitz a Repub in order to cover for any political bias on the writing team (assuming Shonda and most of her writers are more liberal-leaning; I don’t think that’s a huge stretch). I think Aaron Sorkin took flack during the run of the West Wing because of all the liberal folks running around the White House. He made President Bartlett a bit more centrist, and let the people around him bear the Super Liberal mantle. Maybe Shonda didn’t want to deal with the criticism that Scandal is just more liberal propaganda. Maybe she just thought it would be cool and different and open-minded to write about a Republican president. Maybe she’s a genius and knew this would draw more people to her show. Whatever the case, it worked. Even if Fitz doesn’t.
Also, I was Team Noel back in the Felicity days, so I totally get Scott Foley. And if given the choice between a hot and mysterious spy guy who saves you from intruders and a drunk and whiny Edward Cullen-type, is there really a choice to be had?
Emma: One thing I’m really looking forward to with season 3 is being able to join in with the all the post episode chat as last year I had to basically avoid anything Scandal related in my Twitter feed, on the internet in general and in all the magazines that Kerry Washington started to feature in. Now it feels like I get to go to the party and as this is a show that has a high social media involvement this is definitely a bonus to the watching experience. While I had some of that this summer while I was catching up with the show it will be nice to not have to avoid potential spoilers. It’s going to be strange not being able to stick on the next episode straight away and the withdrawal of going from binge watching a whole season to watching one episode per week is something that takes time to adjust to. At least there will be millions of others yelling NOOOOOOO! at the screen when the inevitable cliffhangers happen.
What did you guys think of the Emmys in terms of Scandal? Dan Bucatinsky won in the guest supporting category – I never understand why these aren’t given out at the Primetime Emmy show (his speech is adorable). The lead actress category was crazy strong and so while I would have loved to see Kerry Washington triumph my loyalty was split between Claire Danes, Elisabeth Moss (who should have won for Top of the Lake) and Washington.
Kerensa: I agree with you Emma. One of the things I’m looking forward to the most is the social aspect of watching Scandal. Beyond us discussing the show in more conversations like this and via Twitter, I’m excited to have viewing nights with popcorn and wine with the 4 people I know who actually watch the show. And I do think Scandal may take over the blessed position of my “visual recap” which I’ve been doing all season with Breaking Bad.
Plot wise, I’m really hoping we get more about Olivia’s backstory. I hope Harrison has more to do. I still want David/Abby to get back together. And I want Mellie to run for office. Cyrus, keep doing you boo. Oh! And I’m hoping for more Scott Foley in shirtless scenarios. Also, since Emma and I have been watching The Comeback I’ve fully realized the national treasure that IS Lisa Kudrow, so I’m so excited to see what she brings to the show.
I was super excited that Dan Bucatinsky won! I know Scandal is considered a “prestige” show by any means and that Best Actress category was filled with excellent performances but I really wanted Kerry Washington to win. I think she deserved it and it would have been an incredibly historic and extremely important moment if she had won.
Emma: How could I forget Lisa Kudrow?! Yeah The Comeback has made me very excited for this guest starring role.
Julie: I, too, loved that Dan Bucatinsky won for guest actor (even though he was in nearly episode of Season 2; I don’t understand the Emmys). I’m hoping that Cyrus (Jeff Perry) will get a nod next year. He has the juiciest role. I was rooting for Kerry to win. She’s the buzziest actress, and, while I’ve come to love Claire Danes late in life, she’s won before. And Homeland kind of sucks now. Let’s move on.
Lisa Kudrow is going to be a great addition to the show. She’ll bring some comedy to the proceedings, and I’m hoping she gets some scenes with Josh Malina, because I think they’ll play well against each other.
Other wishes for Season 3…I hope they kill off Fitz. I know that won’t happen, but I hope it does. I also hope that Shonda and friends know where they’re going with this whole Spy Daddy thing. There’s nothing worse than a show opening up a big old mythology Pandora’s box and then not knowing where to take it. Basing this on my extensive Grey’s Anatomy knowledge, I don’t think Shonda has ever tried anything this complex and far-reaching, story-wise, so I hope she’s up to the challenge. I’m sure there will be lots of drama and fun and gorgeous clothes, so there’s always that.
I’m very excited for Thursday!
For more TV Ate My Wardrobe Scandal coverage head here.
Kerensa Cadenas is a writer living in Los Angeles. She is a staff writer for Women and Hollywood. She also writes for This Was Television, Forever Young Adult, and Bitch magazine. She was the Research Editor for Tomorrow magazine. You can follow her on Twitter and read her ridiculous thoughts about teen television at her website.