Scandal, Season 3, Episode 13, “No Sun on the Horizon”
Written by Matt Byrne
Directed by Randall Zisk
Airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on ABC
On this week’s Scandal, Olivia and Jake play at a real relationship, Sally has a nervous breakdown, the president throws a debate, and David tries to move forward with framing Cyrus for murder.
Remember when everyone on Scandal seemed like a decent human being? Olivia Pope and her gladiators were doing bad things for good reasons, and even villains like Cyrus or Hollis Doyle seemed relatively tame?
Scandal apparently has an unwritten rule somewhere stating that no character on the show can be wholly good or pure. Almost everyone’s a murderer (as Olivia Pope herself realizes during an impromptu laugh/cry session that’s both funny and deeply troubling to watch) now, with the exception of David Rosen, who might be dead or fatally wounded, as the episode’s cliffhanger wants us to believe.
Even Sally, the Bible-thumping, holier-than-thou VP, has become thoroughly corrupted by power. Before her breakdown post-husband-stabbing, she was a genuinely frightening adversary to Olivia Pope and Co. Now she’s simply a caricature of her former self, spouting off nonsensical religious monologues and attempting to assassinate her own political career. It’s heavily disappointing. Bring back the Sally of old, please, because Fitz (and, by extension, Olivia) needs a new foe. At least Papa Pope is still lurking beneath the surface, along with Mama Pope, because their potential villainry holds much more weight than Sally’s or even Hollis Doyle’s.
Unfortunately, Scandal‘s reached a point where its “explosive” storytelling is just exhausting–so much is crammed into one episode that it’s hard to take any of it in. Sure, it makes for excellent shock-viewing, and social media routinely loves it, but each episode is beginning to feel definitively lighter on substance than preceding episodes. Just because Scandal‘s go-to formula (rapid-fire pacing and several twists per episode, plus a handful of passionate speeches) has worked thus far doesn’t mean it will continue to, and it’s honestly feeling very, very stale.
But enough about the bad. Despite the patheticness of Sally’s breakdown, Kate Burton is doing a great job selling the crazy. Even if her frenetic speechifying isn’t threatening, it’s still terrifying to watch. And the will-she-won’t-she aspect of her breakdown–especially in regards to her desire to confess–is convincing enough to cause believable tension during the episode’s climactic presidential debate.
And Olivia’s aforementioned moment of laugh-crying is genuinely funny and mostly troubling, just because Olivia is always so in control of her surroundings, or at least able to maintain the impression that she is. Now it seems like she’s on a path to a Sally-like breakdown.
Right now, it’s really hard to support her, or anyone else, on the show. These characters aren’t inspiring anymore, and they aren’t even that interesting anymore, either–probably because all of them are showing minimal, if any, character development and growth.
Maybe future episodes will be more promising, but for right now, Scandal‘s basically flatlining.