The episodes are a bit repetitive in season 6. But they are doing a great service to Scandal.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this show has an extraordinary ensemble. The fast-paced plot of Scandal buries the minor characters to favor the major arcs involving Olivia, Fitz, Mellie, Jake and Papa Pope. The supporting cast can oftentimes be reduced to bringing up important discoveries in the knick of time (Huck) or providing a moment of light humor (David).
But season 6 is taking time to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Election night opens almost every single episode. Minor details from the first episode, like Jake’s disappearance, Abby’s shutdown, and Cyrus’ blood-soaked body are each given the proper amount of screen time.
In such a decisive moment for the show, the murder of the President-elect, it is important for the audience to understand where each character lands on the chessboard. By playing and replaying the night from every different perspective, Scandal breathes new life into the stale caricatures some of their star players have become.
Jake Ballard and Cyrus Beane dominated early episodes of the season. But for the two of them, we already know what kind of mind runs the Cyrus Beane machine. We know what makes Jake tick and shut down. While their screen time is a welcome addition, they do not reveal as much character work as the Eli-, Abby-, or Huck-centric episodes.
There is nothing better than a good ol’ fashioned Eli speech. When he feels that he is proclaiming from on high, the world seems to stop in that moment. However, there is much more Eli than there is time to show on Scandal. When Sandra, his college sweetheart and former colleague, returns to his life, Eli steps out of the shadows and into the light.
Archaeology, his passion before breaking young men into CIA operatives, comes back in a big way. A new discovery of dinosaur bones leads his former lover to stick around in Washington, D.C., giving him a new project. He still gets to deal with cleaning up the dead, but this time he is uncovering instead of covering up.
“Extinction” sees Papa Pope mentoring young archaeologists. He’s smiling, hugging Olivia, enjoying life! In spite of it all, he remains Eli through and through. When he notices the camera, the reality of his double-life hits him like a freight train. Of course, he can’t have it all. He is forever damned by his past.
The episode does the leg work to back Eli into a corner, and each subsequent episode, and scenes that already panned out, play a bit differently. Instead of being stubborn, Eli is being protective. Instead of fighting against Olivia for his personal gain, he is fighting for Olivia to survive.
It amplifies the silence that Eli now occupies.
The mysterious woman keeping Eli on a leash pushes him to do whatever it takes to protect Olivia. And, although he may have loved Sandra, she must become collateral damage if Liv is to remain in the picture.
Inside Huck’s mind
Huck exists in the shadows. He is the person sitting on the other side of the computer screen stealing all of your personal data. Lurking in your backseat or breaking into your apartment, Huck rarely drops by for a pleasant chat. He is there with an objective, programmed to get what he needs by doing whatever is necessary.
“Traitor Among Us” opens a window into Huck’s mind. Thanks to the direction by Tom Verica, the audience gets intimate with Huck as he runs through what we have come to know as a “routine” job. The close ups, especially as Huck tries to play it “cool” when he walks into OPA knowing full-well that a traitor walks among them, were especially important. His head’s swimming and so are we.
The scene shortly after, where Huck listens in on the conversations between Quinn and Charlie, uses sound to reveal another layer. Huck must find the truth through the white noise. Everything people say is just a bunch of static and nonsense. But if you pay close enough attention, people show their true colors eventually.
Quinn and Huck’s relationship, their partnership and friendship, is one that more often than not gets cast aside. The awkward moment featuring the two working a full table length apart conveys just how far apart they’ve grown off screen. They are pointing guns at one another, giving in to suspicion over trust. There is too much damage sewn into the fabric of their history and not enough attention is on whether or not they can ever repair it.
Additionally, Huck’s love life is never a walk in the park. By choosing to not only give him another girlfriend, but to have his past romantic partner bring his weaknesses to light. Huck does not trust easily and we often see Olivia take advantage of that. One of Liv’s worst traits that she gets from her father is that she sees some people as tools which she can leverage for her advancement.
Abby sees Red
If it were up to me, Abby and Fitz would have half of the scenes in each Scandal episode. Their power dynamic creates some of the most heated and satisfying moments on the show. Abby ground Fitz, and Fitz keeps Abby from getting too full of herself.
When we see Abby go rogue in the opening of the season following Vargas’ assassination, it is only one part of the story. It’s a waiting game for Fitz to arrive in the hospital and shut down everything Abby is doing. So we assume that she is following orders from the president. If Fitz cannot come to terms with Vargas’ assassination, then he must have ordered Abby to get everything under control.
But “Stomach for Blood” reveals that Abby has anything but a stomach for blood. At the top of the episode you meet the Abby, who is fighting for her future. The incentives offered by her side hustle offer a glimpse at a long, satisfying career. But as she gets deeper into the deal, she realizes that the scales are tipping a bit too far on the side of evil. With Leo, her career, and Cyrus Beane’s life at stake, Abby sees that the best way out is through.
However, she finds one small nugget of information that may lead to her salvation and clear her conscious ever so slightly — Jennifer Fields’ life for Cyrus Beane’s innocence. Abby is nothing if not a warrior. Her time in OPA, her experience as the right hand of the president, the bridges she has built and burned, all make her a formidable force in Washington.
If Scandal ever spins off in the near future, like the The Good Wife, I would watch Darby Stanchfield tear up D.C. on my screen any day.
What’s to come?
Another telling of Election Night is on the horizon. However, this episode will be special for two reasons. First, it is the series’ 100th episode. Second, it will feature an alternate timeline, one where Mellie Grant is elected President of the United States. While seeing the same story and scenes play out week after week may grow stale should the series continue down this path for the entire season, the first eight episodes have been some the best the series has produced.
Are you enjoying ‘Scandal’ season 6?
Scandal airs new episodes Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC.