Scandal, Season 4, Episode 1, “Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia”
Written by Shonda Rhimes
Directed by Tom Verica
Airs Thursdays at 9pm EST on ABC
On this week’s Scandal, Olivia Pope returns home, a gladiator turns up dead, Fitz and Mellie visit their deceased son, and David Rosen gets a promotion.
Apparently, all Olivia Pope (and Scandal) needed was a vacation to return to form. Gone is weak and defenseless Olivia, who was last seen running away from D.C., and her problems, at the end of season 3. In her place is the Olivia Pope the audience came to love during the show’s stellar first two seasons–she’s back fighting for injustice among women and turning down her own happiness (and island escape) to help a helpless intern.
If it feels like Olivia Pope has been missing for far longer than a summer, it’s because she has–season 3 served to humanize the beloved Ms. Pope, but it also stripped away the fundamental qualities she possessed that made her so easy to love and root for. Olivia Pope became a shell of her former self, cowering in the shadow of her power-hungry, psychotic parents. But she’s back now, and maybe (just maybe) better than ever.
In several subtle ways, “Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia” makes Scandal feel like a new show this season. Olivia Pope and Co. are even (briefly) given new names. But the complete devastation season 4 left behind (namely a nice-sized body count of cast members) appears to have set the stage for a whole lot of brand new character growth and rebuilding. (Even Fitz is literally cleaning out his Cabinet.) And honestly, this is just what Scandal needs right now.
Back in D.C., Olivia has to fundamentally restructure her relationships with the remaining gladiators. She did abandon them, after all. Since Olivia and her team are one of the driving forces of the show, this is a promising set-up for future storylines, particularly the emotionally-resonant ones. Suffering the loss of a member will be no easy task for the crew to handle moving forward, as evidenced by the group’s heartbreaking response to Harrison’s death, and they’ll have to heal while simultaneously figuring out how to forgive each other.
Speaking of death, Fitz and Mellie are a very changed couple after the loss of their son. Mellie, who only rarely gets the storylines she deserves, is poised to receive the most development here. Watching her strut around the White House in pajamas is darkly funny, and her suffering is evident in every scene she’s in. Bellamy Young is such an excellent actress that it’ll be a shame if Scandal continues to shunt her to the side. Luckily for the audience, Scandal appears more than ready to highlight Young’s substantial talent.
Even the relationship between Fitz and Olivia feels revitalized, as the pair spent the entire episode apart (save the final minute or so), but their brief encounter is charged with enough tension to undoubtedly keep fans happy. Also, there’s nothing like a shocking reveal (attempted suicide!) to keep things interesting–how long until Olivia learns about that?
“Randy, Red, Superfreak and Julia” is a solid season premiere, and a promising start to a season that’s clearly recovering from last season’s myriad of messes and missteps. Just because the opener is tinged with death doesn’t mean Scandal itself is dying–if anything, it feels like a show reborn, and the changes couldn’t be anymore welcome.