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Erin Watches: Scandal, the final season, through the finale April 24, 2018

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So…that happened.

I didn’t binge-watch the back half of the season, just kept up every week or two, so no liveblogging this time. Instead you get a long stream of final thoughts.

Plus, a rec for The West Wing Weekly. It’s a WW recap podcast with Joshua Malina (Will Graham in TWW, David Rosen here in Scandal) as co-host, and tons of high-profile guests (like, up to “sitting US senator” level) and in-depth conversations. Episode 4.18 dovetails with the Scandal finale, and features some sweet behind-the-scenes stories.

I really miss the days when Olivia Pope and Associates were actually taking cases.

Only one guy showed up at the office asking for help this season. And his problem turned out to be that he was being framed by Olivia, to take the heat off herself and/or Mellie. Quinn and the others did absolutely nothing to help — their only advice at the end was “even though you did literally nothing wrong, all you can do is flee the country and start a new life. Somewhere without extradition.”

And that was basically the whole season. Our core cast arranging itself into shifting alliances and going after each other, helping no one, leaving a lot of innocent people as collateral damage along the way.

The show always had a theme of characters making Dramatic Speeches that weren’t backed up by the rest of the writing. Sometimes they were working on bad information; other times they had obvious reasons to lie; other times they had a motive and were running with whatever line of BS backed it up.

That last one came up during the How To Get Away With Murder crossover event, where Olivia made some stuff up to cover for whatever illegal thing she was in on. Never followed HTGAWM, so I don’t know how much eyerolling that protagonist deserves, but it was a relief when she actually managed to catch it and call Olivia out.

(My favorite example is that election-season episode when a bomb went off, and one of Still President Fitz’s primary opponents was on-site pulling people out of the rubble. Which of course is terrible publicity for your opponent to get…so Olivia was on the phone with TV stations, yelling things like “Your President is making a speech! That should be your top priority!” It’s the perfect combination of self-serving BS, protagonist-centered morality, and total lack of compassion for innocent victims.)

Anyway, I bring this all up because as of this season, they’ve overplayed the trick so hard that it’s lost all its power.

“He was my friend!” yells Dad Pope in anguish, over a guy he long-conned, manipulated, and just murdered. “Tell the truth — the truth will be your armor,” declares Olivia to Mellie with total conviction, before they discuss how she definitely can’t tell the truth about the election they all conspired to steal. It’s absurdist. It’s nonsense. All you can do is groan and roll your eyes and wait for them to get on with it, already.

As we roll into the last few episodes, the setup on the chessboard looks like this:

–Olivia, during her stint as Command of extra-evil-secret-CIA B-613, had a visiting head-of-state assassinated (on plausibly-deniable non-orders from President Mellie). She’s been covering it up ever since.

–Vice President Cyrus staged a cyber-hijacking of Air Force Two, which got him lots of attention and let him make a heroic “let us go to our deaths with bravery” speech that got filmed by the press on-board. He’s following that up by trying to frame Mellie for the hijacking and get her impeached.

–The firm-formerly-known-as-OPA ducklings are trying to expose Olivia. No, wait, they’re friends with Olivia again, they’re trying to expose Cyrus. All without exposing the fact that most of them have B-613 murders on their hands themselves.

–Dad Pope is officially retired from Command, but (as mentioned) still murdering people on his own time. Also, complaining a lot about white people.

–Jake has been shuffled around a variety of high-ranking positions based on whatever’s most convenient for keeping him in White House proximity. I think he’s officially Command now? And he’s siding with VP Cyrus in terms of who he’s murdering these days.

–Also, remember Jake’s wife, and how he seriously considered choking her to death in her sleep last season? Yeah, she’s dead now. Didn’t even get some kind of “intrepid investigator on the verge of exposing all his other crimes” storyline leading up to it. I feel like he just got tired of not murdering her.

We should also note that, at this point, B-613…does not appear to have any actual agents left. Frankly, I’m not sure they ever had more than 6 at a time in the first place.

Which you would think would kinda hamper their job as a super-competent ominous secret death squad.

So with all those pieces in place, Congress is holding special pre-impeachment hearings, trying to figure out exactly who to prosecute on what charges. (Everyone for everything? Wouldn’t be too far off.)

And…they actually get correct information! While investigating Mellie for the fake hijacking, they come across the real assassination, so that’s when Olivia decides to take full responsibility and out the existence of B-613 to the world. The rest of the ducklings follow along and testify about their own roles.

The person in charge of the actual prosecuting is Attorney General Josh Malina. So there’s this dramatic overnight when nobody knows what the committee is going to recommend to him, but the smart money is on:

–Throw out VP Cyrus for staged terrorism
–Put Olivia, Huck, Quinn, Quinn’s baby-daddy, and Jake in jail for the B-613-related subset of their crimes
–Nothing for Mellie, she’s cool.

This is when Cyrus calls the Attorney General and claims he wants to make a deal. So, naturally, the AG goes to his house and has a drink alone with him.

I cannot tell who in this situation is more wall-bangingly stupid — the AG, who thought this was safe, or Cyrus, who apparently thought “if the guy whose job is to prosecute me abruptly dies in my house with no witnesses, that won’t be at all suspicious!”

Except that…somehow…it…works??

Like…one of the last scenes is Olivia handing Cyrus a letter of resignation and saying “even though you’re not being prosecuted, you’re going to sign this now.” Why not?? He very obviously just murdered the AG on top of everything else! The Deputy AG could be dumb as a box of rocks and still get a conviction! I would put Cyrus away for life on that evidence even if the prosecutor was literally a box of rocks!

Also: Dad Pope makes a surprise last-minute appearance in front of the committee. Confirms the existence of B-613. Makes a grand speech about how it controlled who got the presidency, it set the value of the dollar, it secretly had all the real power in the US government. All handled by this cabal of as many as six (6) assassins at one time. Sure, Jan.

