The Binge List: Scandalized!

A while back I binged on Scandal, Seasons 1 & 2. There were a few things I bumped on, i.e. a Republican administration that cares about the environment? And a few other obviously progressive policy pursuits that must have come from some skewed parallel universe. But nuts and bolts policy issues are not the real arena for this series, and political labels are irrelevant. The foibles these characters display know no political boundaries. Infidelity, hunger for power, the selling of one’s soul to the proverbial devil have no particular political affiliation.

Just this past week, my friend Eden and I binged on Season Three. Eden and I debated the finer points of each episode. Would the U.S. really shoot down an airliner? I didn’t think so, but Eden pointed out she’d heard that may have been what happened to Flight 93 on 9/11. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but we both agreed that the far-fetched, devious ploys of the various characters had just enough of a tether to reality that while the show is obviously fiction, Truth is probably grinning in the background.

Scandal is a political soap opera on meth-amphetamine. Characters behave monstrously. Olivia Pope is supposed to be a fixer, but she usually screws up anything she touches. She saves people, but people also die on her watch. I think a lot of us can relate to a person who perceives themselves as “good” but when given a choice inevitably does the wrong thing. There’s something so human about the frailties of these “gladiators in suits,” the team of fixers assembled by Olivia Pope.

Scandal has a lot going for it — straight love, gay love, murder, family, and mystery. Who are the bad guys? Who are the good guys? You’ll never know as characters change and/or are revealed from scene to scene. That may be its greatest strength. Scandal is never predictable.

We also watch Scandal because A) Olivia Pope is beautiful and we drool for her wardrobe, B) Huck is the most adorable killer we’ve ever wanted to cuddle with C) We like Abby because we think she’s a little crazy and who doesn’t love a redhead? D) We loved Joshua Malina (who plays David Rosen) in The West Wing and well, the list goes on. Whether or not you care for President Grant depends on the episode. I, for one, think he’s abusive and controlling and gross (not the actor Tony Goldwyn, of course, who is pretty darn hot). But that’s just me.

Eden despises Mellie but I like her. I imagine that Bellamy Young, who plays Mellie with a deer-in-the-headlights insouciance, leaps out of bed every morning to find out what delicious lines the writers have given her this week. Her dialogue is by far the most fun. And she may be the most complex character — a mixture of Stepford wife, Miss America, evil queen, and little girl who just wants to be loved by daddy. Kerri Washington’s character is all body language, swishing hips, pouting lips, and enormous doe eyes brimming with desire and pain. But Mellie is the verbal jouster. And she’s good at it. Her logic may be twisted but it’s never flawed.

Episodes of Season 4 are dribbling in, but I’ll bide my time. I’m already watching one Shonda Rhimes series week to week and that’s How to Get Away with Murder. From the early days of binging on Grey’s Anatomy to this Viola Davis tour de force, I’m pretty sure it’s time to build a temple to Shonda Rhimes — the Empress of Addictive TV.