Kerry Washington
Screenshot: Eric McCandless (ABC)

“Over A Cliff” is a fitting end to Scandal. It perfectly captures everything viewers loved about the show and the infuriating moments that left fans disappointed and unsure of what was even going on. Scandal was never entirely sure of what it wanted to be. It started as an exciting case-of-the-week soap opera. Then it was a spy mystery. Then Olivia got kidnapped and well… Scandal became whatever it is in “Over A Cliff.” Was that the finale fans wanted? It’s possible. I have to believe there are some Scandal fans out there (other than Shonda Rhimes) who were on the edge of their seats over B613 and Papa Pope. But for fans of Olitz, David and Abby, Huck, or Mellie, this was a disappointing disconnect from what made Scandal truly great.

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Take, for example, the show’s big final reveal—Olivia’s presidential portrait hanging in the National Gallery. Somehow, after the events of Scandal, Olivia finally becomes president... I guess. When I saw that portrait, all I thought was, “Wow, that’s the Scandal I’ve wanted to watch all these years!” When Scandal started, it was radical because it was one of the first shows to put an imperfect, flawed black woman in the spotlight. We wanted Olivia to succeed, even when she failed. Even when it seemed like her actions didn’t make sense, we could trust her intuition. As Scandal went on, Olivia lost her white hat and her motivations became unclear. If the Oval corrupts anyone who comes near it, is future President Olivia Pope corrupt? Did Olivia really get her white hat back?

For three seasons, we’ve waited for the old Olivia to come back and the best “Over A Cliff” can offer is the reassurance that she didn’t kill Cyrus. We don’t see a glimpse of the old Olivia who was motivated to change the world. Her portrait is supposed to reassure us, but it doesn’t. We don’t know the Olivia in that portrait. Even the supposed symbolism of the portrait doesn’t align with the Olivia we’ve known for seven years. She has natural hair when we’ve only seen her like that when she was kidnapped. It wants to use natural hair as a political statement on strong, carefree black womanhood, but Scandal never showed me the Olivia Pope who would proudly wear her natural hair in public. Now it wants the credit without doing any of the work.

Kerry Washington
Photo: Giovanni Rufino (ABC)

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In the end, Scandal wasn’t a show that followed a black woman’s achievements. It was a soap opera that simply used race as a manipulative device when the script couldn’t make sense of the show’s events. Look at Papa Pope’s final monologue on B613. Even though Rowan has been set up as a villain for most of the series, he’s always been the show’s loudest voice when it comes to race. So, when Rowan decided to confess his sins to Congress, I knew we’d get some sort of speech about his place as a black man or Olivia’s role as a black woman. Instead we got some weird allusions to Trump and Rowan convinced them to let him go because… he’s black? He pretty much was like, “White guys will be so mad if they find out a black man has been running the country and murdering people, so… just arrest the white guy.” And then they did? And they didn’t arrest or charge anyone else (including Cyrus?) because… I guess it was just easier to not deal with it?

Rowan’s deus ex monologue didn’t make any sense and it made David’s death feel particularly empty. If Rowan had just testified one day earlier and gotten Jake arrested, Cyrus wouldn’t have needed to kill David. David has always been a potential sacrifice in the Scandal universe, but his relationships with Susan and Abby made him a really compelling character. His death could’ve been meaningful. When Jake pulled his gun on David and David refused to back down, it was great. It really showed Rosen’s growth over the show’s run and made Jake look stupid. Killing him off after that just so Cyrus would have a reason to feel bad and resign isn’t what Rosen deserved.

The fact that Cyrus got a peaceful resignation after all the evil he’s done on the show is just another example of Scandal’s conflicted messaging. At times, Cyrus was a sympathetic, oppressed gay man who was stripped of the ability to become president because of his sexuality. At other times, he was just an evil power-hungry white man. The show’s refusal to punish him keeps his character in a weird moral gray area that Cyrus doesn’t deserve after murdering David.

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Jeff Perry
Photo: Eric McCandless (ABC)

In a table read prior to the episode airing, Shonda Rhimes included a scene that was cut from the episode: After Cyrus resigns, Huck comes over with his giant torture kit to get revenge for David’s death. I understand why they cut the scene—Huck hasn’t had a single plot this season, so at least let him hold onto his “I don’t kill people anymore” thing. Everything in the finale about white hats and being in the light would’ve been wiped off the board if that had aired. Still, it’s an ending that Rhimes thought would work, even if it would’ve made Huck’s growth over seven seasons irrelevant.

Finally, there’s Olitz. Look, I’m not a fan of Olitz. I don’t hate Olitz; I just do not care about them as a couple. I don’t think they’re their best when they’re together. But Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn sold the hell out of their romance. You could feel their chemistry. Even if I didn’t like Olitz, it was easy to understand why people did like them together. If this had all ended with Olivia and Fitz making jam in Vermont, I would’ve been okay with that. But, I also would’ve been okay with them splitting up forever. I just can’t believe that Olitz fans were happy with this episode. We don’t get any major declarations of love or indication that they get back together. Instead, Olivia just tells Fitz to stop talking and focus on sex. Olivia, faced with jail time, is saying goodbye to the love of her life, and the best she can muster is, “Option A, we talk or Option B, we do something else”? We deserved one show of them at least putting jam on some toast in a dreamy future montage.

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Scandal created compelling characters and became one of the biggest shows on television. Olivia, Mellie, Fitz, the Gladiators, Jake, and Cyrus became the reason to tune in once the show’s plot became too unbelievable. Sadly, the show didn’t always give these characters what they deserved.

Stray observations

  • Remember when Jake killed his wife and no one said anything about it at all? It really just never came up again. They had Olivia apologize to a man who murdered his wife. I’m seeing Twitter polls asking if Olivia should’ve ended up with Fitz or Jake. He killed his wife!
  • In the end, B613 was… part of the black power movement? But also still bad? But it’s okay if you do bad things and a white guy gets arrested for it? Honestly, we had to put up with B613 for so long, and we still don’t even know how Eli Pope managed to go from, like, museums to running the government. I can’t believe B613 never went away.
  • They gave us Quinn and Charlie’s wedding. That was cute. They’re still so disgustingly cute.
  • David is an idiot. That was such a clear trap. Seriously, David? You meet with Cyrus right after Jake threatens your life? Also, why weren’t people more suspicious of the fact that all these accusations just came out about Cyrus and then David ends up dead? No one on the committee had a question about that?
  • Remember when David dated that evil lady from that evil government organization? Sorry, just reminiscing on things that happened on Scandal and then didn’t matter.
  • A few past characters came back, but we didn’t get anything from Susan Ross. Apparently, they wouldn’t question the ex-vice president about a secret government conspiracy?
  • Mellie really did not do anything this season. She was the president and we only really saw her struggle to maintain her power. I wish this season had moved a little faster in the first half so we could’ve seen more of her as the president.
  • Fitz’s portrait was stupid.
  • We’re done here. Kudos to all seven reviewers who took on this beast of a show.

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