In the second of a potentially continuing series, my wife Nicole returns to offer her thoughts on another show I'm not likely to ever watch.
In 10 Words or Less
Olivia and her "gladiators" are back for Round Two.
Loves: Political drama,Olivia Pope, "Fitz", Huck
Likes: Kerry Washington, Tony Goldwyn, Guillermo Diaz
Dislikes: Verna and Hollis
Hates: Huck's pain
The Story So Far...
ABC and Shonda Rhimes are at it again. First it was Grey's Anatomy, then its spin-off, Private Practice, and now a political drama to top all others. Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Associates are D.C.'s "fixers" and its their job to "clean up" what Washington's upper crust can dish out. They're the guys you call if you're a Congressman in bed with a dead hooker or a District Attorney who accidentally buys 50 kilos of heroin from a Columbian drug lord. Gladiators to the core, not only because they have the drive and the fight to see each every "problem" through to the end, but because, as you'll see throughout the season, each have survived a fight of their life. Layer by layer, all that embodies each character is revealed. Whether it be someone's real identity, deep dark skeletons in the closet or a painful past, Olivia and her team deliver time and time again. Miss Pope may be the "Head Fixer" in Washington, but she too is stirring the pot quite a bit, by nothing short of sleeping with the President of the United States. But, in her defense, if you were her and the President were Tony Goldwyn, well...you make your own decision. The first season of Scandal was released on DVD in June of 2012.
Since the series' inception in 2012, viewers have been witness to the ultimate of scandals, the President having an affair. The ever charming Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) can't help but fall in love with charismatic and alluring Olivia Pope. It's been said, "that behind every great man, there lies a woman", and for Fitzgerald there are two. Mellie (Bellamy Young), as she's called, is the acid-mouthed, determined and hard as nails First Lady. She will do whatever it takes to whomever to get what she wants. But as we see in this series, she's met her match in Olivia Pope. As for "Fitz", his focus, along with his ever faithful Chief of Staff, Cyrus (Jeff Perry), is to forge forward and build a stronger nation. All the while, unbenounced to the President, a secret "circle" consisting of Olivia, Cyrus, Mellie, Hollis Doyle the snide southern energy lobbyist (Gregg Henry) and Supreme Court Justice Verna Thornton (Debra Mooney) set out to cover the tracks of Defiance, Ohio. Throughout the season, Defiance is referenced as the city that won Fitz the Presidency, but what viewers eventually find out is that he didn't win it on his own. Would he ever find out? Would it make a difference? Oh, it made a huge difference, at the least it cost Verna her life at none other than Fitz's hands.
Alongside Olivia are Quinn Perkins, Harrison Wright, Abby Whelan and Huck, Olivia's "gladiators in suits" as she calls them. Each is there to help with whatever needs fixing, but as the season unfolds, they will discover the strength and courage to manage and reclaim their inner selves. Everyone has baggage. Everyone has problems. Everyone needs help. It's the fortunate ones who have Olivia Pope.
Quinn (Katie Lowes), formerly known as Lindsay Dwyer, is the bright-eyed, catholic school girl-looking assistant who is put on trial for the bombing death of her boyfriend and his associates. Quinn insists she didn't do it, evidence says she did. With hope of escaping a conviction almost impossible, all is once again rectified by a simple phone call from Olivia to Verna and Quinn is free. But did she really do it? Does she have the heart of a killer? Personally, as the season moved forward, the inner "lion" arose and we were privy to what Quinn really is capable of.
Harrison (Columbus Short) is by far the most ingenious of Olivia's associates.He's the total package with the looks, the charm and an impeccable ability to talk his way into any office or out of any situation he finds himself in. But what's his backstory? What makes Olivia want to help him? He was facing a long stay in jail before Olivia swooped in and made him part of her team. He's her eyes and ears when she's not around, a pretty valuable asset to have when so many people in D.C. do so many "wrong" things.
Abby Whelan (Darby Stanchfield) has a way about her that's mysterious, yet semi-annoying at the same time. Some episodes I feel bad for her, others I'd ring her neck if we were in the same room. She's in my opinion the vulture of the group. She's got drive, she's got smarts, but God help you if she catches on to a hint of fear or weakness...ba-bamm! But she too has a past, a painful one at that. Abused by her husband, lacking self-worth, she builds her character's strength from never forgetting where's she's been or what she's overcome.
And last, but certainly not least is Huck (Guillermo Diaz) who, after watching "Seven Fifty Two" on April 25th, forever etched in viewers minds why Shonda Rhimes is so amazing. Having a character who, at first glance, seemed to just be your run-of-the-mill computer prodigy/homeless person/killer for hire, turned out to be one of the most emotionally broken characters I've seen on television in a long time. Not everyday is perfect, not everyday is good, but what we find out to be the history behind who Huck really is and why he is the way he is, just completely blew my mind.
This season started with a bang... well, it took a few episodes for the "real" bang to hit, but from the get-go, viewers knew they were in for a ride. Every Thursday night at 10:59pm , I lay in bed and think to myself, "Oh my god, now I know why I love this show so much!" And every Friday morning, I'd call either my mother or my best friend and eagerly say, "Did you see Scandal last night? Can you believe…?" Shonda Rhimes had a huge impact on the medical drama world with Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, but could lighting actually strike 3 times? You're darn tootin' it can! Shonda and the entire writing staff brought together characters from such vast backgrounds, planted them in the middle of political nirvana, and then bing, bang, boom, the magic begins. You can sense from the first moments of the show that Olivia and her "gladiators" are going to cause a stir in Washington.