But…for some reason…that means…no jail time for anyone at all???

Dad Pope confesses to running the operation, and therefore none of the operatives are accountable for anything? Dad Pope was retired when Olivia committed her war crimes, but his presence means nobody’s mad about that anymore either??

How.

It’s not even…I mean, it’s the last episode. They know it’s the last episode. There’s no need to force the characters back to the status quo in preparation for next season! They could do a flash-forward, slip in a bit of exposition about how everyone’s served their time for crimes committed, and end on a reunion! A few hugs, a few tears, a profound sense of relief that they’ve finally taken responsibility for all their bad deeds and can start fresh, pan out on a nice sunny DC landscape, curtain.

And instead, absolutely everything fizzles.

Don’t get me wrong, Quinn finally getting a wedding (with Huck officiating! and her baby-daddy finally revealing his non-alias name!) was cute. But it didn’t make up for the otherwise-total dramatic kerflop.

During the time this season was running, I found out that Grey’s Anatomy was on Netflix, and managed to binge the entire back catalog. Didn’t actually realize it was a Shonda Rhimes show until a few seasons in.

You can see a bit of shared DNA — the same style of Dramatic Important Speeches, the engaging high-stakes drama, the mostly-underwhelming romances, the occasional physically-abusive man who’s supposed to be a sad woobie. But I would not have guessed they were connected without prompting, because most of the Grey’s characters…are decent human beings. They’re kind. Honorable. Genuinely trying to do good in the world.

Some of them are ridiculous, too. And I’m not deeply invested in most of the characters as people (except Christina — I would’ve been so mad if they killed off Christina — and Bailey — listen, writers, y’all better not do wrong by Bailey). But you know what, it is enjoyable and fulfilling to watch.

(Also: lesbian and bi characters! Who are described in those words! And have long-term romantic dramas like anyone else! And who are mostly still alive!)

Anyway, the point of this detour is that the later episodes of Scandal started coming with ads for her new show, Station 19. Which, as far as I’m concerned, was not a compelling advertising strategy.

But then someone on FFA said it was in the same mode as Grey’s, i.e. “noble melodramatic people” rather than “aggressively terrible people”, so I gave it a try. Turns out it’s straight-up a shared universe with Grey’s, crossover characters and everything.

(Also: gay man on the team! Who’s been comfortably out of the closet since long before the pilot episode, and nobody thinks twice about the fact that he had a husband!)

So, yeah. Scandal was a mess, but if you admire Shonda’s talent and would like to experience it in a less soul-crushing format, I recommend both of the above.

…and she’s also debuting a new legal drama, so if anyone wants to tip me off about whether We The People is written by Scandal!Shonda or Grey’s!Shonda, it’ll be much appreciated.

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Erin Watches: Scandal’s final season, episodes 1-7 January 7, 2018

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I got caught up on the currently-airing Season 7 of Scandal while working on comics. (Previous reaction posts: on Dreamwidth, on WordPress.)

Everyone is still terrible. With the possible exception of…uh…I guess Marcus. (President Mellie’s ex-affair, currently Ex-President Fitz’s minder.)

High points of terribleness:

  • Cyrus is Mellie’s VP, because heaven forbid we have new characters be important on this show.
  • In the first episode, B613!Olivia is told she’ll need to have someone (a captured spy) murdered for the sake of national security, and her reaction is “hOW could you think I would DO such a thing??!?” At the start of the episode, we recap how she murdered Luna Vargas. Over the course of it, she sends a sniper to threaten a foreign leader’s elementary-age children. Yes, Olivia, how can we suggest murder to you, that’s such an insult to your stainless honor.
  • A couple episodes later, she firebombs a plane carrying a Muslim foreign leader and his teenage lesbian niece. That’s our Olivia!
  • Republicans are championing a free-college-for-all bill. Democrats are secretly scheming to block it, even though they like the idea, because they wouldn’t be able to claim the win. Because Scandal takes place in Bizarro America.
  • When an obnoxious billionaire businessman says he might “drop a couple mill” and run for President, Cyrus gives him an impassioned speech about how the office is sacred and belongs to the people. This is the same Cyrus who got the last POTUS into office by voter fraud, and the current POTUS (and himself) into office by double-murder. Much sacred, very respect.
  • Olivia keeps giving Mellie these intense, passionate speeches about “you are not alone, I always have your back, I am the only one who’s with you, I will make you a monument.” Why it doesn’t immediately segue into them making out, I do not know.
  • Quinn puts together the pieces about Olivia’s secret firebombing, then goes missing on her wedding day. Olivia assumes Quinn went into hiding to plot her downfall…and pretends to lead the team on a fast-paced search, while secretly waging an even faster-paced campaign to plant false leads and erase evidence before they get to it. Turns out Quinn was kidnapped! All Olivia’s machinations only slowed them down from rescuing her! Our hero.
  • One of those false leads prompts Quinn’s not-yet-husband to kidnap and torture an innocent man. Goody.
  • Jake (who is now B16’s #2, remember) insists that the only villains here are the kidnappers, and urges Olivia not to blame herself. Really? Because I will totally blame Olivia.
  • Oh, almost forgot to mention — Ex-President Fitz is moping around his mansion in Vermont (Marcus describes both the state and the guy as “Cold. White.”), wallowing in how lonely and powerless he is. Go join Habitat for Humanity and build some houses, you whiny moron.

Erin Watches: the end of Scandal s6 July 9, 2017

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When last we left our heroes, democracy had been subverted on almost every level, including the level where the writers don’t understand how American democracy works. But a shockingly-decent human being was pulled out of left field and appointed Vice President. It sets up the prospect of a happier ending than I would have thought possible.

Will the new VPEOTUS turn out to have been an evil mastermind all along? Let’s find out!

