5. Written and Produced by a Woman
Certainly there are men who write and produce high-quality television series. But just like with Literature, whatever is good is often either assumed to be written by a man or considered normal when it actually is. It’s important to support, celebrate, and even just be aware of great female writers, too, until we get to the point of being able to take them for granted, also. I think especially because Scandal is a political drama, it’s important to point to Shonda Rhimes and say, yes, women can write great shows about male-dominated fields and be successful.
4. Cliffhangers and Plot Twists
I’ve been marathoning Scandal on Netflix, Project Free TV, and Hulu Plus in order to catch up to the most recent episode. There are some shows where this is arguably a terrible idea, and Scandal may be one of them. This is because Scandal is one of those shows where something insane and unexpected is going to happen in the last five minutes of the last episode you were planning on watching before bed. I think Weeds was the last series which regularly made me bolt upright on the couch and audibly cry, “What?” or “No!” at the end of the episode. But also like Weeds, the plot twists feel plausible based on the characters involved, so it doesn’t feel fake or only included for shock value or ratings. Each new twist builds into something bigger and deeper, adding new threads to the tapestry of the series as a whole.
3. Conspiracy Theories
One of my friends mentioned that it’s interesting how popular Scandal is right now, considering how negatively it portrays the American government. Some viewers might still be in it for the tragic Romeo & Juliet-style love story of Fitz and Olivia (though by now to me that’s certainly the least interesting or compelling plot line). But beyond that, Scandal seems to be functioning as an outlet for viewers who are struggling with the current state of American democracy, what with the NSA spying on US citizens and America fighting a decades-long “War on Terror” which has arguably only turned us into the bully of Earth’s political playground. Scandal doesn’t pull any punches regarding the depths of darkness or the layers of lies, conspiracies, and pay-offs the US government is willing to engage in and pass off as “business as usual.” If back-door machinations for power and highly sophisticated and intricate cover-up jobs (as well as the aftermath when everything unravels) interest you, Scandal is the show for you.
2. High Drama
My background is in theatre, and Scandal often reminds me of Greek or Shakespearen tragedy – storytelling the likes of which hardly ever would be seen on television. Though based on reality (political life in Washington, D.C.), Scandal rises above reality to portray the very heights and depths of the human experience. Cyrus Beene, White House Chief of Staff, could be Oedipus, unable to move past his fatal flaw, which ultimately causes him to destroy everything he loves. Mellie Grant could be Lady Macbeth, strong-willed and filled with a lust for power, but who must use her weaker-willed husband to really get things done. Scandal draws on powerful archetypal figures and storylines, and it isn’t afraid to explore the darkest and most vile aspects of human nature. You will find catharsis by the end of Season 3, if not sooner.
1. Multi-dimensional, Complex, Human Characters
Scandal may start off with archetypal characters, but they don’t stay that way. As the storyline progresses, each character is fleshed out and made believable. While Fitz and Oliva may be the “main” characters, Scandal is really an ensemble piece, where each individual player is given their due and no one feels like a minor character (except maybe the extras who are only there for one episode). The thing that really surprised me about Scandal is that none of the recurring characters are actually good people. Too often, TV dramas draw a strict line between good and evil, and even if the villain gets a backstory to explain how they ended up that way, it’s still clear who’s bad and who’s good and who we should be rooting for. Some people might choose to root for the villain anyway, but it’s rare to find a show where there’s no clear hero. Some Scandal characters try harder than others to be moral, but every character on the show has committed some shameful, unspeakable act, and that’s what ultimately unites them. You might think this would make the show and its characters difficult to relate to, but it actually makes them all the more compelling. Because these characters are so fleshed out, so human, we still feel pity for them when things end badly. Scandal shows a world where everyone is trapped in a corrupted system, choosing the lesser of two evils but still having to sell a piece of their soul at the end of the day. Ultimately, Scandal reminds us that we’re all worth saving – even the monsters.