Scandal went a different way than a lot of shows do for its 100th episode. Most shows celebrate the big 1-0-0 by propelling the action forward at warp speed with a ton of drama and major life events (weddings, deaths, funerals, babies).
Instead of doing that in the present Scandal-verse, Shonda Rhimes & Co. decided to frame an episode around what would have happened if Olivia (Kerry Washington) had decided not to give the go-ahead on rigging Fitz's (Tony Goldwyn) presidential election.
The answer is that life is flipped, turned upside-down. But only in some ways does it feel organic, which is why this episode is a bit of a swing and a miss.
Let's talk about what worked. First of all, the Olivia-Fitz marriage is extremely well done. It makes a lot of sense that once he is out of the limelight, Fitz leaves Mellie, marries Olivia and they start their life together in Washington D.C. It also makes total sense that without a political office to motivate him, Fitz turns into a bored, dour drunk — which in turns leads to Olivia resenting both him and herself for not getting into the White House. It's a fascinating study in bitterness and self-loathing and reminded me more than once of that famous scene in Citizen Kane where the married Kanes grow further and further apart at the breakfast table.
The only part that rings false is that Fitz would be a cable news host of The Grant Report. That feels way off. But it's a relatively minor quibble.
Scandal absolutely nailed what Fitz and Olivia would be like without all the drama of politics. It's why I've personally thought their whole "making jam in Vermont" thing would never work. They'd play house for like three months and then they'd be bored and wind up killing each other. So, bravo to Bizarro Scandal on that front.
Two smaller details that Scandal also nailed with this alternate timeline are having Abby (Darby Stanchfield) and David Rosen (Joshua Malina) happily together as a couple and what Huck (Guillermo Diaz) is like. Abby and David were always one of my favorite Scandal couples and I'm always rooting for them to find their way back to each other, even if that seems fairly impossible in the current Scandal-verse. So this was a nice bit of wish fulfillment.
As for Huck, he is a very hairy, very awkward hacker who loves The Prince (this world's version of The Bachelor). Olivia is taking special care of him, because of course she is, and he's probably living the best life that could be expected without the influence from Quinn (Katie Lowes) and the other Gladiators.
But speaking of Quinn, that's one of a couple places where Scandal's 100th episode was a miss.
Obviously Rhimes wanted to incorporate every present-day character into this alternate world, but the way Quinn was shoe-horned in felt completely inorganic — she was shown as a competitor and then the runner-up on The Prince, poised to be the next Princess. Sure, it was funny, but also really distracting from the other great story lines in the episode. It would have been better if the show hadn't featured Quinn at all. After all, it's not far-fetched that in this reality she never even met Olivia Pope & Co.
What is far-fetched is the absence of Columbus Short as Harrison. Yeah, we get why he wasn't on the show, what with all of his personal problems and such. But it was still an absence, made even more glaring by the inclusion of Marcus Walker (Cornelius Smith Jr.) as Olivia's work bestie.
Finally, we have the marriage of Mellie (Bellamy Young) to Cyrus (Jeff Perry) after Fitz leaves her. Don't get me wrong — I'd watch the heck out of a show where Cyllie conquers the known universe because they're two of the best characters on the show. But I don't buy for one second that they could have ended up married to each other. Cyrus realizing he should run Mellie for the White House? Totally buy that. Cyrus being a closet case and James (nice to see you, Dan Bucatinsky!) having to pull him out kicking and screaming? Definitely. But them actually getting married in order to achieve their common goal? That feels like more of stunt for the sake of the episode than something that would actually happen.
Overall, if you took this episode of Scandal at face value, as a silly romp of what-ifs, it was probably a highly enjoyable hour of TV. But other shows, like Buffy and Community, have done alternate timeline episodes that had so much to say about the current state of the characters; by comparison, this one felt kind of weak.
Perhaps if the sillier aspects were dropped in favor of more with the Olivia/Fitz failing marriage and Cyrus and Mellie fighting to get her elected president (as a non-married couple), it would have worked a little better and had more to say about the current Scandal state. As it was, it just leaves us ready to get on with the regular season and find out who is going to be sworn in as the next Scandal president.
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