Episode 13 opens with a fleet of mystery drones over the US. Our election-rigging not-Russian Someones have borrowed the tactic that the “good guys” used earlier. Awkward.

Villain uses the phrase “your loved ones…as you call them.” That’s how you know he’s a villain, he doesn’t believe in foolish things like ‘love’.

They have his co-villain in custody in a bunker under the White House, and obviously the prospect of torture comes up, because these people still haven’t figured out that it doesn’t get accurate intel. Still President Fitz says that if they torture her, “we spit on the Constitution,” and they’ll be no better than the villains…if they do it on WH grounds. In foreign secret prisons? That, he would’ve been totally fine with.

Anyway, they decide to bluff her instead, and she cracks in like a minute. Which should’ve been a hint that she was counter-bluffing, but nope, they go along with it. Even agree to send David Rosen — the guy she was dating, the guy who found out who she was but had to keep sleeping with her so she wouldn’t catch on, the easiest possible person for her to psych out — to deliver the immunity agreement.

Villain: “Can we start over? You know my real name now….”

Rosen, disbelievingly: “You murdered Elizabeth North!”

Villain, wheedling: “I know…!”

(He ends up punching her in the face. I’m okay with that.)

They get her with a more complicated bluff in the end. Olivia’s dad pretends to talk his way into the bunker and bust her out — with a gun, which, you know, maybe was supposed to be a clue that this was a scheme. But given how terrible these people have been about security before, I was totally willing to believe that nobody frisked him.

(He gets her back to the museum, then stabs her with a dinosaur tooth. I, uh, would’ve liked her alive to testify, but if you ignore that bit it’s a cool scene.)

The bad guys were sending Olivia’s dad random packages, which turned out to be full of bricks, but calculated to make up the approximate weight of a human head. Which is apparently terrifying and intimidating, that they can afford to waste that much on postage.

So this episode opens with David Rosen bringing Abby an actual head. (The woman Dad Pope just killed. Abby calls her “ponytail bitch,” which is as good a name as any.)

Third-to-last episode and we kinda have a case-of-the-week! Olivia Pope and Associates are trying to convince Fitz to do a last-minute pardon (for a black guy convicted of killing a white guy acquitted of killing a black guy). Huck and Quinn face down a bar full of heavily-armed racists and walk out untouched (and carrying a few extra guns), which is the kind of content I like to see.

David and Abby bond over their mutual angst about being manipulated. It’s kinda cute. I would like them to have a happy ending, if only because they were broken up in such an awful way.

I was reeeeally worried the Shocking Twist would be that our victim-of-the-week is guilty after all, but never fear! We’re 26 minutes into the episode and Olivia hates the idea: “You want me to take your racially-sensitive tinderbox of a closed case to an outgoing President with a legacy to protect because you have a feeling?”

Five minutes from the end, and some of our heroes have a shocking revelation that the Mystery Villains were working for someone! This is a twist? Y’all thought you were chatting directly with the top brass of the superconspiracy this whole time?

On the plus side, it turns out Olivia was testing Quinn — “Running this firm will mean going up against the White House sometimes, I needed to know that you could handle it.” Would’ve had more impact if the viewers didn’t know from experience she would be wrong, but you take what you can get.

The evil mastermind is Olivia’s mom! On Luna Vargas’ behalf, I am delighted.

Mellie: “It’s official, everyone in your family has wanted me dead at some point or another.” She’s not wrong.

Mom Pope gets a long monologue about how she’s been secretly working in the name of good all along, and this just one more example of black women’s work not being appreciated. On Luna Vargas’ behalf, I’m worried again.

Olivia tries to bluff out her mom (“I’m totally on your side, but you need to give them something”), and overplays it horribly. So it doesn’t work, and she tries strangling instead. Who on this writing team has a thing for choking?

Oh, and Quinn’s pregnant. I guess at this point someone had to be.

IT WAS LUNA.

Dammit, show. I didn’t want to be right about this. For this narrative, the really shocking twist would be someone turning out to be a genuinely decent human being.

…or at least, it was sort-of Luna. She “paid someone”, presumably Mom Pope, to kill Frankie. Mom Pope passed the orders to Team Rocket, who passed them on via blackmail to half the main cast.

That still doesn’t answer the question of where Team Rocket came from in the first place. Luna didn’t create them, and I don’t think Mom Pope did either. Their identities were almost perfectly scrubbed, they had millions to throw around and the financial infrastructure to cover their tracks, they were playing next-level blackmail chess. They had tracking chips in their necks, and were able to pull out a dozen covert drones at a moment’s notice.

This only makes sense if they’re agents of a serious organization — and if they have motives other than money. I’m not even sure where Luna was supposed to have whipped up secret presidential-assassination levels of payment in the first place, but the effort these people went to, they would’ve needed power or ideology or both. Russian agents: makes sense! Random assassins: terrible narrative Plan B.

(It’s also implied Cyrus gave her the idea, which, again…nobody’s motives line up with the idea of killing Vargas before the EC vote.)

Abby to Quinn: “You wanted to have a baby? Let’s have a baby.” Uh…you two aren’t the canon ship here…are you?

After a successful inauguration where nobody got shot, Olivia and Jake talk Luna into killing herself. Because hey, let’s wrap up that loose end before any viewers start asking awkward questions. At least it got us this little gem:

Olivia: “Raise your hand if you’ve killed a Vice President before.” [raises hand, looks meaningfully at Jake]

Jake: “Mine was Argentine.”

Olivia: “That counts.”

After all that, it’s looking like the next season is going to have all the same people in power in Washington, just shuffled around a bit. Like, we might even have Cyrus installed as Mellie’s VP after all.

I was going to say “still better than Trump,” but, you know what? The last scene we get of President Mellie is her signing an executive order that Olivia puts in front of her, without reading it. (She accepts Olivia’s summary, that it’s setting aside a bit of cash for the military. It is, in fact, setting aside a bit of cash for Olivia.)

