There was a certain explosive quality in the first two seasons of Scandal, a fire of sorts that lit up viewers, fans and critics alike. Recent episodes in season three have seen a drop in ratings, and there has been some talk about the political drama losing its original spark. But there’s a good chance that all of that talk is about to come to a screeching halt, since last night’s episode (“Everything’s Coming up Mellie”) was absolutely the best of season three, and one of the best of the entire series. The fire has been reignited, and the shock and awe campaign for which creator Shonda Rhimes is best known has made a triumphant return.
Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young) is one of Scandal’s strongest characters. Viewers often find themselves rooting for the First Lady one week, but by the next episode she’ll end up doing something unforgivable, or folks will be too busy rooting for Olivia and Fitz to champion Mellie. She’s a polarizing character, and it’s high time more of her story was told.
The episode begins with the introduction of two people we’ve never met before—a young Mellie and Fitz, completely in love. The present-day relationship between the president and his wife often feels like an arranged marriage, and viewers have been led to believe that Olivia and Fitz are in love, while Fitz and Mellie must stay together for the sake of his presidency. But fifteen years ago, they were just a couple of kids in love, as Fitz embarked on his journey to the California governor’s office. But the best part of these flashback scenes was probably the introduction of young Cyrus. All that hair is long gone, and it’s hard to believe that the fearsome White House Chief of Staff was once a young, aspirational campaign manager … with a beard. These scenes also re-introduce Fitz’s overbearing, over-drinking father, Jerry, who played a key role in Fitz’s political career and—of course—all of his Daddy issues. Their relationship threatens Fitz’s political career, as Cyrus is unwilling to work amidst family drama, so Mellie steps in and attempts damage control. The results are both beneficial to Fitz and catastrophic for Mellie.
In the present-day scenes, Mellis is rehabbing her image, after having outed her adulterous husband to the American people, and by the end of the episode we find out the extraordinarily high price Mellie pays as the wife of a politician.
In the meantime, Olivia Pope & Associates take on a new client—Olivia’s mom, who appeared only in flashback scenes in last week’s episode. They quickly discover via paper trail that both Fitz and his father were involved in the Operation Remington cover-up, and the flashback scenes to Fitz’s earlier days reveal that a bomb was aboard the plane, which is why he was ordered to shoot it down. The Gladiators attempt to uncover more details about the bomb, but Eli, a.k.a. Papa Pope, is (at least) one step ahead of them and has an important witness killed. However, Papa Pope—never one to get his own hands dirty, and being head of B6-13—has it set up so that Quinn is the one who actually kills him. She’s been both working and hooking up with Charlie, but is completely unaware that he is working for Eli. This is an absolutely brilliant twist, as it completely complicates Quinn’s work as a Gladiator. Without meaning to, she’s started working for the other side and she most likely won’t even be able to turn to Huck, who warned her about meddling in B6-13-ish affairs.
In one of Scandal ’s most shocking and horrifying scenes, Mellie is raped by Fitz’s father. Just as shocking as the rape scene is the interaction the following morning, where Mellie uses the traumatic event to get Fitz’s father to repair his relationship with his son so that Fitz can make a clean run for office. Everything about Mellie suddenly makes more sense, as it becomes clear that she has suffered horribly over the years as Fitz’s wife. Additionally, viewers see that she is, indeed, a political animal—clearly, painfully aware of how the game is played. Surely Mellie gains the sympathy of viewers, but Rhimes also writes the narrative in a way that, more than anything, viewers gain an understanding of her true character.
Two major bombs are dropped at the end of episode seven. In the final flashback scene, Mellie tells Fitz that she is pregnant with their first child … but there appears a look of horror on her face as Fitz excitedly tells her that they’ll have to name the baby Jerry, after his father. It’s implied that Mellie is unsure as to whether or not Fitz or Jerry is the father of her child. And just as many viewers suspected, it is confirmed that Mama Pope lives! Which leaves about a billion questions for next week’s episode.
—Who is Mama Pope, really? Why was she forced to fake her death?
—Did Big Jerry actually father Mellie’s firstborn? And what happens when that scandal gets out?
—Also, now that Mellie and Cyrus are onto Vice President Sally Langston’s husband (and his wandering eye), how will they use this against her?
And side note: While it’s great that Scandal is definitely picking up, it should be noted that Olivia Pope has been looking more and more like a fashionista than a political fixer. The fierceness of her wardrobe has always been fun to watch, but that white and black coat from last night’s episode was so high fashion and fabulous, it was a bit distracting. They should tone things down a bit, lest viewers start feeling like the show takes place during NYC Fashion week, instead of Washington, D.C.
Favorite Quote Of The Episode: “I’m surrounded by murderers.” (Olivia)