Aside from the sleeping with the President, exposing the truth about Defiance , the storyline that continuously tapped you in the back was, "who really was the White House mole?" Each week I waited with bated breath to see who would eventually be revealed as the mole. The list was endless at times, and one by one suspects were crossed off the list, with the help of David and Jake Ballard (Scott Foley), a friend of Fitz's and the "for hire" of the true mole. It's not until the very last second of the penultimate episode that the identity of the real mole is revealed, and let me tell you, I thought my head was going to explode at that very moment. It left you with an open mouth and an "OMG" look on your face. You'll have to watch Episode 21 to find out for yourself.
As with Grey's Anatomy, we have yet another alternative partnership, and later a family, with Cyrus and James (Dan Bucktinsky). I personally think we could have done without the Cyrus/James drama and worked the exposure of Defiance another way, but nonetheless, it played out well.
It wouldn't be a complete season without fiercely determined and hell-bent David Rosen (Josh Malina) to round out the cast. As the Assistant District Attorney for the Lindsay Dwyer (aka Quinn Perkins) case, a loss to Olivia Pope is too much for him to swallow. With some help from his assistant and the vulture herself, Abby, David searches to find answers as to why Olivia can do what she does. In the process, he finds more than just the truth about Miss Pope and Assoc., he finds love in Abby. All said and done, in the end, she picked his bones one too many times and he set her free.
Among the highlights this season was Episode 19, "Seven Fifty Two." This episode showed Huck at at his lowest. It was heart-wrenching. It was devastating. It was the unthinkable. Locked away and brainwashed to forget the woman and child he loved so dearly. As each new shot was filmed and his appearance and demeanour changed, you could see the new Huck evolve, but the life he had in his eyes was gone. With their "fixer" stuck in the hospital, each one shares, amazingly intimate monologues, their own story of how they came to be with Olivia and how she changed, or rather saved them. Few television shows bring me to tears. By the end, I was bawling my eyes out.
The 22 episodes in this collection arrive on 5 DVDs in a clear standard-width case with two flip trays, along with an episode guide on the reverse of the cover art. A UV-spot coated, embossed slipcover repeats the cover art. The discs feature animated anamorphic widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes, select a show, adjust the set-up and check out bonus features (on disc five.) There are English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles, but no audio options or closed captioning.
The look of any episode can change from moment to moment, with some scenes looking crystal clear, while others have that hazy look like a dream sequence or an old soap opera. However, when it's at its best it looks almost as good as it does during its HD airings, and you can make out every hair on the actors' heads, so it seems like a style choice. Colors are appropriate and there are no bigissues with compression artifacts. These episodes look really sharp.
The audio comes in Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and it's very active, pushing music through the surround speakers, while the actors' voices sit up-front. Everything is easily heard, without any distortion, across the board.
Viewers are given an in-depth look as "A Closer Look: President Grant's Assassination Attempt" (4:51) shows what really went into trying to kill President Fitzgerald Grant. When you watch the scene during the television broadcast, it looks so real and before you know it, it's over. When you watch what really went into creating that scene, you're amazed. Every step, every shot was choreographed perfectly and seamlessly charted. Cinematographer Oliver Bogelberg created for television what the New York Ballet creates for the stage, a truly captivating visual experience.
In "Being Huck" (8:04),Guillermo Diaz, the ever-quiet, displaced and hidden Huck exposes the true origin of who Huck is and how he, as a person, came to be. It was a complete shock to the cast the day Shonda Rhimes sat them down for the table read of Episode 19, "Seven FIfty Two." There was hesitation and fear on the part of Diaz, questioning whether or not he could do what Rhimes was asking of him. But, as we've witnessed, Diaz did more than just act in that episode, he brought each viewer with him along on a journey to visit his past.
There are 38 deleted scenes (43:03) included in this set, with the episode indicated (a play-all option is available.) I know deleted scenes are there to give the viewer a glimpse at something that might have been cut or changed from the actual scene, but in all honesty, the length and extent of the deleted scenes was uncalled for because these are slight variations of the actual episode. They range from 18 seconds to 9:27.
The final bonus feature of this collection is Outtakes (4:41), which as I saw on the Grey's Anatomy collection, is simply snippets of goofy dancing, an insane amount of obscenities, faulty props tipping over or getting stuck, a ton of missed cues and the ever popular, ever present, "Oops, I forgot my line again." All in all, the outtakes were enjoyable, as you got see the characters of a fairly serious drama being themselves, and the combination of the two "worlds" is what makes us love them even more.
The Bottom Line
As much as I'd like to place this series in the same, "soap opera" category as other dramas, it's the true-to-life moments that set this series apart. The likelihood that you or I will become the next president, be locked away and brainwashed or even had our entire life erased and started anew the very next day, is quite slim, but I'm sure there are viewers out there that, at one moment in their life, can say, "I've been there, I know what that feels like." Alternative lifestyles/partnerships, adulterous affairs, facing your inner demons and exposing raw emotions are all things that we, as humans deal with everyday, all over the world. Shonda Rhimes has mastered the art of connecting her characters to the viewer and making you beg for more!
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.