Sorry, America. The votes from the state of Shondaland are in, and it turns out you lost.

Erin Watches: Scandal s6, liveblogging episodes 10-12 June 30, 2017

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Welcome back to Scandal, where the morals aren’t real and the votes don’t matter.

Our story so far: Two mysterious Someones, who were reportedly supposed to be Russian agents until the reality of 2016 forced the writers to think of something more original, arranged a murder-and-framing-spree around the President-elect. Mostly through surrogates that they’ve threatened and/or slept with, including about half of our main cast.

The heroes are dealing with this through a strategy of random guessing, dramatic confrontations, torturing people for inaccurate intel, forgetting to frisk people at key moments, and angsty self-reflection about that time when they rigged a presidential election.

Seven episodes left. Who will win? Not America, that’s for sure.

Episode 10 (of the season, episode 100 of the show) is a whole Imagine Spot about what if Olivia hadn’t voted to rig Fitz’s election way back when.

For some reason AU Pope and Associates can’t afford the swanky office. I thought she got there on her own amazing skills and reputation — is this implying that her business was somehow propped up by Fitz’s presidency? Or is it that she turned a moral corner with the election-rigging? Maybe the show wants us to see this as “she got more ruthless in doing whatever it takes to support wonderful deserving people,” so down this fork-in-the-road she’s not as good because she’s held back by silly things like ethics.

Also, she’s wearing her hair natural. Found a post that unpacks that a bit.

Fitz gets divorced, marries Olivia. Cyrus won’t sit with his not-yet-husband at the ceremony, and, uh, ends up making out with Mellie for some reason? (No word, not even a mention, of who gets custody of their kids.)

We do get a couple of sweet details. Huck walks Olivia down the aisle, looking super awkward in a nice suit, while Abby is the maid of honor. Shots of various smiling friends and allies in the refreshingly multiracial audience.

Fitz gets a cheesy TV pundit spot. Also, for some reason it’s a year post-wedding and they’re not living together. Abby and David are namechecked as happily married.  Cyrus and Mellie…are…married and pregnant? Quinn didn’t even get roped into the firm, so she’s being cute and giggly on a Bachelor-type reality show.

…oh my god, the Bachelor says to not-Quinn “You really love torturing me, don’t you? Is that your thing?”  (And Huck is clapping! He’s rooting for her!) This is beautiful and they’re so innocent and it hurts that they don’t live in this universe.

Final score: Cyrus stays closeted and career-driven and miserable. Mellie is also pretty glum, but she’s a better human being who cares about others. Fitz and Olivia have a lot of stress and fighting, including the revelation that she could’ve stolen the White House for him…but they pleasantly surprise me by both ultimately realizing that politics is soul-sucking and they’re better off without it.

Totally should’ve gone with this reality.

Aaaand we’re back to the merry-go-round of people yelling about who the Electoral College should vote for, based on whose kink for power they’re most interested in indulging.

Mellie yelling at Olivia: “Get off your high horse! Like you never killed anybody? Like you never stole an Oval or two?” Look at all that sense and logic.

Olivia’s response: “I know you. You are better than most. You are inherently good.” Have you never seen your own show.

…She switches to Team Cyrus later in the episode, for reasons, and there’s a lot of back-and-forth between Team Cyrus (he knows he’s not worthy, but he wants to do it for Frankie!) to Team Mellie (Cyrus was a terrible husband and also she deserves it!). Until the point where Mellie meets the Someones…and one of them murders not!Veronica in front of her. Dammit, I liked Veronica!

Also, remember how the FBI director and the President are doing it? Yeah, that comes up again.

Fitz accuses her of being jealous of Olivia. She responds: “Boy, I am the director of the FBI, not some chick who got dissed at prom.” Federal Director of Sass. And currently holding the mantle of Only Likeable Character Left Alive.

The EC votes! Mellie is in! Possibly in a landslide! Wonder how many of the electors were flipped via murder.

Episode 12 finds Dad Pope in protective presidential custody, although he’s cranky because he sees more murder on the horizon.

…and we finally get one of the Someones confronting Olivia in person. Threatens her to replace Mellie’s VP candidate. She goes to him and says “you should try being head of the NSA instead,” as if our mysterious enemies would be totally chill with that.

FINALLY, a ploy with some strategy! Our heroes send one of their own drones into WH airspace, giving security an excuse to drag all attendant Someones into a secure bunker with phone signals blocked. Time for a secure war council.

(Or at least, I hope it’s secure. Mellie’s office was bugged for months and they never noticed. Have they learned a lesson from that? Time will tell! And there’s a mention of Mellie’s kids being in Secret Service custody — are we taking it for granted that the Service hasn’t been compromised?)

…so, okay, there was not a lot of actual council-ing in the secure council. Lots of angry yelling about various bombshell secrets that Subset X was hiding from Subset Y. (I remembered Dad Pope killing one of Fitz and Mellie’s kids, but I forgot that Fitz knew. Mellie…finds out here.)

Then they split off into subgroups for a bunch of one-on-one conversations. Pairs up people who haven’t interacted much all season, and I appreciate the character moments that come from exploring underused dynamics…but is this really the time?

By the end it seems like the only decision they’ve made is picking Mellie’s replacement VP. No progress in figuring out who, exactly, is blackmailmurdering their way into the US government? Do we have a long-term safety strategy? Because that was not mentioned.

True fact: I am genuinely impressed by the VP reveal. I didn’t see it coming at all, and yet in retrospect it’s perfectly suited to the themes this season has brought up over and over — how decent people usually aren’t the ones who run for office, how they can honor the voters who chose Vargas by giving his position to someone he trusted, how political wives (and husbands in Cyrus’ case) deserve more credit for all the sacrifices and compromises they’ve made to support their husbands.

