Scandal, Season 3, Episode 7, “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie”
Written by Peter Nowalk
Directed by Michael Katleman
Airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on ABC
On this week’s Scandal, Olivia and co. add Mama Pope as their newest client, Quinn gets too close to Charlie, and Mellie’s horrible backstory is revealed.
How lighthearted this episode began–with Cyrus’s ridiculously perfect wig and facial hair, and Mellie’s adorable bob–only to take a sickeningly horrifying turn midway through. At least “Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” takes a step back from the elections, especially considering last week’s dud episode, but maybe everyone’s emotions could use a few lackluster election episodes to recover.
Anyway, let’s start at the beginning.
Are Liv and Fitz’s angsty phone conversations tiring anyone else out? (If not, they might be after this episode.) There’s only so many times Fitz can call his illicit lover, begging her to talk to him, before the whole plot device wears itself out. Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington do a brilliant job playing the broody pair, but sometimes it’s just easier to stay interested in their disastrous relationship when they’re actually communicating face-to-face.
A much more fascinating relationship to follow is the subtle one between Olivia and Abby, two headstrong and powerful women who clearly aren’t used to the company of female friends. Their awkward hug scene is adorable and so accurately portrayed that the short scene is a small bit of payoff for fans who’ve been following the series since the beginning. It’s refreshing to see proof that the writers know the characters so well, and moments like the women’s brief interaction serve to give the audience more insight into each character. More scenes like that, sprinkled through the episodes, would be excellent.
Now to Mellie, the main focus of the episode. Because this is America, Mellie is receiving half the flack for her husband’s affair thanks to disgusting double standards. (Cyrus says it best: “It’s not fair. It’s American.”) Yes, it’s repulsive. But, unfortunately, it’s extremely accurate. You have to wonder, if the American people knew what Mellie experienced during her marriage to Fitz, would they feel any differently toward her?
The flashback scene itself, between Mellie and Fitz’s monstrous father, is incredibly shocking–not simply because of the subject matter, but also because of the jarring music playing throughout, topped with Fitz’s blatant obliviousness after the assault. This episode alone will shift the audience’s views on Mellie, either for better or worse, but it’s sad that rape is what it takes to bring about sympathy for a woman who’s been cheated on and belittled by her husband for so long.
To be fair, Fitz isn’t a villain in their relationship, but he’s not innocent, either. His ambitious and idealistic drive blinds him to a certain extent, and it’s becoming increasingly harder to root for him as his relationship with Mellie is further explored by the show. The sheer number of things she gave up (or covered up) for him, least of all her career, during his run is awful, but, stacked with his infidelity and loathing toward her, it’s downright atrocious.
Continuing the episode’s streak of disgusting relationships is the budding bond between Charlie and Quinn, whose scenes together are both creepy and a little bit sad. Quinn is so obviously being played by the B613 agent that it’s rough to watch her abandonment by Huck (and, to a certain extent, the rest of the team who are too concerned with Liv’s issues to even see Quinn’s), as well as her gleeful and naive stumbles into a world she’s in no way prepared for. Bad things are coming for her, but at least her character’s being handed such a promising storyline.
“Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” is an episode of Scandal at its best (and, arguably, worst)–but at what cost? Honestly, the rape scene feels a bit desperate and shocking for drama’s sake, rather than an attempt to tell any sort of meaningful story. It’s too soon to tell, and further episodes will determine whether or not it has some further purpose–please, please, please let it be handled with care. If done right, it can be incredibly affecting and moving. It’s horrifying, yes, but it’ll only be more horrifying if it was simply used to move the story (and Mellie’s character development) along.