During Scandal's first four seasons, David Rosen (Joshua Malina) was nearly impossible not to like. He had everything going for him — he was an underdog who worked his way up with hard work and a good person without being a "Nice Guy." But this season, David is on a downward spiral, and he's dragging Olivia (Kerry Washington) and Susan (Artemis Pebdani) down, too. In Scandal's earlier days, David was the consistent voice of reason. He dropped one-liners like, "That is why our judicial system isn't based on looking into people's eyes," to keep Olivia and the other gladiators in check. Out of all the government figures on the show, David was the only person to actually care about justice. Even though he was sometimes misguided — remember when he wanted to give Quinn (Katie Lowes) the death penalty? — he always did what he thought was the right thing. David's quest for justice even led him to losing his job as an assistant U.S. attorney (and, briefly, becoming a Defiance conspiracy theorist, although, of course, he was actually right). While the politicians who relied on trickery moved up the ranks, David was stuck teaching high school civics to uninterested students who drew penises on their assignments. Eventually, David's love of justice almost got him murdered, as he watched Jake (Scott Foley) kill James (Dan Bucatinsky). The struggle over whether to expose Defiance, and the other government scandals to which he was privy, was real for David, in a way we don't see with most of Scandal's other characters. When Fitz (Tony Goldwyn) killed Verna (Debra Mooney), for example, he wasn't overcome with remorse. And neither was Olivia in last week's episode, when she gave Frankie Vargas' (Ricardo Chavira) brother information about Edison (Norm Lewis) visiting a rehabilitation facility for an addiction to painkillers. Olivia showed no regret for the way she shamed someone's mental health treatment. Last week we also saw her attempting to boost Mellie's (Bellamy Young) debate rankings by mocking Susan's height as Susan stood on the podium. The best part about David's earlier character arc was that it was fairly realistic, at least in the Scandal-verse. After suffering through his phase as a substitute teacher (and having a dead woman planted in his bed), David did become the U.S. attorney general, and he was convinced to use his position for good. But he also still engaged in constant power struggles with Cyrus (Jeff Perry), who's arguably the show's least morally-driven character.
It's hard to believe that this David Rosen — the one who stood up to Cyrus and gave Olivia a literal white hat — is the same one we've seen in the recent episodes of season 5. David, whose one weakness was defending Abby (Darby Stanchfield), is now harassing Abby with the details of his love triangle with Susan and her chief of staff, Elizabeth (Portia de Rossi). David has gone from being Scandal's strongest character to being a stereotypical sad-sack whose actions are entirely motivated by his genitals. The devolution isn't just depressing for David, either — he's affecting those around him, both directly and indirectly. Susan flops in many of the debate questions because she's distraught by the lies he's told her. And the only time she and Elizabeth actually bond — one of the only moments Elizabeth shows true vulnerability and feeling — is over the mess David has created. It's also been a long time since David and Olivia had any sort of interaction, a far cry from the past. David and Abby are the ones who used to keep Olivia in check, and without them, her actions are resembling her father's more and more. Olivia is falling fast into the dark side of politics, and her behavior toward Edison in last night's episode doesn't bode well for the future of her campaign strategy for Mellie this season. There's also the fact that she didn't seem too upset after hearing that Ronnie (Matthew John Armstrong) apparently killed himself after she threatened him. The gladiators have Marcus (Cornelius Smith, Jr.) to keep them in check, but his good will can only extend so far. We need David back on track, stat — without him, the U.S. government, and Olivia Pope, are literally falling apart.