It’s Frankie Vargas’ widow. She’s consistently been a Good Person in all her appearances, and yet I haven’t even been mentioning her in my tally of likeable characters because she’s so mild and unassuming and respectable. Which I suppose was probably the point.

Scandal being Scandal, I give it 50-50 odds that it’ll turn out she was the evil mastermind behind the Someones this whole time.

But if she isn’t…possibly the American people will end up kinda-sorta winning? Or at least not totally losing?

Nicely done, show.

Erin Watches: Scandal s6 continued (episodes 6-9) June 25, 2017

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Our story so far:

PEOTUS was shot and assassinated on election night. Olivia Pope is on the case! So far she has accused three (3) people of ordering the killing, and been explicitly proved wrong about two (2). Meanwhile, the Electoral College is left to decide between the horrible, self-serving, politically-soulless VPEOTUS or the horrible, self-serving, politically-soulless runner-up ticket.

Onward!

Episode 6 gives us campaign-era flashbacks of Olivia’s dad reconnecting with an old girlfriend, who turns out to be a lure under the control of…someone.

Different flashback: Olivia asking her dad for advice on how to handle Mellie. Hey, remember when Olivia’s dad orchestrated the murder of Mellie’s son? (The grief put her for months into a near-suicidal depression.) I’m sure his advice will be great.

Olivia: “She’s from California. Why don’t they like her?” Dad: “I can’t answer that.” Ooh, ooh, pick me! Because Californians hate Republican policies, and she’s a Republican!

They keep talking about “calling San Benito County” as if the voting within states is calculated the same as national voting, as if you’re guaranteed a certain number of points (and no more) once you win a county. Even if Mellie got every vote in San Benito (pop. 58,000), that doesn’t mean she couldn’t fall behind once all the ballots are counted in San Mateo (765,000), or Contra Costa (11.13 million), or, I don’t know, Los Angeles (10.2 million).

Dad Pope was behind the Vargas shooting! Although not on his own initiative, it was pushed by the Someones, who had the girlfriend hostage. And then they went to far in taunting Dad Pope about his compromising attachment to her, so he shot her in front of them. Good grief.

Episode 7 finds Olivia telling Huck to kill her father. For the second time. He helpfully reminds her that the first time didn’t end well.

Huck confronts Dad on a subway platform, openly aiming a gun at him, and there’s a lot of yelling, which echoes beautifully. For some reason there are zero other people on the platform, and nobody is concerned about metro security cameras capturing this shouted confession of killing Vargas.

Accusations of a mole in Olivia’s company lead to Huck and Quinn aiming guns at each other’s faces. What a team.

Investigation by Huck leads to him threatening his current girlfriend with a syringe of something nasty, all while going “this is hard for me, but you’re making me do this!” Just in case you were starting to feel sympathetic toward him.

Olivia is back for the third time to accusing her dad of Vargas’ murder, but she’s passionately insisting that it was all his idea, based on the admittedly reasonable evidence that he murdered the girlfriend who was being used to manipulate him. Huck counters by passionately insisting that Dad Pope has changed because he was in love and now he’s in pain and…listen, buddy, both him and you are still 100% willing to be violent-to-murderous the minute you feel threatened. You haven’t changed, and people, especially women, should stay away from you.

(I would say “random civilian women,” but this girlfriend turns out to have been planted to shoot a witness, which she gets away with because none of these geniuses thought to frisk her, and, wow, we are never going to get any case-of-the-week episodes this season, are we.)

The Someones got to Abby. That explains why she was pushing for Cyrus to get the death penalty ASAP, huh.

In flashback she asks Cyrus “how did you know Frankie was the one, how did you know he could go all the way?” We’ve seen this in The West Wing — Josh asking Leo how he knew Bartlett was his guy, because Josh had found Santos and was starting to think Santos could be his guy. But Abby isn’t thinking she’s found a candidate — she’s thinking she could be the candidate.

Anyway, the Someones offered her $3 million with no paper trail and no explanation beyond “we like you and want to support your eventual candidacy.” And she took it! What’s next, Abby, sending the money to a the next Nigerian prince in your email?

So Huck’s evil girlfriend shot the witness, and then shot him, but in a weird way that seemed designed to miss all vital organs. I figured she was deliberately not-killing him for some reason. (He was flat on the floor, she had lots of spare bullets, it’s not like she could miss the heart and lungs.)

Then she sticks him in the trunk of a car and pushes it into a lake. Apparently she’s just incompetent.

We get a nice hallucination-sequence where Huck is back in Pope HQ, with the mental images of his team members talking him through how to escape. And he does it! Not only did she not kill him, she didn’t even shoot him hard enough for the blood loss to slow him down!

…setting aside that part of my disbelief, I do actually like the bit.

Hey, was anyone worried that there hadn’t been enough graphic on-screen torture this season? Well, don’t sweat it. Quinn’s got you covered.

Olivia gets a pep-up talk about how she’s a “miracle worker,” from another of these people who hasn’t seen the show. And sure enough, they find Huck — by tracking the phone of the dead witness, which murder-girlfriend wasn’t smart enough to chuck in a dumpster on her way to the body disposal! That’s not you working a miracle, that’s your opponent being a complete moron.

Gonna wrap up this post here, purely because my head hurts from hitting this desk so hard.

Erin Watches: Scandal s6 continued, e02-05 June 24, 2017

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Just gonna jump right into the liveblogging on this one.

Season 2 episode 2 starts with a flashback to when Mellie accepted the Republican nomination, making it even harder to ignore how unrealistic it is that the Republican party would vote for a woman to get their nomination.

Olivia yells at Fitz for sending “scrubs” to investigate a crime scene. The actual FBI Director steps out and informs her that, no, he sent her to investigate the crime scene. (This director is a black woman with giant hair. I want to like her.)

