Scandal, Ep. 3.01 “It’s Handled”: Strong premiere keeps series on track

KERRY WASHINGTON, DARBY STANCHFIELD, GUILLERMO DIAZ, COLUMBUS SHORT

Scandal, Season 3, Episode 1: “It’s Handled”
Written by Shonda Rhimes
Directed by Tom Verica
Airs Thursdays at 10 pm (ET) on ABC

On this week’s Scandal premiere, Olivia’s father reveals himself to be the worst human monster (“I am the Hell AND the high water.”) on a show filled with moral ambiguity, Olivia pulls the proverbial fire alarm to plot with Fitz and Mellie, and Pope and Associates (minus the “Pope”) sacrifice one woman’s career to save their faltering leader.

Do you know what’s worse than seeing Olivia Pope losing her white hat, or being treated like dirt by her married lover? Seeing Olivia Pope belittled and scolded to the point of tears by her father. In a genuinely disconcerting and jaw-dropping scene, Papa Pope whisks his newly-outed (as the President’s mistress) daughter away to a private plane, where he proceeds to release a thoroughly Rhimes-ian speech filled with harsh disappointment against our beloved gladiator queen before kicking her out of the country.

Seeing Olivia being brought so low, especially after everything she’s experienced up until now, is heartbreaking. And enlightening–Olivia has far worse daddy issues than the average person. It’s unsurprising, considering her all-business exterior and mess of a personal life. Finally, finally, we’re getting a glimpse inside Olivia’s flawed psyche, and the delivery couldn’t possibly be more rewarding.

Oh, and all of this happens in the cold open. Welcome back, Scandal. It’s been too long.

Character-wise, everyone’s more or less the same as they were last spring. Cyrus is still a monster operating on too-much stress (seriously, how is he still alive?) and betraying anyone necessary to keep his power, Mellie’s on a vengeance-tinged warpath, Olivia and Fitz are as lovelorn as ever, and the Gladiators plus David Rosen are still lurking around the edges and attempting to save Liv’s reputation.

In true Scandal fashion, everything goes to hell but is miraculously “solved” by episode’s end–the pacing of this show has, reassuringly, remained consistent. A lot of people storm around, spouting declarations of power in trademark Shonda-speak, and several shocking reveals are made, though one in particular (which I wouldn’t dare spoil here) stands out above the rest.

Oh, and there’s a beautiful, incredibly well-acted scene that takes place entirely within a nuclear bunker. Seriously, the scene’s roughly ten minutes of characters working solely off one another. All of the props go to Bellamy Young as Mellie, who shows a vulnerability in her character that’s hardly been witnessed thus far. And, of course, Fitz and Olivia still manage to have tortured sexual tension within a block of concrete lit by harsh fluorescent lights. (No one can make a simple “hi” sound as agonizing as they can.)

In case you had any doubt, don’t worry–Scandal‘s still at the top of its game and, possibly, growing even better with age.

Ashley Laggan




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