'Scandal' Is Back, and We Couldn't Be More Pleasantly Surprised

We had a lot of hopes for Scandal's fourth season yesterday. Somewhat surprisingly, the show did just about everything right.

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Admittedly, we went into last night's season premiere of Scandal with some trepidation. We'd been burned before, after a season of derailing into hyperbolic crazytown. Yesterday, we carefully and nervously laid out four hopes for the new season.

Then Scandal delivered its biggest shock in ages: It delivered a subtle, lovely episode that answered all of our concerns. Here, The Wire writers Arit John and Kevin O'Keeffe discuss our pleasant surprise and where the show can go from here.

Kevin O'Keeffe: So Arit, we talked a bit yesterday after my piece ran about what happened to the show. Huck and Quinn were making out in a parking garage. Olitz had descended to screaming about Vermont and jam. Mama and Papa Pope were killing it, but not in a good way. And then last night, out of nowhere, the show pulled it out. What made you happiest about the premiere?

Arit John: Short answer: I was happy to not be subjected to more Olitz. But honestly, the reason I enjoyed Scandal's earlier seasons was because of Pope & Associates — I liked the idea of Olivia being the head of a team of Gladiators who are devoted to her and help her solve the private problems of the wealthy and influential. When the show became a never ending series of "EARN ME!" speeches it lost that. Harrison's death (and Columbus Short's awkward departure) brought the gang back together and if they keep bringing in new cases and letting Olivia handle things, then that's a show I'd love to welcome back.

KO: Were you weirdly moved by the depiction of Olivia, Huck, Abby, and Quinn all together at the funeral? Because I really was! I didn't realize how much I cared about this quartet of people getting along and coming together to bury their colleague and friend, but it felt like a major moment for the show. In an instant, they reversed a lot of the unlikability problems they created for their characters last season. Quinn has come into her own, but is no longer lost and psychotic and involved with B613. Abby is on her goddamn game – that hair, Arit! Her hair took over Twitter last night, and watching this morning, I understood why. Giving me life. I'm not sure I'll ever love Huck, but I really got where he was coming from last night.

And of course, there was Olivia. Seeing Olivia fired up about a case and getting involved with her work again was tremendous. It's not a reset button, because these characters all remember exactly how ridiculous things have been over the past two seasons, but they're gradually returning to where they were before. That's totally worth celebrating, right?

AJ: Yesterday you asked me if I remembered the scene with Quinn and Huck making out in the parking garage, and I replied:

Shonda has some work to do if she wants me to forget that happened, and based on the teaser for next week's episode, she's still going down that rabbit hole. But, yes, Quinn was good last night, and I can almost see the path towards her not being obnoxious — no more hacker, B-613 serial killer dating, sassiness. Just her trying to keep the group together while Olivia, Abby and Huck get themselves together.
Abby has always been my favorite of my least favorite characters. If she were black, The New York Times might call her a less classically beautiful angry black woman, but she's not, so she's just fiesty. But her role in the group is to challenge Olivia in a way that Quinn can't (because who cares what she thinks) and Huck won't.
KO: I'm more into the women of (formerly) OP&A than you are – I hated the direction they took Quinn last season, but I've always found her backstory as Lindsay Dwyer fairly compelling. Meanwhile, I like Abby a lot, but I see the problems with her. I saw no problems this episode, though. Her reaction to Olivia's departure was fair and reasonable, and I loved the shot of her grabbing Olivia's hand at Harrison's funeral. These people have complicated, emotional relationships. To see Abby exhibiting seemingly contradictory behaviors makes a lot of sense.
That actually leads into my favorite part of the episode: how subtle it was. At least, how subtle it was in relation to other Scandal episodes. It was like we were watching a version of the show that took a step back and breathed deeply for the first time before launching back into things. Season 3 felt like they were constantly trying to top themselves. This was a quiet reflection on where that approach got us.
AJ: I can't believe we're calling this show subtle, but you're right. And on that note, I think Mellie was the best part of that episode. Bellamy Young is a gift because she manages to take the most over-the-top, unlikeable character on the show and make her complex and lovable. Yes, that kimono/Uggs get up was something else (she was wearing panties "fresh from the dryer" though, so there's that) but when she's on the balcony with Fitz telling him to tell her when he sees Olivia, it's simple but strong.
I just hope that the show remembers how nice it is to not be at 110 percent drama in the coming episodes. I trust Bellamy Young to keep next week's crazy first lady plot reasonable — Mellie on the brink of self-destruction makes for great TV — but I'm not optimistic about the rest of the plots. In the promo for next week, Fitz says "Can Ms. Pope and I have the room?" and my first and only thought was "No."
KO: No, no, a thousand times no! We really can't go back down this hole, can we? I'm starting to think, as extreme as it sounds, the only solution may be killing Fitz. Remember how we thought Alicia Florrick and Will Gardner were going to be together forever on The Good Wife? They would've kept falling in and out of that pattern if the show didn't put a permanent end to it. I liked Fitz once upon a time, but I'm not sure I trust Shonda enough to know what's best for the show in the long run. Look at what eventually became of Grey's Anatomy.
In fact, let's wrap things up by talking about where we go from here. You're right, that promo is scary. Olitz! Huck and Quinn again! I'm hoping it's just the promo team being a little overzealous with their editing, because I don't want this show to go back to crazy just yet. But I admit, I'm very concerned. It's like we got a taste of the good life, and now all I can think is that it's about to be yanked away. Do you think Shonda would do that to us?
AJ: Technically, Will's actor, Josh Charles, put a permanent end to Will's story. Will and Alicia had at least one more season of dancing around each other before I would have gotten tired of them. Olitz, on the other hand, it way past its expiration date. I have been advocating for Fitz to die for a while now, preferably violently to match how much I dislike his character. Yes, this is a soap opera, but I'm tried of watching the show glorify what's basically an abusive relationship. I trust Shonda with most things — maybe because I never watched Grey's — but I think she has a blind spot when it comes to those two.
I know that Fitz and Olivia will find each other again because Cyrus and Mellie told us like 20 times last night. And Huck saying he has to treat Quinn badly means it's because they can't be together because blah blah blah, no one cares. I'm accepting that, as a fan of this show, I'll have to deal with couples I don't like. But this show can be so much more than who's screwing who, and the premiere proved it.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.