Cyrus invites Mellie to join him as VP-elect. This is all so terribly incestuous. There’s no discussion of what policy would be, because of course there isn’t — I’m not sure if Scandal buys into the fallacy that the two parties are Basically The Same, or if this is just a symptom of it not caring about government except as a dramatic backdrop for sexy power struggles.

Olivia has dinner with the FBI director with the hair. It starts as piercing commentary on the way they get treated, as competent black women in positions of power…and turns into Olivia asking if the director has a thing with Fitz. Turns out no, but not because it’s a terrible idea for the head of the FBI to bang the President, it’s just because she was worried about disrespecting Olivia.

At the same time as this is happening, Olivia’s people are stealing evidence from the FBI, and the White House is having a “confession” tortured out of a suspect who’s supposed to be under the FBI’s purview.

(The evidence is a hard drive, which, when recovered, has “over 5,000 hours” on it. By my back-of-the-napkin calculations, that would fill 17.6 terabytes. On a laptop drive. As of 2017, if you’re willing to shell out several thousand dollars, the most Amazon can get you is 4.)

…I got real worried because Olivia’s next thing is to snap at the WH that forced confessions are worthless as intelligence. Which is absolutely true — but the show has never seemed to realize that before, and also, it’s 23 minutes into the episode. (Thankfully, the next one seems to be backing her up.)

Flashback to Mellie’s romance with a campaign staffer, and, oh hey, it turns out Abby knows Olivia broke up her and David! (I don’t remember if we knew this already, or if this is the dramatic reveal.) Flash-forward to Mellie confronting Olivia over orchestrating her breakup with the staffer. “Why are you doing this? What is wrong with you?!” Good question!

Episode 3 retcons the video data to “300 hours of [tip-giving videographer]’s footage, 2200 hours of the security feed.” That would need less than 2 TB on the hard drive, which is more believable.

Portia di Rossi’s character is back! And she’s amazing. Partly because I can’t help seeing her as Veronica, all charmingly ridiculous, meant to be judged by comedy standards rather than real-world ones.

This episode uses flashbacks to unveil that, yep, Cyrus isn’t the murderer. I was definitely expecting that to be dragged out for longer. (There’s a secret video of Frankie yelling at him for being a terrible person who should be in jail, and, look, he’s not wrong, but for other reasons.)

Most obvious suspect is the hitman Cyrus was secretly having an affair with, because that’s the kind of show this is. Flash-forward to the present, Cyrus secretly meets with the (armed!) ex-boyfriend at night in a park, because that’s totally the kind of thing PEOTUS can do. Secret Service, what Secret Service?

Vengeful hitman ex throws a wrench in the works by “admitting” to killing Frankie on Cyrus’s orders. This’ll be fun.

Olivia: “With Cyrus in jail, the Electoral College will have no choice but to vote for you.” Orrr they could vote for the runner-up in the Democratic primary. Without knowing anything specific about these people’s policies, that seems like the most moral and honest choice re: the will of the voters.

Wow, almost nothing to say about episode 4. It’s all Cyrus’s Adventures in Jail. The narrative woobifies him hard, to the point where in spite of everything I actually feel bad for him by the third act. (Fourth act, he gets a guard murdered. So much for that.)

And episode 5 focuses on the drama around Jake Ballard — Olivia’s ex, former agent of Olivia’s dad, now Mellie’s VP candidate, in a politically-orchestrated marriage with a not!Kennedy who’s now going into an alcohol-fueled emotional tailspin as she slowly realizes (a) Jake doesn’t like her very much and (b) he’s a terrible person.

(To illustrate: he seriously considers strangling her in order to keep the angsty tailspin from damaging his career.)

Newly revealed in flashback: Jake blew up the cabin that held the laptop that held the video that came from the photographer that called in the tip that swallowed the spider to catch the fly. Don’t ask me why.

Olivia wrangles Mellie to have a heart-to-heart with the not!Kennedy wife, as part of the Women Whose Husbands Like Olivia Pope Better Club. This wrangles the wife back into urging Democrats to fall in line behind Jake’s ticket, based on him being a Good and Honorable Person who married someone from Massachusetts. What policies does he support that they should appreciate? Ha. Aha. Ahaha.

Then she spends the rest of the episode trying to get proof that Jake did the murdering, which of course means he didn’t do that, although she lets him drive her alone without her phone to an isolated location before she figures it out.

And, whoof, that’s about all the Olivia Pope always-rightness I can take in one sitting. (Still working on commissions, but I’ll have to switch to some other background TV for the rest.)

Erin Watches: Scandal, season 6: episode 1 June 23, 2017

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The latest season is on Netflix now, so it’s time for me to work through more of this incredibly watchable show about terrible people.

For those who need a brief refresher:

Do you like The West Wing? Do you like Leverage? Would you like a series that’s cross between those two shows? How about a series that thinks it’s a cross between those two shows, but missed the memo that a big part of the appeal was the main characters being likeable, competent, and out to do good things? Well, Scandal is that last one.

Our heroine is Olivia Pope, a freelance fixer of political problems with a reputation for being supercompetent, brilliant, and heroic. Before canon started, she had already helped rig the US Presidential election to put her (Republican) (also married) boyfriend into office. The first few episodes follow a mini-arc where she is asked to defend the reputation of a woman who also had an affair with said President. Olivia yells at this woman for being a lying liar. Olivia is proved wrong.

This sets the stage for a pattern where, halfway through any given case-of-the-week, whoever Olivia is defending will turn out to be evil, and whoever she just shot down will be revealed as the true victim. She is aided by a motley crew of employees and allies, some of whom are already terrible people when the show starts, others of whom compromise their morals over the course of the series. They’ve covered everything from war crimes to murder to perjury to torture.

An illuminating example: One of the employees (Abby) idolizes Olivia for rescuing her from an abusive husband — now if only it stopped there. Later, Abby and a much-nicer love interest (David, also a legal ally of Olivia’s) come perilously close to uncovering Olivia’s Presidential-election-rigging. To get them off the trail…Olivia plants information that triggers Abby’s abuse-trauma, manipulating her into a panicky and tearful breakup. Neither Abby nor David finds out Olivia orchestrated this! Both of them continue to idolize and adore her! The writers still seem to think we should too!

At the end of season 5, there were maybe 2 characters that were likeable human beings. Senator-turned-VP Susan Ross, who pleasantly surprised me by flat-out quitting her job rather than sell her soul, and governor-turned-Dem-candidate Francisco Vargas, whose soul is still up for grabs.

Liveblogged the first episode. Might end up doing the same for the whole season, depending on how commentable it is.

Onward!

 


 

Season 6 opens on the night of a presidential election, and it all comes down to…California. That’s right, folks, in the Scandal universe, California is a swing state.

Also, Olivia is chastising her staff to vote if they haven’t already. I mean, hey, just because they’re reporting totals on the west coast, that doesn’t mean the polls can’t still be open! Our competent political-genius heroine in action, folks.

Frankie won. So now Olivia is berating her candidate (Mellie, also her boyfriend’s ex) to call and concede, which seems like the smart and reasonable move. Knowing this show, that means we will eventually learn it totally the wrong move.

(I like Mellie and Olivia being friends. For all that they’re awful, their fighting with each other was pretty evenly matched — not one abusing the other, they both gave as good as they got. And it all stemmed from their rivalry over Fitz, who is painfully not worth it.)

Dammit, they shot Frankie. He might escape becoming awful by dying.

Obnoxious agent: “Ma’am, I’m sure you have some security clearance…” Abby: “No. I don’t have some security clearance. I have all of it.”

Hits all the beats and all the right emotions of a badass smackdown scene. Logically, undercut by the fact that Abby didn’t show any security clearance. If you’re going to waltz into a hyper-secure operation (the hospital) and start barking orders, have your badge in hand! (Also, her entire order was literally “don’t let anyone in here,” which I’m pretty sure they were already doing.)

…yep, they killed Frankie.

Olivia yells at her father (ex-leader of the government’s Evil Secret Black Ops Division): was he behind the killing? Well, we’re 22 minutes in and she’s yelling at him, so I bet not.

Mellie just wants to go on vacation and leave this all behind. Now that would be the smart and reasonable move. (She never really wanted the job in the first place. She wants power in the abstract, but has no interest in doing anything in particular with it. Five minutes later she’ll forget all her reasonable plans and decide she wants it again.)

Now Olivia’s convinced it was Cyrus (part of the Fitz conspiracy, now VP candidate for Vargas) who had the candidate murdered so he’d be promoted to the top of the winning ticket. But we’re only 27 minutes in, so she’s probably wrong. After all, the Electoral College hasn’t voted yet, so Cyrus would be taking a pretty steep gamble on them not abandoning the Vargas-Cyrus ticket even with half of it gone.

Olivia storms into the hospital. The same hyper-secure hospital that nobody was supposed to be let in. And finds Cyrus in mute, trembling shock. Who could’ve seen that coming?

Fitz: “I wanted you to be right. You’re always right.” Dude…have you never seen this show?

He ultimately supports the EC supporting Cyrus, which is the right choice as far as the will of the people is concerned, although both he and Mellie are impressively awful choices who should not be trusted with this country.

Vargas’ widow is still in the hospital after a sleepless night, still covered in blood from standing next to the shooting, but for some reason her hair and makeup is still flawless. D- for realism, makeup department.

…So the last five minutes unveil a tip from a mystery person that it was Cyrus (no details on how the tipper came to this conclusion). Well, now that this twist has been un-twisted and re-twisted again, I’m sure the issue is settled, and will be quite shocked if the rest of the season isn’t completely straightforward.

Wrapping up Scandal s5 June 18, 2016

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In episode 18, the marriage of the Director of the NSA is a significant social event. I just had to look it up to even find out that the IRL NSA head is a guy named Michael S. Rogers…but sure, if he got (re)married today that could be the Wedding of the Decade. At least it makes more sense than the politics.

Boring episode. No Susan, no Mellie, no AU Matt Santos, no not!Veronica…none of the characters who are nice and/or fun to watch. Just a lot of Jake Ballard as Tragic Hero With Manpain, with a side of Olivia’s evil dad being evil.

For anyone who’s forgotten why that isn’t credible, a couple of episodes later he tells one of the Democratic candidates “I arranged that life-shattering car accident you were in a while back, and I’ll do something even worse if I’m not your VP pick.” And a couple episodes after that, he murders his father-in-law for the money.

For once, Scandal softballs it with respect to reality: when AU Trump gets secretly filmed saying he doesn’t believe his racist lines and is just pandering to the base, it’s shocking and embarrassing. Real Trump says that deliberately, in public, all the time, with no problems yet.

Susan yelling at David Rosen “shut up!” gives me life. (His latest problem: making a shady deal to get her an endorsement in Florida that didn’t win her the state anyway.)

“I’m in love with you. I think you’re amazing.” “I know that! I know I’m amazing! I’m winning and cute and funny and smarter than you. I’m incredible!” SUSAN. Please never change.

“I’ve cried. Multiple times. Tears. From my eyes.” Veronicaaaaa.

…okay, all of these last few episodes were underwhelming, because it’s like I blinked and they were over. More of the usual configurations of characters yelling at each other. And Cyrus made himself the VP pick for AU Matt Santos, mirroring the way Leo became VP for Matt Santos Original Flavor. (Aren’t the showrunners afraid they’ll jinx him? Fingers crossed nobody has a heart attack.)

On the plus side: Susan and AU Matt Santos got through the whole season with their humanity and their souls intact! I was genuinely expecting at least one of them to fold by now. Maybe the writers are going soft in their old age.

Scandal candidate babysitting and/or murderstaging June 16, 2016

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It’s episode 13, and we are careening full-tilt into the jockeying backstabbing stake-planting stage of the Scandal primary season. With a darkly hilarious backdrop of Abby handling the strict protocol for Fitz’s string of presidential one-night stands.

I’m happy to see that AU Matt Santos is a Democrat (so his policy ideas aren’t wildly unrealistic) and oblivious to Cyrus’s murderdeath conspiring on his behalf (so he’s still one of the show’s few Decent People). Wonder if he or VP Susan “Ethics” Doyle will hang on to the light side longer.

Over at Olivia’s firm, New Duckling still believes the “gladiator in a suit” line, and pushes them to investigate a client who looks suspiciously like a murderer. Normally Liv would leap on an opportunity to start yelling at the client for lying, but in this case the guy is actually guilty — you can tell by the way Liv insists on not going after him.

…Ah, yes, I remember seeing some Tumblr photosets of Hollis Doyle becoming the show’s Trump surrogate. Not that they get West-Wing-style prediction credit, because they were writing the season while the IRL primary had already started.

Fitz: “You do not yell at me in this office!” Susan: “Well, where do I yell at you?” Ohhh snap.

Liv: “I think [Mellie would] make a great president. Is that crazy?” Abby: “Yes. Yes, it is.” Mmmyep.

…seriously, someone remind me, was Mellie ever shown having political acumen in previous seasons? When she first told Fitz she wanted to be President, I vividly remember thinking she had zero qualifications and clearly didn’t even care about the job, just wanted it for the sake of wanting it. Now she’s rattling off economic statistics and nuanced understanding of highway policy, which is nice candidate-wise, but seems to have come out of nowhere character-wise.

(Also, let’s be real: this woman had a very visible, very public extended breakdown after her son died, which was just a few years ago in-universe. As a human being, I absolutely do not begrudge her that breakdown. As a candidate, it would make her unelectable.)

“She’s a Muppet! Not even one of the main ones! They would only let her play tambourine in their little Muppet band!” Oh, not!Veronica, you are adorable.

Every Fitz-and-Olivia-yelling-at-each-other scene is just tiring at this point. Episode 16’s brings the bonus awfulness that someone died as a result of their machinations against each other. Liv tried to drag the guy into the race to discredit Fitz’s favorite candidate, and after Fitz found out, the guy conveniently died.

These people. I swear. Run, Susan, get out of here while you still can! I feel like there’s a chance AU Matt Santos will be able to take it and push back, if/when he finds out that people have been murdering on his behalf, but sweet adorable Susan will either snap and have a breakdown, or snap and go grimdark.

“McCain used his history as a POW–” “McCain lost!” But this universe hasn’t had a black president, which means he didn’t lose to Obama. Where does this fit in to the world’s political history? (I’m guessing they don’t care, I’m just wondering.)

“You have five million dollars?” “I’ve been a Republican my whole life.” Heh.

Aaaand episode 17, after several episodes of Olivia having regular flashbacks to that arc when she got kidnapped, ends with her having a trauma-induced flipout and beating a guy to death with a chair. Welp. That sure was a thing.

Scandal: what innocent person is Olivia Pope yelling at today? June 14, 2016

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When you need a distraction from real-life people being horrible, there’s always Scandal.

Jumping back in with episode 8, which focuses heavily on international drama with a fake Middle Eastern country that I admit I was not tracking very closely. Except to think “hm, it’s halfway through the episode and Olivia is yelling at the foreign guy who wants asylum, that probably means he’ll be revealed as an innocent hero by the end.” (Called it. Bonus: three-quarters of the way in, his blood is literally on her hands.)

Vice President Decent Person does something mildly devious! She’s so cute. I hope this is a growth arc where she’ll learn to hold her own amidst other people’s machinations. I mean, that’s a figure of speech — I don’t actually hope for things in this show — it’s just something that would be cool.

Episode 9 brings us Mellie filibustering the budget, which is…actually kind of epic? It’s in defense of Planned Parenthood’s funding. In the political fairyland of Scandal, this is one of the things Republicans will passionately stand up for.

And when she starts to fall apart, it’s compounded by Vice President Decent Person sashaying into the room and taking over the floor for a lengthy bathroom-break-providing question. Oh gosh, she really is coming into her own.

How do I get a show that’s 100% VP Decency being awesome, with no ten-minute interludes of Fitz and Olivia screaming at each other over the latest angst in their terrible relationship?

Episode 10 has Olivia and company scrambling to track down yet another guy who turns out to be innocent. This one dies while they’re looking! And the killer, the real villain-of-the-week, turns out to be a tag-team of Olivia’s sometime-boyfriend and Olivia’s evil dad! You would think, one of these seasons, she would stop trying to have a friendly relationship with her evil dad and clue in to the fact that he’s never going to stop being evil.

(A couple episodes later Huck calls her out on it. Too bad it won’t take.)

Tentatively here for Mellie and Olivia teaming up. Their relationship has been horrible, but their respective relationships with Fitz have been even more horrible, so they may as well bond over that.

100% here for VP Decency flat-out refusing a presidential run. And sad to see her get steered into it, because she’s too good for this place. Although Portia de Rossi calling her “that muppet” was so delightfully Veronica.

I’ve pointed out evil-mirrorverse parallels with The West Wing before, and now we’ve got a biggie. Cyrus pulls a Josh, stepping away from the outgoing administration to work on molding a charismatic Hispanic candidate with a passion for education into the winner of the next election. Except that where Josh does it with campaign stops and policy planning and shaking lots of hands in New Hampshire, Cyrus does it by…hiring a gunman to attack a museum his candidate is visiting, and genuinely shoot people in the process, in order to stage a media-spotlight-grabbing hero moment. As you do.